Why travel to Arequipa
Arequipa is the second-most populous city in Peru and arguably the most beautiful. Misti Volcano, eternally capped with snow, towers over the city. Elegant white-stone buildings line the streets. Restaurants, hotels, and local eateries serve up superb culinary delights. The majestic Colca Canyon – one of the deepest in the world – is within easy reach. Taken all together, Arequipa’s attractions make it one of the most enjoyable supplements to Peru vacation packages.
“When the moon separated from the earth, it left behind Arequipa.” This local refrain refers to the Arequipa’s sillar-stone buildings; sillar is a pearly-white volcanic stone found in local quarries and it is used ubiquitously in constructions dating from the colonial, republican, and modern eras. Churches, monasteries, and mansions shimmer in the sun’s rays, accounting for Arequipa’s fame as the “White City.”
Arequipa is blessed with a mild climate and plenty of sunshine year-round. The plazas are lined with palm trees, the architecture is fabulously elegant, and the city’s cuisine is lauded as the best in Peru. Picanterias, traditional dining establishments, are located on just about every street corner as well as in the suburbs, and these serve up well-sized portions of Arequipa´s most celebrated dishes such as rocoto relleno, chupe de camarones, and papa a la ocopa. You may need to loosen your belt a notch after a vacation in Arequipa, but rest assured that every mouthwatering bite will be worth it.
To balance fine dining with some calorie burning, Arequipa offers abundant opportunities for action and adventure. Natural features such as Misti Volcano, the Cotahuasi and the Colca canyons, and the Chili River provide perfect environments for mountain biking, white water rafting, trekking, mountain climbing, and more.
Travel to Arequipa for a classic Peru travel experience, including fine food, inspiring architecture, and epic landscapes.
What to do in Arequipa
Arequipa tour. The historic center beckons curious travelers to pause and admire the avenues and alleyways that account for so much of Arequipa’s charm and elegance. The ornate Basilica Cathedral dominates the Plaza de Armas and the surrounding streets are filled with well-preserved colonial- and republican-era houses. Over 500 of these casonas still exist within the city proper and the surrounding countryside; notable examples include Casa del Moral, Casa Tristan del Pozo, and the Mansion del Fundador.
Architecturally stunning churches line the city streets, but Arequipa is most famous for the world renowned Santa Catalina Convent, a 65,615-square-foot “mini-city.” Beginning in the 16th century, this walled cloister kept its nuns and other female residents hidden from the public eye. Today, an Arequipa tour offers a unique look into religious life in centuries past, transporting visitors to a time when it was a great honor for the daughters of wealthy landowners to dedicate their lives to faith. Within the convent, you’ll discover a maze of cobblestone plazuelas, wide halls adorned with colonial art, picturesque water fountains, and colorful alleys.
The Museo de Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa holds the frozen remains of Juanita, known as the Ice Maiden of Ampato. Slain at the tender age of 12, this young girl was sacrificed as an appeasement to the mountain spirits, known as Apus. For 500 years, she lay hidden under ice near the crater of Mount Ampato; in 1995, high altitude archaeologists discovered Juanita’s perfectly preserved remains.
Colca Canyon tour. The road north from Arequipa leads to one of the natural wonders of Peru, a deep valley of staggering beauty known as the Colca Canyon. For the purpose of comparison, the Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, although its incline is much more gradual. Cruz del Condor on the rim of the canyon provides an unrivaled vantage point, where travelers can admire majestic Andean Condors as they catch flight on thermal drifts.
The valley has been inhabited for many long centuries and a Colca Canyon tour takes visitors to see terraced agricultural fields that were constructed in pre-Columbian times and that local communities continue to use in the present-day. Adventure-seeking travelers can hike down and spend a peaceful night in the canyon’s depths, lulled to sleep by the gentle burbling of the Colca River as it flows beneath a vast blanket of stars. Because of the altitude and the duration of the trek back up the slopes of the canyon, only those travelers who are confident in their fitness should attempt the Colca Canyon trek. For others, transportation to and from Chivay is available.
Adventure tours. Finally, if adrenaline-pumping activities are more your style, you’ll definitely want to make space for Arequipa on your Peru vacation itinerary. Arequipa’s geographical features provide world-class extreme sporting opportunities. You can scale volcanoes, run white water river rapids, cycle down mountain slopes, or explore the spectacular Andean terrain on foot or on horseback.
When to visit Arequipa
Boasting more than 300 days of sunny blue skies per year, Arequipa is a year round destination for Peru travel. Dry season is from June to September, an ideal time to travel to Arequipa for those who want to avoid any chance of rain.
Arequipa sits at an altitude of 7,661 ft (2,335 m), which means that nights often get cold. Make sure to bring some warm clothes for the evenings, especially if you’ll be trekking or spending the night in the Colca Canyon. If you plan to travel to Lake Titicaca or to Cusco, Arequipa’s relatively lower altitude makes it an ideal stopover to ease acclimation.
On August 15, Arequipa celebrates Founder’s Day, an event which draws Peruvians from near and far. The city-wide party honors Arequipa’s founder, Garcí Manuel de Carbajal. It is a great time to see Arequipa, mingle with locals, and sample delicious local dishes.
We found Peru to be a fascinating and interesting country, with diverse landscapes, from the coast to the high Andes, we found all of the guides extremely knowledgeable and genuinely interested in promoting their country.
Heather & Neil Goodley (United Kingdom) traveled to Arequipa in September 2010
Other highlights include Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, both of which we absolutely loved. The horseback riding through the countryside in Arequipa with Anibal was so much fun and our tour guide in the Colca Canyon was fantastic.
Jennifer Higgins (Ontario, Canada) traveled to Arequipa in December 2009
We enjoyed every place we visited, but especially Arequipa. It was an excellent place to begin adjusting the altitude before proceeding to Puno and Cusco. The city has exceptional charm and prices there are less than other cities. It was the best place to add an extra day to our itinerary to relax in the Plaza de Armas, try queso helado, see Juanita the ice mummy, feed the pigeons, and browse in the shops. Our trip coincided with the August 15th Founder’s Day festival and parade which we enjoyed very much.
The Runyon Family (Nevada, USA)
See all testimonials »
Top Pick Arequipa Hotel
Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa 5*
Calle Ugarte 403, Arequipa
This Casa Andina Private Collection hotel maintains the highest standards of service and quality, overseeing every delicate detail in order to guarantee a most comfortable stay in Arequipa. This top Arequipa hotel sits just 3 blocks from the Plaza de Armas and is housed in a beautiful 17th century colonial mansion constructed of the sillar stone that gives Arequipa its fame as the “White City.” Formerly the Mint House and now a national historic monument, this top pick accommodation complements its classic setting with a full range of top-notch services and amenities. Two courtyards are found at the heart of the building which also holds a small mint museum, a bar, and gourmet restaurant serving exquisite Novoandina cuisine.
Restaurant Room Service Internet Laundry Service Gift Shop
Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa Photos & Info »
Sonesta Posada del Inca Arequipa 4*
Portal de Flores 116, Arequipa
Sonesta Posada del Inca Arequipa is centrally located along the arched passageways of the Plaza de Armas, where the beautiful Cathedral also sits. This hotel boasts an unbeatable location in the city, just steps away from shopping, dining, museums, and restaurants, and is widely recognized as one of the best accommodations in Arequipa. Sonesta Posada del Inca in Arequipa combines a comfortable and luxurious atmosphere with excellent service and modern amenities. Guests have easy access to main attractions, such as the fascinating Santa Catalina Convent, the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (where you can view the mummy of Juanita, the Ice Maiden), and other exciting points of interest. Built of the typical sillar stone that gave Arequipa its nickname as the "White City", this beautiful hotel meets high international standards and also features an excellent restaurant.
Restaurant Room Service Laundry Service Parking Internet Swimming Pool
Sonesta Posada del Inca Arequipa Photos & Info »
Casa Andina Classic Arequipa 3*
Calle Jerusalén 603, Arequipa
Casa Andina Classic Arequipa is located in the heart of the historic city, walking distance from restaurants, museums, and other attractions, and 6 blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Housed in a modern building constructed of volcanic sillar stone, Casa Andina provides a comfortable setting for major events and conventions, while also paying special attention to the kinds of details that will make travelers feel right at home. All 104 guestrooms are warmly decorated, following the theme established throughout the hotel, which features clean crisp whites and warm reddish hues. Deliciously soft down comforters bestow a luxurious touch onto each and every room. Enjoy views of Misti Volcano and take in the warm Arequipeño sun from the fourth floor terrace.
Restaurant Room Service Internet Laundry Service Parking
Casa Andina Classic Arequipa Photos & Info »
See all Arequipa hotels