The White City of Arequipa

Our 16-hour overnight bus rolled into Arequipa just before nine. We stumbled off our double decker home for the better part of a day and shuffled slowly to our guesthouse, El Caminante Class. At 7,700 feet we began to notice that climbing two flights of stairs to the hostel left us a little breathless.

Arequipa map
Arequipa is located 630 miles southeast of Lima.

Later in the day we learned that there had been a rollover bus accident involving a double-decker night bus on the route from Lima to Arequipa involving a different company, so we were thankful for our research (and ultimate choice of the bus that was still very much in tact).

Backpacking Arequipa Peru
Volcano “El Misti” looms large over the Southern Peruvian city of Arequipa.
Arequipa locals around plaza
“Arequipeñas” enjoying a sunny afternoon at Plaza de Armas.
altar in Arequipa church
Waiting to eat lunch at one of Arequipa’s restaurants overlooking the main plaza.

We meandered through the streets of Peru’s second largest city before enjoying our first “real” meal at a restaurant overlooking Plaza de Armas. We quickly learned that their food is quite different than food typical to Central America and Mexico, and opted to pick a few items at random. Our favorite was the Ricotta Relleno (famous in the area), a big red pepper stuffed with cheese and meat, with a Pastel de Papa (potato cake) on the side…mmm.

Arequipa food ricotta relleno
Ricotta Relleno [left] & Pastel de Papa [right].

Here, we also enjoyed our first Pisco Sours of the trip, a national beverage made with grape brandy and frothy egg whites on top…mmm.

We arranged transport for the next morning to Colca Canyon and headed to the city’s famous Monasterio Santa Catalina, just a block from our hostel. A huge convent-city now open to the public after being private for 291 years (or something crazy like that).

classic car and Santa Catalina monastery
Arequipa’s beautiful and mysterious Santa Catalina monastery.
Monestario Santa Catalina
Inside Monestario Santa Catalina.
last supper

A depiction of the Last Supper with life-sized figurines. I shot the photo mostly because I thought Jesus was giving the peace sign, but after closer inspection realized he was merely trying to get the bartender’s attention.

The monastery had all these tiny winding streets and little chapels, kitchens, and nun´s living quarters.

Slaving over a nun-stove.
Lori studied abroad in Seville, Spain, and thus insisted I take a photo…cute, Lori.

After our tourist time, we managed to lock ourselves out of our room in only our towels….haha, a long story. Then we wandered the streets with the locals again (many families were out on this pleasant winter, weekend evening).

Arequipa’s cathedral with Mt. Chachani and Mt. Pichu Pichu in the background.
Traditionally-dressed Arequipeña chatting on her cell phone.

While searching for dinner we found: waffles on a stick (topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayo…yuck!), a dressed up Santa Claus, Tigger, and pizza slice man…interesting…a senora selling 50 centimos popcorn (like 10 cents) on the streets which helped tide Lori over till dinner. We also noticed that there was no drainage for water…in the streets or on the buildings…no gutters (we read that it hardly rains here).

Taxis waiting at a red light on one of Arequipas busiest (and narrowest) avenues.

Every intersection is a free-for-all, basically a few cars go one direction, then a few cars the other direction, with no stop signs, traffic lights or set pattern; we found it safest to cross with locals and even better if there was a baby in a stroller in the crowd…

Our dinner at another balcony restaurant around Plaza de Armas was quite tasty. We enjoyed happy hour, at 8pm…more Pisco Sours, and a Peru Libre (pisco brandy with coke). Lastly, we capped the night with a delightful Arequipeña beer.

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