Considered the second city of Peru (after Lima), Arequipa’s architecture, volcanoes, food specialities, and the fierce regional loyalty of its residents are renowned throughout Peru. Spend a few days here and you, too, will become fond of its quiet charm and uncommon elegance. And don’t skip the Colca Canyon. Browse our guide below for essential facts, travel tips, and top attractions on a tour to Arequipa.
Choose Your Arequipa Tour
At a Glance
Arequipa is famous for: cobblestoned streets full of pearly white stone architecture, nearby Misti Volcano, its eternal spring-like weather, as the birthplace of famous Peruvian authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, and for its regional cuisine traditions that exemplify the habit-forming complexity of traditional Peruvian food.
Travel to Peru to enjoy a sunlit day on Arequipa’s gorgeous Plaza de Armas, visit the Ice Maiden Mummy, venture out into the bucolic countryside, and then get ready for a trip to either one of world’s deepest canyons, the Colca or the Cotahuasi.
900 AD to 1350 AD – Following the collapse of the Wari and the Tiwanaku empires, the Chiribaya Culture begins to spread on the desert coast between present-day southern Peru and northern Chile. Little is known about this civilization, but the arid environment preserved a great number of their artifacts including textiles, ceramics, and mummies, as well as fishing and hunting instruments that show they were able to thrive in the desert lands between the Pacific and the Andes foothills.
Various other ethnic groups including the Yarabayas and Chime on the Chili River and the Collaguas, Cabanas, Yanahuaras, and Copouts also settled in and around Arequipa.
1300 AD – Whether or not the 4th Sapa Inca Mayta Capac conquered the territories around Arequipa sometime in the late 12th or early 13th century remains a matter of debate among historians. However, many chronicles written after the conquest contend that territories south of Cusco (Contisuyo) did not come under Inca rule until the 9th Sapa Inca Pachucutec took the throne in 1450.
1450-1480 AD – As an offering to the mountain spirits, Inca priests sacrificed the Ice Maiden, also known as Juanita, atop Mount Ampato. The mummy remained encased in ice until the eruption of a neighboring volcano in 1995 caused the tomb to thaw out. Specialists in high altitude archaeological sites recovered the mummy and it is now on display in Arequipa’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries.
1530s – Soon after the conquest of Cusco in 1533, Spanish settlers were sent out to explore and colonize the new territories. The first Spaniards to arrive in present-day Arequipa were Dominican priests.
1540 – On August 15, 96 settlers under the command of Don Garci Manuel de Carvajal arrive in the Chili Valley and declare the foundation of “Villa Hermosa de Arequipa.” The Arequipa coat of arms depicts Misti volcano, trees, the Chili river, and a lion symbolizing the brave spirit of its inhabitants.
1575 – Viceroy Francisco de Toledo surveys the town and bestows its title, “Muy noble y muy leal ciudad” (Very Noble and Very Loyal City) for the devotion of its citizens to the Spanish crown.
16th to 18th century – As the crossroads for the silver trade, Arequipa becomes a wealthy city. The city’s architectural aesthetic began to take form when white sillar stone, abundant in the Arequipa region, is used as the primary material to build the casonas of large landowners, beautiful churches, and sprawling convent complexes including Santa Catalina. In contrast to Lima’s diverse population of “españoles” “indios” “mestizos” and “negros” both free and slave, colonial Arequipa was majority (60%) Spanish.
1814 – The Cusco rebel leader Mateo Garcia Pumacahua leads 5,000 men into Arequipa after defeating royalist forces under the command of marshal Francisco Picoaga. Pumacahua forms a provisional junta government, but royalist troops retake the city, Pumacahua flees and is captured and executed in 1815.
Although considered a royalist stronghold during the colonial period, Arequipa quickly became fierce advocates of liberation from Spain during Latin America’s struggle for independence.
Post-independence, Arequipa’s politically active citizenry were often the leaders of liberal uprisings and coups against the central government in Lima.
1856 – Two Arequipeno youths, Masias and Gamio, organized a revolt against Lima. The exiled leader Vivanco returned from exile in Chile to take leadership as president of a new republic, but was unable to rally support from other provinces. The Peruvian president Ramon Castillo cut the supply lines to Arequipa, which remained under siege for 8 months until the rebel force was defeated in a bloody battle in March 1858.
1871 – The Ferrocarril del Sur (Southern Railway) begins operating between Arequipa and Mollendo, providing a means of shipping wool from the Andes to the coast and overseas to England. The Arequipa to Puno branch was completed in 1874. Additional sections were built over the years and finally reached Cusco in 1908.
1882 – Chilean troops occupied Lima during the War of the Pacific. The president Lizardo Montero moved the capital to Arequipa. In 1883, popular uprising forced Montero to flee to Bolivia. The Chilean force invaded and remained until the end of the war in 1884.
1930s – Arequipa, alongside Cusco, Trujillo and Catamarca, was a center of regional political movements which were often organized in opposition to the Lima government.
2000 – Historic Center of Arequipa earns UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition. In 2001, a strong earthquake damaged some of the buildings.
Today – Arequipa is the most economically prosperous province in southern Peru. Its economy is based on commercial, agricultural, and industrial production.
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 (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa City, you should spend a day or two exploring the canyon.
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.
Plaza de Armas
The fairest Plaza de Armas in all of Peru might be Arequipa’s. The photogenic white stone facade of the Basilica Cathedral forms the eye-catching centerpiece. Be sure to visit by day and by night as it looks quite different. The 3 remaining sides of the square are taken up by more white stone buildings with beautiful arcades that provide shelter for cafes, restaurants, hotels, tour offices, and more. The Plaza is a great place to start a tour of Arequipa, to shop for souvenirs in any number of specialty stores, or to just sit in a cafe and take in the local culture.
The cathedral you see on Arequipa’s main square today is the product of nearly 500 years of construction and reconstruction. The first church was built beginning with the city’s foundation in 1540. Earthquakes and debris from volcanic eruptions have caused heavy damage to the church over the centuries. The cathedral’s most recognizable architectural elements, including a tower with a clock imported from England, date from the 19th century. Meanwhile, the church interior is like a timeline that registers eclectic designs and styles from various eras. Visitors to the cathedral also have a chance to go onto the roof, walk among the bell turrets, and take photos of the city skyline.
The attached Museo de la Basilica Catedral was the recipient of a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence in 2013 and is also worth a visit.
Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus
The Jesuit Church in Arequipa is a true masterpiece of sillar stone architecture. Periodic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions delayed completion of the church until 1767. The intricately carved church facade is a fine example of the Peruvian transculturalization process. The basic construction plan came from Spain, but the artistic perspective chiseled into the stone by native stonemasons conveys distinctly Andean motifs.
The main courtyard boasts an elegant stone fountain surrounded by carved stone cloisters. An upper level provides magnificent views over the city and its volcanoes. Venture inside the church to observe the unique gilded altar masterfully carved in churrigueresque style as well as the St. Ignatius Chapel.
Museo Santuarios Andinos
The Ice Maiden mummy, also known as Juanita, is one of Arequipa’s most famous historical denizens. In 1995, a team of high altitude archaeologists discovered the well-preserved mummy remains atop Ampato peak shortly after the eruption of neighboring Sabancaya volcano melted the ice that encased the tomb for 500 years. Scientific study of the mummy’s remains, including DNA analysis, have afforded great insights into Inca culture.
The Museum of Andean Sanctuaries was created especially to display artifacts associated with the discovery of mummies in the Arequipa region. The Ice Maiden is displayed in a special case with carefully maintained temperature and humidity. Note that although the mummy Juanita is usually on display, the museum does rotate various mummies (also found atop Ampato and nearby Andean peaks) that you may see instead.
Museo Arqueologico Chiribaya
From approximately 900 to 1350 AD, the Chiribaya culture occupied an extensive territory from Arequipa to northern Chile. And yet it is one of South America’s least studied pre-Inca culture. The Chiribaya Museum in Arequipa seeks to remedy that gap. Galleries display 270 material artifacts that add depth and dimension to Chiribaya daily life, including tools used for fishing, hunting and farming, as well as ceramics, textiles, and jewelry. The Gold Room showcases an extensive collection of pre-Inca jewelry.
Casa del Moral
A real treat for history and architecture buffs, this 18th century mansion preserves the city’s Baroque architecture style. Its name derives from the old mulberry tree (arbol de moras) in the courtyard. Visitors can explore the site independently or with a guide. Look for the beautiful white sillar arch at the entrance, which bears a coat of arms with a baroque-mestizo design. Snakes dart out of a puma head amid a castle, crown, and angels for the perfect blend of colonial and indigenous styles. The mansion’s interior is outfitted with impressive antique furnishings, alpaca rugs, and a collection of religious paintings from the Cusco School of Art.
Iglesia San Agustin
Historic San Agustin Church boasts a show-stealing carved facade that will leave you amazed at the skill and artistry of colonial stonemasons. A major earthquake in 1868 destroyed much of the temple, but fortunately the 17th portal entrance remained intact and still displays bas reliefs and iconography. Inside the church, visitors can appreciate the gilded main altar that holds an image of Cristo Moreno as well as a gorgeous cupola above the Sacristy, which also survived the 1868 earthquake. Adjacent to the church are the San Agustin cloisters, built over a period of 100 years, which became the site of the prestigious Universidad Nacional de San Agustin. In October, the main festival of Senor de los Milagros is celebrated at this temple.
Iglesia y Convento San Francisco
Incredibly, one of Peru’s most significant religious complexes was funded almost entirely by alms-giving parishioners. San Francisco Church was the 4th church in Arequipa, founded in 1552. It remained closed to the public until 1978. The church features white sillar stone walls, a brick dome, and a facade carved with bas relief images of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic de Guzman. The presbytery boasts a solid silver altar and a painting of the Virgen de las Angustias. The attached convent has 3-meter thick walls that have endured the most violent of Arequipa’s seismic events. Its cloisters house an extensive collection of religious art and library with 20,000 volumes including antique books and maps.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Throughout Peru’s colonial period, the Santa Catalina Monastery functioned like a mini-city within the city. At its peak, the complex grew to 20,000 square meters (215,278 square feet) and housed 500 Dominican nuns as well as their servants and other women who had not taken vows. In a society with strict gender roles, the monastery was one place where women could live with a modicum of freedom. In the present-day, only about a dozen nuns remain in the northern segment of the complex; the rest is open to the public.
Santa Catalina is an outstanding example of the Arequipa style of architecture. Arches, and facades are beautifully carved from sillar stone in the Mudéjar style. Walls are painted earthy red or sky blue. Potted red geraniums and cast-iron lamps provide accents. Visitors can wander the narrow passageways that open up to small courtyards and peer into the nuns’ cells. The convent’s rooftop terrace is a favorite spot for photographers at sunset.
Museo Historico Municipal
The Municipal History Museum traces the history of Arequipa from pre-Columbian times to the present. Situated on the former site of Arequipa’s first female college, the museum display portraits of Arequipa’s illustrious citizens as well as a collection of sketches of religious and civil architecture that show the development of Baroque mestizo style in southern Peru. Two rooms display artifacts from the Chiribaya culture (900 to 1350 AD), known as the lords of the Sea and Desert for their ability to thrive in the dry desert coast of South America.
Museo de Arte Virreinal
Located within the still-functioning Convent of Santa Teresa, the Museum of Viceregal Art is one of Arequipa’s newest museums. After an earthquake in 2001 caused damage to the building, the resident Carmelite nuns decided to open the temple to visitors in order to fund reconstruction work. The museum includes more than 300 works of art dating from the 16th-18th centuries; these include sculptures, ornaments, murals, and jewelry crafted in gold and silver. Lovers of architecture will be enchanted by the interior buttresses, arched cloisters, patios, gardens, and narrow hallways.
The attached Iglesia Santa Teresa, built in 1710, is worth seeing for its 3 choir stalls, called the Coro Alto, the Coro Medio, and the Coro Bajo. All are adorned with exquisite paintings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary (Coro Alto) and Jesus Christ (Coro Bajo). The gold-leaf covered main altar holds an image of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Iglesia La Merced
Construction of La Merced, Arequipa’s second convent, started in 1551, was completed in 1607, and then mostly destroyed in 1687 earthquake. The current temple was built in the aftermath and displays the typical Arequipa sillar style. The lateral side entrance boasts sculpted image of the Virgin of Mercy accompanied by two saints. The sacristy houses a collection of rare paintings and the chapter hall, built in a gorgeous gothic style, houses a library of colonial-era books.
Iglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo Church had humble beginnings as a small temple with one nave and adobe walls with a thatched roof. An earthquake in 1582 tumbled this church and its replacement as well. In the present-day, San Francisco Church is made of solid sillar stone. Construction begun in 1634 and was completed 33 years later. Its grand portal entrance is one of the earliest example of “mestizo arequipeño” style with breathtaking carved stone details. The church is also one of Arequipa’s most recognizable monuments thanks to a rococo style tower, completed in 1766, that rises 46 meters in height from an octagonal base and is topped with “Angel de la Fama.”
Casa Museo Villalobos
Dr. Jose Villalobos Ampuero, the former mayor of Arequipa, is an avid collector of art and antiques from around the world, and his family home is open to visitors who share his passion for cultural treasures. The 100-year-old mansion alone is a stunning example of Arequipa residential architecture. Inside you’ll see oil paintings, elegant lamps, Ming Dynasty vases, Rosenthal porcelains, and diverse furnishings from Europe and Asia. Guided visits are available in Spanish.
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Arequipa (MACA)
For a refreshing interlude between visits to historical and archeological sites, visit Arequipa’s Museum of Contemporary Art. It is one of the few modern art museums in all of Peru with a collection that includes canvas paintings, sculptures, watercolors and cartoons, as well as a photographs by the Arequipa-born brothers Carlos and Miguel Vargas. Once you’ve gotten your art fix, relax in the garden or have a drink and snacks in cafe, which is cozily tucked into a repurposed train car. Located in Barrio Ingles, a short walk from the Plaza de Armas.
You can see the historic center of Arequipa from above with a visit to this famous lookout point in the Yanahuara district. Fine stone arches are carved with the prose and poetry of Arequipa’s many notable writers and also provide perfect frames for photos of El Misti. It is a local tradition among young lovers to go to Mirador de Yanahuara to pledge eternal love and affection with the Lord of Arequipa (Misti) as a witness.
La Recoleta Convent
Bibliophiles should head directly to this 17th century Franciscan convent. Its huge library includes more than 20,000 rare volumes, some dating from the 16th-18th century. Visitors can browse original manuscripts, letters, memoirs, and maps related to regional and national history.
And there’s more. The convent has 4 cloisters, each of which houses interesting collections. The Museo Pre-Colombino showcases Moche, Chimu, and Inca artifacts as well as Wari, Paracas, and Inca textiles. The Museo Amazonico exhibits taxidermy of rainforest fauna such as birds, mammals, reptiles, arachnids, butterflies and insects, alongside tools and clothing from rainforest cultures such as shipibo, ahshaniga, machiguenga, witoto, and yagua.
This is one of Arequipa’s least formal and least crowded museums, making this a real treat for visitors seeking a overview of Peruvian history and culture.
Religious Festivals: Señor de los Milagros
In October, the Catholic faithful in Arequipa gather at San Agustin church to celebrate “mes morada” or purple month. The focus of the celebration are paintings of Señor de los Milagros and Virgen de la Nube. During the month, the images are carried in procession around the historic center, visiting churches, hospitals and other public and private institutions.
Historically, the indigenous cultures of the Andes regarded volcanic mountain peaks as powerful spirits with the ability to control weather and agricultural fertility. In the present, some people in Peru still believe that the mountains are both protectors and occasional menaces (when they explode). During important festivals, offerings are still made to appease the giants. Adventurous travelers with appropriate gear and experience may ascend the ice-covered summits by booking a guided trek.
Arequipa has a long history of producing writers, artists, musicians, and intellectuals. The Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa was born here. Other notable writers include the 19th century writers Mariano Melgar, Maria Nieves y Bustamante, and Jorge Polar and the portrait painter Carlos Baca Flor (1869-1941). In the present, Arequipa is filled with museums, cultural centers, and galleries that testify to a thriving tradition of artistic production.
Tour the Historic Center
Declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity Site in 2000, the historic center of Arequipa conserves the most picturesque colonial architecture in all of Peru. As you wander the cobblestoned streets, you’ll quickly see why Arequipa is called “Ciudad Blanca” or White City.” Sillar is petrified ash from millennium’s worth of volcanic eruptions. Used as the primary building material for Arequipa’s churches and mansions, it bestows the city with a radiant appearance. Since the city began to be built in the 16th century, the region has experienced a high level of destructive geologic activity in the form of earthquakes and volcanic explosions. In this context, the preservation of monumental architecture in the historic center is even more remarkable.
Try the Regional Cuisine
Tell anyone that you traveled to Arequipa, and the first thing people will ask is, “did you try the food?” Don’t miss your chance to sample what many consider to be the best dishes in all of Peru. At the top of the list: rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy pepper), chupe de camarones (spicy shrimp stew), adobo (spicy pork stew). Save room for a dessert of queso helado (frozen milk spiced with cinnamon).
Discover The Main Plaza
The scenic Plaza de Armas is the social heart of the city. Local people come to chat and read newspapers under the shade of a palm tree, children throw seeds on the ground for pigeons, and travelers from all over the world come to gape at the towering Basilica Cathedral and make wishes at Tuturutu Fountain in the center of the square.
Learn About Alpaca
Everywhere you go in Peru, you’ll see alpaca scarves, sweaters and gloves for sale. In Arequipa, go to Mundo Alpaca where you can learn all about the origins of these products, from the shearing of alpacas and vicunas, to spinning yarn, to weaving using centuries-old methods. At the end, you be able to tell the difference between our alpaca products and those made with synthetic material.
View Misti from a Fresh Angle
Go to the Yanahuara district overlooking the historic center to get fantastic angles of majestic El Misti volcano. A beautiful terrace is framed by white stone arches carved with famous lines of prose and poetry in Spanish. It’s a great place to relax and soak in the views.
Take a Trip to the Countryside
During the colonial period, wealthy landowning families had grand casonas in the city center and sprawling haciendas out in the countryside. You can see what life was like for the Arequipa elite when you venture into the countryside, 15-20 minutes outside of the city. Key sites include Molino de Sabandia, an old water mill, and the restored La Mansion del Fundador which belonged to Arequipa’s founder Don Garci Manuel de Carvajal.
Go to the Colca Canyon
Combine your Arequipa tour with a trip to the Colca Canyon. You can make a day-trip out of it, but you’ll have a better experience if you can spend at least 1 night in a village inside the canyon.
Discover more about Colca Canyon >
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.
See all Arequipa Hotels
Where to Eat
Rich, complex, and wholly addictive is probably the best way to describe traditional Arequipa cuisine. The place to go to try it? Local eateries called picanterías. These restaurants are veritable institutions, where friends and families like to get together on Sundays to feast and share each other’s company.
Zig Zag Arequipa
Andean-Alpine fusion cuisine
Price range: $$
Zela 210, Arequipa | website
Gaston Acurio Novo-Andean cuisine
Price range: $$
Santa Catalina 210, Arequipa | website
Price range: $$-$$$
San Francisco 309, Arequipa
- adobo – traditional spicy pork stew, usually served on Sunday
- rocoto relleno – spicy rocoto pepper stuffed with minced beef, eggs, and olives, topped with melted cheese
- caldo blanco – white broth lamb stew with potato, corn, chickpeas, chuño, and spices
- puchero – meat stew with beef, pork, chicken, greens and herbs
- chupe de camarones – spicy shrimp stew prepared with milk and cheese
- loco – squash stew with beef or lamb
- chicharron – tender deep fried pork
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.
Arriving 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. Talk with your travel advisor about scheduling a transfer to your hotel in advance or take a safe taxi from the airport.
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 mi) 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.
Transport 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.”
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.
What is the altitude of Arequipa?
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 (7,660 feet) 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.
How many days should I 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.
When is the 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.
What are packing essentials 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.
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 but the high altitude and sandy footing along the way makes it a challenge. 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.