Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and enjoys a lively cosmopolitan vibe. The city is situated in a valley under the El Misti volcano. Its snow-covered peak can be seen rising majestically behind the cathedral in the main plaza.
Arequipa is also known as the Ciudad Blanca (“White City”) due to its distinctive off-white stonework that comprises most of the city’s buildings. This volcanic rock called sillar glistens in the sun and is found in colonial architecture throughout the city.
There’s plenty of activities to do in Arequipa including rafting, trekking, and mountaineering. Most people visit Arequipa to trek the Colca Canyon, which is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Apparently, you can see many condors there. The region is also known for its spicy food, and you can take a cooking class here.
I did none of these things in Arequipa. I really wanted to (well, not the trek) but my body was running completely ragged by the time my overnight bus(es) arrived from Cusco. Long story short, do NOT skimp on overnight buses in Peru! Pay up for heated, safe tourist buses with ideally less airborne diseases.
So I was out of commission my first day in Arequipa. By the second day, I forced myself to join a free walking tour to at least see a bit of the city.
We wandered to the San Camila Market although I admit it was less impressive to see after visiting Cusco’s massive San Pedro Market.
My favorite part of the tour was the visit to Alpaca Mundo (I love llamas more but alpacas get a fair share of my heart). We got to feed the alpacas and learned more about the different wools from different alpacas.
Wool from the wild Vicuña alpaca is super soft and very expensive. The wool is only taken from the top of their back (the only part that never touches the ground) and the quality is very fine. I wanted to swaddle myself in a cloud of Vicuña wool.
The tour concluded with some white wine on a rooftop. That was my body’s limit so I headed back to my hostel to rest until my overnight bus to Ica at 9:30pm.
This time I went for the high quality Cruz del Sur bus for the 12 hour journey (80 soles). The minute I checked in, I could already tell the difference. They had a proper baggage check counter and a waiting lounge with water and toilets (usually there is a fee of 0.50 sol to use the really smelly public banos). On board the bus, each passenger got a pillow and blanket. Before we departed, an employee went by to video record each passenger in their seat; perhaps for security measures?
In the end, I made it safely and comfortably to my next destination — and was feeling better just in time to go sandboarding in Huacachina!
Anddd just one more alpaca photo… so furry!
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