Canyons, Volcanos, and Protected Natural Areas
Arequipa is home to several chains, or cordilleras, that form part of the Andes mountain range, as well as two canyons that reach a depth of over 4,000 meters (13,000 ft.) and run more than 100 km (62 mi.) long. The “Cordillera Volcánica” features three volcanos located near the city of Arequipa: Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. The Cordillera del Ampato includes Peru’s highest volcanos, such as Coropuna, Ampato, and the active Hualca Hualca volcano. The so-called “Valley of Volcanos” has over one hundred eruptive centers, including thirty-four small volcanic cones, the highest of which stands 300 m (984 ft.) tall.
Arequipa’s geography also includes vast deserts, lakes, salt flats, wetlands, forests, and an immense level biodiversity, much of it protected in unique conservation areas such as the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve; the Lagunas de Mejía National Sanctuary; the Guano Islands, Islets, and Capes National Reserve System; the Cotahuasi Scenic Reserve; and the Atiquipa Private Reserve. Particularly important projects currently underway include the creation of Mismi National Park (home to the mountain of the same name, with a glacial stream that has been identified as the most distant source of the Amazon River) and Valley of the Volcanos National Park. UNESCO is now in the process of officially granting recognition to the Colca y Volcanes de Andagua Geopark. This area has been the site of successful efforts to repopulate vicuñas and guanacos, maintain migratory bird cycles and endemic habitats, and regenerate burnt forests on the slopes of the volcanos.