Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
This week, I’m welcoming back the lovely Michelle Tupy, who previously took part with a Postcard From Cusco, where she was living at the time with her husband Matt and two children Emilia (10) and Matthew (5). Now, though, the adventurous family have hit the road and are currently travelling around Peru in a VW Kombi they purchased in Cusco – with plans to drive it all the way to Canada. A ghost writer and travel writer originally from Australia (www.michelletupy.com), Michelle is in the process of writing a book about her family’s travels entitled And Off We Went.
Welcome back, Michelle! So – where are you sending us a ‘postcard’ from this time?
From Arequipa; it is the second largest city in Peru and full of wonderful little gems to visit, not to mention, plenty of great restaurants. Surrounded by majestic volcanoes, it is also a great starting point to visit other local destinations such as Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon.
Ah, I loved Arequipa when I visited last year. The weather was glorious – is it like that year round?
The weather in Arequipa is wonderful – sunny most days with very little rain. It does get quite cool in the evening so bring clothing to suit both warm days and cool nights.
You were living in Arequipa for a while, did you manage to find yourselves a good home?
For long term accommodation, we stayed in both Yanahuara and Selva Alegre during our time there. Yanahuara is extremely popular for expats as it is central to the main centre and other local amenities – Selva Alegre was purely a suburb for locals – no other expats around. We also stayed in a few places around town upon our arrival which I can easily recommend.
Marlon’s House: We stayed in Marlon’s House in Campo Redondo, central to the historic centre of Arequipa for a couple of nights. With a good breakfast included and clean rooms, I can definitely recommend it. It had a great vibe and is also very close to my favourite little craft beer bar Chelawasi.
Hotel Posada El Castillo: My family and I stayed in a lovely little family owned hotel complete with swimming pool and delicious breakfast. It is further out of the city centre than you may want but it is in a quiet location and very near to a supermarket to purchase any snacks.
Hostel Las Mercedes: Very central to the Plaza de Armas and the local supermarket, PlazaVea, La Mercedes is convenient for many reasons. While we didn’t stay in the hostel, we did pitch a tent and stay in the campground. With hot showers and free WiFi we can definitely recommend it. Due to it being very near a busy traffic area, it might not be the quietest spot around but we enjoyed it.
It’s good to hear that there are some nice areas for expats in Arequipa. Did you find plenty of things to do around the city?
As we were in Arequipa about 7 months, we discovered a few little hidden gems. We enjoyed visiting Selva Alegre Park, a large park which also hosted food festivals and other events on the weekends. We also went swimming at Parque Aquatico del Tingo a couple of times and stumbled across Mono Blanco Aventura, a climbing wall and La Cueva del Pirata Minigolf which my kids really enjoyed. We also like to frequent the Plaza de Armas at least once a week to see what is happening around town.
As a ‘local’ – tell us what things people absolutely shouldn’t miss when they visit Arequipa…
The free walking tour is a great place to start and will give you a feel for the city. It starts in Plazoleta San Francisco.
In terms of tourist destinations to visit, we recommend the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see the Ice Maiden, a 13 year old girl known as Juanita, discovered frozen in a volcano in 1995. She was part of a ritual sacrifice providing a great historical backdrop to the Incas. Also the Santa Catalina Monastery, which is essentially a city within the city and still operates as a monastery today. Fascinating viewing to see how the nuns lived.
We also like to do the city bus tours as they give us a great overall view of the city without my kids having to walk too far. The Arequipa city bus tour takes you out of town to visit the Fundador Mansion and Sabandia Mill, both very interesting.
What’s the food like?
The food of Arequipa is very delicious. They have a speciality ice cream known as Queso Helado which can be purchased on the street in all the main tourist areas. The women selling the local delicacy are dressed in traditional wear so you can’t miss them. The local picanterias are fascinating and serve up great quantities of chupe de camarones and ocopo Arequipeña. Highly recommended for something different and a great variation from the traditional cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca dishes often served up for tourists.
Oh yeah, I remember trying cheese ice cream in Arequipa! Speaking of different – can you recommend any ‘off the beaten track’ things to do in the city?
I went to the Sillar Quarry which is definitely off the beaten path. Sillar is the white volcanic rock which gives rise to the nickname of Arequipa, the ‘white city’. Many of the historic buildings are built from sillar and visiting the mine and seeing how they still work it today was fascinating. My daughter and I also did a cooking class with the local restaurant, Zingaro. We got to try our hand at chicken causita and lomo saltado and make a Pisco sour.
Amazing! Now for a question about you: what do you love most about travelling?
Everything. I love visiting huge tourist spots and discovering the hidden little gems that only those who spend a long time in one place, realise. I enjoy trying new food and seeing the delight on my children’s faces when we go somewhere new.
NB – All images are owned by Michelle Tupy