Arequipa was beautiful. White and chalky, Spanish in appearance and with a variety of things to do from a rock climbing gym to museum visiting, people watching, eating good food for even better prices, and visiting churches, a monestary and even alpaca world! This is a wonderful place to spend a few days.
I arrived off a day bus from Puno, the scenery was amazing the whole way, I even saw flamingoes out the bus window. I went with Flores bus company for S/20, which was pretty good for a 6 hour bus ride, although it wasn’t the most glamorous bus, it was short enough to not matter so much.
I stayed at Arequipay Downtown Backpackers which I highly recommend. The staff were so friendly and helpful and made an effort to remember everyone’s names. Breakfast is included (bananas and bread and jam), and the hostel has 2 movie rooms with Netflix which works perfectly, good internet, and a quiet enough location about 5 blocks from Plaza de Armas. They can also organise your tours to the surrounding canyons and mountains and volcanoes.
Arequipa seems to be the base for adventure activities surrounding the city. You can rock climb outdoors, white water raft, and climb to 6000m up a volcanoe without any prior experience! The most popular activity is hiking in the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world and a popular place to see the amazing Condors. It isn’t a place to miss. More on that in a following post.
Visiting the Museo Santuarios Andinos was a chilling experience and not just because the air conditioning was turned up super cold. The museum is set up for the preserved bodies of Inkan children who were sacrificed to the mountain gods about 550 years ago. The most famous child is a beautiful teenage girl called Juanita who was found to be buried at the summit of Ambato volcano. The museum presents a video and a small exhibit with a guide and I thought it was well worth the s/20 I paid to get inside.
They rotate the bodies on display, but you are always able to come face to face with the chilled body of a child, and think of the chilling experiences they went through because of what they believed in and worshipped. Not so crazy in today’s society I guess….
I then visited the San Camillo Markets, which were very beautiful markets. I was mostly craving a fresh juice, delicious as always, the juice ladies always up for a chat. The market is lined with colours and smells but perhaps presents the more normal side of every day life in Arequipa which is so heavily populated with tourists and travellers. The fruit aisles are my favourite in any market, but they were bucket loads and truck loads of fruits in these aisles it literally made my head spin (okay maybe I drooled a bit as well….). We also found a pet section with card board boxes filled with sleeping cats, kittens and puppies of varying ages, sizes and colours…. somewhat worrying, but adorable all the same!
I also visited Mundo Alpaca which is a strange place you can just walk into and see the process of spinning alpaca wool. There is also a small pen full of alpacas and maybe a llama too, one brown one is particularly friendly and will allow you to pat him through the fence.
I ate some food at Ratatouille, the best s/10 I spent! But then again, I really like food…. I also ate a delicious crepe and coffee at La Petite Francaise (bit of a French theme going in this very Spanish looking town). And I had the most choclately hot chocolate in my life at Chaqchao cafe. They also do chocolate making courses here!
I checked out the rock climbing gym and walked to a few random churches (all very charming). I got caught in the rain more times then not, and even went to a fancy mall for 5 minutes (fanciest toilets in all of South America!). It’s an endearing place all centered around the main square – Plaza de Armas, spiralling out there are countless back streets and alley ways to wander around, once you cross the river a different feeling can be experienced, a more modern and rushed feeling…. back to reality!
I’ll put up a seperate post on the monestary Santa Catalina – stay tuned!