After MP and some lovely downtime in Ollanta we took an overnight bus from Cuzco to Arequipa. The bus ride took about 10 hours and included dinner, blankets and terrible American movies dubbed AND subtitled in Spanish. We arrived at Arequipa early and checked into our lovely hotel, Nueva Posada, before venturing out to explore. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru after Lima and is known as the “white city” because many of the buildings are built from white volcanic stone. The center is a UNESCO World Heritage site meaning we spent a lot of time wandering around the historical section, admiring buildings and debating what trinkets to buy.
The Monastery of Santa Catalina is a monastery of nuns first on everyone’s must-see list for Arequipa. It was built in 1579 and is 20,000 sq meters resulting in the monastery’s catchy slogan, “a city within a city.” It truly does resemble a small and very tranquilo city with small streets running alongside quaint homes (where the nuns lived, actually called “cells”) and dead ending in beautiful open courtyard. The walls are painted vivid blues and reds and colorful flowers line the quiet streets. There were nearly 450 cloistered nuns living there at its height but today there are only approximately 20 nuns living in the northern corner of the complex.
After the monastery we meandered around town and eventually found our way to the viewpoint of the city right as the sun was setting. Best views of Misti (the 19,000 ft volcano that towers over Arequipa) we had seen all trip!
And then we had dinner at Chi Cha, one of Gaston Acurio’s many restaurants. Most likely the most famous Peruvian chef, he has been instrumental in bringing Peruvian cuisine to people’s attention all over the globe. The food was truly stellar, with the highlight for me being the traditional “rocoto relleno (stuffed hot pepper)” for which Arequipa is known. All the food ranked amongst the best we’ve had all trip and I think it was extra appreciated after the family was convinced (forced?) to have menu for lunch (menu is a 3 course set meal at any of the local hole in the wall restaurants. Usually you pay about $2 for an appetizer, main course, dessert, and drink).