Plaza de Armas & Around

The town’s small and shady Plaza de Armas boasts a 19th-century wrought-iron fountain, thought by some to have been designed in a workshop run by Gustave Eiffel (of eponymous tower fame), and flower gardens that make it a welcome oasis away from the encroaching desert.

The foreign-funded Museo Contisuyo is an excellent little repository of local archaeological artifacts, including photographs of recent excavations, along with exhibitions of new works by local artists. The labels are in Spanish and English.

The town’s oldest church, Iglesia Matriz, mostly collapsed during a massive earthquake in 1868. You can still see the ruins today. Opposite you'll find an 18th-century Spanish colonial jail, with intimidating iron-grilled windows. It now houses the government culture department; pop in the day before to arrange an appointment if you want to visit. At one corner of the Plaza de Armas, visitors can enter the Casa Posada de Teresa Podesta, a stately colonial mansion with its innards still intact.

Walk around the town center to see some typical sugarcane thatching, especially along Calle Moquegua, and have a peek inside Catedral Santa Catalina, which houses the body of 18th-century St Fortunata, whose hair and nails are said to be still growing.

A park on a cliff high above the town is dominated by the Cristo Blanco, a white statue of Christ raised in 2002. There are swinging seats, a small suspension bridge, and expansive views over the Moquegua oasis and the surrounding desert.

Worth a Trip: Cerro Baúl

A worthwhile excursion outside the city is to the flat-topped and steep-sided hill of Cerro Baúl, 18km northeast of Moquegua, which was once an important Wari settlement that included a large scale-royal brewery.

As was the case with succeeding Inca traditions, it was upper-class Wari women who were the skilled brewers here. Archaeologists who are still at work excavating the site believe that it was ceremonially destroyed by fire after one last, drunken chicha (fermented corn beer) bash, though why it was abandoned in such a rush remains a mystery.

At the time of research access to the summit was restricted due to ongoing investigations along the access path but it should be possible to climb to the top again once the dig is complete. The rugged walk to the top of the site, which boasts panoramic views, takes about an hour.

From Moquegua, a round-trip taxi costs about S40, or simply catch a combi (S1.50) or colectivo (S3) headed for Torata from central Moquegua and ask to be let off at Cerro Baúl.