Walking tour of Arequipa’s old town

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Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.

I took a free walking tour of Arequipa beginning in the San Lazaro neighborhood. I learned a few things, took too many photos and also got some serious exercise.

To get the the day tour, I had to cross the bridge to the old town section, going through a long narrow, landscaped park. I love this cactus–some are so large they are like shade trees.
This is plaza San Francisco, my new favorite plaza in Arequipa. It’s where the free walking tour would start.

I recently found this great description of the city: “Surprisingly, despite a population of nearly 900,000, the city feels less like a metropolis and more like a compact town, one that’s graced by magnificent Spanish Colonial and Moorish architecture, fancied up with baroque, rococo and neoclassical embellishments. Located at roughly 7,500 feet above sea level in a lush valley between the Andes and coastal desert of southwestern Peru, Arequipa was founded in 1540 by those land-grabbing Spanish conquistadors. The city sits at the base of El Misti, a 19,000-foot volcano that’s bookended by slightly higher and lower volcanoes. But it’s the cone-shaped, seasonally snowcapped El Misti that symbolizes the spirit of the town, which was nicknamed the White City for its many buildings constructed from a pearly-hued volcanic stone called sillar.”

You can see Misti Volcano from the edge of the plaza.
The central fountain wasn’t working, but I liked this detail–the water comes from the frog’s mouth.
This is our tour guide, Johnathan. He is from Peru, but says he’s been traveling the world for the last 8 years. We had a group of about 20 people and I was the only US American. Most everyone was from Canada, and one man was from Tibet.
Johnathan was an OK tour guide. He walked REALLY fast and much of the group had trouble keeping up with him. I did OK, which must mean I’m getting used to the altitude. Dropping another 10 pounds would make a difference, too.
We started our tour in the San Lazaro neighborhood, part of the old historic downtown and mostly constructed of sillar, a volcanic stone mined locally. The San Lazaro neighborhood in Arequipa has narrow alleys like this one. It’s a maze, but once you figure it out, it’s probably fun. Teachers Alina and Drew live in this neighborhood. So far I’ve always had them to show me which turns to take.
I love this wall detail.
This is San Lazaro plaza. Arthur’s (a restaurant some of us ate at a couple weeks ago) and a bar some of us went to last Friday, are in this area.

The guide then took us up the hill to the Parque Selva Alegre (the Happy Forest Park). According to Wikipedia: “Parque Ecològico Alto Selva Alegre. Located in the eastern part of the city, in Selva Alegre District, next to the Chili River. The park and its surrounding areas occupy an area of 1008 hectares of which 460 hectares covering only the ecological park. A part of the park is located in the buffer zone of the National Reserve of Salinas Aguada Blanca.”

There were also a few animals, mostly monkeys, in small, sad cages. I felt sorry for them. The guide assured us they had been rescued and would be returned to their native habitat. I hope so.

This is Parque Selva Alegre–a park that Amy (another teacher) and I found last Saturday. We were allowed in for a quick look by a kind guard at the time, but it was too dark for photos and we didn’t have time for a good look. I feel lucky this was on the tour. It’s only open weekends and holidays.
There were many pictures worked into the walking path. This one is corn. There were also flowers, trees, two bulls fighting and a snake.
The fighting bulls are a tradition here. Instead of a matador killing a bull in the ring, two bulls fight each other. Neither dies. It seems a much better sport.
I love all the designs on the sidewalk. You can see why I keep saying my feet hurt. Most outdoor walking surfaces are cobblestone. Hope my feet toughen up soon.
We were told Selva Alegre park is only open weekends and holidays. It cost 1.50 soles to enter (about 50 cents in the US). This was a Tuesday, but fortunately it was a holiday, Arequipa Day.
The duck pond has a few boats you can rent.
This is in the center of the duck pond (lagos de patos)

Selva Alegre is almost directly across the river from my rooming house. The park is well up the side of a mountain from the Chili River, which you can’t quite see for the houses. This overlook shows the river valley.
You can see mountains from almost everywhere in the city.
Lookout spots are called Miradors. This mirador of the park overlooks the university below.
Choclo con queso, traditional corn with cheese, is a common snack.
The Lazaro church, just outside the park.

Next we got to see the animals!

Lamas and alpacas! The cutie in the middle, facing the camera is an alpaca. To me, they look like long necked poodles.
Lama
Dry. It’s a desert here.
Then guide Johnathan brought us into a room filled with alpaca wool for us to touch.
This is the alpaca wool. The baby alpaca (the first sheering of the baby’s wool) is softer than an adult, though both feel pretty good to me. The softest wool of all comes from the vicuna.
These are the different types of camelids in South America. The Vicuna are wild and a protected species (to the far left). I can now tell a lama from an alpaca!
As a final stop on the walking tour, we were taken to the roof of one of the buildings overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
Plaza de Armas, and a great view!
Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.
The cathedral of Arequipa on the Plaza de Armas.
Santa Catalina street, from above
Plaza de Armas

We then went down two floors to meet the owner of the restaurant on the building. The restaurant, Sonoccolloy, claims to be the only establishment of its kind, serving Inka cuisine–including alpaca, duck and cuy (guinea pig).

This is the chef, a charming, articulate man who clearly loves his restaurant and cuisine. this voice is very deep and inviting.
He shows us what’s cooking in the wood fired oven.
This is cuy (guinea pig) roasting. One of the guests on the tour was clearly disgusted and couldn’t even look at the roasting meat. The body is laid out flat and a heavy weight is put on top during the roasting process. The weight has been removed for the photo.
This is the bread baking oven
Here’s the dining balcony for the restaurant.
This is billed as the only restaurant in the world that serves Inca cuisine. It’s pricey, so I didn’t go today, but I’m going to try it before I leave.

And now it was time to walk home, almost 2 miles more!

This woman is an artist. Her hats were lovely.
Candied fruit. To the right is figs (higos), but I was never sure what was in the cups. For 2 soles, I bought the cup of orange balls of candied fruit to the right. I asked the vendor what they were, but the word meant nothing to me. She finally told me they were similar to grapes. They were good but anything with that much sugar can’t be all bad tasting.
On the way home, I passed by a group of young dancers, dressed in traditional costumes of the Colca Canyon area. This was a holiday, Arequipa Day, and so there were parades, dances and music.

 

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Beth

I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain and Mexico. I'm exploring the world.

2 thoughts on “Walking tour of Arequipa’s old town”

  1. Great photos. It is a lovely city. The altitude is quite high, but you have been living at a high altitude for a while, haven’t you. I would eat guinea pig. I know it is a staple in much of Peru. Do you plan on trying it?

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