10 reasons to include Arequipa on your Peru visit
Arequipas stunning plaza
For many the peruvian city of Arequipa is just another stop on the 'gringo trail' or overnight stop to break up longer jouneys. In this article i'll present a countdown of the top ten activities in Arequipa and why it deserves to be a destination in its own right.
10. Visit El Molino
Arequipa is known by many as the 'white city'. The reason for this is the abundence of sillar stone used in construction. Few places can this be seen better than El Molino. Located just 20 minutes from the city centre this area was essentially a large mill where a small river was used to power the wheels that ground wheat. Today there are several buildings to be seen housing the grinding stones and it is an excellent point for taking horse trips out of Arequipa and into the surrounding hills.
9. Artesanial Markets Patio Del Ekeko
Few trips to Peru, not to mention Arequipa would be complete without a visit to an artesanial market to look at the variety of handicrafts and gifts on display. Arequipa has some of the finest examples or markets in Peru. Arequipas best example is perhaps Patio Del Ekeko, a sprawling but well presented shopping market where you can spend an afternoon buying that all important alpaca scarf or andean hat!
8. Enjoy the evening atmosphere!
Arequipa's central plaza looks spectacular at night. An evening stroll around it is a perfect way to relax after dinner. Id suggest that you ten head away from the lights of the plaza. Hidden behind the cathedral is pasaje catedral, a pretty passageway lined with several bars and restaurants. No visit to Arequipa or Peru is complete without tasting the renowned Pisco Sour. I doubt there is a more atmospheric location than this for trying your first one and watching the world go by.
7. Afternoon in the plaza of Arequipa, Peru
Arequipas geographical location means that sunny weather is virtually guaranteed, adding to the beauty of its historic plaza. With an assortment of shops, restaurants, churches and museums surrounding the surrounding walkways there is plenty to do. Once your feet are tired and you need a break from the sun, why not relax in one of the covered cafes overlooking the plaza and call down with a bottle of the local beer, arequipena?
6. Sample a local delicacy!
The most famous of Perus national dishes is Guinea pig or cuy as its known in spanish. If you are fortunate to visit more rural areas of Arequipa you will find single room dwellings where dozens of guinea pigs often have the run of the house along with the family. Arequipa is probably the best place to give it a try. Cooked in a variety of ways, but always retaining its familiar furry animal shape. Oh and before you ask, yes it does taste a bit like chicken!!
Hotel Las Mercedes, Arequipa, Peru
5. Spend the night in a stylish colonial hotel
There are dozens of fantastically priced hotels in Arequipa. Yet my first choice is always the same. Las mercedes hotel is a stunning example of colonial architecture at its best. Based just a few minutes walk from the central plaza, this hotel has large gardens from which to enjoy the views. The service supplied by the impeccably uniformed staff is supurb. This converted house has retained all its original features and is a fantastic alternative to the other mainstream hotels of Arequipa.
4. Visit Juanita the frozen Mummy!
Common practice in Incan times was the sacrifice of young women to appease the gods. Juanita is just one such sacrificial offering. Just a few minutes from central Arequipa is a fascinating museum that tells the story of Juanita and her discovery by scientists. The climax of this visit is to see the frozen remains of Juanita herself. Other than a visit to Machu Picchu, there are few better ways in Peru to get truly close to its Incan heritage. A truly chilling story from the heart of Arequipa...
3. Santa Catalina Monastery - Arequipa Peru
In my opinion if you are only to visit one religious site during your visit to Peru, it should be the Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa. Beautifully maintained, A maze of alleys, cloisters and living quarters surround the central church. There is still a small community of nuns that have withdrawn to a small portion of the site leaving the rest open to the public. There are dozens of small courtyards and alcoves perfect for a little quiet contemplation of the stunning surroundings. Whenever I return to Arequipa I always make time to sit with a book in a secluded courtyard overlooked by the surrounding volcanoes. Perfect.
2. Climbing El Misti
Almost making it to the top spot on my list has to be climbing El Misti. No visitor to Arequipa will have failed to spend at least a few moments gazing up at its summit. Rising up to 5822m above sea level, El Misti truly dominates the Arequipa area. There are plenty of tour companies that can arrange the two day climb as all but the most experienced of trekkers will find the altitude and lack of fresh water a challenge. Such a beautiful, perfectly shaped volcano will tempt most that visit Arequipa, a true once in a lifetime experience.
Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon
1. Colca Canyon
Just beating El Misti is my winner, the Colca Canyon. My choice due to its accessibility to all. Whether you prefer to visit from the comfort of a bus, or adventure down into its depths on a trek, there is something for everyone. Ask someone to name a famous canyon and 99% will say the Grand Canyon. Few are aware that just a couple of hours from Arequipa the Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep. Along the sides you can still see Incan and pre-Incan terraces being cultivated. With luck in amongst the stunning panoramic views you may just catch a glimpse of the incredible condor.
The No.1 attraction to Arequipa, Peru
You'll appreciate that the list Ive compiled above is based purely on my own opinion of Arequipa and the feedback ive gleaned from my clients down the years. If you have any suggestions for the list, id love to hear them and perhaps check them out on my next visit. Purely opinion it may be, but I defy any reader to not enjoy any of the Arequipa experiences above.....OK, well I'll let you off the guinea pig!