Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Discovering Arequipa, Peru

This year has been nothing but full of surprises for me. Some things didn't go as (I) planned but I can honestly say all the surprises I've been given this year have been pleasant.

One of those unexpected twists was being able to travel to Arequipa, Peru for work.

It was my first long haul flight and as luck would have it, my first one had to be a grueling 36-hour transit. My itinerary was Manila - Hong Kong - New York - Lima - Arequipa. Talk about a baptism of fire!

I've never heard of Arequipa until the trip. Before, when I thought of Peru, all that came to mind was Macchu Pichu (which is one of my dream destinations, by the way). So it was a pleasant surprise for me to discover the beauty of Arequipa.

The view from the airport! That's Chachani and Pichu pichu, two of Arequipa's volcanoes
Arequipa is unique because the city is bounded on 3 sides by volcanoes-- Chachani, Pichu-Pichu and Misti. It is also 7,600 feet above sea level which makes its weather interesting-- it's hot in the morning and really cold at night. The elevation was also something I wasn't ready for hence my altitude sickness on the first two days :(

Tourist spots
Arequipa is actually one of the major tourist destinations in Peru. I didn't have a lot of chances to go around but and I think these pictures will make you see why:


Pretty fields in Colca Canyon
Selfie with a condor in Colca Canyon!

Snow at the highest point in our trip to Colca Valley!

The alpaca reserve! The pretty alpacas are allowed to just roam free

Touring the Monasteria de Santa Catalina


The best time to travel to Arequipa is between May to September because it is their dry winter season. It means you get clear sunny days in the mornings and cool nights. One fun fact we noticed in Arequipa is that there are hardly any clouds in the area. So you literally get clear blue skies which makes for the most beautiful nature shots!

For those from tropical countries (like me) however, please note that the temperature drops around 5 pm and you need a thick coat which is actually a thick thermal down jacket for me :P

Hotels in Arequipa are more like bed and breakfasts. They are not very  tall and looks like houses converted to hotels. What makes the hotels interesting though is that they do not have air conditioners. You can request for a heater at night if you get too cold but other than that, it's just natural air/temperature for you.

Shopping in Arequipa for tourists is mostly centered in Plaza de Armas. They have a couple of malls but if you want the more "authentic" feel, you may visit the Plaza which also doubles as one of the must-see tourist spots in the city.

The Cathedral in Plaza de Armas

As for things to buy, I have two "A" words for you: Alpaca and Alfajores. Alfajores are soft delicate cookies that are common to Arequipa. I really enjoyed the dulce de leche in Arequipa so it was easy for me to decide on getting the one filled with dulce de leche. I can't emphasize enough how good they are! The cookies are soft and crumbly and the filling was tasty and not overly sweet. It was just perfect pieces of heaven!


I don't mean for you to buy an Alpaca but make sure to get Alpaca products because not only are they cheap there, but you know for sure they are authentic. I went home with a scarf and a shawl made from Royal Alpacas for a colleague and she swears by how warm and nice they are. I also got myself Alpaca stuffed toys which had the softest and fluffiest fur! They are so adorable and makes for a great souvenir. Add a chullo (hat) and your Peruvian pasalubong stash is complete :)

In all honesty, I am not such a big fan of their food. I know they say that potatoes are Peru's gift to the world but being a vegetarian in Peru and having to eat potatoes almost every meal gets tiring. For some reason too, I feel like everything was bland. Sweet food were not a problem, but the savory ones tasted under salted to me.

They however have some interesting food items that I've only seen (and heard of) there:

Choclo con queso
Choclo con queso directly translates to corn with cheese. But what's interesting about the Arequipan version is that their cheese doesn't melt and it isn't very salty. Also, the corn kernels are huge! They're as big as my nail!


Look at the slab of cheese beside the choclo vendor!
Queso hellado
Queso hellado translates to cheese ice cream but it isn't actually made of cheese! It's like honey flavored sorbet but because its color resembles that of Arequipan cheese, the locals have named this sweet dessert as queso hellado.

Chicha morada
Chica morada isn't actually local to Arequipa alone, it's actually all over Peru. It's a juice extracted from Peruvian purple corn. Yes, you read that right, corn! But interestingly, it doesn't taste like corn, it actually tastes more like grape wine (but milder). I don't have a photo of it but I had it so many times in the trip, I treated it almost like water.

And there you have it! That concludes my Arequipa experience! Thank you, Arequipa! Thank you, Peru! ♥

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