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Arequipa is a city in the Southern Coastal region of Peru just below the edge of the Altiplano, at 2380 meters above sea level and surrounded by three impressive volcanoes. It's Peru's second most important city (after Lima), and the second most popular among tourists (after Cuzco).
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Points of Interest in Arequipa
- 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 the Juanita Mummy in the Museo Santuarios Andinos. From May to November the main exhibit is the Dama de Ampato, also known as Juanita. It is close to the main square.
- Convento de Santa Catalina is the most visited building from the Spanish era of the city. Described as a city within a city, this beautiful place with its colors, flowers and little streets will make you feel like 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 path in downtown Arequipa. It is not as architecturally interesting as the Convento de Santa Catalina, but 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 have been turned into banks, stores, restaurants and private residences. This practical way of preserving the city by finding a practical use for 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 always with a respectful eye towards the people there who may be worshiping. Most of the population still 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. Go 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 jewel located in Vallecito (10 blocks from main square) and a must for people who love trains and bridges. From the bridge, at golden time (4.00-5.00PM), you can get some of the best pictures of the volcanoes and the city.
- Nearby is the Molino de Sabandía (Sabandía Mill), a three centuries old water mill, set in the old district of Sabandia.
- Also to be found in the old countryside is the Mansión del Fundador, a renovated centuries old Spanish Colonial mansion. Admission 10 S/, 5 S/ for students.
Popular events in Arequipa in the near future
The city is part of the so-called "Southern Peru Tourist Corridor", together with Nazca, Puno and Cusco. In contrast to these other cities, Arequipa is an example of the Spanish and mestizo culture developed in Peru. There are no Inca artifacts or ruins in the city.
In the winter it is warmer than in the summer. It is nicknamed the 'white city' (la ciudad blanca, in Spanish), because many of the buildings in the area are built of sillar, a 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.
Arequipa embodies a rich mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. With 468 years of history since its founding, examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the center of the city and several surrounding districts. UNESCO has declared it Human Heritage site. Catholic churches are scattered throughout the center of the city. Some ancient houses have been refurbished by the local authorities and serve as living museums. An example of this are the so-called "Tambos" located at Puente Bolognesi street.
- Spanish language - Because of its weather, its friendly people and lower prices when compared to Lima or Cusco, Arequipa is a great place to learn Spanish. Several schools are available, most of them with excellent programs. Classes are usually offered on a per week basis and with accommodation packages included.
- Cooking lessons - This is an excellent opportunity to share with local cooks and work with them in preparing delicious local cuisine. The experience starts with selecting the products, then preparing and cooking them. After that, you can serve and enjoy the results in the form of a good traditional meal.
- Arequipa's Cooking classes, Urb Leon XIII K-1B Av. Trinidad Moran - Cayma 054 Arequipa, Peru, 054 Arequipa (It's located near to Real Plaza in Cayma-Arequipa), ☎ 765432-973531225, e-mail: email@example.com. 8am-11 am or 12 pm-3 pm or 4pm a 7pm. Chefs and bartenders provide you a unique experience in which you will cook and try Peruvian flavors, drinks, and dishes. At the same time, you will learn more information about the most representative Peruvian products such as quinoa, potatoes, chilis, and corn. 95 soles per person.
- Downhill volcano biking - Offered at 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 options, an excursion to Misti or a real climbing to the more difficult 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.
- Whitewater rafting - Arequipa has some of the best rivers of the world. A typical half-day tour with some 90 min actual rafting will cost you about 70 S/.
- Horse Pa Enrique Tours, Calle Santa Catalina N 308, ☎ 345948 / 284796, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Anibal has six horses in the small stable just behind Arequipa. The horses are quite calm and suitable for beginners. First you will be provided with a helmet and some basic instructions. After that you ride 7km there and 7km back next to Chili River with great views of volcanoes. At the end you may be asked to help with feeding the horses. 90 soles per person.
Around Plaza de Armas you will find a lot of people approaching you with menu cards and offering you a free drink, etc. Local laws frown on this practice. It is best to avoid places such as these. If you do choose to patronize them, 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 flavorful cuisine cultures in the country. Meals are robust with soups as one of their main dishes. Local food is usually served at lunch time but you can also find it in locals for tourists during dinner time.
Spicy food is very popular. Locals use rocoto (Capsicum pubescens) to provide the hot taste to their foods. This flavour is different than the spiciness in Indian or Mexican cuisine.
Try Rocoto relleno con pastel de papa, a large stuffed 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 meat, very low in fat, is juicy and very tender. It is presented in the same manner as traditional beef.
This city is the best place in Peru to eat river shrimps. They are presented in several ways, the most popular being Chupe de Camarones, a thick, savory soup featuring many shrimps in it. Beware, the 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 opportunity. 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 outskirts of the city. There is a neighborhood called Arancota, where you can find many of these 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). Menu's are usually set, consisting of a hearty soup followed by a main dish. Drinks are often included. Prices are generally very cheap, ranging from 5 S/ to 10 S/.
As with all Peruvian food, local delicacies are heavy and sometimes very hot. Proceed with caution when eating here, especially since the height of the city (around 2,300 meters) makes digestion slow. Take a mate de coca, coca-leaf tea, after meals: it helps digestion and makes the altitude more bearable.
- Maya, Calle Jerusalén (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 Capitana Old and the truly old cooking in Arequipa, is behind Saga Falabella, this picanteria observes the old traditions. Go early or the specialty of the day, which is around 7 soles, will be sold out. Though other dishes are also always available.
- Picanteria La Lucila Sachaca, still run by Sra Lucila Salas de Ballon, is a short taxi ride outside of town. An old style kitchen with Cuy (Guinea Pigs) eating scraps in the yard, and Lucila still making her sauces the old way as she keeps an eye on everything and everyone.
For dinner, you can find the best restaurants in the city around Calle San Francisco:
- Ary Quepay, Calle Jerusalén 502. Nice restaurant that serves local food.
- Tacos y Tequilas, Calle Ugarte 112, ☎ +51 54 628653. A nice atmospheric Mexican restaurant. The Mexican meals here are delicious, with an excellent guacemole. Mexican Menu 10 S/.
- Zingaro, Calle San Fransisco 309. Typical food like "cuy" or "rocoto relleno".
- Lazos, San Francisco 315, ☎ 215729. Steakhouse
- 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 8 soles.
- 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 get the menu of the day for just 4 S/ including soup and a main dish and a soft drink. Tasty vegetarian food with many different options.
The most popular Peruvian alcohol product is Pisco. Arequipa is the cradle for the Acholado type, a Pisco derived from a blend of several grapes. Locals drink it pure, in little sips. Chilcano is another way to drink it, Pisco with white soda. And of course, the Pisco Sour, which is a must for any visitor.
A famous local alcoholic product is Anis Najar. Chicha, a slightly fermented corn beer and Pisco Sour are also considered traditional drinks.
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 Francisco, uphill from the main square. Many have happy hour specials until 10.00PM.
There is an area of the city called Calle Dolores, with discothèques, karaoke bars, and salsa ball rooms usually attended by locals but usually safe enough for travellers. A taxi is needed to get there.
- Espressate, Av. Trinidad Morán G-22 (Urb. León XIII, Cayma), ☎ 054274607. Espressate is a small, comfy, and welcoming place to enjoy a good cup of coffee, some homemade desserts and Spanish tapas. This coffee house offers free wi-fi, has a books exchange corner (books in different languages) and also sells special gifts (jewelry, ceramics, etc.). A nice little place to spend some time…
- Cafe Bar Senor Misti, Calle General Moran 118 - int. 13 (in the Claustros de la Compania), ☎ 054-214441. Cafe Bar Senor Misti is a very nice Cafe Bar within the wonderful Claustros de la Compania. Senor Misti offers very good cafe and one of the best Pisco Sousr in town and offers free Wi-Fi. Nice place to enjoy the old part of town in a secure and calm way. Very nice outdoor-seats.
- Arequipa is called the World´s capital of the Alpaca, a wool that comes from these Andean camels and is 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 that some handicraft stores offer very cheap alpaca, often of a lesser quality.
- Most typical handicrafts come from the Chivay area. Colorful 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.
- There is also a square near La Compañía featuring a number of more expensive handicrafts shops.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Arequipa on Wikivoyage.