After a final visit to the alpacas at the Colca Lodge we packed up our belongings, headed for the bus and began our journey back to Arequipa.
Leaving the sparkling waters of the Colca River behind we headed back into the mountains…
…snapping photos as we went.
We made a return stop at Chinitos Patahuasi for another mug of their wonderful herbal tea, and to eat some of our lunch that the lodge had kindly packed for us.
Remember the beautiful quinoa salad from our first night at the lodge? That was packed for our main course and it was just as delicious as I had remembered.
Not a bad view for a side of the road rest stop eh?
After filling up on tea and quinoa the bus sped us closer to the city, but not before we saw some familiar faces.
These vicuñas are just so beautiful that you could photograph them for hours, but sadly we didn’t have the time.
As we pulled up close to the Plaza de Armas we said our goodbyes to Percy and Mauricio, who had been our excellent driver and wonderful guide for the last few days. Honestly, if you ever take a tour with Amazonas Explorers in Arequipa and the Colca Valley, you want it to be Mauricio who guides you. He knows a phenomenal amount of information about the area and he takes some stunningly beautiful photos too.
Mauricio helped us with the bags and we wandered down the cobbled street to our home for the next few nights, and the location couldn’t have been better.
La Plaza Arequipa Boutique hotel is situated right on the Plaza de Armas with epic views of the cathedral from the main balcony.
We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect spot!
There are only a handful of rooms, giving it a much more cosy and friendly feel, but the rooms themselves have been beautifully put together.
The white, volcanic stone, unique to Arequipa, is used on the main wall behind the beds.
It’s such a stunning feature.
The crisp white sheets are contrasted with flashes of gold and deep red from the cushions and towels;
both of which are colours that invoke a touch of luxury alongside the glass chandelier light hanging from the ceiling.
I do like the modern feel to the space, with the slate coloured tiles in the bathroom and the simplistic design, which leave the volcanic stone as the main focus.
There are beautiful sketches of the city adorning the stairwells and hallways, which adds depth to otherwise bare white walls.
They stop the hotel feeling too stark, and instead fill the hotel with character and charm.
The shared balcony is used for breakfast and as a place for guests to relax, plus it has a winning view of the plaza and the cathedral.
Eating breakfast with the white cathedral and green palm trees highlighted against a bright blue sky is an ideal way to start any day!
After a little relaxation, we went to visit a place that I had heard about quite a while before my trip.
Chaqchao is firstly an artisanal chocolate company, using organic Peruvian cacao that is then stone ground before it is made into their scrumptious chocolate bars. However, their cafe is also a fantastic spot to try some of the country’s top craft beers, from bottle or draft.
It is set over two levels and is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike.
Downstairs in the little courtyard is the chocolate workshop and shop selling all of their delicious products.
Upstairs is a cafe and bar, serving up many delectable treats made from their chocolate plus the wide selection of craft beer I mentioned before.
We took a seat on the terrace upstairs.
There was a group of noisy English lads, who thankfully left, along with a pile of chocolatey plates that had been left out on the only free table after a busy lunch rush.
Once we were finally settled I ordered a couple of beers that I had yet to try.
I wanted to try something by a local brewery, but unfortunately they didn’t have any in the cafe. I did, however, manage to try a collaboration between one local brewery – Grateful Brewing Company – and Sierra Andina from Huaraz in the region of Ancash.
This beer was called ‘Nevados Unidos’, and was a celebration of the fruits of the Andes, with both lucuma and chirimoya flavouring the beer. Lucuma lends a fascinating toasted caramel note to everything it flavours, and this beer was no exception. It was a delicious and refreshing brew!
Next up was ‘Mala Suerte’ (Bad Luck) a black IPA from Cerveza Magdalena, which is brewed in Lima. It was a rich, thick, dark and extremely enjoyable beer and it had a toasted flavour to it, maybe with a little hint of coffee. This specific flavour usually develops due to the variety of malt used to brew the beer.
At 9% it’s at the stronger end of the beers here in Peru and I absolutely loved it; I would definitely add it to my list of Lima’s top brews. It reminded me much more of the beer back in England than a lot of the light ales that we have here. I also love the fact that the cat on the front of the bottle is wearing a bowler hat and has a monocle. You can’t get more English than that!
We also tried some of their brownie and delicious bitter chocolate, which married extremely well with the dark IPA.
After our drinks we headed downstairs to explore the shop which invited us in with the scent of melted chocolate.
The chocolate aroma comes from their workshop and classroom inside the shop. Here you can see them hard at work making their gorgeous chocolate bars and bites, or perhaps witness people trying their hand at chocolate making for the first time under the Chaqchao owners’ watchful eyes!
As you can see they are very proud of the quality if their organic chocolate!
There was a wide range of chocolate in the store, including 40% milk chocolate and 70% dark chocolate, sugar free varieties, and bars with many different toppings and fillings.
You can just have plain bars if you prefer or perhaps you might like to try the ones with the sweet but acidic aguaymanto (physilis/golden berry) or maybe sprinkled with dried mango, or coconut, or almond.
Whichever you choose, you will not be disappointed. Their chocolate is unbelievably good, and I hate that we don’t have their bars widely available here in Lima. Although, I believe you can find some of their products in La Gastronoma in Miraflores. It honestly is among some of the best chocolate you’ll find in Peru.
After picking up some treats – including a delectably scented chocolate mint body scrub that you can’t eat but really want to – we headed back to the hotel for a spot of dinner and a good night’s sleep, ready for an early start exploring the city.