Arequipa, Peru: the capital of alpacas and so-called “White City.” Famous for excellent food, incredible views, interesting history and great hikes. Here’s what to expect when visiting Arequipa.
1. Get local at the San Camilo Market
It is in the traditional center of the “White City” that you’ll find this colorful market, with very friendly people and a surprising variety of ingredients. Lose yourself in the fruit alley, turn to the left for vegetables, pass by the numerous different kinds of meats, smell the mixture of fresh cheese and beautiful flowers as you walk between the two alleys, and end your little tour by going upstairs to eat at one of the many tables offering traditional Arequipa food.
Arequipa is nationally known for its traditional dishes, especially for rocoto relleno and adobo, both excellent displays of flavors from this region. Rocoto Relleno is perfect for spicy food lovers, and it consists of a spicy pepper commonly used in Peruvian cuisine. It is boiled to soften then stuffed with steak, cheese, various spices, black olives, and ground peanuts before getting tossed in the oven to bring it all together.
Adobo is the special pork chop soup of Arequipa, served in all of the touristy restaurants, but mostly served by locals on Sunday: according to tradition, adobo is hangover soup.
If you are a food lover visiting Arequipa, and you don’t want to miss out on any of the special dishes the city offers, find out here how to eat well in the “White City.”
2. Visit Mundo Alpaca
Mundo Alpaca, located in the heart of the city, in the historical center San Lázaro, is an ecological-tourism complex, where you can meet the precious Andean animal in a beautiful colonial house, surrounded by colorful green areas.
Learn about the difference between llamas and alpacas and their various breeds; take selfies with the famous Peruvian animal; visit the unique Museum of Textile Machinery; learn about traditional weaving and fiber-sorting techniques; and simply discover the transformation process of the alpaca, from breeding to craft and industrial transformation process. There is much to do while enjoying the beautiful environment of Mundo Alpaca.
3. Walk the colorful Monastery of Santa Catalina
The Monastery of Santa Catalina, located in the heart of Arequipa, takes up an entire “cuadra” or block. This monastery of Dominican Second Order nuns is very pleasant to visit thanks to the bright colors of its walls.
The entrance fee is S/ 40, though for an extra fee you can have a private guided tour. Directly after you enter the monastery, the beautiful bright colors can be enjoyed. Most of the walls are painted in bright red, blue, or orange. Moreover, beautiful trees and flowers add even more colors to the convent.
Walk around the monastery, visit all of the nuns’ rooms, learn more about their lifestyle and enjoy the little park in the middle of the monastery. You can also reach a point at the top that offers a really nice view of the city of Arequipa and of the volcanos that surround it.
When walking around the monastery, take a little break in the café and enjoy warm pastries with hot coffee, with beautiful natural surroundings.
4. Ice cream in the Plaza de Armas
When walking around the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa, you’ll probably understand where the name “White City” comes from. The Central Square of Arequipa, one of the numerous plazas the city offers, is considered one of the most beautiful Plaza de Armas of Peru.
When walking around it, stop at one of the many fried ice cream places. This special way to make ice cream is very popular in Arequipa. Fried ice is a sort of ice cream, made of milk, cream and added fruit, cake or other things to give the flavor. This is then iced and rolled up to make small different flavored ice rolls, with all kinds of toppings on them. It is very pleasant to see them being made, and even better to eat it!
5. Go hiking in the unique Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon, considered one of the biggest in the world, is a must-do for any hiking lover that wishes to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes of Peru. To visit the canyon, you have two options: joining on a tour or doing it on your own. Both are very pleasant and give you a unique experience in the Colca Canyon.
If you don’t want to plan anything and prefer to be guided, join one of the numerous tours you’ll find when walking around the “White City”. Most of them offer the same things, for approximately 120 soles (note that this price does not include the entry to the canyon, which will cost you 70 extra soles).
There are tours that last one day, two days one night, or three days. We recommend you the second option which starts early in the morning when the tour agency picks you up at your hostel to take you to the first activity: watching the condors fly over the canyon. You’ll then start hiking down a six-hour-long and very beautiful route, to end your day in the oasis that is located at the bottom of the canyon.
The next day, you’ll probably start hiking up a different route at 4am, to be back at the top around 7am-8am. Most of the tours take you to natural hot baths after the hike. Next to a river and surrounded by beautiful landscapes, it’s a great way to relax and treat yourself. End your trip to the canyon with an excellent Peruvian buffet where you can taste all the traditional plates of the country, for an extra S/ 25 per person.
If you do not want to join a tour, you can just book the transport and do the route on your own. This option is recommended if you want to take your time and walk at your own pace. Most people complete it in a total of three days and two nights. You start off at the small village of Cabanaconde from where you hike down to Llahuar, known for its hot baths where you can relax after a 5-hour hike.
The next day, you walk in the bottom of the canyon from Llahuar to the Sangalle Oasis, passing by different small villages and beautiful waterfalls. You’ll finish your day relaxing in one of the pools of the paradisiac oasis. The following day, start early in the morning to hike back up to Cabanaconde, using the same route as all the agencies.
If you are getting down to the canyon on your own and want to enjoy a luxury stay, here’s all the information you need.
Cover photo: Wikimedia
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