Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, Peru
You may have noticed that over the past few months I’ve been writing a lot about Peru. I spent a month there earlier in the year and feel like I only scratched the surface of one of the most interesting and diverse countries I’ve ever been to.
But, judging by the large amount of posts I’ve been putting up on this blog about Peru, it was a long scratch along the surface.
One of the things that continues to amaze me as I relive the trip is how many places there are to visit that I had never heard of before. It almost seems like there are three levels of sites:
The big ones that most tourists see like Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima.
The secondary ones that people have heard of but don’t always get to – Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Nazca.
And then there are those that the world has yet to discover.
One of them is called the ‘Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve’.
In some ways, it represents the diversity of the whole of Peru within its borders. From imposing high volcanoes, to dry desert-like landscapes, expansive grasslands with herds of indigenous animals, to lush wetlands full of birds.
For an area that’s relatively small by South American standards, it takes you on a journey through almost 3000 metres of altitude.
The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is in the very south of Peru, near the city of Arequipa and on the road to Puno. No border marks the start of it and it’s only when I can see the shape of the majestic Misti Volcano out the bus window that I know I’ve definitely arrived.
This is just a short stop for me – a bit of a detour on the way to the Colca Canyon – and I immediately regret not planning to spend more time in the reserve.
The four main volcanoes are always in the distance but I would love to get closer and investigate some hikes. I don’t even get a glimpse of the wetlands and I’m left wondering if the flamingos are there this time of year.
But the time I do have in the reserve is well spent. I focus on the strange rock formations, create by wind erosion, that have created a maze of paths through small canyons, across cliff tops and around striking natural sculptures.
I haven’t seen anything like this in Peru yet and it’s yet another element of this country’s natural landscapes that I add to my mental list of discoveries.
Around every corner of the expedition through this labyrinth of rocks are new shapes and different views. Rather than try to describe them all, I’m going to leave you with a collection of my photos from the experience.
This is just one tiny snapshot of this reserve and, although I found it fascinating, it’s left me wanting more.
It’s somewhere I had never heard of before and have never heard mentioned since. Clearly it’s still to be discovered by the masses. And still to be truly discovered by me.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN AREQUIPA
I would recommend using Arequipa as your base – and there are some great accommodation options there.
I would recommend Friendly AQP as a really comfortable backpacker option.
There are lots of affordable hotels but I think El Portal De San Lázaro is one of the best value.
For something more upmarket, Palla Boutique Hotel is beautiful and has an incredible rooftop!
And when it comes to luxury, I think the nicest hotel in the city is CIRQA – Relais & Châteaux.