We stopped off in the beautiful little town of Arequipa before crossing the border into Bolivia. We only spent two nights here as sadly we didn't have enough time or cash to do the Colca Canyon, however if you do find yourself in this town we heard nothing but incredible things about the tour to Colca Canyon.
After yet another night bus to Arequipa, we rocked up at Wild Rover hostel at the ungodly hour of 4.30am. The hostel were really generous in letting us use their TV room to crash until we were able to check into our hostel room. 4 of us claimed it as our own - splayed out all of our belongings and made a den out of the bean bags and blankets that were available. After a few hours more kip (and a few visits from surprised travellers who tried to use the TV room for its actual purpose), we woke up feeling a lot more human.
Knowing we didn't have much time here, we decided to try to see as much of the city as possible on day one. We wandered through the main square, the Plaza de Armas, and for the first time felt a bit festive! There was a huge Christmas tree surrounded by lights and restaurants also decorated for the Christmas season. Still can't quite believe how fast December has come around, time really does fly when you're out here constantly meeting new people and making new memories every single day.
Our first culture stop in Arequipa was the Museo de Santuarios Andinos, a museum showcasing the frozen mummy of "Juanita," a young girl who was sacrificed by the Incas in the Andes in 1500s. The cost of entry was equivalent to £5, which was without the guided tour. We first watched a 20 minute video informing us about the Incas and who they were: the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. They created many architectural, artistic and agricultural achievements, and they were also amazing engineers, building many of the roads and bridges throughout the Andes that we use today. After learning a bit about the history, the museum takes you through a few small rooms which contain preserved artefacts from the Incan era, such as items of clothing, pottery, and even some silverware. The last room of the museum was the most shocking, sat in a glass box is the frozen mummy of 'Juanita', this young girl who was used as a sacrifice to the gods. During the Incan era, the people of the Andes want to give offerings to the gods who they believed lived in the mountains, earth and stars, and so this young girl was specifically chosen as an offering, and then discovered hundreds of years later by archaeologists. Although we found this fascinating, it was also pretty bizarre, and seemed extremely backwards considering it was only around 500 years ago!
We left the museum feeling half shocked half fascinated by what we had just seen, and so decided to head to the local market for some food. El Mercado de San Camilo was incredible... Similar to San Pedro in Cusco it was like all the senses hitting you at once! We sat and tried fresh ceviche, tried the local dish of chincharrón de chincho at a stand called 'Yolas' (which was absolutely delicious, much like roast pork with crackling.) We got lost in there for a couple of hours, mesmerised by all the colours, mad souvenirs, strange smells, and delicious food and dessert stands. 100% a must go if in Arequipa, it also felt a lot more clean than most South American markets we had previously visited.
With only two days in this special little town, we only ate out twice. The first night we had a real curry craving, so hit up a restaurant called India Indian Cuisine. The curry was beautiful and so fresh, and absolutely hit the spot. However the one place where we are so thankful that we found, is a little Italian restaurant called Pasta Canteen. It seems like a place you could easily walk by, however if you're in the area DEFINITELY DO NOT! As you sit down, you can see the chefs making the fresh pasta from scratch, and what's more the price is next to nothing. Probably one of our favourite finds so far!
After Arequipa we started to plan the journey across the border. We did this by getting a cheap local bus to Puno, a town on the Peruvian side, and from there using the company Peru Hop. Peru Hop offer a package deal which costs around $45USD, which includes a bus from Puno to Copacabana, the town from which you see Lake Titicaca. The lake is incredible, it’s one of South America’s largest lakes, and it’s a great way to spend a day. However the town is small and not a lot to do, so spending a night would be unnecessary! The Peru Hop tour allowed us 4 hours to check out the town, and then we got back on the bus at 6pm in Copacabana, to arrive in La Paz for 10pm. This was a great, cost effective way to see the Lake whilst also getting us to La Paz in good time!