A Visit to the White City and the Desert
We continue our journey with Peru Hop to Arequipa or better known as the White City. It’s a beautiful place with many hidden courtyards and stunning architecture. We had to take one more overnight bus and arrived here at 5 am. I booked a shared room at Los Andes Bed & Breakfast. It’s not really a hostel and was lacking in communal spaces but it was so nice with comfortable single beds (no bunk beds!) at only $8 a night with a shared bathroom and simple breakfast. It is on a quiet street right near the main plaza, with lockers, shelves for storage and free soap and a towel (not every place gives you a towel so that is awesome). I highly recommend it.
After I got settled into my hostel I went for a coffee at La Petite Francaise and did some work on my computer. This is one of the only places that has plant milk in town (the other being Kafi Wasi) but their space is not conducive for comfortable working. The second floor doesn’t have any proper tables so I had to work with the computer on my lap. But it was all worth it to have a proper latte. South America really needs to get ON BOARD and offer plant milks at their coffeeshops. It’s the one major flaw in the whole continent (okay at least Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador where I’ve visited).
Definitely take the free walking tour when you get to town then randomly walk around and explore. Many people go on a trek to Colca Canyon, but I was choosing to skip any trekking on my travels in Peru. Honestly, maybe ten years ago I would be more adventurous but at my age camping and all day hiking does not sound fun. So I opted to stay in town and soak up the city vibes.
I learned many things on my walking tour. Arequipa has daily earthquakes though you can’t feel most of them.
The oldest church is 400 years old, which is really young because of said earthquakes. The Inca had 3 rules – Don’t be lazy, don’t steal, and don’t be a liar. Pretty easy to follow! Alpaca and llama farming for clothing and food is a huge part of Peruvian culture. It was the hardest thing I dealt with as a vegan. I didn’t want to support this industry by purchasing any goods made with alpaca and of course I didn’t eat the poor creatures. I don’t think a country like this will ever change. It’s too ingrained into their culture and livelihood. It will take a big shift and something else they can do to make money to change anything.
I had two decent vegan meals in Arequipa, one was vegan sushi at El Buda Profano (pretty tasty, but not super filling 15 piece meal at 18 soles/$5.50) and veggie curry at a place called India. I only spent two nights so I didn’t get to try much food but there are many choices in Arequipa. I loved walking around the city at night. It felt totally safe and you get to watch locals doing their thang. I was able to pick up some flip flops for $10 since I forgot mine in a hostel in Cusco. For some reason there a ton of shoes stores here second to optical stores. I was really tempted to buy new glasses!
The bus ride to Huacachina was during the day and it was long. Thankfully, I downloaded some shows to my iPad from Netflix and read a book on Kindle. These two things are essential for long bus rides when you are traveling solo (or maybe strike up some convos with other riders). The terrain was very interesting during this leg. It was mostly along the coast and in the desert. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place that has desert by the ocean; it was very beautiful! We had a lunch time spot where I ate some crappy, overpriced fried rice.
I only booked one night in Haucachina because there wasn’t much to do there but I kind of wished I had booked 2 nights (we arrived so late then I had to check out the next morning). The Upcycled Hostel was lovely with such a friendly staff, comfortable beds, good wifi, a nice pool I didn’t get to use, and they made me a lovely fruit salad for breakfast. The night I arrived I was starving and had a big veggie pizza with no cheese (that I topped with the handy nooch I travel with). I booked the dune buggy and sandboarding tour with them (it was cheaper than Peru Hop) and it was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve ever had! It’s a must.
But before the dune buggy tour we went to the local winery, one of the many great FREE tours that were included with my Peru Hop pass. I had no idea that grapes could do so well in a desert! At El Catador winery you get to see how pisco is made and sample many different types of wine and pisco. All the wine they produce is on the sweet side, which I actually love so I went ahead and splurged on two small bottles.
Later that evening around 4 pm ten of us jumped on the dune buggy and held on for dear life as it charged up and around the sand dunes. It was a rollercoaster ride. After 15 minutes of screaming my head off we stopped at the top of a dune and broke out the boards. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it because it looked really scary. So I sat back and watched everyone else first. Then got the nerve to jump on, laying down on my belly instead of standing (no one in our group stood up on the board because if was very challenging!). It was such a thrill!
The trek back up the hill was the hardest part! Buns of steel! You will have sand in ever crevice.
We stopped for some photo ops and I couldn’t resist getting some yoga poses in. I also did cartwheels in the sand like a kid. They took us on two more hills that got steeper and steeper, then we watched the sunset. It was about a 2 hour tour and I had just enough time to wash my face before we jumped back on the Peru Hop bus to head to Paracas only a couple of hours away.
There are a few vegan options in Huacachina but since I only stayed one night I didn’t try much. Casa de Bamboo had Thai curry on their menu, which I was super excited about because the food is generally boring in Peru. When I got it, it had no coconut milk in it and was really watery. So don’t have high expectations. The falafel looked good though so I wish I had gotten that.
Have you been to Arequipa or Huacachina? What was your favorite thing? Tell me in the comments!