This mountain has been, since pre-Hispanic times, the guardian of the region. Impressive and majestic, its image has become the symbol of Arequipa, the typical photo of the traveller visiting the White City, the noble and quiet city that stretches out beneath the domains of this sleeping giant. Sometimes the serene volcano wakes and spews some harmless spirals of smoke. On other occasions, snow can be seen on the summit and Misti (5,825 metres high) becomes even more beautiful and the inhabitants of Arequipa watch it with pride. It is safe to say that the city would not be the same without this great mountain.
In recent years it has become a tempting adventure to climb the summit of Misti, flanked by the gigantic volcanoes Pichu Pichu and Chachani. It can be done in a day, but it is more advisable to do it in two days and one night, camping.
Experience or knowledge of mountaineering is not required to conquer the volcano. All that is needed is good physical condition, basic mountaineering equipment, a guide who knows the route and, of course, a lot of enthusiasm. At the peak you will be delighted with spectacular views of the city, the valley of the river Chili and the volcanoes Pichu Pichu and Chachani.
The volcano can be found 20 kilometres from the centre of Arequipa.
This canyon is 3,200 metres deep and is located in the Caylloma province, 5 hours from the city of Arequipa. Colca Canyon, composed of 13 Andean towns, was formerly populated by the Collaguas and the Cabanas. The inhabitants of the area still conserve their old traditions and cultivate the pre-Inca terraces.
It is the perfect place for practicing adventure sports, as well as seeing the majestic flight of the condor.
Christened by the laureate writer Mario Vargas Llosa as the “Valley of Wonders”, the Colca impresses with its eye-catching terraces, its steaming volcanoes, magnificent condors, sleepy Andean towns and the deep canyons and the torrentuous river that runs through it, towards the Pacific.
Colca Canyon is located 42 kilometres from Chivay, the capital of the province of Caylloma. This colourful village is usually the starting point for many tourists who wish to visit the various attractions in the area, including the Cruz del Condor (Cross of the Condor) which is 60 miles away and an excellent vantage point to observe the flight of the world’s largest bird.
Chivay is located 142 kilometres from Arequipa.
National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca
This was created in August, 1979 with the aim of preserving and protecting the various flora and fauna in the area, promoting the use of renewable sources and the repopulation of vicuna, which is a South American camelid that remains in the wild.
In its 366,936 hectares – shared between the provinces of Arequipa and Caylloma (region of Arequipa) and General Sánchez Cerro (region of Moquegua) – the reserve offers visitors a myriad of beautiful scenery and geography such as the volcanoes Misti (5,825 metres) and Ubinas (5,440 metres and still active) and a salt lake which is the habitat of many different species of birds.
There, researchers have discovered 138 species of birds, 24 mammals, 3 reptiles, 4 amphibians and 3 species of fish.
Among the mammals are tarucas (Hippocamelus antisensis), the vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) and the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), all at risk of exctintion. Birds like the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus), James’ Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) and the parihuana flamingo (Phoenipterus chilensis), are in the same condition.
The reserve is located 35 kilometres northwest of the city of Arequipa.
Caves of Sumbay
These caves contain stunning examples of rock art with over 500 figures of camels, rheas, cats and hunters. With an age of between 6 and 8 thousand years, the authors of the rock drawings would have been the first inhabitants of the region.
The caves (4,127 metres deep) are a part of the National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca and are on the right bank of the river Sumbay, just 97 miles from the centre of Arequipa.
Bosque de Piedra de Imata (Imata Stone Forest) is a strange set of stone columns formed by erosion by wind action. The result is a series of impressive and intriguing “sculptures” that, if they were works by human hands, would be described as splendid examples of surrealism.
Located 150 kilometres northwest of Arequipa, near the railway that goes to Puno.
Chachani is located 55 kilometres north of Arequipa (2 hours in a truck). One arrives at the base camp and then begins a hike of about 6 hours to the summit.
Considered one of the hardest mountains to climb in Peru, this snow-topped mountain reaches more than 6,075 metres above sea level. It is also a dormant volcano, but lava is still visible, as well as small ravines and glaciers. It takes about two days and one night to climb.
In September 1995 Johan Reinhard, an anthropologist, José Antonio Chávez, an archaeologist and Miguel Zárate, a Peruvian climber, discovered at the summit of this mountain (6,288 metres) a funerary bundle with the mummified Inca remains of a girl. She had been sacrificed and given to the powerful Apu (protective mountain god).
The Dama de Ampato, also known as Juanita, is the best preserved pre-hispanic mummy in the world. She is now located in the Museo Santuarios Andinos de la Universidad Católica de Santa María, in Arequipa. The discovery of Juanita demonstrated to the world the magnificance of this dormant volcano.
Its ascent presents an average degree of difficulty, requiring 3 to 4 days and nights to reach the summit and it is recommended to do it between April and November. The volcano is located south of the Colca valley, 173 kilometres north of Arequipa.