Josiah reminded me that I don’t share enough in my blog about places to eat and drink. Truth is, South America has not been the most inspiring continent when it comes to cuisine. Peruvian food is famous though and it’s capital Lima is often referred to as the food capital of South America. We haven’t been to Lima yet, but Arequipa certainty offers plenty of variety and we were able to sample a number of restaurants, cafes and bars during our time here.
Traditional picantarias are a must-try in Arequipa. There are touristy versions close to the centre, but it was worth the hike out to Picantaria Nuestra. When we arrived it was quiet, but within half an hour was brimming with locals. Definitely no English here! It seems a little expensive, until you see the size of the plates! We ordered a Ocopa Arequipa as an entree and it was the size of a main. One main could easily be shared between two. We took our cue from the locals and asked for a takeaway box! There was more than enough left for dinner. Prices varied hugely from 8 soles up to above 30. Below I’ve listed a number of local and international restaurants we tried in Arequipa, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Budget (10 soles or less)
A bakery selling the most delicious french pastries for as little as 1.50 soles, raising money for children in need. They make a good coffee and continental breakfast but are usually only open until noon.
This vegetarian establishment has no menu. For 9 soles you can enjoy a 5 course menu-del-dia (salad, soup, main, drink & desert). Great Value. Delicious local food.
This vegetarian restaurant does a Menu-del-dia for 10 soles with a choice of 3 mains. The food was not quite as tasty as Mandala but the atmosphere in the courtyard it shares with Il Romano makes it a pleasant place to dine.
Mid-range (10 – 25 Soles)
Looking for breakfast after an overnight bus, we found Crepismo in Lonely Planet. Crepes start at 10 soles for a simple sweet crepe and 15 – 25 soles for the savoury varieties. The coffee was amazing!
Another lonely planet recommended one. You can buy a snack size Kofta wrap from 9 soles but a main will set you back around 16 Soles. it’s nice environment to chill on their comfy lounges. It’s associated with Istanbul cafe two doors down which offers a larger food menu.
‘The House of Trout’ serves up this river fish in various ways with different sides. The ceviche is particularly delicious, especially when served with tacu tacu, a Peruvian take on rice and refried beans. Super friendly owner, no English here. Mains are 10 – 20 soles and very cheap drinks (soft drinks and beer).
A British pub with filling hearty food like fish and chips, chilli con carne and quinoa, cheese and steak pie. Mains priced between 14 – 24 Soles, with only the steak setting you back 28 soles. They also have a huge range of local and international beers and live music on the weekend.
A bit more Fancy (25 Soles +)
Wood-fired pizzas for 25-28 soles. You can choose bases with purple corn or quinoa and weird toppings like bacon with cranberries. They also have very good craft beers for 16 soles.
If you’re craving Italian this place is excellent. We tried the Calzone’s which are huge and very tasty. The dough is actually not sweet and it’s pretty close to authentic Italian. They also have a range of pizza’s, pastas and risottos.
A fusion of Japanese and Peruvian, this sushi restaurant is not cheap but the ingredients are quality. Trout ceviche and pisco soaked sushi rolls. it is currently #1 on tripadvisor!
Good Places for Drinks
I only realised after visiting that this one is also in lonely planet, which said lots of gringos eat here but we only saw locals gathered for after-work drinks. The food was very average but the drinks are cheap and there’s a 4 – 8pm happy hour. I recommend only for pre-dinner drinks.
Cafe y Vino
Tucked away overlooking a pretty courtyard, Cafe y Vino serves tasty craft beers and good wine. I highly rate the Sangria. They also have a small selection of appetisers, sandwiches and pizza which we didn’t sample.
The supermarket in the square has a decent variety of fresh produce, refrigerated meat and dairy products, condiments, snacks and drinks. We found that cooking our own food didn’t cost much less than a local menu-del-dia and something light for dinner.
Things to do in Arequipa
You could forgiven for thinking that all we did was eat! The second largest city in Peru, Arequipa is an inviting city that many stop for a short visit before heading to the Colca Canyon. We spent a week here. Partly to catch up on work and to recover from all the hiking and exploring around Cusco. Arequipa is a good place to base oneself, having all the amenities that a larger city offers as well as notable sights and beautiful architecture. It rivals Cusco, with the snow-capped volcanos providing a backdrop to the white volcanic ‘sillar’ rock buildings. Thats when we could see them! The wet season equals a lot of cloud and rain, it is usually clearest in the mornings before clouding over and raining in the afternoon. If you’re visiting at this time, go out early for the outdoor activities and save the afternoons for the museums or indoors activities.
Plaza de Armas and La Catedral
Spanning the length of Plaza de Armas, La Catedral is the longest in South America. The square is a lovely place to sit and people watch.
Santa Catalina Monastery
You could easily spend a day here. It’s now 40 soles to enter, which is steep but still a worthwhile visit. At over 20,000 square metres the complex is enormous. Nuns still live in a small corner of the monastery, which is closed to the public. Former nuns residences are preserved as they were in the 15th – 19th Centuries.
Museo Santuarios Andinos
This museum houses the Inca ice maiden named Juanita, who’s frozen and well-preserved body was discovered on an Ampato expedition in 1995. She was a 12-14 child sacrifice, a common practice of the Inca’s to appease their Gods. Probably due to low-season, we were told that Juanita is currently under restoration and another ice-maiden is on display instead. The cost is 20 soles plus a tip for the guide for a hour visit (including a 20 minute video).
La Recoleta Monastery
This small Monastery is as pretty as Santa Catalina but much smaller (10 soles). It has an impressive old library and museum housing everything from pre Colombian artefacts to preserved rainforest animals. We also visited the church and climbed to the top of the bell tower.
Mirador de Yanahuara
Set in Yanahuara neighbourhood is a lookout point for the three volcano’s, which are virtually impossible to see in the wet season when they are almost always covered in cloud. There is an ornate church here as well.