Lake Titicaca and Canyon Country
Breathtaking landscapes and geography, elegant and exquisite architecture, colorful people, and century-old traditions are all present in this vast region where the Colca Canyon, the deepest in the planet, and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, attract thousands of nature-lovers and adventure-seekers every year.
Arequipa is Peru’s most elegant city and seems at times more like southern Spain rather than South America. It’s a wonderful place to come and enjoy the extraordinary cuisine, stroll the elegant streets, and soak in the romance of this city.
Laid-back and sunny, Arequipa known as the “white city” as it is constructed entirely of white volcanic stone. Colonial churches and casonas line the street leading to the elegant Plaza de Armas, where a stately cathedral is flanked by palm trees and framed by three volcanoes: Chachani, Pichu Pichu, and Misti.
The city’s architectural highlight is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a maze of churches, plazas, and homes where cloistered nuns have lived since 1579.
Arequipa is surrounded by some of the country’s most bizarre and remote landscapes: snowcapped volcanoes, lava fields, high-altitude deserts, and two of the deepest canyons on the planet. Stone villages, graced with colonial churches and elaborately carved altars, dot the rim of Colca Canyon.
The Río Colca leads into Colca Canyon, which is twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Andean condors, the world’s largest flying bird, can be watched soaring just meters away from those assembled at La Cruz del Cóndor, a morning lookout point on Colca Canyon.
In the southeast region of the country, Lake Titicaca, a massive expanse of water, sprawls across the middle of a Peruvian high plateau known as Meseta del Collao. While boating across the lake’s sapphire waters, it is easy to understand why the Inca considered this their sacred, foundational landscape.
Lake Titicaca is one of Peru’s cradles of civilization, and staying with families—who speak either Quechua or Aymara—on the lake’s islands or peninsulas is a good way to experience ways of life that extend back thousands of years. It is also the best way to see the lake’s bucolic scenery of winding country lanes, transparent waters, and Mediterranean-like sunlight.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition