Santa Catalina 106 - Arequipa, Peru
We had used this company for our tour at the arequipa colca canyon tour 2 days 1 night.
The tour guide was responsible, humorous & knowledgeable.
The Peruvian traditional dance performance with dinner they arranged was fun & at decent price. Buffets arranged by them were good too.
We had the tour arranged thru our hostel at 60 soles per person not including meals & the entrance tickets. You may get a better price if you go directly to the agency since everything in Peru seems to be negotiable.
Favorite thing: Many of the hotels and hostels in Arequipa are located in beautiful old buildings made of white volcanic rock, and many have beautiful views of the volcano. These hotels & hostels are really charming, and it's really worth choosing one of these over a typical "modern" building, even if it has internet access and laundry on the spot.. Oh, and just because it's in a old building it doesn't mean it's more expensive. Some are rock-bottom cheap.
Favorite thing: For me, the highlights of Arequipa are the Spanish colonial architecture in the city center, the Santa Catalina Monastery and the fact that it is a good base for visiting the Colca Canyon. The white sillar stone used all over the city gives it an airy, light feel in the hot sun and high altitudes. The monastery is a little slice of peace and serenity and a photographer's delight with it's quirky little corners and quarters and quiet little courtyards. The Colca Canyon which is only a few hours away, is supposedly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA and makes for a great one or two day trip from Arequipa.
Okay first and foremost, no drug is benign and you should always consult your doctor to see whether you can take a med or not, but for me Diamox helped me tremendously on my trip in Peru. Diamox (aka acetazolamide) is a drug that physicians use mainly for patients with increased pressure in their brains or as a diuretic. In terms of altitude, it works to help your body acclimatize to the altitude quicker than normal. Often times people who come from an area at or below sea level who visit Peru suffer from headaches because of the change in altitude. You can even possibly get altitude sickness.
The dose that I used and what is recommended by the International Society for Mountain Medicine is 250mg every 12 hours starting 24 hours before an ascent and you stop it by the 2nd or 3rd day at your highest ascent. Diamox does not prevent altitude sickness! If you have any of the symptoms of altitude sickness like extreme headache not relieved with tylenol or motrin, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, or a change in your mental status, then definitely get some oxygen and descend as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, Diamox did have some unpleasant side effects. Because it is a diuretic, you urinate often and with my already small bladder, this completely sucked. Also if you are allergic to sulfa meds you can't take it. Also, you can get a pins and needles feeling in your feet and your fingers which was so annoying for my husband that he had to stop taking it. All of these side effects go away once you stop the med. There were reports of some having a change in their vision while taking the med. If this happens to you, stop the med immediately!
The International Society of Mountain Medicine has an awesome website with info about Diamox and altitude sickness. Here is a link Altitude Sickness
Favorite thing: If you have plans to go to the Colca Valley or Sacred Valley, Arequipa is a great place to get acclimated to the altiutude. With an altitude of 2400 meters, Arequipa is a pretty good base from which to start your upwards travels, especially if you're flying into Lima and planning on going to Cuzco as a Lima-Cuzco flight can be a recipe for altitude sickness.
Arequipa is known as “the white city” since many of their ancient buildings and street walls are made with ashlar (“sillar” in Spanish), a white volcanic rock that seemed to be more resistant than other materials of the time like adobe (a mix of sand and clay with water). The best examples of ashlar architecture can be found at the belvedere in Yanahuara.
Fondest memory: Looking beautiful Arequipa from the belvedere with my ex colleagues. It is a bittersweet memory, though, since this was my last trip for the research center I was working for.
The most particular thing about Arequipa is that it is surrended by three volcanos: the Misti (the most impressive one, with 5,822 meters above sea level), the Chachani (6,075 m.a.s.l.) and the Pichu Pichu (5,664 m.a.s.l).
The presence of this volcanoes have been determining for the life of Arequipa. Their white lavastone, named ashlar (or "sillar" in Spanish) have been used for building houses, churches and others since S. XVII, and most of them still exist.
Furthermore, the water from the interior of some of these volcanoes are used for thermal baths with curative properties (e.g., the thermal baths of Yura, at the foot of Chachani).
And, last but not least, the previous volcanic activity of this volcanoes changed the life of the city while producing most of the toughest earthquakes that Arequipa has suffered throughout history. Now, the Chachani and Pichu Pichu are off, and the Misti is through some slow activity
Fondest memory: Observing the "smokes" of the Misti Volcano during my whole stay.
If you are in Arequipa, take some time to watch the countryside ("la campiña" in Spanish) from the Sachaca belvedere. You can also visit the little towns of Yura (with termal baths at the foot of the Chachani volcano) and Sabandía (with a windmill from the XVIII century), located in this area.
All tours include a visit to this towns or a trip to the countryside, but if not going with a tour, please take a taxi and ask the cab to take you there (the ride is cheap).
Fondest memory: Getting running so fast at the top of Sachaca belvedere, one of the highest points in Arequipa.... and inmediately having to admire the campiña ON MY KNEES because I suddenly got became height-ill! My head was spinning so badly that I had to wait about half an hour to get down! That's why the pics are a little moved, he he :)
Moral: don't go fast in such high places :)
I went to Arequipa in a business trip and I had just one day to make tourism, that's why I missed so many places like:
- Santa Catalina Convent, which is a symbol of Arequipa. It was founded in 1579, but it was not till 1970 that it was open to public. Admired for its paintings, and interior design that remain intact from the XVI century.
- Church of La Merced (in the corner of La Merced and Tristan streets, in downtown, with a baroque architectonic style)
- Church of La Recoleta: built in 1648, it houses a huge library and a nature museum that contains the pieces and discoveries of Franciscan missionaries in the jungle, during the XVI-XVIII century period.
- Outside Arequipa: Colca and Cotahuasi canyons to do some kayaking and other outdoor activities, as well as Petrogliphs of Toro Muerto (volcanic stone with representations of animals and plants, near Colca).
Fondest memory: Indeed, there was a frozen yellow concoction at the end of her spoon so we quickly ordered two and dug our tongues into one of the tastiest frozen deserts I have ever had. It was even better than the one at the restaurant that now seemed a hybrid of the drink we had earlier in the day and this near ice cream one we now enjoyed. It seemed the one we had earlier was more of a beverage as leche is milk in Spanish. The more solid one was oddly named queso after cheese, perhaps, as it was solid though there was no discernible cheese flavor! It was a great feeling to unravel this mystery finally and I was determined to have it again before I left town the next day. As is always the case, things never go as planned. I never got back to this place until nightfall and it was already closed. I couldn’t find it anywhere and was so disappointed. I woke up early the next day and we went on a wild goose chase looking for the object of my desire only to find none of them open. I guess it was a bit early and not many Arequipos are looking for a frozen desert for breakfast! Doreen noticed a fancy confectioner just off the main square was open for breakfast. Though I normally disdain such touristy operations and I doubted they would have it, Doreen persevered and said it was our last chance. She asked and the waiter said yes, though with a sheepish grin meant that no one ever asked for it that early in the day. The copper bowl wasn’t in operation yet, but he pulled some of the frozen gold left over from the previous day from his freezer. It took him a while to dig out two dishes of it. It wasn’t as creamy as the fresh one from the day before, but it was still great, and I relished the chance to have it one more time. I thanked Doreen a million times on our way to the airport. The best part was I had created a monster. She wanted it almost as badly as I did and had turned out to be an even better “food hunter” than me.