El Misti volcano, Arequipa
Arequipa is Peru's second most important city (after Lima), and the second most popular among tourists (after Cusco). It's located in the Southern Coastal region of Peru just below the edge of the Altiplano, at 2380 meters over the sea level and surrounded by three impressive volcanoes. It is part of the so called "South Peruvian Toouristic Corridor", together with Nazca, Puno and Cusco. In difference to these other cities, Arequipa is a sample of the Spaniard and mestizo culture developed in Peru. There are no Inca traces or ruins in the city.
It is nicknamed the 'white city' (la ciudad blanca in Spanish), because many of the buildings in the area are built of sillar, a local white stone. This rock was quarried from the many volcanoes that surround the city, including the towering El Misti. Ask for local help to identify Misti, Chachani and PichuPIchu, the three volcanoes surrounding the city.
With 468 years of story since its spanish foundation, its ancient and historical colonial architecture can be found all over the center of the city and many surrounding districts. Reason why UNESCO has declare it Heritage of Humanity.
This city shows the cultural richness of the mixing between local natives and spaniard colonials who decided to make their lives and future in this land.
Colonial churches are all over the center of the city. They are expressions of the archtectural richnes developed in the Colony. Some ancient houses have being refactioned by the local authorities, and they act like living museums, where people leave and develope daily duties. An example of this are the called "Tambos" located at Puente Bolognesi street.
By far the easiest way to get to Arequipa is by plane, landing in Rodríguez Ballón airport, 7km from the city. LanPerú, Aero Condor and Star Perú fly from Lima, Juliaca and Cuzco. A taxi from the airport to the Plazza de Armas should cost between S/12 and S/20, depending on the size of the car, the size of your bags and your bartering skills.
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You can get a bus to Arequipa from every important city in Peru. From Lima the trip will last 16 hours. Its advisable to take non stop express buses. Usually they are the more expensive service but are the safest for tourists. From Arica / Tacna the trip lasts 7-9 hours.
There are several departures a day from Cuzco ( 9 hours, 30-60 soles), Puno (5 or 6 hours,15-30 soles), Pisco (12-14 hours, 50-150 soles), Nazca (9 hours, 50-150 soles) and Tacna (near the border with Chile, 6 hours).
Try to avoid cheap buses. With buses, the more you pay the higher quality bus, service, and safety. Some of the more reputable companies are Cruz del Sur, Ormeño, Oltursa and Flores (A good budget option. Their station is located across the street from terminal terrestre.)
Charter trains to Juliaca and Puno are only available for groups of 40 or more.
The city has a Urban area that can be visited by foot. The historical center, is a 5 block area arround the main square and its very easy to visit following one of the many maps available at the hotels or any information office. Some ancient districts like Yanahuara and Cayma are also at walk distance.
The rural area is a whole attraction itself. With gorgeous terraces, spaniard mills, palaces and the permanent view of the volcanoes from wherever you are.
A great way to visit most of the touristic spots from the rural and urban area is to take a bus tour. This special buses are available at the main square and you can book the tour at your hotel or directly with the bus driver. In two or four hours, according to the tour you book, you will visit most of the famous viewpoints of the city. A great experience (from 6 to 10 dollars).
If you want to take a taxi, you should take a "safe one". Rules to recognize them: they have signs on the roof. As popular the sign, as bigger the company and as safer the taxi. Another rule, take one that has just left a passenger. Avoid taking taxis that are stopped waiting passengers.
Prices are per ride. A ride from the main square to any place in the central district will be 3-4 soles. A taxi from the bus station to any hotel, 5 soles. From the airport, the price varies between 15 - 20 soles. Some cab drivers try to rip you off by saying prices are per head but price is always per ride for all passengers. Allow for a minor extra charge for luggage (usually half a sol per major piece).
You can rent a car with a driver included and go all around Arequipa just $6 an hour. There are many trustable taxi companies like Panataxi, Taxitel, Turismo Arequipa and Megataxi.
For your safe, if you leave a restaurant or disco late night and want to come back to your hotel in a taxi, ask the restaurant to call a safe taxi.
- You can rent a truck at a very low rate including a driver (just $55 per 8 hours plus diesel expenses), call +5154 9350539 or email: email@example.com, and go ahead and visit Arequipa's outskirts and places such Colca River, Majes, Camana and Mollendo beaches.
- The Plaza de Armas, the main square of Arequipa, surrounded by buildings made of sillar, a white volcanic stone.
- Visit San Camilo market, the oldest one located in the centre of the city. It's three blocks away from the main square.
- See Juanita Mummy. From May to November the main exhibit is the Dama de Ampato, also known as Juanita. Found close to the main square is the Museum of the Catholic University, with the interesting exhibition of frozen bodies of sacrificial victims found in the neighbouring volcanoes.
- Convento de Santa Catalina is the most visited building from the spaniard era of the city. Described as a city in a city, this beautiful place with its colors, flowers and little streets, will make you feel you are back in time. Quite close to the Plaza de Armas.
- One of the newest attractions is the Convento de Santa Teresa, a little off the usual tourist areas in downtown Arequipa. Not as interesting architecturally as Santa Catalina, some of the paintings and artifacts are stunning.
- Many of the almost 250 colonial buildings entitled as Human Heritage by UNESCO, are close to the main square. Some are turned to banks, stores, restaurants and departments. This practical way of preserving the city by finding a practical use to the historical buildings, provides a great experience to the visitor who feels like visiting a living museum.
- Churches are among the most beautiful buildings preserved. They are all Catholic and you can visit them but be aware to have some respect because most of the population practices the Catholic religion. La Compania, San Francisco, La Merced and the Cathedral are some of the most famous.
- Arequipa has beautiful bridges. Puente Bolognesi is the closest to the main square. Get there and visit the Tambos (ancient houses rebuilt by the city government and used as apartments). Great experience.
- Puente Fierro is an iron bridge designed by Eiffel and still in service. A technological jewell located in Vallecito (10 blocks from main square) and a must for people who loves trains and bridges. From the bridge, at golden time (4-5PM), you can get some of the best pictures from the volcanoes and the city.
- Nearby, in the old countryside, is the Molino de Sabandía (Sabandía Mill), a three centuries old water mill, set in the old Arequipa countryside.
- Arequipa is called the World´s capital of the Alpaca, a wool that comes from this andean camels and considered very fine and valuable. Big factories and several boutiques offer fine products at great prices. A good quality alpaca sweater will be between 70 to 180 soles according to colors and designs. Be aware some handicraft stores offer very cheap alpaca, unfortunately fake ones.
- Most typical handicrafts come from Chivay area. Colorfull embroidery called Maquinaza style, representing daily activities or nature scenes.
- There are some interesting shops geared towards tourists, including Patio del Ekeko, free WiFi included. The old Jesuit convent, half a block from the Plaza de Armas, is free to enter and has very good shops for fine Alpaca garments and local products. The place itself is very nice.
- Because of its weather, friendliness of its people and budget prices (compared to Lima or Cusco), this is a great place to learn spanish. Several schools available, like Spanish School Arequipa, Juanjo and Claro among them. Most of them with excellent programs. Classes are usually offered in a per week basis, and with accommodation packages included.
- Downhill volcano biking is offered in several levels of difficulty. Half day adventure managed by professional guides. S/70 to 80. They provide all the required equipment. Very safe. Great countryside views.
- Volcano climbing. Two opitons, an excursion to Misti or a real climbing to Chachani. Two day tour. The first one with low difficulty level the second one with medium difficulty. Altitude is usually the worst enemy for visitors. Chachani is over 6,000 meter altitude. Book with professional operators. Price among 90 dollars/person.
- Try whitewater rafting in some of the best rivers of the world. A typical half-day tour with some 90 minutes actual rafting will cost you about 70 S/.
Around Plaza de Armas you will find a lot of people approaching you with menu cards and offer you a free drink, etc. Local authority has prohibit this practice, to enforce authority avoid places using this practice. Check prices and haggle a bit for an extra free drink. Food in Plaza de Armas in general is good but not outstanding.
Arequipa keeps one of the most varied and flavored cuisine cultures in the country. Robust, with long term cooking products and with soups as their main dish. Local food is usually served at lunch time but you can also find it in locals for tourists during dinner time.
Hot food is very popular. Locals use rocoto (Capsicum pubescens) to provide the hot taste to their foods. This flavour is different that the hot flavour you find in Indian or Mexican food.
Try Rocoto relleno con pastel de papa, a stuffed, quite large pepper with potato pie. Ask beforehand if it has been made for "tourists" or if it is the original, quite hot, style; if the last one, be careful, it can be extremely hot!
Try Alpaca steaks. This very low fat and cholesterol meat is juicy and very soft. Presented in all the variations that beef is presented regularly.
This city is the best place in Peru to eat river shrimps. They are presented in several ways, being the most popular Chupe de Camarones, a thick soup very flavored and presented with many shrimps in it. Beware, plates here are big.
Arequipa is only three hours away from the sea, so many fish restaurants are available. If you have not tried Ceviche in Peru yet, this is a great oportunity. There are also many other sea delicacies.
Local restaurants are called Picanterias. They are still very popular among locals. Some are within the urban area and some others on the outside of the city. There is a neighborhood called Arancota, where you can find many of this restaurants. Some of them are huge (600 tables or more) and they are usually full of locals. The main food attraction in this area is chicharron (fried pork with corn).
As with all Peruvian food: local delicacies are heavy and sometimes very hot. Try them with care, especially since the height of the city (around 2,600 meters) makes digestion slow. Take a mate de coca, coca-leaf tea, after meals: it does help digestion and makes the altitude more bearable.
- Maya, Calle Jerusalem (Almost on the corner of Ugarte). Breakfast, piglets, burgers and more. Their set lunch is somewhat expensive, but they do it better! Set lunch 5,50 S/..
- Picanteria La Lucila Sachaca, still run by Sra Lucila Salas de Ballon, it's a short taxi ride out of town. Old style kitchen with Cuy (Guinea Pigs) eating scraps in the corner, and Lucila still makes her sauces the old way as she keeps an eye on everything and everyone.
And for dinner, you can find the best restaurants from the city in San Francisco street (third block).
- Zingaro Restaurante, San Francisco 309, . Try typical food like "cuy" or "rocoto relleno" and also they serve the best meet I´ve ever tried! and don't forget to ask about a drink called "coca sour". In the same block you can find some pubs or small discos, like Deja Vu, they have good music and drinks.
- Mandala, Calle Jerusalén 207, tél: 22 99 74, natural and tasty vegetarian food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. At lunch time, the menú ejecutivo, including a small salad, a soup, a yoghurt, a main dish, a dessert and a drink costs only 5 soles.
- Restaurant Vegetariano Su-hua Wang, Calle Moral 205, has excellent vegetarian Chinese food for good prices. Closed on Sundays.
- Govinda - Hare Krishna Vegetarian and Pizza. Sometimes they have a buffet, if not get the Menu Turistico, a 4 course meal for 15 soles which includes homemade yogurt, a Peruvian specialty, and your choice of entree among several Indian and Italian options. Everything is fresh and organic or locally grown. Eat outdoors and don´t go if you are in a hurry, expect it to take an hour as one person is preparing each part of your meal from scratch.
- Nitay Gouranga Vegetarian Restaurant, Calle Rivero (Rivero Street) 603 Cercado. You can find there tasty vegetarian food and desserts and you can get the menu of the day for just 4 soles including the soup the main dish and the soft natural drink. Tasty vegetarian food. Also you can order and have different options. You can find also yoghurt pizza stuffed potato, etc.
The typical drink is Pisco. Arequipa is the craddle for the Acholado type, a Pisco comming from a mixt of several grapes. Locals drink it pure, in little sips. Chilcano is another way to drink it, Pisco with white soda. And of course, Pisco Sour, a must for any visitor.
The local booze is Anis Najar. Chicha and Pisco Sour is also drunk.
The local beer is Arequipeña, -on its way to be replaced by Cuzqueña after a merger,
The local soft drink is Kola Escocesa, not as sweet as Inca Kola
There is also a popular mineral water called Socosani. Energina is a yellow soft drink produced with this water. Some other soft drinks area available from the same factory.
Most bars and clubs for tourists are on Calle San Fransisco, uphill from the main square. Many have happy hour specials until 10 PM.
There is an area of the city called Calle Dolores, with discoteques, kareokes and salsa ball rooms usually attended by locals but safe enough for travellers. Taxi is needed to get there.
- La Posada del Cacique, Jerusalen 404 (Cercado / Arequipa), ☎ 5154202170, . safe area, near to the plaza de armas, 25 soles / p.p for a double with private bathroom, good rooms, very friendly and competent owner, he will save you a good deal of money if you are going to make some tours (hill climbing, colca canyon etc.)
Close to Plaza de Armas.
- Casa de Avila (Casa de Avila), Av. San Martin 116, Vallecito (Four blocks from Main Square), ☎ 54 213177 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Casa de Avila is located in a beautiful 1930´s building reaconditioned as a charming hotel. A beautiful central courtyard is the main attraction of the place. Staff is friendly and helpful, and most speak English. A family run business with a warm informal atmosphere. WiFi and Internet for free, private rooms, TV Cable in most of them, and breakfast included in the rate. Spanish classes and cooking activities are part of the amenities the place offers. Very good location, at four blocks from the main square. They offer a tourist information service to help you planning your activities. 24 hours. From $10/ person.
- El Rosario Hospedaje, Pasaje del Solar No 124, Phone 222517, run by a friendly elderly couple. Hot water showers. Singles from 10 soles.
- The Crismar Hotel, Calle Moral #107, [www.crismarhotel.com/]. One and a half blocks from main plaza across the post office, best location, free transfer from airport, and bus terminal, prices start at $30 tax exempt for tourist, great coffee shop Bernini's at hotel.
- Hotel Viza, calle Peru #202, . Three blocks from the Plaza de Armas, $25 a nice room, includes breakfast and pick up from the airport.
- Arequipa Youth Hostel, Calle Zela 313 (between Bolivar and 4th block of Santa Catalina). Telephone +5154-959669253, E-mail: email@example.com. 15 soles per person/ 20 soles w/breakfast. Directed by a turism and hospitality major. Centrally located on a quiet street just 2 blocks from Plaza de Armas. Singles, doubles, and dorms available. Clean and comfortable rooms. Nice patio area for socializing. Open kitchen use. Free internet access. Friendly and helpful staff with tourist information available.
- Arequipay Backpackers at Cruz Verde 309, Telephone: +5154223001, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, . Dorm bed 20 soles, including breakfast and hot showers. A few blocks from the main plaza.
- La Reyna, Zela 209. Doubles 30 soles. Pirate wifi on the roof.
- Colonial House Inn, Calle Puente Grau 114. ("Arriba de la Plaza" to the taxi driver) A huge, beautiful room for $27, the rest are cheaper, good breakfast.
- Bothy Hostel, Calle Puente Grau 109, Telephone +5154 282438. Sunny terrace, kitchen use, DVD room, hammocks and helpful staff. 20 soles a night.
- Le Foyer Hostel, Ugarta 114, S/35 per night for single room with shower. 2 blocks north of the Plaza de armas. Several restaurants below, on a rather busy road.
- Home Sweet Home, Rivero 509, Telephone +5154 405982. Family run hostel, multilingual staff. Dorm beds 25 soles. Cosy bedrooms, wifi, terrace, laundry, travel agency. Great breakfast 5 soles.
- Hostal Lluvia de Oro, Jerusalen 308, email@example.com. About three blocks from the main Plaza, friendly, in front of the tourist police station, nice patio, pick up from airport.
- El Solar de la Macarena, Calle Jerusalen 531, firstname.lastname@example.org. Just opened in February 2008. Wifi, private bathrooms, nice shared kitchen, laundry, TV in every room. You can hang out on the roof or the 2nd floor terrace.
Hotel Asturias. Calle Ugarte 211. Located a couple of blocks from the Plaza de Armas and very close to the Convento. Very good location. Rooms are small, but the hotel is recently furbished, clean, and quiet. The staff is friendly and solicitous. There is internet, and breakfast included. There are restaurants, bars, and shops all around. Travel agency on site. We got a double for $45 a night (ask for the best rate) and felt it was a fair price. www.hotelasturiasarequipa.com
- Sonesta Posadas del Inca Arequipa, Portal de Flores 116 [www.sonesta.com/areqauipa]. With 58 guest rooms, the Sonesta Posada del Inca is located in the center of Arequipa’s Main Square, a few steps from its modern business center and with easy access to the city’s major historical treasures, including the monastery of Santa Catalina and the Museum of Dama de Ampato (the Juanita mummy).
All the usual advice given for Peru applies here as well. Arequipa feels like a somewhat safe city, and like in most of the other major Peruvian cities there was always a fairly large police presence. That said, don't unnecessarily flaunt your valuables or your money. Despite of this, there have been several robberies reported. DO NOT walk alone after 11PM in the downtown area!
In the downtown area, there is a fairly large presence of tourist police, wearing white shirts. Ask them for help.
The most common form is when a foreigner takes a no-name cab and some corners later other people are picked up to rob the tourist. To be safe, don't just hail any old cab that passes by. Always take branded taxis (of which you can see plenty). Several of these branded taxis are very careful about the owners/drivers they take on. Consequently, they are very reliable. The best of these is the "Turismo Arequipa" company with a green and white logo (watch out for fakes). "Taxitel" is also good.
The safest way to call a taxi is to ask your hotel or hostel to do it for you. Almost all hostels and hotels have a relationship with a taxi company whose drivers are known and trusted. This holds for the rest of Peru as well.
There are many travel agencies, but only few tour operators without commissions. Best operators are Andina (Jerusalen 402A), PeruSchweizExplorer (Jerusalen 314) for Colca Canyon Tours (around 150 Soles for a 3D/2N trip) and Quechua Explorer (San Francisco 218) for hill climbing.
View of Chachani from El Misti
- The Colca Canyon: Theoretically possible as a daytrip, but most people opt for a night in Chivay, ate the least. Condors and landscapes.
- Chachani 6057 meters above sea level. Arrange transport with one of the adventure tour guides in town and be prepared for a 2-hour bumpy, swerving, scary drive around sharp curves up steep mountain roads. The base camp is over 5000 meters and the views are spectacular. If you are well-acclimated and have gear (ice axes and crampons) you should be able to summit from high camp in just over 8 hours. Otherwise just hike up the switchbacks to high camp (don´t stay there, you can´t sleep well at that altitude. Heed the mountaineer´s motto: "Hike high, Lie low") and then on to the col, from which you can see the beautiful view of Arequipa and surrounding mountains. The trek beyond can be dangerous if you´re not an experienced mountaineer. If you are, be prepared for a tough slog up dangerous scree and a trecherous traverse, and make sure you feel up to the return trip.
- El Misti 5822 meters above sea level. Is a 2 day climb there are a lot of agencies in Arequipa offering the climb for around $50 US. First night camps at approx 4600m so it gets very cold. You wake up at 1am to make the summit for sunrise. Not at all a technical climb, you can pretty much walk to the top. It helps to be acclimatised as you can get pretty breathless up there.
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