Some of you may not have heard of Arequipa, Arequipa is Peru’s second city and is located in the south of the country in the middle of the Peruvian desert. The city is a fabulous mix of old and new and has a wonderful history to learn. So what things to do in Arequipa?.
Arequipa is one of the most pleasant cities in Peru, the perfect place to spend a few days on your trip to Peru, with a great climate all year and near to no rainfall. The city has a different feel to most other cities, it is modern and the people are also a little different, Arequipa has a vibe of today where some other places in Peru live a little in the past.
Having said that the city has its colonial past where you can visit attractions like the Santa Catalina Monastery and take a tour with the Nuns that still live and work the convent today. The convent is a labyrinth of laneways with an interesting history.
The main plaza in Arequipa is one of the prettiest in Peru. Well-tendered gardens and plenty of flowers make the plaza a special spot to spend some time. The Arequipa Cathedral is located on the plaza and is made, as is most of the city from white volcanic stone. Surrounding the plaza are many Spanish Colonial houses, which today are restaurants where you can enjoy a tasty lunch.
You should take the time to visit some of the museums in Arequipa, especially where Juanita is housed. Juanita is mummy found in the Andean peaks with a fascinating story so take the time to visit and learn her story.
On any visit to Arequipa you should do a Colca Canyon Tour, situated around a six-hour drive from Arequipa, the canyon is considered one of the deepest in the world. This amazing feat of Mother Nature was created by the Colca River over thousands of years; you will see the river below when you visit one of the many viewing points at the top of the canyon. One of the most spectacular sights to see at the Colca Canyon is the majestic Condor. The birds love to fly around the canyon and if you are lucky, you may see one up close. The canyon is worth a visit so book a tour.
The Colca Canon trek may not have the archaeological sites of the Inca Trail, but the natural scenery is equally if not more beautiful. It is said that the canyon is around 11000 feet deep, more than twice that of the Grand Canyon in the United States, but this is measured from the high peaks to the floor of the canyon. The setting is spectacular and the hiking is challenging, most of the hikes are a short two or three days in duration and you will see condors and get to soak in some wonderful hot springs.
If you have the time to do the trek slowly you will benefit greatly from the experience, many people do the hike in a day and do not enjoy the experience, it is much better to take a couple of days and take in the magnificence of the mountains.
In February every year the local people in Arequipa, celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. The story behind the saint is as follows; on the 11 February 1858, a girl named Bernardita went to the woods with two of her friends to look for firewood and came across a river. As Bernardita suffered from badly from asthma she decided to stay by the river while her, friends went to look for wood. While she was resting the Virgin Mary appeared, she is also known as the Lady of Lourdes, the girl and the Virgin prayed together, over the next eight months the Virgin appeared to Bernardita more than 18 times and she claims the Virgin cured her asthma. The girl was treated very badly from the local authorities for her claims, however the people gathered around her waiting for the Virgin to appear, which she never did, Bernardita stayed strong in her faith until she died.
Arequipa is also becoming a food destination. In the white city, the typical Arequipa Restaurants are known as Picanterias. Here you will find all the local specialties to try, but be warned the plate sizes are large so go with a big appetite.
Considered the signature dish in Arequipa is Rocoto Relleno. Made with Red Peppers that are cleaned and the seeds removed, then the pepper is stuffed with chopped meat, peanuts, boiled eggs, olives, cream cheese and milk, and baked in the oven, when is ready served with potatoes.
Ocopa, this dish normally served as an appetizer is boiled potatoes covered with a cream made from yellow hot pepper, onion, garlic, cream cheese and a spice called huacatay, blended with dry bread, the plate is also served with boiled eggs, olives and lettuce.
No trip to Arequipa would be complete with trying the traditional soup, Adobo, this soup is served all over Peru but it is better in Arequipa. Featuring pieces of pork meat that have been marinated in chicha(Inca Beer) and cooked with vinegar, hot peppers and spices, normally cooked in a clay pot which enhances the flavor and served with bread, this soup is traditionally served in the morning for breakfast.
So many things to do in Arequipa, why not take the time to visit this lovely city on your next trip to Peru.