Our journey to Arequipa was the longest we had taken by bus. It took us two days to get there! We started in Guayaquil, Ecuador. From there we went overnight to Lima, Peru. We had a two-hour window in Lima for our next bus to Arequipa. We bypassed Arequipa when we went from Arica, Chile to Cusco in Peru as we knew we would be back.
Most people go to Arequipa so they could visit the Colca Canyon. The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest on the planet and deeper than The Grand Canyon in the USA. We didn’t visit the canyon as it was a bit risky to do a trek at the time of year we were there. Instead, we spent a few days in a very nice hotel and explored the old part of the city. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru and is surrounded by mountain volcanos.
The safest part of the city is the old part in the center, and the only part you will find on the tourist maps. It is easily walkable and a pleasant few days can be had visiting the churches, museums, galleries and shopping precinct. And that is just what we did.
The first place we visited was the Monasterio d Santa Catalina, which is actually a convent.
The convent has an interesting history and is very beautiful. The buildings used to have more than one floor, but many of them had their top floors destroyed due to earthquake activity.
Across the street from the convent, the BBVA bank is housed in what used to be the home of General Don Domingo Carlos Tristan del Pozo at 108 Calle San Francisco. There is a free gallery in the front courtyard where you can learn about the history of this beautiful building along with some beautiful artwork. The gallery is free.
If you love churches, Arequipa has more than enough to satisfy your interest. However, most of the churches have really unusual visiting hours. You will either have to visit very early in the morning or later in the afternoon. The most famous is the Basilica Catedral in the Plaza de Armas. Although the Catedral is closed after 9am, you can still get a private tour, which is what we did. The tour was 10 Soles, plus another 10 Soles as a recommended tip to your guide. Our guide was extremely informative and well worth her tip. You will also have access to areas not in the main area of the Catedral.
The architecture in the center of Arequipa is very attractive. Many of the older buildings were made from a volcanic stone called silla and is not too dissimilar to the look of limestone. They still use silla to face some of the modern buildings.
There are many restaurants around the plaza and side streets nearby. There is also a passage behind the Catedral where you can find some cafes and restaurants.
We enjoyed our few days in Arequipa and recovered very nicely from our arduous road journey. Staying in a 4 star hotel helped as well enjoying some fantastic coffee at The Cusco Coffee Company at 135 Merced.
By the way, our remaining camera broke when we were in Ecuador, so all of these photos, and for the remainder of our trip, were taken with Bob’s i-Phone.