Arequipa is the center for a slew of outdoor activities dotted around the high country to the north and east of the city. Trekking, mountaineering and river running are the big three, but there are plenty more.
Trekking & Mountaineering
The spectacular canyons and mountains around Arequipa offer many excellent hiking options. Trekking agencies can arrange off-the-beaten-track routes to suit your timeline and fitness level.
The Association of Mountain Guides of Peru warns that many guides are uncertified and untrained, so climbers are advised to go well-informed about medical and wilderness-survival issues. Most agencies sell climbs as packages that include transportation, so prices vary widely depending on the size of the group and the mountain, but the cost for a guide alone is around US$85 per day.
Trekking solo in the well-traveled Cañón del Colca area is popular and easy, but if you’re nervous about hiking without guides or want to tackle more untrammeled routes, there are dozens of tour companies based in Arequipa that can arrange guided treks.
When to Go
Although you can trek year-round, the best (ie driest) time is from April to December. Adequate acclimatization for this area is essential and it’s best to have spent some time in Cuzco or Puno immediately before a high-altitude expedition.
Maps of the area can be obtained from Colca Trek in Arequipa or the Instituto Geográfico Nacional and South American Explorers Club in Lima.
Arequipa is one of Peru’s premier bases for river rafting and kayaking. Many trips are unavailable during the rainy season (between December and March), when water levels can be dangerously high. For more information and advice, consult www.peruwhitewater.com.
The Río Chili, about 7km from Arequipa, is the most frequently run local river, with a half-day trip suitable for beginners leaving almost daily from April to November (from US$40). Further afield, you can also do relatively easy trips on the Río Majes, into which the Río Colca flows. The most commonly run stretches include class II and III rapids.
A more off-the-beaten-track possibility is the remote Río Cotahuasi, an adventure not for the fainthearted that reaches into the deepest sections of what is perhaps the world’s deepest known canyon. Expeditions here are infrequent and only for the experienced, usually taking nine days and including class IV and V rapids. The Río Colca was first run back in 1981, but this is a dangerous, difficult trip, not to be undertaken lightly. A few outfitters will do infrequent and expensive river-running trips, and easier sections can be found upriver from the canyon.
The Arequipa area has numerous mountain-biking possibilities. Many of the same companies that offer trekking or mountain-climbing trips also organize downhill volcano mountain-biking trips at Chachani and El Misti or can arrange tailor-made tours. If you have the experience and wherewithal, these agencies can also rent you high-end bikes and offer expert trip-planning advice to help get you started on your own. Peru Adventures Tours organizes cycling tours around El Misti for US$50 (half day) including transportation, big-name bikes, helmet, gloves and snacks, with oxygen and first-aid available.