According to the INEI (Peru’s statistics bureau), the population of the Arequipa metropolitan area is projected to reach just under 1 million in 2015. It is the 3rd most populous Peruvian metropolitan area, after Lima and Trujillo. Arequipa sits at an average elevation of 2,335 m, lower than Cusco city, the Colca Canyon, and Puno/Lake Titicaca.
The region experiences periodic seismic activity in the form of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Three volcanoes stand guard over Arequipa city: Chachani (6,075 meters; 19,939 feet), Misti (5,822 meters; 19,101 feet), and Pichu Pichu (5,669 meters; 18,599 feet). Chachani and Pichu Pichu are extinct. Misti is currently dormant, but has a long history of violent eruptions. The word “misti” means “lord” in Quechua.
The Cotahuasi Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world, is situated in the Valley of the Volcanoes. At its greatest depth, the chasm measures 3,354 meters or more than 11,000 feet. For the sake of comparison, the Grand Canyon in the U.S. reaches just 1,857 meters or 6,093 feet.
The Colca Canyon is less profound than Cotahuasi, but it more accessible as a destination for sightseeing and trekking. Located about 100 miles northwest of Arequipa City, travelers can arrange a comfortable tour by car to spend a day or two exploring the canyon. For an extra challenge, book a 2- or 3-day trek to get into and out of the canyon on your own power.
Varied topography means you’ll experience diverse weather conditions depending on where you go in the Arequipa region.
Arequipa city is renowned for its pleasant weather and enjoys an average of 300 sunny days per year. Remember to wear sunscreen, as Arequipa experiences intense high solar radiation as a result of high altitude and proximity to the Atacama Desert.
If you venture out to the mountains and highlands around Arequipa expect stronger sun and winds during the day, and significantly cooler temperatures at night.
Most hotels in Arequipa are located in the historic center and are surrounded by plenty of choice in restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, banks and any other services you might need.
Restaurant Internet Swimming Pool Laundry Service Gift Shop Room Service Parking Gym
Plaza Bolivar (no number), Selva Alegre, Arequipa
Hotel Libertador is located in Selva Alegre, Arequipa’s largest park, and boasts a striking view of the Misti Volcano. Built in 1940 in a colonial style, this 5-star hotel has a modern infrastructure with vast and elegant rooms. This luxury hotel provides a wide array of excellent services and amenities including a restaurant, bar, gym, pool, conference rooms, and gift shop. Guests are sure to find ultimate comfort in this hotel, alongside great, attentive service.
Restaurant Internet Laundry Service Gift Shop Room Service Bar
Casa Andina Premium Arequipa
Calle Ugarte 403, Arequipa
This Casa Andina Premium Collection hotel maintains the highest standards of service and quality, overseeing every delicate detail. Just 3 blocks from Arequipa’s Main Square, this hotel is housed in a beautiful white sillar stone 17th century colonial mansion, formerly the Mint House and now a national historic monument. Two colonial-style 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.
Internet Swimming Pool Laundry Service Gym Spa
Casa Andina Select Arequipa
Portal de Flores 116, Plaza de Armas, Arequipa
Casa Andina Select Arequipa boasts an enviable location on the lovely Plaza de Armas in Arequipa. The 58 guest rooms are modern and fully equipped with air-conditioning, flat-screen TV with cable, minibar, coffee kit, electric kettle, safety box, iron/ironing board, and hairdryer. Wake up and enjoy a daily buffet breakfast on the 3rd floor dining terrace with views to the white stone Basilica Cathedral. Additional services at this hotel include an ATM, snack shop, gym, outdoor swimming pool, spa, and hairstylist.
Restaurant Internet Gift Shop
Casa de Mi Abuela
Calle Jerusalén 606, Arequipa
This picturesque family-run hotel is a tranquil sanctuary close to the city center. In a break from the typical hotel mold, La Casa de Mi Abuela boasts a unique personality built over 2 decades of hosting guests from all over the world. The hotel has been designed as a little town within the city. Ample and beautiful gardens are adorned with swings, hammocks, and benches, and the guestrooms are distributed throughout the property. Each area has a different layout and unique rooms with comfortable facilities. In addition to the standard single and double rooms, there are triples, quadruples, and one quintuple for larger groups. Located directly across the gardens and the pool is the excellent restaurant La Bóveda, housed in a colonial stone structure with an archway façade.
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Where to eat
To sample traditional Arequipa food, go to a picanteria restaurant (see list below) where you can select from 2 or 3 or more dishes. Be aware that serving sizes are huge, and also that the word picantería derives from the word picante, meaning spicy, which is another key characteristic of the food.
Popular picanterias in Arequipa include:
- El Sol de Mayo, Jerusalem 207 (Yanahuara). Open for lunch only: 12-6pm. Live music from 1pm to 4pm
- La Tradición Arequipeña, Dolores 111 (Paucarpata). Open noon-7pm on Thursday – Sunday; noon-10pm on Fri-Sat. Full orchestra on Saturday nights.
In addition to traditional restaurants, you’ll also find every other type of Peruvian and international cuisine, as well as some stand out fusion restaurants.
Zig Zag Arequipa, Andean-Alpine fusion cuisine
Chicha Arequipa, Gaston Acurio Novo-Andean cuisine
Average temperatures in Arequipa city remain constant throughout the year, but there are significant temperature differences between day and night. Daytime temperatures average around 18°Celsius (65°Fahrenheit), but rarely go below 10°Celsius (50°Fahrenheit) or rise above 25°Celsius (77°Fahrenheit).
The Andean rainy season extends from December to March. In Arequipa, this means light cloud cover and light showers in the evenings. The month of February is the exception, and heavy rains are practically guaranteed.
Low atmospheric pressure and the valley’s topography result in early morning and evening breezes as glacially-cooled air sweeps down from the mountains.
How to get to Arequipa
By plane: Arequipa’s Manuel Ballon International Airport (airport code: AQP) has regular connecting flights to/from Lima, Juliaca, and Cusco. The airport is 8 km (5.5 miles) from the Plaza de Armas. Take a taxi or book a transfer with your hotel or travel agency.
By bus: Arequipa has 2 major bus stations, Terminal Terreste and Terminal Terrapuerto, which are located adjacent to one other and 3.8 km (2.4 miles) from the Plaza de Armas. For long distance travel between Arequipa and Cusco, Puno, or Lima, the best and safest option is to look for non-stop overnight routes with companies such as Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, or Exclusiva.
Getting around Arequipa
Transportation options within Arequipa include taxis and combis. Taxis are the most expensive (by local standards) but also the easiest way to get around. When hailing a taxi on the street, make sure that the vehicle’s placards and identification numbers are readily visible. These taxis and their drivers are registered with the local Transportation Authority. Be sure to negotiate the fare before you get in the car. Taxis are not metered and fares vary by approximate distance to your destination.
Combis are also fairly easy to use. The fare is always a flat rate of 50 centimos or S./1 (less than half a US dollar), depending on the distance to your destination. Be sure to verify with the attendant, called the cobrador in Spanish, that your destination is along their route. Traffic moves pretty fast, so your best bet is flag down the combi at a traffic light and quickly ask the cobrador, who will answer “sí” or “no.”
If you’re arriving from sea level and plan to travel to the Andes, Arequipa is the perfect stop between Lima and higher elevation destinations such as Cusco/Machu Picchu or Puno/Lake Titicaca.
Arequipa is located at 2,335 meters above sea level — about a 1,000 meters less than Cusco or Puno — and few travelers ever experience altitude sickness here. However, the road between Arequipa and the Colca Canyon reaches altitudes of 4,000 meters. You’ll notice the difference if you get out of the car and try any strenuous activity, such as climbing or sprinting. Gladly, these activities are not part of the program. Stick to the comfort of your car, bus, or van and you should have no problem.
Best time to visit Arequipa
The weather is best during the dry season from April to June.
In August, Arequipa celebrates the anniversary of its founding with a month-long celebration that draws a mix of locals, Peruvians, and international travelers. Hotels can book up quickly, so be sure to make your plans well in advance.
Packing for Arequipa
As with any of Peru’s mountain destinations, the key to packing for Arequipa is to plan to dress in layers. Morning are cold and you’ll want to start the day with outer layers than you can remove as the day warms up.
Arequipa is located on the popular southern route through Peru. From Lima, you can travel down the desert coast to Paracas and Nazca, then up to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. From here, depending on how much time you have, go to Puno & Lake Titicaca or Cusco & Machu Picchu. And if you have days to spare, consider taking a short detour to the Amazon rainforest. The Peruvian jungle outpost of Puerto Maldonado is a short 30-min flight from Cusco and a 1-hr flight from Lima.
How many days should I plan to spend in Arequipa?
For Arequipa city, 1-2 days should be enough to cover the city highlights, but you can easily spend a week or more here visiting museums, eating great food, and venturing out to explore the countryside. To visit the surrounding canyons and valleys, you’ll need an additional 1 to 3 days.
Is it possible to climb Misti Volcano?
Many tour companies organize 1-3 day climbs to nearby volcanoes, including Misti. Summiting the 5,825-meter peak of El Misti is not technically difficult. The biggest challenges are the altitude and sandy footing along the way. Other options include Chachani (6,075m), Hualca Hualca (6,025m), Ampato (6,380m), and Coropuna (6,425 m; the highest volcano near Arequipa and the third tallest peak in Peru). The best time for mountain climbing near Arequipa is from July to September.
Where to buy alpaca wool sweaters and products in Arequipa?
You’ll find many shops selling alpaca wool good of varying quality throughout the city of Arequipa. The most reliable (but also expensive) stores include:
You’ll also find boutique and outlets at:
- Pasaje Catedral, behind the Basilica
- Calle Santa Catalina
- Cloisters next to La Compania church, including Incalpaca for discounted items