Arequipa is more than just a city of striking beauty; it's also a gateway to some of the most stunning geological wonders. Let me guide you through the top day excursions you can embark on from Arequipa.
In this article, I will cover these types of day trips from Arequipa:
Day Trips to Volcanos
Day Trips to Waterfalls
Colca Canyon Trips
Day trip to a Salt Lagoon
Let's kick things off with what makes Arequipa really stand out - its awesome volcanoes. No matter where you look in this city, you're likely to spot a volcano or two in the distance. What's cool is you can actually visit and climb these volcanoes around Arequipa.
You can either visit them on a day tour and enjoy all the amazing viewpoints or if you are an experienced hiker, you can do a tour where you scale the volcanos. These tours can take more than 1 day.
The main volcanos to see and visit are:
Coropuna is the country's largest and highest volcano structure! Starting at a height of about 4,500m, it has a long ridge with at least six different cones. The tallest one reaches up to 6,425m and is on the northwest end.
But Coropuna isn't just about size. It's got glaciers too. Even though they're getting smaller due to climate change, they're still important for the local people because they provide water when it's dry.
If you're thinking of climbing Coropuna, it's good to know it can be tough. The high altitude and changeable weather make it a bit of a challenge. This is why it's a smart idea to have a guide with you.
Solimana is a hidden gem in southwestern Peru, sitting quite far from the usual tourist routes. It's an old volcano that has seen better days and has eroded over time. However, this hasn't diminished its charm. The remnants of its crater form three key peaks that are connected by a half-circle ridge, which give it a unique character.
The southwestern peak of Solimana, even though it's the shorter one at about 5,900m, has an interesting history. It's tougher to climb because it requires some technical climbing skills, not just walking. This peak's first recorded climb was by a Peruvian and Italian team back in 1973, and since then, it's attracted a fair share of adventure seekers looking for a lesser-known challenge.
But Solimana isn't just about climbing. Its location in the scenic Cotahuasi Canyon area makes it a great spot for hiking and exploring local wildlife. Plus, the views of the surrounding landscape from its slopes are just breathtaking.
Whether you're a serious mountaineer or a casual hiker looking for something different, Solimana offers a rewarding and off-the-beaten-track experience.
Ampato Volcano is more than just a towering presence in the Arequipa region of Peru. Standing tall at 6,288m, it's the second highest peak in the area and forms a part of the stunning Cordillera de Ampato, alongside its neighbors, Solimana and Coropuna.
What really sets Ampato apart, however, is its place in history. It shot to fame when the well-preserved mummy of a young Inca girl, now known as the 'Ice Maiden' or 'Juanita', was found near its summit. The discovery of 'Juanita' offered a rare and incredibly valuable insight into Inca rituals and their culture, making Ampato a site of global archaeological significance.
Ampato isn't alone in the area, though. It's part of the Ampato Group, which also includes the active volcanoes Sabancaya and Nevado Hualca Hualca. Sabancaya, in particular, stands out as it often erupts, offering a dramatic sight for spectators from a safe distance.
Despite its high altitude, climbing Ampato is considered to be fairly straightforward, mostly because it lacks the technical routes found on some other peaks. However, its elevation and weather conditions can still pose challenges, so proper acclimatization and preparation are crucial.
A trip to Ampato, whether you're there for the climb or the incredible natural and historical allure, promises to be an unforgettable experience. Be sure to take a moment to appreciate the stunning landscapes that surround you on this adventure!
Some warnings in case you do decide to scale one of these volcanos:
From November to April, there is a rainy season where you can see storms and even snow. It is better to avoid this time of year as you only get around 6 hours of climbing a day, then the storms usually move in and navigation is very tricky.
Camping is feasible almost anywhere. However, due to the huge and sharp stones, locating the ideal location can take some effort. Access to drinking water might force you to hike for water, so bring enough for at least a day and a half.
Day Trips to Waterfalls
There are several waterfalls you can visit around Arequipa. You can also do rafting on each trip!
The journey from Arequipa to Sogay takes about an hour and passes through a variety of traditional communities as well as beautiful terraced landscapes. Depending on whether you begin in town or at the end of the road, the hike to the falls is between 7 and 8 kilometers long.
During the tour, you’ll cross the districts of Sabanda and Yarabamba and observe the countryside of Arequipa. When you arrive in the city, you will recognize the pre-Inca terraces, the characteristic yellow houses, and the main square of Sogay.
Later, You will start your journey with a one-hour hike to Sogay Falls, which is rocky and moderately difficult. You can also hear the water from the waterfall as you enter the road, and you will have to climb some hills and descend others.
You’ll likely be able to take numerous photographs and enter the water that forms from the falls after arriving at these stunning waterfalls, which can be quite chilly at times. After tasting the beauty and taking many photos, then you can return to Sogay.
Next, you'll visit Quequea, where you'll see the town's main square and the church.
Pillones Falls is a massive waterfall known for its beauty. Imata stone forest contains volcanic rock formations that have been sculpted by the wind into various shapes, including men, animals, birds, monsters, and more. Both locations are featured in a 1-day itinerary that departs from Arequipa due to their proximity. It is one of Arequipa's most well-known natural tourism attractions.
Warning: You may experience symptoms of altitude sickness while visiting the Pillones waterfalls and the Imata stone forest (nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath when exerting physical effort). This is due to the low-oxygen Andean geography. Drink plenty of water and get used to the Arequipa climate at least a day or two before your trip.
During the tours to the Pillones waterfalls and the Imata stone forest, you will make a stop in Zamacola, Pampa de Arrieros, and the Caahuas pampa. In these places, there you will be able to appreciate the visuals (Andean camelids with fine fur) that inhabit the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserves.
The Imata stone forest is part of the so-called "Mauca Arequipa" (small Arequipa in the Quechua language). As legend has it, the gods punished an ancient city for disobeying them. As a result, today you can see the different stone formations that resemble an ancient city.
This is one of the most stunning tours in the Arequipa area!
The trip to the Nature Reserve "Salinas y Aguada Blanca" will take around 2 hours. You'll stop along the way to look at the flora and fauna. Vicunas, llamas, foxes, flamingos, and eagles are among the animals that can be seen. The trail to the Paccha waterfall will thereafter be followed. First, you’ll be on top of it on the left side, and to arrive at the bottom of this 60-meter waterfall, you will have to walk for two hours. It's really worth it thanks to the great view you can enjoy there. You will have lunch on-site, and you can relax in this beautiful environment.
Colca Canyon is a must-do when in Arequipa. It is an incredibly beautiful canyon and home to the big condors.
You can either do a day trip and visit the main viewpoints or do a 2 or 3-day trekking trip. I did the 2-day trekking trip and absolutely loved it! It is quite a long and challenging hike but so worth it and it is a great adventure.
If you are interested in doing a several-day trekking trip I have a whole guide on things you should know before you go, what to prepare and what to expect. Check it out here.
Colca Canyon also can be a great day trip if you want to try some of the Arequipa's best hot springs!
The Salt Lagoon near Arequipa, despite being significantly smaller than Bolivia's sprawling Salar de Uyuni, packs a powerful punch of its own. In the dry season, it mirrors the ethereal whiteness of Salar de Uyuni, while in the wet season, it takes on the mesmerizing hues of Patagonian lagoons, shifting between turquoise and navy. This captivating destination is conveniently located just a three-hour drive from Arequipa.
The landscape surrounding the Salt Lagoon closely echoes the stark, serene beauty of Bolivia's salt desert, making it an appealing option for those who want a similar experience without venturing too far from Arequipa. This striking terrain serves as a reminder of the diverse geographical features that Peru offers.
One of the significant highlights of a visit to the Salt Lagoon is the opportunity to see the flamingos that inhabit the area. The sight of these graceful birds against the backdrop of the lagoon is truly a unique spectacle. Flamingos usually flock to this area to feed on the small organisms that thrive in salty environments, creating an ecosystem that is as fascinating as it is beautiful.
The Salt Lagoon is a great day-trip option from Arequipa that offers breathtaking landscapes and wildlife spotting opportunities.