AREQUIPA: THE WHITE CITY OF PERU

Peru has different beautiful city and one of the best is Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage sights, in the south of the country and a delightful place to explore.

The main characteristic is its stunning colonial architecture, that you will see is based on the famous use of sillar, a white volcanic stone, which let its buildings have a distinctive appearance.

The city is located in the center of 3 volcanoes and the climate is really wonderful all year-round. Let’s see what to visit in Arequipa!

The square and the Basilica Cathedral

One of the main place to visit, where you probably will pass when you arrive in Arequipa is Plaza des Armas, which houses the beautiful Basilica Cathedral.

The square is very nice and always full of locals or tourists. You can enjoy it, passing our time sit in a bench talking with locals or go on a terrace to drink something in one of the wonderfully preserved colonial buildings around, a mate de coca in the afternoon or a Pisco Sour for the evening. In any case, in front or behind you, standing in this stunning central square, you will see the cathedral. It is free to enter, so it is a must do thing in Arequipa.

San Camilo Market Shopping

San Camilo is one of the best markets in Peru, if not the whole of South America. It is also an important city life location that give to the visitors with an authentic experience. In the market you can enjoy samples of local products, including Rocoto Relleno and Soltero de Queso, 2 of the traditional food of Peru and Arequipa.

The Santa Catalina Monastery: a village inside the city

Close to the center, the monastery was built in 1579 and it is an amazing place, unique in his nature. When you go inside you think to be in a small village, separated from the city.  It is a piece of art, a fantastic collection of native artwork, religious objects and artifacts from numerous historical periods.

The cost is 40 Peruvian Sol but the price worth! You will explore the huge amount of tunnels, cloisters and walkways that make up the Santa Catalina monastery. The monastery was open to the public in the 1970. Before that time no external people could enter in it, unless few ones. If you will be there at the right time, you can climb onto the rooftop during the late afternoon to view the incredible sunset spectacle.

The Colca Canyon hiking

The world’s fourth deepest canyon, Colca is a good trek to do from Arequipa. It is about 2 or 3 days. I did 2 days, one going down, and the second going up! It was really nice and I met some guys with whom I pass also other days of my long travel along Per. I will talk about the trekking in another article to let you discover this impressive geographical feature.

Canyon View

Canyon View

Read my other article in Peru!

PARACAS AND THE BALLESTAS ISLANDS

If you start your Perù travel in Lima, Paracas & the Ballestas island is a nice stop in the road to Arequipa. It is a tiny place along the Peruvian coastline.

Islas Ballestas: an half day trip

The islas Ballestas are a natural sight and a great reason to visit Paracas. I never have seen so many sea lions together in my life and is very easy it is to arrange a trip to the Islas Ballestas.

The islands are also called: the poor men’s Galapagos Islands. A trip to the Islas Ballestas cost 5 euros and to arrange it just ask it in your hostel in Paracas. From there a guide will keep you to the port and within a couple of minutes you will be there. Remember to ask the price, you don’t have to pay more than that!

When you arrive to the port you have to buy the ticket and for the Islas and the reserve there is one ticket, so keep this in your mind because maybe they will not tell you. The cost is around 6 or 7 euro.

Tours leave at 8 am and at 10 am. But the waters around Paracas are known to become rockier and weather unpredictable later in the day. The 8 am tour will have calmer seas (resulting in more chances of seeing dolphins!).

I did both the same day, in the morning the Islas and in the afternoon the reserve, which is so beautiful too.

For the islands, you’ll go out in medium sized boats to explore the waters around Paracas for 2 hours. You will enjoy the greatest biodiversity marine fauna & the mysterious Candelabro, a geoglyph carved in the Paracas peninsula of unknown origin, and upon arrival the guide will explain the different theories that exist of this place.

The departure will be at 8 in the morning, and the trip will take approximately 30 minutes until the arrival to the first Island. From the boat you will appreciate the contrast of the sea and the rocky desert of it the Paracas peninsula until arrive to the Island.

And then you see the landscape full of marine fauna. In fact you will be able to observe hundreds and hundreds of sea lions and sea lions babies playing and swimming in the sea.

After having appreciated this impressive landscape the boat will leave for the Ballestas Islands, where you can appreciate rock formations thousands of guano birds, cormorants, pelicans and penguins of Humboldt.

The Paracas Reserve

After a stop in the hostel for an hour, a bus passes to take me for the next tour to the Reserve. The transport is 4 Euros, and the entrance ticket is included in the combo with the Islas. The Reserve was a nice surprise! The Paracas National Reserve is actually an amazing park that you can explore also on your own depending on the time you have.

The first stop is the reserve’s museum, displaying all the animals in the Pacific Ocean and the impact that we have on the waters around Paracas. After this, you will continue to Playa Roja, a red beach with crushing waves on the shore. Amazing views of the deserted land and the wide open ocean. We stopped in Lagunillas to eat fish.. and there I had the most amazing ceviche I eat in Peru, with a good Beer eating in front of the Ocean!

Some info on Paracas

When you go there remember that the local communities are struggling. After the 2007 earthquake (8.0 on the magnitude scale), Paracas was in ruins. It was not the first one, the town was hit hard by previous quakes and this one was the last drop.

Since then, the town was rebuilt from the ground up and flourishes because of tourists visiting the Islas Ballestas. So please, don’t book the tour in Lima, if you are a sustainable traveler, book your tours with locally. Visit Paracas independently, eat out in the town and speak with locals. It is really easy and you will support the people who need.

Read my other article in Peru!

LIMA: THE BEST TO VISIT

Lima, the capital of Peru, has so much to offer, depending on what you expect from a big city. It is one of the largest cities in South America and has a long history behind. You probably will start your journey in Peru in Lima as I did to recover my body from 18 hours of flight. So I stopped in the city just one day and half to go in other beautiful places that this amazing country offer to you.

Lima from the top

So, here are my recommendations.

MIRAFLORES

Miraflores, is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima and it is the places where you probably will stay in a hostel during your stay in Lima.

View from larcomar

If you want to have a view on the coast profile of Lima, you can go to Larcomar enjoying a good coffee. It is a shopping center right but the view is amazing. It is built into the side of the cliff and mostly underground, it has incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

There you can also rent a bike and drive it all along the coast. In fact, with its green parks and the cliffs overlooking the ocean, Miraflores is also the perfect place to go for a bicycle tour. From here you can take a tour into the center of the city, along the cliffs, do an urban tour or combine your cycling trip with surfing!

Miraflores is also the place in case you want to see the coast from the top! Not as extreme as it sounds, paragliding by the coast is the perfect day activity to catch the green areas, ocean and the urban buildings of Lima’s coast with a 360° view.

If you like more History and culture, in Miraflores you can also visit the pre-inca ruins ofHuaca Pucllana. Easy to arrive, it is not expensive and there is the guide in English or Spanish that guide you to understand this piece of history!

BARRANCO

The uber driver when pick me up in the airport told me to not miss Barranco. This district is probably the coolest place in Lima and the perfect escape from Miraflores for a good drink during night. At night, Barranco transforms itself in onr of the Lima’s party district with great restaurants and themed alternative bars both for Peruvians and foreigners.

More than that Barranco has great historical architecture and a blooming art scene. One of the most famous places to see, is Puente de los Suspiros. This bridge connects two main streets. It is said that if you can cross the bridge while holding your breath, your wish will be granted. And below it you can walk till the sea and enjoy a peaceful walk.

Square of Barranco

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