Some of you may not have heard of Arequipa, but it is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. Arequipa is the second most populated Peruvian city and is located in the south of the country between the Peruvian sierra and the coast. The city is a fabulous mix of old and new and has a beautiful history of struggle and courage in the country to learn. And with so much to know and experience, it is normal to wonder where to start. That is why with the travel experts at Machu Travel Peru we have prepared an article about the many things to do in Arequipa. Learn about all the many forms of tours and day trips around this fantastic city.
Get to know the many things to do in Arequipa
- Arequipa, the White City
- A brief History
- How to go there
- Best time to visit it
- The monastery of Santa Catalina tour
- Visit the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa
- Take a walk in San Camilo Market
- Get a perfect city view in Yanahuara
- Appreciate the facade of La Compañia church
- Meet Juanita mummy in the Andean Sanctuaries Museum
- Explore the nearby Colca Canyon
- Our Lady of Lourdes festivity
- Taste the traditional Arequipa cuisine
- Climb the Misti volcano
- Lose yourself in the San Lazaro neighborhood
- Monastery and museum of La Recoleta
- Appreciate the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto
- Enjoy Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve
Arequipa, the White City
Arequipa is the perfect place to spend a few days and experience everything offered there. The city has a different feel than most other cities, it is modern, but at the same time old with very friendly people. The city is located at the foot of a giant sleeping volcano called Misti, in the south of Peru, and over an altitude of 7661 feet (2335 m.a.s.l) For centuries, the surrounding volcanic ash was petrified and gave way to “Sillar”, a quaint white stone that was used to build the most beautiful buildings in the city, and, almost, the 80% of buildings are located there. This is the reason, why Arequipa is known as the White City.
A brief history
The zone of the current city was occupied by the Aymaras (people come from the Andean highlands between Peru and Bolivia) 1000 years before the Incas arrival. In its language, “Ari” means summit, and “quipay” means lying behind. This is due to the location of the zone lying behind a volcano, the Misti. Years later, around 1300 AD, the Sapac (regent) Inca called Mayta Capac passed over the zone with its entourage, the subjects saw the beautiful valley of Chili river and the imposing volcano, asking to establish a settlement in that place, which the Inca replied “Ari, quepay” which means, “yes, let you stay”.
After the defeat of the Incas by the Spanish, the Iberian colonist Garcí Manuel de Carbajal re-founded the city in 1540. Nowadays, this date is celebrated in August with drums and cymbals, as well as dances, dancing, and a lot of joy. Between the centuries XV to XVIII, under Spanish rule, the city was an important marine port for the commercialization of silver. During this period (colonial age), the city began to be impregnated with beautiful Renaissance and Baroque architecture, using the Sillar (white stone product of the petrification of volcanic ash). Obtaining the beauty that it presents these days.
How to get there
There are frequent flight schedules from Lima, the capital of Peru. The flight lasts 01-hour trip from Lima and a cost around $70 – $80 round trip. There are also flights directly from Cusco (The Peruvian tourism capital), the trip lasts 45 minutes and the services cost around $60 – $70 round trip. In the case of buses, there are frequent routes from Lima, (16 hours of trip) and a cost of around $27 – $30 one way, from Cusco the bus trip lasts 11 hours and has a cost of around $23 – $26 one way. Of course, if we talk about buses, there are more connections from different Peruvian cities to the White City, not so the case of commercial flights.
Best time to visit it
Arequipa is the perfect place to spend a few days and experience the old and the new of Peruvian culture. It has an excellent climate all year round and almost no rain, therefore, it is known as one of the cities with the most pleasant climate in Peru. However, if you want to enjoy blue skies, strong sun rays, warm weather, and fresh nights, we recommend visiting it in the dry season (from April to November). Otherwise, if you enjoy hard rains, cloudy skies, cold breezes, and muddy paths, you can come to the White City in the rainy season (from December to March)
1. The monastery of Santa Catalina tour
That said, the city has its colonial past where you can visit one of the best Arequipa tourist attractions such as the Santa Catalina Monastery. Being able to take a tour with the Nuns who still live and work in the convent today is one of the best Arequipa tourist attractions. The convent is a labyrinth of alleys settled over 20,000 square meters. It was founded in 1580 by a wealthy Arequipeña widow named Maria de Guzman. The nuns lived there as novices for up to 4 years, during this time, their moneyed families paid a dowry of 100 gold coins per year. Then, they had to decide to continue their religious life or free themselves from all commitments to the monastery, the latter could bring great shame to the family.
Nowadays, there are tour guides in English, Portuguese and Spanish languages offering tours for 1 hour (40 soles), scrolling by the most important alley of this little city, starting the tour through the main cloisters, passing through the Arco del Silencio and the cloisters of the novices, in whose courtyard a rubber tree stands, and ending in the orange cloister, where a mortuary room remains and portraits of the bodies are exhibited. of the deceased novices inside.
2. Visit the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa
Arequipa’s main square is considered one of the most beautiful in Peru. And visiting it is one of the mandatory things to do when a tourist visits the city. It has well-kept gardens with many colorful flowers, in addition, these gardens hosted big palms that give shade to citizens, visitors, and the elderly who rest with a book on the picturesque benches of the square. Also, it has a large and beautiful water font in its center. In comparison with Lima and Cusco main squares, this one doesn’t have peddlers and is surrounded on its three sides (west, south, and east) by Sillar stone portals with uniform arches on the second floor.
The Cathedral is located on its north side. And, around the square, there are many Spanish colonial houses, which today have been converted into restaurants where you can enjoy a tasty lunch. Besides, in the surroundings, you will find the best hotels in Arequipa as well as other historical buildings that are worth a visit, of course, all of them are made with Sillar.
3. Take a walk in the San Camilo Market
If the visitor wants to know the local idiosyncrasy of a South American town, first he has to visit their main squares and the local markets. San Camilo Market is a great example in the White City and offers colors, aromas, and flavors in each one of its stalls. Throughout all South America, you will find picturesque local markets, where the bustle and the hectic life get mixed up. San Camilo market is not the exception, and its visit is one of the best things to do in Arequipa.
From the heads of cattle hanging off in the meat stalls, fresh meat being chopped, and dry llama fetuses until a variety of fruits, and vegetables in the opposite stalls. Of course, if you feel the thirst for the impression of the scene, don’t worry, you will find fruit juice stalls close by. Besides, on the second floor, food stalls will be waiting for you with the most representative local dishes. The market is located on the southeast of Plaza de Armas, specifically four blocks, passing 2 blocks east on Santo Domingo street, and then walk 2 blocks south on Pierola street.
4. Get a perfect view of the city in Yanahuara
Arequipa is famous for the Misti volcano, the city lies on its slopes. However, the city is also famous for pictures that are taken of him from the middle of a famous arch, which we refer to Yanahuara look view. Among the many things to do in Arequipa, a visit to this lookout is inevitable. Yanahuara is a middle-class neighborhood located on the west side of the city (If you want to take a walk from the main square to Yanahuara lookout, the walk will last only 40 minutes)
If you have a walking tour in Arequipa, this route is the most appropriate for you. Walk 4 blocks in the north direction on Santa Catalina Street, then turn to your left and walk 4 more blocks north along Grau Street. Return to your left and walk 3 blocks north by Francisco Bolognesi street. Finally, tour again on your left and walk 4 blocks west on CTA. Del Angel and ready! Beautiful cobblestone streets, an ancient white church of colonial times, quaint houses, and the famous arches made with Sillar stones adorned with inspiring phrases of the most renowned Peruvian poets are the characteristics of this peaceful urban zone. Do you want a perfect postcard of Arequipa? So Yanahuara is the right place for you.
5. Appreciate the facade of La Compañia church
The churrigueresque style was famous worldwide for the first time in the facades of Seville churches. For this reason, due to the Spanish conquest of Peru, this style was introduced to Peruvian native builders. Consequently, the architecture of La Compañia Church (The Company) is the best representative of this style, inside the Baroque movement, and its facade is the best example of beauty, decoration, and movement of lines in the south of Peru. Besides, inside, the visitor can find an amazing altar covered in gold leaf and ornate carvings beautifully decorated. Of course, the entire Jesuit church is made up of Sillar stone (White rocks originating from the zone) This attraction lies over a corner of the city’s main square, just next to the administrative buildings. What are you waiting to visit?
6. Meet Juanita mummy in the Andean Sanctuaries Museum
You should take the time to visit some Arequipa museums, especially the one where a fascinating Inca mummy is located. Juanita was a woman of 12 – 15 years, sacrificed to the gods in the Incas times and buried in the summit of Ampato snow. The ice and snow retained the girl’s corpse in perfect condition for centuries. 500 years later, two archaeologists Jose Chavez and Johan Reinhard discovered him. Immediately, in 1995 the Andean Sanctuaries Museum (Museo de Santuarios Andinos) was created to host Juanita and other Incas mummies. Without a doubt, this museum is reliable evidence of human sacrifices made by the Incas.
This museum is located a few minutes walk from the main square of Arequipa and is very easily found it! The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 09:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. And Sundays from 09:00 a.m. – 02:00 p.m. The cost of entrance tickets is $7 per foreign adult and $3 per foreign student, previously enter this link.
7. Explore the nearby Colca canyon
On any visit to Arequipa, you must do a Colca Canyon tour, located about six hours by car from the city. The canyon is considered one of the deepest in the world, doubling the depth of the Grand Canyon, with a depth of 11,000 feet, but this is measured from the high peaks to the canyon floor. This amazing feat of Mother Nature was created by the Colca River over thousands of years over 3270 m.a.s.l. You’ll see the river below and the majestic condors overlying you when you visit one of the many lookouts at the top of the canyon. The entrance cost is $20 per person.
Birds love to fly around the canyon, and if you’re lucky, you might see some amazing specimens up close. The canyon is so large that many native towns like Cabanaconde and Socabaya are located in its deep. Although the Colca canyon paths are well signed and some tourists can visit it alone, it is recommendable being in a group and with a tour guide. The environment is spectacular, and the walk is challenging, most of the walks are two or three days long. You can also soak in the wonderful Colca hot springs in the surroundings and depths.
8. Our Lady of Lourdes festivity
In February of each year, the local people celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is said that on February 11, 1858, a girl named Bernadette went to the forest with two of her friends to look for firewood and came across a river. Since Bernadette suffered from asthma, she decided to stay by the river while her friends went to fetch firewood. During her resting, the Virgin Mary appeared to him, who is also known as the Lady of Lourdes.
Then, the girl and the Virgin prayed together, and during the next eight months, the Virgin appeared to Bernadette more than 18 times, curing his asthma. The girl was mistreated by the local authorities for her affirmations of the virgin. However, people believed him and gathered around her waiting for the Virgin to appear, but the apparitions never gave again. Bernadette remained firm in her faith until she died.
If you are lucky enough to enjoy the different tours in Peru in February, be sure to visit Arequipa. Remember, activities like swimming, sailing, and even trekking in Peru are fun, however, knowing the traditions and customs of its people is even better.
9. Taste the traditional cuisine of Arequipa
The White City is also becoming a gastronomic destination per excellent in Peru. In the white city, the typical restaurants of Arequipa are known as Picanterias. Here you will find all the local specialties to try. But remember that the plate sizes are large, so go with a big appetite. Consider tasting one of the best typical dishes of Arequipa, the Rocoto Relleno. This is made with red peppers cleaned and seeds removed, then the pepper is stuffed with minced meat, peanuts, boiled eggs, olives, cream cheese, and milk, and baked in the oven when ready and served with potatoes.
As you can see, trying traditional cuisine is one of the best things to do in the White City. The Ocopa is one of the traditional sauces of Arequipa that is served as an aperitif. Boiled potatoes are usually covered with a cream-based on-yellow chili, onion, garlic, cream cheese, and a spice called Huacatay, blended with dry bread. The dish is also served with boiled eggs, olives, and lettuce.
Also, no trip to this city would be complete without trying the traditional soup, Adobo. This soup is served throughout Peru but is best in Arequipa. With chunks of pork marinated in chicha (Inca Beer) and cooked with vinegar, hot peppers, and spices, frequently cooked in a flavor-enhancing clay pot and served with bread. This wonderful soup is traditionally served in the morning for breakfast.
10. Climb the Misti volcano
Arequipa is known for two things, the Sillar white stone, by which the majority of its buildings were made, and the imposing Misti volcano, which cover it as a protective mother does with her son. The volcano has 19,100 feet (5,822 m.a.s.l) of altitude and today is inactive. Climbing it is for tourists with a good physical state because the path is a strong slope and the climb lasts 2 days, as a minimum. The majority of the groups reach the highest area around noon on the second day, obtaining awesome views of the White City. Happily, there are many specialist and authorized travel agencies located in the historic center which offer the famous climbing to the Misti. Dare to conquer the skirts of the most famous volcano in Peru.
11. Lose yourself in the San Lazaro neighborhood
San Lazaro is the first neighborhood and the oldest one in the White City. Even, it was founded before the formal constitution of the city, in other words, before 1540. Taking a walk by its narrow streets, alleys, and charm squares is an experience, all of them made with Sillar. There is no shortage of some tourist who claims to have been transported to the streets of some Spanish or French rural town when visiting San Lazaro. This quaint neighborhood is located 1 kilometer from Arequipa center, from the Plaza de Armas, you will have to take Santa Catalina street and go straight, heading north, by 4 blocks, and well done! You will arrive in San Lazaro. And, if you want our opinion, visit it in the sunset when the sun faints and the first public lampposts are turned on, it is the best.
12. Monastery and museum of La Recoleta
Designed in 1648 by the priest Pedro de Peñaloza, the monastery is formed by 1 church and 4 cloisters and was run by the Franciscan order. It stands out a library with more than 25000 volumes dating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The place was worked as a monastery up to 1978 when it was converted into a museum. An ethnographic room, another of religious art, another dedicated to the Amazonian world and to the objects that the missionaries themselves collected over the years on their evangelization trips to the Peruvian Amazon, a pre-Colombian art room, another of religious art and a room of toys complete the complex of the monastery and museum of La Recoleta. It is located in 5 blocks, in a northwesterly direction, from the plaza de Armas.
13. Appreciate the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto
The petroglyphs of Toro Muerto are located in the province of Castilla, in the Majes valley, an arid zone, 159 kilometers from Arequipa. Toro Muerto maybe is the largest example of rock art in all of Peru, with more than 5 thousand rocks that contain cave art displaced in an area of more than 5 square km. The paintings represent zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, and geometric figures and were painted between 500 and 1500 A.C. This is an unusual place in the White City, and to get there, you can hire a tour that includes transportation or if you want to travel on your own, you must take public transportation that goes to the town of Corire and then take a taxi to Toro Muerto.
14. Enjoy Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve
The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is maybe the closest one to a historic center of any Peruvian city. It is located 3 hours from the Arequipa main square, taking the northeast direction, on the same road that connects the Colca Canyon with the White City. In Salinas and Aguada Blanca you will be able to appreciate different types of llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas in their natural habitat. Also, you will see flocks of flamingos and the Yareta plant that looks like moss.
The national reserve has more than 367,000 hectares and is home to a variety of enchanting places such as lagoons, volcanoes, and wetlands, dotted with pre-Inca ruins and unique wildlife. If you want to visit it y yourself, you will need to hire a car or van-wagon or, you can be registered with a tour group of many local travel agencies that offer the experience in this fantastic place, of course, the transport and tour guide are included.
“WE DON’T NEED OBJECTS; WE NEED ADVENTURES”
These are just some of the many things to do in Arequipa. The truth is that within this majestic city, you can find much more to enjoy. These are just some of the most important examples that you cannot miss. But Arequipa is full of incredible places to go and visit. Make sure to visit its historical buildings such as the Cathedral and other no less surprising places. We hope together with the Machu Travel Peru travel experts has been helpful. If you want to know more about our tours, you can consult with our advisors.