The UNESCO World Heritage City of Arequipa in southern Peru has a distinct air of dignity and sophistication, built in a European style with a classic, Grecian, yet colonial feel. It’s nestled in the Andes Mountains and maintains a cosmopolitan and liberal vibe in contrast to typical highland culture. Oh, and the weather feels like spring! It’s got delicious food, adventure sports, sweeping landscapes, and quaint “huariques” (hideouts), perfect for making memories. Here are 10+ fantastic things to do in Arequipa!
- See the Sillar Route
- Colca or Cotahuasi Canyons
- The Santa Catalina Monastery
- Local Dishes in a Picanterías
- Hike Misti Volcano
- Yanahuara Viewpoint
- The Basilica and Iglesia de la Compañía
- Drink Craft Beer
- See the Inca “Ice Maiden” Juanita
- Shop at the San Camilo Market
- Bonus: Check Out These Hidden Gems!
1.- See the Sillar Route
The White City of Arequipa is downright regal. All that white stone came from the surrounding volcanoes! This half-day tour takes you straight to the source, to the quarries that supplied this porous stone for Arequipa’s European-esque construction. You’ll be able to learn about the process of extracting and carving these precious stones, as well as see petroglyphs and statues along the way.
2.- Go to the Colca or Cotahuasi Canyons
These canyons are 2 of the deepest in the world and are famous for condor sightings! It’s quite a sight to watch these giant birds soar over such a landscape. You can do amazing multi-day treks through either of these breathtaking canyons. Colca is 4 hours from Arequipa, and Cotahuasi (the deeper and non-crowded of the two) is about 10 hours away.
3.- Stroll Through the Santa Catalina Monastery
I wouldn’t be lying if I said this is one of my favorite man-made places I’ve visited in the world. The monastery is a city within a city, a walled town built in 1540 for the Arequipa’s nuns, orphans, and unwanted children. You don’t feel like you’re in Peru as you stroll along its rust-red, sea blue, and cream-colored facades paired with flowers, fountains, lanterns, plazas, paintings, colonial furniture, and cobbled streets. It’s gorgeous!
4.- Try Arequipa’s Local Dishes in a Picanterías
If you didn’t know by now, Peruvian cuisine is the best in the world, and some of the favorites originated in Arequipa! You can try them in a local “picantería.” Queso helado is ice cream made with coconut, cinnamon, cloves, egg yolk, and vanilla. Chupe de camarones is a hearty, creamy shrimp chowder. Rocoto relleno is a stuffed hot pepper. Adobo is a unique pork stew made with Chicha de Jora, Peru’s fermented corn beer.
5.- Hike Misti Volcano
Arequipa’s most well-known landmark can be conquered on a 2-3 day trek that takes you up to 5825 meters (19,111 feet) above sea level – probably the highest you’ve ever gone! This active volcano is one of the easiest and cheapest climbs on a mountain of its size worldwide (such as Kilimanjaro and Mount McKinley). It’s not for the faint of heart, but you’ll get a great view up there!
6.- Hang out at the Yanahuara Viewpoint
The best place to get a panoramic view of the city and its volcanoes is from the palm-filled, archway-lined plaza of the Yanahuara neighborhood. It’s all perfectly picturesque! The structures here were built in the 19th century with bright, white volcanic stones, and the façade is engraved with popular quotes from Arequipa’s historical influencers.
7.- Admire the Basilica and the Iglesia de la Compañía
The giant, sacred structure dominating the main plaza is the city’s crown jewel, built from white stone in true Arequipa fashion. Its two bell towers mark the skyline day and night. But more impressive, for me, is the nearby Iglesia de la Compañía. Its artfully and intricately carved stonework, and beautiful baroque architecture are captivating!
8.- Drink Craft Beer and Spend the Evening on a Rooftop Bar
Craft beer has become popular in Arequipa and inspired the creation of lots of hip brewpubs, taprooms, and microbreweries. How about a bar crawl? Don’t mind if I do! Arequipa is also known for its bougie rooftop bars, romantic string lights, and comfy patio furniture. Spend an evening hanging out at sunset and exchanging anecdotes with your travel buds!
9.- See the Inca “Ice Maiden” Juanita
At the Museo Santuarios Andinos, you can see the remains of a young girl who was sacrificed to the Pachamama, or Mother Earth, by the Incas in the 1400’s. She’s the best preserved Inca mummy, but she and her burial items were protected by ice on Ampato Mountain, not mummified. When a nearby volcano erupted, the heat melted the ice, and Juanita was discovered and taken to the museum.
10.- Shop at the San Camilo Market
The city’s most lively farmer’s market, the traditional supply center of Arequipa, is a treat for any visitor! It’s stocked to the brim with colorful local produce and handicrafts and has an extensive juice section and food court (with local meals, of course). The site was once the San Camilo Church, but it was destroyed in the 1868 earthquake and later replaced by the market.
Bonus: Check Out These Hidden Gems!
- The origin of the Amazon River at Mismi Mountain (4 hours from the city)
- Choqolaqa Stone Forest (5 hours from the city)
- Chachani Volcano Trek up to 6057 MASL / 19,872 FASL (3 hours from the city)
- Salinas & Aguada Blanca National Reserve + Sumbay Caves (3 hours from the city)
- Yanque village and hot springs (4 hours from the city)
- San Lazaro Neighborhood (In the city)
- Inca tambos – Matadero, Bronce, Cabezona, Solar, etc. (In the city)
- Capua Waterfall (1.5 hours from the city)
- White water rafting on the Chili River (20 minutes from the city)
Arequipa is one of the coolest cities in South America, to be sure. I know you’ll love it there. Here are some other places to check out!
Leave a Reply