Tomorrow I shake the sand from between my toes and leave Mancora for Arequipa. Spending more time here would turn me into a beach bum! It’s been relaxing spending contemplative days by the sea – swimming, walking on the beach, and enjoying the people. Mancora is a special memory but it’s time to explore a new place.
Totally new territory, Arequipa is far south in the Peruvian Andes near the Chilean and Bolivian borders. It’s about a 36 hour drive from Mancora. Peru has well-organized “luxury” buses with reclining seats and meals served on-board. Hoping it’s a better experience than Colombian and Ecuadorian buses where the rides took longer than expected, but certainly resulted in some interesting side adventures!
The first segment is Mancora to Lima – 19 hours – and then Lima to Arequipa – 17 hours. The temperature change from Mancora’s high 80s to Arequipa’s 60s is significant, not to mention the increase in altitude.
With a population of about a million, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city. It’s nicknamed “La Ciudad Blanca” or “The White City” because of its buildings made from sillar, a white volcanic rock. Arequipa is surrounded by three volcanoes:
A volcano is considered “active” if it has erupted since the last ice age, i.e., in the past ~10,000 years. “Extinct” volcanoes are not expected to erupt again, but just the same there have been a number of extinct volcano eruptions in the world.
A strikingly beautiful colonial city, Arequipa has many attractions, including:
- Plaza de Armas with its beautiful twin-towered cathedral
- Santa Catalina Convent an abbey for 400 years with a miniature walled colonial town
- Museo Santuarios Andinos containing the mummy Juanita the Ice Princess discovered in 1995 below Mount Ampato
- Colca Canyon one of the world’s deepest canyons formed by an enormous seismic fault between the Coropuna and Ampato Volcanoes
- Cotahuasi Canyon a deep, remote canyon where trekking is extreme and challenging
Visitors to Arequipa often climb to the top of El Misti Volcano. The climb involves a two or three-day trek that’s supposedly one of the easiest ascents of any mountain of this size in the world. I’m not much of a climber and am prone to altitude sickness, so after acclimatizing will review the options and consider whether an El Misti climb is for me. It definitely sounds like fun!
More later, as I experience Arequipa and its many treasures. The continued itinerary will include Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands.