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Arequipa : Notes from a short layover

Arequipa : Notes from a short layover

Old Jul 7, 13, 9:33 pm
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Arequipa : Notes from a short layover

Arequipa : A short stay
Leaving Arequipa after up a short layover stay in the city. Sharing some of my notes and observations with the FT community.

Arequipa Airport : Arrivals and Departures
Much smaller airport compared with Cusco. Even though Arequipa is the 2nd largest city in Peru, I think they volume of air travel is lower. I counted about 6 aircraft berths on the apron. Boarding and disembarking is via airstairs only without jetbridges. The arrival and departure areas are each one large room. On arrival, there is some form of agriculture (?) inspection where all hand-baggage is x-rayed and all checked bags passed via the nose of a sniffer dog. I saw a couple bags gets pulled off but did not hang around long enough to see what the items in question were. On the departure side, all checked bags are manually inspected before being presented for check-in. Give yourself a couple extra minutes as there can be a line. Overall, everything seems really informal and relaxed. It is quite a refreshing change from the TSA security theatre we have in the US.

The airport is about 15 – 25 mins from the center of the city, depending on traffic. The streets can be pretty choked during transit hours. There are taxis waiting just outside the arrival area. I used the hotel car service at s25 each way. Local taxis would have been about s15. (Note : If you have large baggage or multiple passengers, the local taxis are mainly smaller subcompacts like Chevy Sparks and Kia Picantos. It would be a tight fit for 3 people or 2 people with 2 large suitacases. The hotel service used something a bigger like a Kia Cerrato which easily swallowed 2 large suitcases into the trunk.)

City Center
The main tourist areas within the city are located in a compact downtown core around the Plaza of about 5 x 5 blocks. It is mostly flat and very walkable. Pick up a handy fold-out map from the Peru Tourism Promotion Board at the airport. You can easily cover the main sights in the city within a day. Some notes on the various places below :
- Arequipa Cathedral, north end of Plaza. (Note : As of writing this, there were a sizeable group of protesters gathered out front, with noticeable security presence. It appears to be some form of sit in protests with a little encampment. However it does not seem to affect access to the Plaza.)
- “Juanita”, the Ampato Maiden. On display at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Santa Maria Catholic University (SMCU), on Santa Catalina just south of the Plaza. (Note : On the map and in various guidebooks, there is also listed the Archaeological Museum of the SMCU on Cruz Verde about 3 blocks away. It’s easy to mix the both up.) An informative and respectful guided tour takes you around the exhibits. Only guided tours are available and expect to tip the guide.
- Santa Catalina Monastery, northeast of the Plaza. Covers an entire very large city block. Give yourself at least 2 hours for a meaningful visit. Admission tickets are s35 each. It is really a city within a city, with its own series of zones and streets. There are multi-lingual guides who are available to give guided tours right inside the entrance. S20 for a tour lasting about an hour. I would recommend it as they do point out many unique points of interest which may otherwise be overlooked (series of earthen bowls used for laundry, cuy enclosure, living spaces of the maids above the apartments of the nuns). There are many great photographic opportunities within the monastery. (Note : Do not lean against the dark red walls. The pigment used rubs off easily on your clothes!)
- Around the Plaza. Beautiful main plaza with remarkable architecture. Looks very different in the day and at night. Highly recommend visiting at different times to take in the splendor. There are numerous other churches around (or near) the plaza. Lots of shops and restaurants that cater to tourists are in this area. Expect some touts pushing bus tours and discounted meals.

There is no shortage of good eating places in the city. Nicer dining places are along the North-South streets of Bolivar and Santa Catalina. There is always ChiCha by Gaston Acurio in the Casona Santa Catalina right across the main entrance from the Monastery. A local favorite for rotisserie chicken is El Dorado Sazon located on the north side of P. Bolognesi, about 2 blocks off the Plaza. Open till late. ¼ chicken with fries, salad and a drink for s9.

Apr thru about Sept is also the season for fresh water shrimp in the area. Hunting around for a good place to try this local delicacy, I ended up at Sol de Mayo Restaurant along Jerusalem in the Yanahuara neighborhood, north west of the city center. Walking would take 15-20 mins from the Plaza, taxi cost about s6. This restaurant is considered one of the best local restaurants in the city. Sprawling grounds with a large patio area for alfresco dining or indoors if you prefer), popular with locals (wedding parties, other celebrations) Hallmark dishes include Chupe de Camarones (served with a poached egg) and Camarones Frito.

I searched around for a range of accommodations when making plans for my trip. There are no “international” chains such as Hilton, Starwood, Best Western, Mercure or others there. Thus, I stuck to the better known local chains such as Casa Andina, QP and Libertador. Shopping around, the QP Arequipa was a pretty good deal. They are all located within easy walking distance of the Plaza, right off either Bolivar or Santa Catalina. Don’t expect any giant 100-room hotels here. Given the historic nature of the city, they tend to be smaller and a little more intimate in size.

(Note : Many of the hotels will advertise that they are located in a “historic” sillar (white volcanic stone) building, showing pictures of a room with arches and unique architectural finishes. While that is true, this is likely only a minority of their rooms. The entrance, lobby and common areas (plus a choice room or 2) may be in the historic complex, the bulk of their rooms are likely in a newly constructed block made of reinforced concrete with perhaps a sillar veneer. Certainly true for both QP and the Casa Andina Private Collection. This wasn’t important to me but may be to others.)

Let me know if you have any questions. Happy to keep rambling but I think I need to cut myself off here.

SometimesFlyer is offline  
Old Jul 12, 13, 8:44 pm
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Thank you for the informative report.
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Old Jul 16, 13, 8:39 pm
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My last time in AQP was in 2011, they have told me traffic has increased a lot in historic center. Was it that bad?
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Old Jul 17, 13, 6:54 pm
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Traffic in the historic center still appears manageable. Moving at least.

The worse bits I encountered was in the Yanahuara neighborhood, once you cross Puente Grau. It comes to a full stop.
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