A Peru family vacation in Arequipa

Walking the streets of Arequipa.
See slide show of the Arequipa visit.

Elena makes it in time and at 4:20 p.m. the captain welcomes us onboard together with the rest of the passengers. We are ready to visit the white city, Arequipa. After a pleasant flight we arrived at 6:40 and outside an airport taxi is parked to take us to Hotel Tierra Sur, which was recommended to us by my old friend Antonio Pedro Tomasio, an Arequipeño who offered to look after us while we visited his town. The 20-minute taxi ride costs S/. 15 ($ 6).

Hotel Tierra Sur, located only two blocks from the main plaza, was built only a few years ago and lately they bought and restored a colonial house next door, where we recieved a huge room with a double and two single beds. The room was very nice, with high ceilings and beautiful white walls made from volcanic stones called sillar, which makes the room cozy and perfect for a family of four. The rate is S/. 250 and includes a breakfast buffet.

The first night we visit the historical part of Arequipa including the Plaza de Armas (Main Plaza) from where we find our way up to Patio del Ekeko, a small and attractive commercial center half a block from the main plaza with very tasteful stores. At del Ekeko’s restaurant, my son Nico had a delicious pasta with shrimp, his younger brother Anton had chicken nuggets, my wife Virginia chose trout with fine herbs and it was three-meat  combination for me: alpaca, lamb and tenderloin. All well prepared and around S/. 100 ($35) without drinks.

Getting lost in Santa Catalina

The next morning, we slept in and it felt great, but as soon as we had finished breakfast, Santa Catalina Monastery was waiting for us.

Inside the Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa.
See a slideshow of photos from Santa Catalina.
Zig-Zag restaurant in Arequipa boasts "alpandina" cuisine.
See more photos from Zig-Zag.

I’ve visited it twice before back in 1990 and 1998, but it never looked better than during this trip. Santa Catalina is like a small city within Arequipa and was build back in 1540, and today still houses 20 nuns. Monasterio Santa Catalina is today accessible to the public and is a must-see for whoever lives there or is just visiting. The entrance price is S/. 35.

Luxury dining in Arequipa

After about four hours looking around and taking pictures, we walked around the beautiful city of Arequipa, before we headed back to the hotel to prepare our visit to Colca Canyon the following day and one of Arequipa’s best restaurants, Zig-Zag, in the evening. Zig-Zag is an international restaurant owned by German-Swiss couple Carola Behrendt and Michel Hediger specializing in meats cooked on lava stones.

After enjoying pisco sours made with Andean fruits, elderberries (called sauco in Peru) and coca leaves, my beef, ostrich and alpaca was still sizzling when it arrived to our table. It was served with different choice of garniture surounded by sauces and butters mixed with fine herbs. Our meat, and especially the alpaca, was cooked to perfection and afterwards there was no more room for desserts, as we also ordered tartar made from beef and ostrich with cognac and a warm fish terrine made from salmon and local trout served with shrimp in a delicious sauce.

Virginia had Rack of Lamb served with quinua mixed with Andean cheese, garlic dressing and a special butter made from 13 spices. Zig-Zag was started 10 years ago and includes a stunning staircase designed by French architect Eiffel. It was almost like walking up the Eiffeltower, when I visited the second floor which has a fantastic view over Plaza San Francisco. Zig-Zag seats up to 120 guests, has a large wine menu — but if you are not in the mood for wine, I suggest you try their homemade ice tea, made from 15 herbs and other surprises. I tried to get the recipe, but unfortunately the owner was not keen to share that one with us.

To Colca Canyon

The following day, we were picked up at 9 a.m. to continue our journey to Las Casita de Colca, one of Peru’s finest and most luxurious lodges located just outside Chivay at the entrance to the canon (read more about Las Casita de Colca here). All I want to share with you here, is that we lived as royalty and enjoyed the countryside as we have never done before.

The first day, we just hanged out and did more or less nothing, besides enjoying the good food, our private spa and chimney while we were playing all kind of games that the kids had brought with us. Of course we also were fishing, cooking, horse riding and watching the condors that had been waiting for year for us to come see them. We were lucky! After a wonderful stay in Colca Canyon and Arequipa, I can only recommend you to visit this wonderful part of Peru. It is for sure that I’ll be back, because I only saw a few things of what is there to experience.