Peru geographic regions - Moquegua department, tours and travel directory for Moquegua in Peru

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Peru: Moquegua department


Location: South Coast. 

Extensión: 16 164 km2 

Capital: Moquegua (1140 masl) 


-Minimum: 15 masl (Ilo)

-Maximum: 3756 masl (Ichuña)


Moquegua has a volcanic relief with gullies, desert and rocky areas between which terraces appear with good climate and rich ideal soils for the agriculture, specially for the culture of the grapevine. Stands out the presence of the volcano Ubinas, the only one that one finds in clear activity in the Peru.


Moquegua - Santa Catalina de Guadalcazár

This was the Spanish name for this town wedged in the heart of one of the most fertile valleys along the south Peruvian coast. Thanks to a benign climate, the Conquerors succeeded in planting sprawling vineyards and raking in abundant harvests.


Tourism Moquegua department

Moquegua is just far enough off the common tourist trail to avoid the busloads of foreigners in Cuzco and Arequipa, but close enough to be easy to visit, just off the Panamerican highway between Arequipa and Tacna. Moquegua's central historic district retains something of an old Republican or Colonial atmosphere, its narrow streets lined with traditional adobe houses behind ornately carved, enormous wooden doors set in stone archways decorated with exuberant mestizo style reliefs. To the casual visitor, it seems like a warm, sleepy place to relax, without a specific tourist attraction. In fact, if you have a little more time, patience, and interest than the average tourist, Moquegua can reward you with a surprising number of interesting things to see and do:


The Plaza and Eiffel fountain:


The Plaza de Armas (central square) is a pleasant green garden, shaded by tall trees, surrounding an unexpected, flamboyant neoclassical cast iron fountain with water spouting from the mouths of swans and frogs, designed by Alexander Eiffel (yes, of the Eiffel tower), erected in 1877.


The old main church:


Along one side of the Plaza stands the facade and massive arched doorway of the old main church (Iglesia Matriz) of Moquegua. Much of the church collapsed in an earthquake in 1868, but most of the front remains standing today. Many of the stones in the wall are marked with symbols that identify the patron who provided the stone when the church was first built.


The Museo Contisuyo:


Passing through the doorway of the ruined church, you can enter the Museo Contisuyo, where the permanent exhibition of hundreds of artifacts lays out over 12,000 years of prehistory in the region. There are also frequently temporary exhibitions at the Museo, ranging from photos of recent and ongoing archaeological fieldwork, to sculpture, painting, and photography by local and national artists. The Museo gift shop has craft items, postcards, t-shirts, books on local archaeology, and other souvenirs, many of which are available nowhere else. Get a taste by visiting the Virtual Museo Contisuyo.


The Colonial jail:


Across from the main church is the historic Moquegua jail, probably built between 1773 and 1778, with barrel-vaulted stone ceilings and wrought iron grills over the windows in the thick walls.


The Casa del Moqueguano:


Adjacent to the old jail is the Casa del Moqueguano, an elegant traditional house with a long balcony overlooking the Plaza. Sr. Herbert de la Flor Angulo lives in the house and maintains its turn-of-the-century interior as a living museum, which you can visit by special arrangement.


The historic architecture tour:


At the Museo Contisuyo, you can get a map that will guide you on a walking tour of the most interesting of the Colonial and Republican buildings in the historic center. Through some open gateways you can glimpse the shaded patios within.


The Casa de la Serpiente:


One of these historic houses, called the Casa de la Serpiente after the wooden carving of a snake below one of the windows, has been restored as the local Social Security (Instituto Peruano de Seguro Social, or IPSS) office, and the patio and several rooms are open to the public.


Cerro Baúl:


Adventurous visitors may want to take a microbus or taxi out of Moquegua, through Samegua, and a little way up the Tumilaca valley towards Cuajone, for a closer look at the dramatic countryside and a view of Cerro Baúl, a ride of only fifteen minutes or so. If you have no fear of heights, continue further to where the road to Torata splits off. From this point you can climb to the top of Cerro Baúl. The climb is a bit strenuous and requires care, good shoes, and some water, but the view from the top on a clear day is breathtaking. Cerro Baúl is covered on the upriver end by interesting Wari ruins, and on the downriver end by miniature fields and houses laid out with pebbles by countless modern visitors as requests to the spirit or "apu" of Cerro Baúl for property or success. You will see offerings of tobacco, coca leaves, liquor, and other items at several places on the ascent, and you will probably find ceramic burners with traces of burnt offerings perched on the rocks around the base of the cross at the top of the trail.




If you still have time, or if you have another day, catch a microbus or your waiting taxi and continue on to Torata. The drive is beautiful, passing several old mills, some abandoned and some still working. If your eye is attuned, you will spot ruins of walled Estuquiña villages on several hilltops along the route. The little town of Torata is even more unchanged than the historic district of Moquegua, with adobe houses and an old stone church that is restrained and dignified on the outside, but decorated with intricate mestizo style carvings on the inside. Be sure to try some of Torata's bakery specialties, from tasty wheat breads called "pan de Torata", to sweet, dense, frosted pastry rings called "roscas".


Mollesacha waterfall and other hikes:


For the serious hiker, there are several spectacular areas of desert scenery to visit. The Mollesacha waterfall ("Catarata de Mollesacha") is worth a visit, as are the gorges in reddish purple stone behind Cerro Los Angeles. The valley of Torata, on the northwest side of Cerro Baúl, pinches off into a deep, sheer-sided, rock-walled canyon that is impressive from above and would make a fantastic day's hike from the village of Mollesacha back to Moquegua.


Moquegua cuisine:


Moquegua is known for it's "cuy chactado", or breaded guinea pig fried under a heavy flat rock. Moquegua style cuy, which comes whole with claws and teeth, is not for the squeamish, but it really does taste a bit like chicken and makes a great traveler's tale. The best cuy meals can be had at special cuy restaurants, many of which have pleasant outdoor eating areas overlooking the green farmland. People from Moquegua insist that the finest pisco, the national Peruvian brandy, comes from Moquegua. Ask for a pisco sour for an easy drink, or just a shot of pisco for a more intense experience. The best is Biondi Pisco Italia. Make sure to try another of Moquegua's specialties, damascos, or apricots marinated in pisco. Again, the best are made with Biondi pisco, left to age for up to a year or more. They attain a dark orange color and melt sweetly in your mouth, but they are strong. Moquegua produces an amazing variety of avocados, from the size of your thumb to the size of a football, with different skins and subtly varying textures and tastes. If you like avocados, go the the market on Balta street, just downhill from the Plaza de Armas, and try some with Torata bread ("pan de Torata") and queso fresco (a salty, soft fresh cheese).


From Moquegua the port of Ilo:


It is about 45 minutes to an hour away by car or bus. Ilo is a growing, bustling industrial port with occasional traces of an early-twentieth century frontier charm for those who care to look for it.


The Ilo waterfront:


Ilo has cleaned up its waterfront, or "malecón", creating an interesting, mostly pleasant area to stroll and view the fishing fleet anchored close to the rocky shore. A rickety-looking elevated wooden walkway takes you out to the "glorieta", a gazebo-like lookout perched on a rock that juts out of the water in the harbor. You can get another view from the old wooden wharf, or walk out to the modern cement wharf and hire a boatman to take you for a spin among the anchored fishing vessels.


Museo Municipal de Sitio, El Algarrobal:


There is an excellent archaeological museum in the district of El Algarrobal, in the narrow valley inland from Ilo proper. You will have to take a taxi there, or encounter one of the few buses that make the journey each day, but the valley itself is an unusual and seemingly remote setting, and the remarkable Chiribaya ceramics, textiles, and other artifacts in the museum are worth the visit.


Pozo de Lisas beach:


If you visit during the Peruvian summer, especially December and January, you might plan a day on the long, curving sand beach of Pozo de Lisas, just south of Ilo. With people swimming in the cold surf, tanning on blankets, picnicing, and playing volleyball to the sound of radio music, you could almost think you were on Venice Beach in Los Angeles.