3 DAYS IN AREQUIPA
Updated: Mar 20
Alpacas, the best restaurants in Peru, Churros and a Peruvian cooking experience
We arrived in Arequipa at 5:30am. It was pitch black and we were a bit delirious. We booked an AirBnb here and the host had offered us an early check in but we presumed this would be around 8am. We contacted an extremely helpful hotel nearby, Casa Andina, who kindly let us wait in the lobby until our AirBnb was ready. You can also pay for breakfast without being a guest at Casa Andina for around £12 each. We had planned to do this however when we arrived into Arequipa I messaged our faultless Airbnb host who said we could access the apartment straight away. As you can imagine we were thrilled and jumped straight into our big comfy bed for the best nap of our lives.
Later that morning we joined the Free Downtown Arequipa walking tour which met at a trendy rooftop cafe where you are welcomed with free coffee. This tour was very informative and it was a great way to start our time in Arequipa before exploring ourselves. The tour was around 2 ½ - 3 hours long and we finished just in time for lunch.
We stumbled across an amazing lunch spot that we’re still talking about today, Las Gringas. I had a dish with two of my favourite things, poached eggs and avocado, spruced up with tomatoes, salad, bacon and paprika. My partner had a chicken and avocado sandwich with fresh ciabatta bread. Both dishes were to die for and this is up there with the top recommendations of the trip.
The afternoon was spent shopping for Alpaca wool clothing, browsing the markets and the high end brands such as Kuna, soaking in the sunshine and taking in the view of Misti mountain from the Puente Bolognesi Bridge. We then watched the sunset at another Casa Andina hotel in Plaza de Armes whilst sipping pisco sours at happy hour.
This evening we ate at our favourite restaurant of the trip, ZigZag (this was a very good day for food!) The service, food and drinks were impeccable and I couldn’t find any room for improvement. After our order was taken we were welcomed with an appetiser of warm bread to dip into 3 different sauces. We both tried Alpaca for the first time and it was tasty. It doesn’t have an overpowering taste or smell and it is not a tough meat. It is said to be a very healthy lean meat so although it may feel a little odd and unusual, try it. It is eaten everyday in Peru and along with Cuy (guinea pig) it is one of the most popular delicacies. We finished our dinner with traditional Peruvian ice cream ‘Queso Helado’. Although this means ‘Frozen Cheese’ in English, the dish bears no resemblance to cheese at all. Queso Helado is a creamy cinnamon/coconut ice cream and it is the perfect way to round off a meal. During our time in Peru we learnt that it is not always that easy to get the real Queso Helado. Many street sellers will sell normal ice cream and the ‘Helado’ signs will draw you in so just make sure it’s the real deal. Ask to have a taste first and make sure you get that cinnamon hit before buying.
Our second day in Arequipa began with heading to ‘Mundo Alpaca’, Alpaca World. Although controversial after last night's dinner, we went to see the Alpacas and Llamas roaming in the beautiful gardens. You can feed and pet the Alpacas and Llamas here and it is completely free to enter. A short tour is provided and there is a small museum showing the distinction between the wool of the Llama, Alpaca, Vicuña and Guanaco. We learnt how the wools are dyed using natural produce such as grains, plants and even insects and you may also catch a glimpse of the manual hand weaving process by a local expert. There is a ‘Sol’ shop attached to Mundo Alpaca which is another of the most famous shops selling Alpaca wool. We were told that these kinds of stores are the only place to buy true, authentic Alpaca wool products. The market sellers will claim they are selling Alpaca wool but in fact, all be it soft, they are just cotton. The disparity is reflected in the price and a jumper from the market may cost you £12-£15 whereas an authentic Alpaca wool jumper can range from £100-£500.
Once we were all alpaca-ed out, we walked to a beautiful area with great views of El Misti mountain, Yanahura. The plaza is tranquil and a great place to rest your feet after the 30-40 minute walk from Plaza de Armes. Grab a Queso Helado and chill out.
Our lunch spot today was a very unusual dining experience, Hatunpa. The concept is a base of around 7-8 different Peruvian potatoes, primarily (you can also get quinoa but this is at an additional charge. We didn’t find this out until the bill came) with a topping of your choice such as ratatouille or meat stir fry. Another great place to try traditional Peruvian food and reasonably priced for a lunch option. This is not the top recommendation but somewhere a little different to try. The remainder of the day was spent doing some more Alpaca wool shopping, drinking more Pisco sours at happy hour and finally going to an incredible Peruvian/Asian fusion restaurant, Kao. This fusion is known as ‘Chifa’, brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants and fully embraced by the Peruvians. You will find numerous Chifa restaurants on your travels in Peru and don’t shy away from them in fear they will reflect your usual greasy Friday night takeaway. The Chifa dishes are fresh, tasty and extremely delicious. Kao was recommended to us on our walking tour and it did not disappoint. We went for a Thai tropical rice dish and satay style noodles. Both were presented beautifully and tasted amazing. We really didn’t want this meal to end and it took a lot of persuading to get James to eat anywhere else during our remaining time in Arequipa!
On day 3 in Arequipa we were debating heading to the Colca Canyon. From researching ‘things to do’ in Arequipa and Peru as a whole, Colca Canyon was always up at the top of the list so I’d put this into the ‘must’ pile. However, as the trip planning continued the realisation that we were up against a number of early mornings and little sleep became greater. For this reason we avoided the Colca Canyon as well as the fact that we only wanted to sacrifice one day from our time in Arequipa to visit and we didn’t think this was enough to explore the Canyon. If you have time during your trip take a visit as I’m sure this would be incredible. You can book the excursion through Peru Hop but there are also a number of different companies who offer the 1, 2 day+ trips. There are a number of tour operators in Arequipa so you will be spoilt for choice.
Our day began with a lovely coffee at Chaqchao. We got vanilla lattes and were given a jug of syrup to make our coffees as sweet as we liked. We then walked to the Casa de Avila hotel for something I had never done before, a cooking experience. The company we used were called Peruvian Cooking Experience (easy to remember) and we couldn’t fault them. There were 4 of us in our group and the owner of the hotel took the class. He was extremely friendly and enthusiastic and talked us through every step of the process. We made 3 traditional Peruvian dishes starting with a quinoa dessert made with milk and cinnamon. We then began preparing one of Peru’s most well known dishes - Ceviche. Ceviche (sir-vi-chay) is a raw fish dish made with any white fish, lime juice, red onions and chilli. For those a little afraid of raw fish (like me, I wouldn’t touch sushi with a barge pole) give this a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed. The strong flavours coat the fish so well that you completely forget you’re eating it raw. The final dish we made was the main course which was ‘Macho’ style fish. This was a fried fish in a tomato and chilli based sauce served with potatoes. The cooking experience was a lot of fun and a great way to try some traditional Peruvian dishes if you hadn’t already during your trip.
Our day continued with visiting the market to purchase a throw covered with Llamas then onto the Katari rooftop bar overlooking Plaza de Armes in time for sunset. We enjoyed a Cusquena and a red wine whilst taking in the beautiful views of the cathedral. As the sun went down the staff provided us with ponchos to wear to shield us from the chill in the air. This evening we ate at Tanta which is a Peruvian chain that we had seen advertised a lot during our trip so thought we would give it a try. We were underwhelmed compared to the other restaurants we had visited. We would suggest you opt for Chicha next door instead. Our night ended as every evening should with a 25p dulce de leche filled churros. We recommended the hole in the wall at the San Lazaro bus stop - they are amazing.
Next stop: Cusco