Peru: Three must-visit natural areas in Arequipa

Arequipa City celebrates its 478th foundation anniversary, giving visitors the chance to explore three protected natural areas within the region bearing its name.

1. Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve

The 366,936-hectare area was established on August 9, 1979, in order to protect the habitat of (207) animal and (358) plant species, as well as scenic resources in this High-Andean region.

This protected natural area stands out for its impressive volcanoes (Ubinas, Pichu Pichu, Misti and Chachani) in the Southwest, and Chuccura and Huarancante peaks in the North.

The High-Andean plains, studded with beautiful lakes and wetlands, complete the icy landscape covering most of the territory —home to South American camelids, as well as a large number of aquatic and terrestrial birds.

The reserve constitutes the largest water reservoir of Arequipa City and its surroundings.

Likewise, its ecosystem provides a valuable and irreplaceable environmental service.

All these characteristics —in addition to unusual rock formations, archaeological remains, rich culture, and easy access— turn it into one of the most important protected natural areas in Peru.

Fauna and Flora

Vertebrates include 207 species, of which 37 are mammals and 158 birds. Also, the area contains five species of reptiles and three of fish.

There are 358 species of plants, with herbaceous and shrub-like species predominating over the other.


The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve experiences low average temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 °C.

2. Lagunas de Mejia National Sanctuary

Located in Islay province, a few meters away from the ocean, the sanctuary covers 690.6 ha and combines several habitat types.

Created on February 24, 1984, the national sanctuary is regarded as one of the most important wetlands along the Peruvian coast, which serve as resting and feeding spots for migratory birds.

Fauna and Flora

The sanctuary is the only place —in Peru— where the red-fronted coot is found. Also, the grey-headed gulls and American oystercatchers nest there.

The ornithological fauna includes more than 80 species of birds —both resident and migratory.

Different species of diving birds, ducks, and common moorhens —mainly waterhens— have been seen in the area.

Other species include toads, lizards, geckos, as well as mammals like marine otters, Peruvian desert foxes, and montane guinea pigs.


Foreign tourists visit the place seeking bird watching excursions.


The region is characterized by an extremely arid climate.

3. Cotahuasi Sub-Basin Landscape Reserve

Created on May 23, 2005, the Cotahuasi Sub-Basin Landscape Reserve is situated in La Union province and is the largest natural area in the Peruvian highlands.

Spreading across 490,450 ha, this protected area has one of the deepest and most beautiful canyons on earth: Cotahuasi.

The Cotahuasi Sub-Basin is a representative sample of the tropical Andes in southern Peru.

There, peaks and lagoons form one of the major freshwater reservoirs in the western Andean range.

It must be noted that temples and archaeological zones have been found near the aforementioned canyon.

Fauna and Flora

The reserve is home to 211 species of vertebrates, 158 of birds, 33 of mammals, 7 of amphibians, 8 of reptiles, and 5 of fish.

As for flora, 108 species of endemic plants have been recorded in the area.


Once there, visitors can explore several lagoons with complex and fragile ecosystems, waterfalls, cave paintings, archaeological sites, irrigation channels, and almost 200 hot springs.


The climate varies according to the altitude.


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