As Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa sure doesn’t have the feel of a bustling metropolis; on the contrary, it is a calm, clean, and relaxing city. Situated in a valley surrounded by numerous mountains, agricultural fields, and a towering volcano, Arequipa city boasts a fabulous location. Though its surroundings may be beautiful, the city itself is spectacular. Known as the “White City” because of its buildings made of sillar, a volcanic stone with a pearly white color, the streets of Arequipa are lined with beautiful buildings unlike anywhere else in Peru.
Apart from its aesthetic appeal, Arequipa is full of culture, cuisine, and a plethora of sights. The appeal of the city has won over our expert travel advisor Kate, who has visited the city five times and claims it is her favorite place in all of Peru. Kate’s passion for Arequipa makes you wonder if she’s not from there herself. However, being a native of Pennsylvania, she explains, “the city is just so calm, spacious, and beautiful.” Kate was kind enough to share her knowledge and experience to help travelers understand why including a visit to Arequipa during your Peru travel is essential! Her top three tips: Enjoy, Explore, and Eat.
Kate has spent a lot of time exploring the streets, markets, and buildings of Arequipa and suggests travelers do the same. Her first piece of advice is to “stay a while” and enjoy the beauty and culture of Arequipa. Most travelers head through the city so fast they miss out on a lot of the great things it has to offer. Kate suggests having at least one full “free” day to explore the city. From the numerous museums and churches to the fabulous cuisine, travelers will have no trouble filling their time.
A great place to start your exploration is from above, at one of the city’s look out points; this is the perfect way to get a feel for the layout of the city and its surroundings. Enjoy the views of green pastures and fields, and the city’s surrounding Picchu Picchu and Chachani mountains as well as the Misti Volcano. Kate was able to capture some spectacular photos while relaxing atop the hill which sits on the outskirts of the city.
Within the city, no trip is complete without visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery. Here nuns lived in seclusion for over 400 years and only recently was the monastery opened to the public. Kate explored the maze of passages and rooms throughout the monastery and explains “one could spend hours here.” The monastery has been very well preserved and the exhibits will take travelers back in time, as if they were living amongst the nuns who inhabited the rooms for hundreds of years. Kate also suggests making your way to the roof for more spectacular views or enjoying a snack at the café within the monastery.
Arequipa is also known for its fabulous cuisine, of which Kate can’t get enough. The cuisine in Arequipa is notoriously spicy, as they use a hot pepper, known as rocoto, in their cooking as well as on the side. Some of the top dishes to try are the Rocoto Relleno which is a stuffed rocoto pepper that is served as a starter or one of the many chupes which are similar to chowder. Soup in general is common in Arequipa even for breakfast, so be sure to try some while visiting! Kate suggests heading to the Plaza de Armas in the evening to enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants found here. Many restaurants have a second story balcony level which provides great views over the plaza, especially at night.
Kate also visited the nearby Colca Canyon, which is often the reason visitors travel to Arequipa in the first place. Though Kate loved visiting the Colca and suggests travelers make the trip, she highly recommends that travelers be sure to spend time in the city too! The perfect addition to your Peru vacation, a visit to Arequipa followed by a Colca Canyon tour, is sure to be unforgettable. Arequipa is also the ideal destination to relax and acclimatize before heading to Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu.
To learn more about how to incorporate Arequipa into your Peru travel, contact one of our expert travel advisors – like Kate – today!