In Bed with a Volcano in Arequipa

If there’s one thing that can spice up my day it is a good condor sighting. If you could throw in a volcano and a giant canyon then my life would be complete.

Thankfully this exact tourism combo is on offer in the pretty Peruvian city of Arequipa. As usual, I arrived there late at night and as usual I struggled to find a hotel. I finally checked into a decent looking place but I was amazed when the receptionist took me out onto the flat roof. I had to fight my way through loads of sheets that were hanging out there drying before I finally came across a small and rather basic room.

A new city always looks so much better when you wake up after a good rest and Arequipa was no different in that respect. Of course, my mood was helped when I opened the door and saw an absolutely blooming perfectly cone shaped volcano staring back at me. I could see it perfectly framed in the doorway while lying in bed, which is pretty fantastic when you think about it. This is the famous El Misti and it turned out that my budget room next to the washing had the best view of it in the whole hotel.

With my mood lifted I went out to explore the city. It is the third biggest city in the country and it has an actArequipa mountainive, all action feel to it. There seemed to be plenty of markets and street traders here but when I reached the main square I was taken aback by the splendour of it. Nothing on the way there had prepared me for the beauty of this square. Arequipa, like Sucre in Bolivia, is known as the White City because of the white materials used in the fantastic architecture.

A Giant Canyon or a Giant Banana Split?

My one big regret about my time here is that I never took a trip out to Colca Canyon. This is a multi day trip and if I am being honest I was just too lazy for it. After all, when you’ve seen one canyon you’ve seen them all, right? Colca is one of the biggest and deepest canyons in the world, although there seems to be some debate about the exact order of them. In fact, some people will tell you that this is the deepest on the planet, while others will tell you that it is the second deepest.

One of the guys I was travelling with went on the trip while I lazed about in Arequipa. While he marvelled at the treasures of nature I ate a banana split. While he gazed admiringly at glorious condors soaring about his head I bought a Peruvian football top from a stallholder with about Colca Canyon4 teeth in his head. While he searched for the Amazon’s most distant starting point I guzzled bottles of Inca Kola and wondered whether it is genuinely radioactive or just looks like it.

You see, Arequipa has something for everything. If you want horseback adventure and giant birds then you can head out to see the enormous canyon. However, the altitude, weather and setting of this city mean that it is also a great place to just sit back and take each day as it comes.

During my last breakfast at the hotel in Arequipa a group of traditional musicians came in and starting playing poignant Andean music on flutes, tiny guitars and other strange instruments. It was a great end to my time in Arequipa but it made me feel unexpectedly sad. I had expected to spend a couple of days here before heading on somewhere else and forgetting all about Arequipa. However, in the time I had spent here I had grown to really like it. Waking up in the morning without seeing a volcano from my bed was going to be hard to get used to.

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