2007 Roadtrip Arequipa, Perú Our 6 Days There

Dimitri had decided that, once we got to the hotel in Arequipa and put the car in the guarded lot, we wouldn’t use it again until we left Arequipa. We’d only take taxis. Not only were the roads hard to follow (many with no street signs) and in bad shape, but the drivers are undisciplined. For instance, left turns from the right lane are common. The only rule that is generally followed is stopping at red lights.

There are thousands of tiny Korean cars in Arequipa that are yellow taxis. It seemed like no ride was more than S/.3. We were reluctant to use the Libertador hotel taxi at first. But Geovanni, the driver, didn’t charge more than a normal taxi and he was wonderful (Geovanni Bouroncle Trevejo, cell 054-942-7370, e-mail: cpspci2@hotmail.com) He even took our bikes to be repaired when they had flat tires. And when we were leaving town, he made sure we easily found the way to get to the Panamericana Sur.
Our first morning in town we walked from our hotel in the Selva Alegre area to the Cercado or the center. While the architecture is unusual and interesting, for a Ciudad Blanca, it isn’t blindingly white. The volcanic rock, called sillar, is kind of dirty, actually.

The carving of the sillar rock is an art form in Arequipa


Our second dinner in Arequipa was at Coca Kintu (Calle San Francisco 302A, Arequipa, fono (51-54) 224-380 or 330-568, e-mail: coca.kintu@mail.com). It was described as fina comida novo andina and it really was. We had 2 entrées (a good quinoa soup and nachos, which Dimitri loved), one main, one dessert and a Chilean wine (Cassillera del Diablo, Carmenere S/. 50). The Chilean wine at US $15.72 was about one-third more expensive than in Chile. The meal cost S/.121/US $40.59 and we rated it 8/10. Unfortunately there weren’t too many diners.

On our third day we took our bikes off the top of the car and went for a short ride to a part of town called Independencia. While it wasn’t a long ride, it was all uphill. There wasn’t too much traffic and it wasn’t scary to ride on the road. Along the way we saw mini-eateries with boards announcing 3-course meals for S/.3 (or about 94¢US). We didn’t try any of them but we probably should have. The people-scape had changed as well as the prices. They have a mocha-color and a nose and upper lip that Dimitri called Incan. They look exotic.
Lonely Planet had highly rated the restaurant Sambambaia (Luna Pizarro 304, Vallecito, S/.80 with tip), where we went on our third night for dinner. It will probably turn out to be our worst meal in Perú.

Arequipa is a jumping-off point for mountain expeditions and a good town for sport tours. Through Peruvian Andes Expeditions we hired a guide, Aldo Peña, to take us on a bike ride outside of Arequipa. He is an avid cyclist, mountain climber and professional guide. We went on a 23 km bike ride with Aldo to Paucarpata, Socabaya and Sabandia. (We paid S/.50 to Peruvian Andes Expeditions.) It was great; he was full of information. We learned about the Incan irrigation system that is still in use and saw the Incan terracing that is used for agriculture.
Biking in the countryside of Arequipa with our guide, Aldo Peña

Unfortunately it started getting chilly and windy later in the ride. Then it started raining. We decided to stop for lunch to wait it out. We went to el Peroy (comida criolla, a spicy Peruvian fare with Spanish and African influences), Av. Colón 204B in Sabandia. The owner was delighted to see us. He provided us with fried yucca chips gratis to start (which we were eating for the first time and we loved them—much better than French fries). The three of us each had a chupe that was far bigger than we ever expected. It had meat, regular potatoes, chuño (a potato that's dried before cooking that will never be a favorite of ours) and vegetables in a light broth. It was perfect for a wet and chilly day. For dessert, the owner provided us, again gratis, with our first mazmorra morada, a violet corn pudding dessert. All this cost S/.26 (US$8) for the three of us. It was still raining hard after we finished lunch and so we called the hotel’s taxi driver, Geovanni, who came to Sabandia to pick us up for about S/.3. All three bikes had to be taken apart to fit in the back of his station wagon but it was well worth it. When we returned to the Libertador, we used the steam room, the sauna and the outdoor Jacuzzi (which the staff had filled with hot water especially for us) in the hotel’s beautiful and large garden. It was really lovely.

Another highlight of our stay in Arequipa was our tour of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. It is fabulous that 16th century unmarried women could "whoop it up" together in a convent, which was actually a city within a city. The place is a must-see; it’s so unusual, extensive and interesting. We experienced a novel Peruvian custom for the first time there: a little souvenir is given to visitors with their entry ticket.
Dimitri above the kitchen in one of the apartments at El Monasterio

We found our favorite restaurant in Arequipa without any guidebook help. It is La Trattoria del Monasterio (C. Santa Catalina No. 309, Arequipa, fono (51-54) 204-062, e-mail: latrattoriadelmonasterio@yahoo.com). It is open for both lunch and, unusually, dinner (except on Sundays). We had both meals there one day. We had our first chupe del camarones and it was delicious. Chupe del camarones is a chowder made with shrimp, milk, eggs and oregano. Our rating for the restaurant: 8/10.

At the central market in Arequipa we had other Arequipeño dishes: recoto relleno (red hot peppers stuffed with chopped beef, cheese and milk) and pastel de papas (mashed potatoes) for S/.6 (US$1.89). Interesting.

The central market in Arequipa


We ate cuy (guinea pig pictured at left) for the first time at Sol de Mayo (Jerusalén 207, fono: 254 146, Yanahuara, Arequipa) and we took a snap of it to commemorate the event. We walked there from the center of Arequipa and stopped at the Mirador/Viewpoint in Yanahuara. Unfortunately it was cloudy or rainy during our stay and we never saw the volcanoes.

Sol de Mayo on Saturday at lunch had dancing and lots of diners. We had our favorite: sea urchins in a ceviche de erizos that was delicious (and which we have never found again in Perú). We also tried ocopa con queso frito (boiled potatoes covered with a fresh cheese sauce, lima beans—why aren’t they pronounced the same way as Lima?? —onions and olives). Our main dish was the cuy chactado, very special and much meatier and juicier than we expected. For dessert we had buñuelos, a kind of donut that Dimitri thinks should be crispy on the outside (but usually aren’t). Dimitri drank a chicha (a beer made out of fermented corn) too. The total cost was S/.92 (US$28.93) and it was a great experience. This and many other restaurants are only open at lunch. The reason we were given is that the food is too heavy and unhealthy to eat at dinner.
Dancing from different regions of Perú at Sol de Mayo
The Museo Santuarios Andinos where, Juanita, the ice princess—the frozen body of an Incan maiden who was sacrificed on the summit of Ampato over 500 years ago—was well-done. The tour and another souvenir were included in the price.Arequipa turned out to be our kind of town. It’s a city with all kinds of services and it’s a tourist destination with very good tourist services and restaurants. To top it off, for us, the possibility for sports makes it even better.
We were going to go from Arequipa to Colca Canyon but we were told that the rain was really bad during this El Niño. So we decided to go to Colca on the way back to Chile later in the year, after the rains. We headed west to the coast instead. We stopped at the Hotel de Turistas in Camaná on the recommendation of Lonely Planet that it was an elegant building. It was not at all as described. So, we decided to press on to Puerto Inka, after getting gas.