All walking tours were not created equal and the La Llama Arequipa tour is definitely one of the better ones that I have done in South America, thanks of course to our fantastic guide, Gabriel.
It wasn’t so much the places that we visited that captivated me, but the extra layers of knowledge Gabriel provided about the economy, geography, colonisation and cuisine - the latter of which was sampled three times.
One of the first things we learned was about the surprisingly peaceful arrival of the Spaniards whom were wealthy families, disinterested at the prospect of a bloody takeover. Instead they formed such good relationships with the local Quechua people that the name of the town was derived from two words ‘ari quepay’ meaning ‘yes stay’ in Quechua.
A huge portion of the city, including most of the churches and significant buildings, are built from locally mined stone called sillar. Despite being easily carved and crumbled, it makes for a strong building block and is light in colour which gives Arequipa its beautiful whitewashed look. Due to its distinct style and number of old buildings, the city was heritage listed in 2000 and is widely known as Peru’s most beautiful city.
One interesting, but ultimately devastating, anecdote Gabriel shared was that back in the day when nuns and priests were behaving in ways rather un-nunly and un-priestly there would be occasions where sisters fell pregnant. After a shonky termination, the nuns made the most of the easily-crumbled stone and buried their unborn children in the monastery walls. All was revealed decades later when a huge earthquake shook down tiny bones!
My favourite place on the tour was Mundo Alpaca - a museum dedicated to the four camelids: llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos. After feeding the real things outside we learned about the role each of them play in Peruvian culture and about wool extraction, dying and weaving. The vicuñas have the most expensive wool, selling for up to $1000 per kilo!
En route we tried several Peruvian delights: cheese ice cream, which sounds horrendous but is only called so because of its look and is actually made from coconut, milk and cinnamon; chicha, a red drink made from fermented corn and to finish with, a maracuya (passionfruit) sour, a twist on the traditional pisco sour - Peru’s most well known cocktail. All were delicious and have been consumed many times since!
The La Llama tour leaves San Francisco Square from Mondays - Saturdays at 9.15am, 11.45am and 2.45pm. Tour is based on tips.