For a great stop on the way up to Machu Picchu why not stop in Arequipa. Its 2335 m above sea level so will help you adjust to the higher altitude. Arequipa is also the gateway to the Colca Canyon, home to the Andean Condor.
It is named the white city of Peru due to the colour of stone used to construct the buildings and the people who took over the city. 1.3 million people call Arequipa home and are passionate about their city. There is a hipster vibe as you wander through the pebble stone streets. Each door or archway leads to a small café, shop or hotel. From pretty much everywhere in the city, you can see the two volcanoes looking over the city. The Misti Volcano is 5825m above sea level and hosts an Arequipa to the summit race each year.
What‘s there to do in Arequipa
One of the best way to start off in the city is to join a ‘free’ walking tour. The company we used is the ‘Inkan Milkyway company’. I love the concept of the free tours. To show gratitude to your guide, a monetary tip is the best option. You decide how much to tip the guide, but don’t be stingy, give the amount you think the tour is worth.
The main attraction to Arequipa is the ‘Moasterio de Santa Cataline’ or Santa Catalina monastery. Dating back to 1579, the monastery sprawls over most of the central city. It is also the busiest area for tourists. Entrance to the monastery is 40 soles and is open from 9 to 5 Mondays to Sundays with an extended close time of 7.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
For an in-depth history lesson of the Inca’s offering to the gods, head to the Museo Santuanaas Andinos. It is here you will meet Juanita–the Ice mummy. Found by chance, a group of archaelogists climbed a mountain to take photographs of an active volcano and stumbled across Juanita. The ash had melted the snow to uncover the sacrificed girl. The entrance fee is 20 soles per person and includes a 20 minute documentary and an English-speaking guide.
A great little tip is to join a chocolate making class at Chachao chocolates. They have lessons at 11am and 3pm daily and cost 65 soles per person. The lesson lasts for 2.5 hrs. Learn how to create your own chocolate bar from start to finish. The chocolate making class is in English and is a unique experience. A word of warning though, you will never look at chocolate the same.
Eating in Arequipa
Picanteria serves traditional food from Arequipa. Feast the original way commoners ate, a large picnic bench like table shared between lots of people. Al Paca is famous to Peru and is classed as a delicicy in Arequipa. The meat tastes a little like pork and is the same texture. Zig Zag serves Al Paca and will cost 45-60 soles. If you want to try out some delicious freshly made Peruivian food, head to Corte Azul. It’s delicious food in the suburbs.
If you want to try some of the local food fresh from the markets, head to Mercado San Camilo. Open 7 days a week, you will find everything from fresh fruit and veg to the local butchers. For those looking for some local crafts and arts, look no further. Mercado San Camilo has a section for this. It is located about a 10-15 minute walk from the main plaza.
If you have any questions, please get in touch!