Arequipa has an air of confidence and grandeur about it. The inhabitants, Arequipeños, are proud of their city and often disparaging about the rest of the country, particularly Lima. The city has a grand setting with the Misti volcano in the background. The beautiful white stone churches and administrative buildings of the colonial centre dazzle in the bright sunlight. The most impressive of all is the Santa Catalina Monastery, a huge religious complex that merits a couple of hours to explore.
Outside Arequipa the terrain is a rugged mix of huge volcanoes, mountains, enormous canyons and arid plains. This dramatic landscape hosts a whole range of adventurous activities, like paragliding, climbing, canyoning, rafting, horse riding and trekking, particularly in and around the Colca Canyon.
The Colca Canyon is bigger than the Grand Canyon in Colorado and famed for being the deepest canyon in the world at almost a mile deep, although the less visited Cotahuasi Canyon just north of Colca is in fact even deeper.
In addition to its status as the world's biggest canyon and the truly breathtaking scenery this entails, the Colca Canyon is also rich in Andean heritage. Many of the area's inhabitants still adhere to a relatively traditional way of life, herding llamas, tending some of the finest pre-Inca agricultural terraces and selling their wares at the colourful village markets. The panoramas of this region are in many ways what one expects traditional Peru to look like.