Our final stop in Peru was Arequipa. After waving Lu off at the airport in Lima, and a 3 day discussion about whether we should take a 18hr bus or a 1.5hr flight, we boarded the plane in Lima and headed to Arequipa. It did not disappoint. We got a taxi from the airport as there are no easily accessible busses and the airport funds taxis for this reason. Our driver was another wonderful friendly Peruvian who excitedly told us about the sights, the city centre, a bit of history of his city and about the local delicacies on offer (cheese ice cream being the one that stuck!).
Our hostel was a bit out of the city but only a crazy Peruvian bus ride away so we headed in straightaway to see the beautiful central square Plaza de Armas. We headed past the first church square (Arequipa is full of churches) and thought we’d have a peek in. The charge was 5pesos each and we weren’t sure why we had to pay as it didn’t look that big but we handed the money over and headed in, only to find we’d inadvertently paid for a tour…..which was really interesting. We got to poke around in the old quarters of the monks, saw the dressing room for the Virgin, her packed wardrobe and jewellery, the baby chair where baby Jesus sat while she got changed, and all the diplomas she’d since been awarded (?!), saw the library which contained lots of French cooking books. It transpired that this was a French monastery that due to all the earthquakes over the years had been rebuilt 4 times and was still receiving donations from France to keep it well looked after. Absolutely worth the approx 50p we spent on the entrance.
By the time we’d finished the tour we were able to see the centre square, Plaza de Armas, lit up at night. It was beautiful. We ventured inside the cathedral which of course was also beautiful, and wandered around in awe for half an hour before our tummies got the better of us. We booked a quick bus tour for the next day, filled up on chiva, and headed back to collapse for a busy day of sightseeing the next day.
We booked the midday tour as recommended by the agency as that included a traditional lunch (not included in the price of course) but as Peru is comparably cheap we decided to push the boat out. Sadly as we were here in winter it was not possible to see the three famous volcanos from the two lovely lookout points on the tour no matter which angle we looked for them from. But we tried the cheese ice cream which was a surprising (maybe not that surprising) hit. We tackled fried yuca and fish ceviche as two other Peruvian dishes and the taxi driver was right to be proud of them all!
Then we went to a mansion outside of town that a king had built for his son who had Down’s syndrome in the ????’s. It was pretty fabulous but our guide pretty much ran round it gabbling so quickly in Spanish in each room it was tricky to get much idea of the place.
Last stop was an old mill where a pony ride was offered, but on checking the horses wellbeing and the outside of the mill, we opted for an ice cream on the bus until it was hometime.
Arequipa was as beautiful as the guidebooks will tell you and we’re pleased we made a stop off there even if it was brief.