At 2,380m above sea level, Arequipa is known as the White City due to the the white volcanic stones used in the majority of the city’s construction. Most tourists that come through here are on their way to or from Lake Titicaca, Cusco or Nasca and also use the city as a base to do a single or multi day tour to the Colca Canyon. For those up for a challenge, they can also hike the three of the volcanos that surround the city. Misti, Chachani or PichuPichu.
The start of the visit was not without a hitch. After praising online at how magnificent the overnight trip was via a super deluxe bus, our double decker chariot managed to collide into a taxi five minutes out of town. Despite this, there were no injuries or major delays and we made it into town on time.
I only had plans of staying a few days in total to check out the Colca Canyon and then move on to Puno and onto Bolivia. I was a few blocks from the main part of town but getting to know the city is quite easy with the Plaza de Armas and Cathedral of the Arequipa smack bang in the middle of the city and the city blocks designed in grid formation that can be mostly explored by foot in a day. The city isn’t short on amenities with many shops, cafes and restaurants offering varying selection of local and international (pizzas) cuisine. As you walk around, there’s a very distinct colonial feel and in some parts of town you’d easily think you were in Europe.
To me, the Arequipans embrace their traditional food a lot passionately than those in Cusco. Despite every restaurant and cafe offering pizza, there was still a wide range of local dishes on offer ranging from the sweet stuffed peppers called, Rocoto Relleno, a famous soup called Adobo which is claimed to be the best hangover cure, the local river prawns, trout and ceviche, or Alpaca steaks seeing it’s the Alpaca capital of Peru. For me it was a relief to eat decent food wherever I went and ended up attending a one day cooking class which included a trip to the market, cooking a spicy fish dish, ceviche and finishing off with a few pisco sours.
Speaking of local food, after writing off Alpaca, I decided to have it again based on a friends recommendation at Zig Zag restaurant. Despite being on the slightly expensive side for the meal, it was totally worth it and restored my faith in our strange looking four legged friends. Juicy, tender and not too over powering in flavour. By the end of the week I felt like I had been eating very well.
Defintely drop into Arequipa i you have the chance. The climate is just perfect (although apparently too hot for the peruvians) and after the colder climate of Cusco, for me it was a good break. You only need four days maximum if and most places can explored by foot.
Stayed: Arequipay Hostel for about US$9 a night in a 6 bedroom dorm. Includes breakfast and their own travel agency so you can book everything from there.
How I got there: Cruz del Sur busses leave at 8pm in the evening from Cusco and gets you there at 8am. I booked a ticket the day before so didn’t have any issues with availability. Make sure you bring something warm as the temperature drops in the bus in the evening.
Touristy stuff: Colca Canyon, Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Peruvian Cooking Experience, San Camilo Market, Free walking tour at 10am. Meet at the tourist office in Plaza de Armas
Ate: Zig Zag restaurant for a treat. Also there are many BBQ chicken places that dish up a soup, 1/4 chicken and fries for US$3. Also you can pick up a meal at the markets for US$2