Arequipa and our excursion to the world’s deepest Canyon

Arequipa was our first stop in Peru and made us like this country right away: it is a beautiful city full of good food, friendly locals and there is lots to do in the city’s surroundings.
When we got to Peru, we only had a few days here before our Machu Picchu trekking. Thus, we spent one day with relaxed sightseeing in the city center and as we had heard so many good things about the Peruvian cuisine, we of course also had to start our culinary exploration, trying some Ceviche: raw fish in leche del tigre (tiger milk – we haven’t found out yet what that is exactly) and loooooads of onions. Smelling almost as lovely as fresh roses, we made our way “home” to the hostel, picking up a local specialty for dessert: “helado de queso” – cheese ice cream – it tasted way better than that may sound.
Arequipa is famous for the nearby* Colca Canyon, so the next day we took a bus to go visit it. Colca Canyon is supposedly the world’s deepest canyon and home to one of the world’s biggest birds: the majestic condors. Luckily we got to see a few while there.
To explore the canyon properly, we opted for a two day trekking trip. Thus, on our first day, we hiked down into the Canyon’s heart, called the Oasis, where we could cool down in our hostel’s pool after our quite hot hike. The next morning we had to get up at 4.30 am to hike back up the Canyon on time to catch our bus back. Hiking Canyons, however, is a bit of a weird and slightly illogical, or at least contra-Tyrolean common sense, regarding hiking, thing: first going down and then back up is somehow not as satisfying as vice versa. Also, there is no summit at the end to aim for. Thus, we had to try to make up for that and therefore, rewarded ourselves with a delicious second breakfast when we were back up. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our hiking excursion to Colca Canyon, especially because the scenery with all the pre-Inca and Inca terrasses, where the locals still grow chia and other crops, is amazing. Furthermore, we were also lucky to see the whole Canyon “green”, as the rainy season had just ended, leaving the whole place covered in grass and flowers.
On our way back to Arequipa we visited some of the area’s picturesque villages where we tried some local foods like cactus fruits, made friends with some feathery creatures (check out our pictures!) and passed lots of snow covered volcanoes. We also relaxed in some hot springs and learned the difference between llamas, alpacas and vicunas – or at least tried to… They all are cute and fury after all, some are bigger, some are smaller, some have longer and some have shorter hair…. At the end of the day we eventually made it back to Arequipa where we then spent one more relaxed day before heading off to Cusco.
*”Nearby” here means just a six hours drive which in South America really is nothing distance-wise. However, it is like Innsbruck would start marketing Vienna’s Schönbrunn palace as a local sight…

When in Arequipa and Colca Canyon
Where to sleep: Vallecito Backpackers in Arequipa. This place was our absolute favorite hostel so far: super clean (amazing especially after just coming from Bolivia!), incredible friendly hostess and wonderful breakfast. In Colca Canyon are a few hostels in the Oasis and the farther in you go from the entrance, the nicer they get… Pick one with a nice pool when you get there to still enjoy some sun!
Where to eat & drink: The local market in Arequipa offers a variety of tasty local foods, for instance ceviche and fresh juices.
What to do: Don’t miss out on visiting Colca Canyon – if we had had more time we would also have loved to hike Arequipa’s “house volcano” Misti…