Date of stay: Oct 2011
Where you stayed:Hostal Wayra River
Travelled with: Wife
Tour or pre planned: Pre-planned
If you’re travelling east through Peru from Lima, when you finally hit Arequipa you’ll begin to feel the effects of the altitude. Nestled at 2,900 meters above sea level, Arequipa is a stunningly located and picturesque city that is most definitely worthy of a visit.
With its surrounding snow-capped mountains and imposing volcanoes, it certainly creates a sight for sore eyes.
Definitely take it easy on your first day here, as you may feel slightly dizzy, nauseous, have a few headaches and get out of breath easily. Make sure you drink lots of water (and I mean lots) and if you are suffering badly, head to any chemist (there are tons of them) and grab some Sorojchi pills. A pack of about 9 will set you back 20 Soles. They work wonders.
For a place to rest your head, I can recommend Hostal Wayra River.
The location is brilliant; mere minutes walk away from the main square. The people there are nice and the upstairs rooms have an awesome view over the mountains. Like most places, wifi worked on and off and the breakfasts are simple but nice. Rooms go for around 60 Soles p/n.
Arequipa is for the more adventurous, as there are many mountains to traverse and explore, as long as you don’t mind the huffing and puffing. Here is a list of some things you can do while there:
CENTRE OF TOWN
Head to Plaza de Armas and around and you’ll be impressed with this nicely kept busy square. Behind the cathedral is the 5.8km high El Misti Volcano which looms in the background, along with the surrounding mountains. At the northeast end of the plaza there’s a rooftop restaurant with a great view of the square and mountains. If you don’t want to stop for something to eat/drink, just sneak up for a quick photo.
Also just behind the Cathedral is a nice little pedestrian walkway with good places to eat.
While wandering the centre of town you’ll stumble across many nice colonial churches and buildings, monasteries and pedestrian walkways. Impressively, much of what you see is built with a white volcanic rock called Sillar.
The deepest canyon in the world, Canyon de Colca, is a must-see. You have the option of taking a 1-day tour, which is mostly driving from place to place, or anywhere from 2-5 day trekking tours which can be strenuous but very rewarding. Due to time constraints we had to hop on a 1 day tour.
You’ll start at 3am, drive for 4 hours, have a mediocre breakfast at the small town Chivay, then drive a very bumpy 1.5 hours to Cruz Del Condor. The whole drive was pretty exhausting if I’m to be honest, but it is worth it. Cruz Del Condor is a lookout point over the Colca Canyon where Condors frequent. They only show their faces in the morning when they search for food for their young (hence the early morning start). Keep in mind that there are only 133 Condors in all of Peru, so seeing one is quite special.
A quick tip: you’ll be pretty hungry when you get to Cruz Del Condor so grab a tasty avocado and cheese sandwich from one of the locals there.
For the ride back you’ll stop at several little villages and lookout points for more great views, and then stop at Chivay for lunch. The highest point you’ll reach is at 4,900 meters, which can literally be dizzying. All up, the tour should set you back around 65 Soles p/p.
Just a couple of tips:
- Don’t get money out from the universal GlobalNet cash machines you see everywhere. Go to any local or international bank ATM and you won’t be charged anything.
- The whole bus network in Peru is fantastic. I can highly recommend the company, Cruz Del Sur. They are relatively cheap, there is a ridiculous amount of leg room, long haul rides will include a meal, air con is good (and not stuck on freezing) and they are very secure. Buy tickets at least a day or 2 in advance from either the bus station or any travel agency in town.
If you have any questions about Arequipa, drop a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.
Points to highlight:
The main purpose of coming to Arequipa is to enjoy the dramatic scenery. You will not be disappointed here as it is one of the most picturesquely situated cities you’ll ever set foot in. Definitely allow 2-3 days here, or more if you want to tackle a trekking tour. If this is your first stop in Peru at altitude, just remember to allow a day or so to acclimatize.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes
Overall rating: 4/5