Beautiful Arequipa… This 500-year-old city is steeped in magnificent colonial architecture, built from glistening white volcanic rock and bathed in sunshine for more than 300 days every year. Three towering volcanoes dominate the skyline, competing for attention with the huge Basilica Cathedral in the central Plaza de Armas. With springtime temperatures year-round, it is not surprising that the expats who make their way to this part of Peru fall in love with the city.
And along with the amazing views and perfect weather, there are many fun and exciting things to do to keep expats active and entertained. If you’re thinking of traveling to Arequipa, here are five of the top expat activities that you can enjoy:
1. Dine Out at One of the Many Fabulous Restaurants
Peruvian cuisine is now recognized as one of the world’s best, and Arequipa is home to many top-notch restaurants. With ingredients including quinoa, alpaca, guinea pig, and aji peppers, and dishes like ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime), there is always a new dining experience around every corner.
It only costs a couple of dollars for a two-course meal at one of the local picanterias. A typical hearty meal starts with a generous soup or salad followed by a tasty Peruvian dish such as roco relleno (stuffed peppers) or lomo saltado (stir-fried beef). Head to one of the higher-end establishments—such as the popular Zig Zag restaurant—and you still rarely spend more than $30 per person, including drinks.
2. Spend the Weekend at the Beach
Surrounded by the Atacama Desert, Arequipa is a dry and sunny city for most of the year. However, the summer months (middle of winter in the northern hemisphere) bring the wet season along with overcast skies and cooler rainy days. This is when Arequipa’s locals and expats alike head to the beach.
Less than two hours away by car, the Pacific Coast beckons. During the rainy summer months inland, the weather is generally clear and warm along the coast. The town of Mollendo is a hub of activity and provides all the amenities needed for a long weekend or a few weeks’ stay. You won’t find many Arequipeños in town during this time of year, especially on the weekends.
3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Arequipa’s skyline is dominated by a series of volcanic cones: Misti, Pichu Pichu, and Chachani. They are all waiting to be climbed when the time and weather is right. Live in the city awhile, make a few friends, and you will eventually be invited to join a group for a trek up one of them.
A couple of hours farther away is the spectacular Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. You can spend endless hours exploring this exciting area of the country, with its soaring condors, vibrant culture, interesting history, and numerous hiking trails.
4. Take in the Bright City Lights
There are plenty of places to party and socialize in the city. The tiny Chelawasi Public House in the old historic center of San Lazaro is one of the favorite gathering places for expats. Here you will often find new arrivals as well as seasoned expats who have been in town for years, all enjoying the large variety of Peruvian craft beers on offer. The clientele is usually a good mix of locals and expats, with a few tourists thrown in for good measure.
A few blocks away is The Kiwi Corner, an authentic sports bar owned by a New Zealander, where expats often gather to keep up with their home sports teams.
For those who like dancing into the wee hours of the morning, there are plenty of opportunities in the city for everything from traditional salsa dancing to 80s disco. The Forum, located in the heart of the old city, is a popular three-story club where you can do it all in one location! But don’t expect anybody to show up until at least 11 p.m.
5. Feast on the Art and Culture
Arequipa’s rich history and art, which UNESCO recognized by designating the city as a world heritage site, are showcased in its many museums. There is always another museum or art gallery to visit where art and photography from past centuries until present day are regularly featured. History buffs love visiting the numerous elaborately decorated colonial buildings in town and exploring the narrow lanes of the old city.
Several cultural groups in town such as Alliance Française and the Peruvian North American Cultural Center, as well as a couple of theaters, also provide cultural events and live music performances. And the Arequipa Symphony Orchestra, an institution in the city for several decades, often provides free performances at such spectacular venues as the centuries-old Santa Catalina Monastery.
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