10 Amazing Things to Do in Arequipa
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10 Amazing Things to Do in Arequipa

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Aug 14, 2020


By Sean McBride

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Top Things to do in Arequipa Peru

When considering travel to Peru most travelers will conjure up the iconic images of Machu Picchu, which will be enchanted by the historic allure of Cusco or will be tempted by the cuisine in Lima and rightly so as all are great destinations and amongst the highlights of the continent.

Though, here at SouthAmerica.travel we highly recommend those planning a more in-depth exploration of Peru to consider Arequipa. Its nickname, “the White City”, comes from the brilliant and beautifully crafted marble from which much of the city is constructed. Elevated in the Peruvian Altiplano and surrounded by majestic volcanoes this destination oozes colonial charm and is well worth the visit. Below are ten amazing things to do in Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city.

1. Mingle with the locals at the Plaza de Armas & Basilica Cathedral

As with most towns and cities in Latin America, Arequipa’s centerpiece is its square the Plaza De Armas. The opened space quadrangle is brought to life by its manicured gardens, palm trees, and large elaborately designed water fountains. The plaza is also surrounded by gorgeous colonial-era buildings that gleam brilliant white in the sunlight. The level of activity is high around here as it is the principal place to mingle amongst the locals. There are also lots of great bars and restaurants dotted around the square.

Ravaged by fire and multiple seismic events the great Arequipa Cathedral has endured since 1865 and remains the most impressive feature of Plaza de Armas. Its beautiful white exterior is matched by what is found within with a carved pulpit, elaborately designed altar, huge wooden organ, and baroque arches all combine to treat the senses in a wondrous display.

side view of plaza de armas arequipa
white cathedral in plaza de armas arequipa

2. Shop at the San Camilo Market

A stone’s throw away from the Plaza De Armas you will find the San Camilo Market. San Camilo Market is Arequipa’s oldest and largest market and is an ideal place to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. You will find a ton of varieties of potatoes (Peru has over 4000 species). You can also purchase artisanal wares including traditional hats and alpaca sweaters. I recommend buying fruit juice, taking a walk among the stalls, and then doing some people watching while dining in the second-floor cafeteria.

3. Summit El Misti Volcano

Peru is a great destination for adventure tours and Arequipa is no different. At an elevation of 5822 meters (19,100ft) above sea level, El Misti Volcano towers in the distance over Arequipa, an ancient sometimes smoldering Centinel many visitors will feel compelled to walk to its summit and enjoy the rarified air high above the Peruvian Altiplano.

Thankfully the volcano has not erupted since the 15th century and it is known to be a place of worship for the Incan civilization as several mummies have been discovered inside the volcano’s rim. For those adventurously inclined and looking for a challenge with great rewards we strongly recommend this experience.

el misti volcano behind the white arequipa cathedral
llama standing in front of el misti volcano

4. Enjoy traditional Peruvian cuisine

With Lima serving the role of Peru’s culinary capital, Arequipa should not be overlooked as a great gastronomic destination in its own right. Typical and tasty Peruvian dishes such rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), ceviche, and cuy (guinea pig) can be found throughout the city. A great option is to peruse the menu del dia which is served up at lunchtime and includes a starter (usually soup), a main course, and freshly squeezed fruit juices all at a bargain price. We also recommend the Hatunpa restaurant on Calle Ugarte for a traditional dining experience where you can eat alpaca and choose from a huge selection of potatoes.

5. Spot Condors at the Colca Canyon

Arequipa serves as the principal starting off point for tours to the Colca Canyon. The immense trench was formed by the geological processes that formed the Andes mountains and is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in places. I recommend spending two to three days exploring the Colca Canyon, Arequipa, and Lake Titicaca. There are lots of great lodges to choose from and while there you will have a chance to soak up some incredible views, gawk at the abundant condors which circle high above or relax in natural hot springs.

aerial view of the colca canyon
condor landing on a rock in the colca canyon peru

6. Meet Juanita the Mummy

As with the rest of Peru, Arequipa is steeped in Incan history. Believed to have been sacrificed during the height of the Incan Empire in the 15th century and discovered in 1995 as a retreating glacier unveiled the tomb in which her body was resting Juanita, a mummified teenage girl now resides in a specially chilled room in the Museo Santuarios Andinos in central Arequipa in near perfect condition. Tours in the museum are guided and you will have a chance to see some of the artifacts buried next to her mummified remains before coming face to face with the frail otherworldly remains of Juanita.

7. Visit the Yanahuara neighborhood

Pack your camera and make a short trip across the river away from the hustle and bustle of the city center to the tranquil neighborhood of Yanahuara. This quaint residential neighborhood is dotted with beautiful colonial churches that you can visit as you traverse across cobblestone streets lined with white marble houses. A great highlight here is the Mirador of de Yanahuara which offers great views of the city and the Volcano Misti and I highly recommend saving your visit for sunset when the white city is illuminated by the golden hues of the setting sun.

quaint street in the yanahuara neighborhood
colonial church in yanahuara neighborhood

8. Step back in time in the San Lazaro Neighborhood

What’s a better way to explore a colonial gem like Arequipa than visiting its oldest neighborhood? By far Arequipa’s most aesthetically appealing neighborhood San Lazaro can justifiably draw comparisons with the beautiful medieval cities of Mediterranean Europe with narrow winding streets distinguished by the ever-present white walls of colonial-era mansions. Again, this is a place that your camera will love and is well worth a visit.

9. Take a tour of the Santa Catalina Monastery

Built in 1579 but only open to the general public in 1970 the Santa Catalina Monastery is very much worth visiting. A labyrinth of tunnels and narrow walkways allows visitors a chance lost among the monastery’s interior where you will also have a chance to see artifacts both Christian and native. Guided tours are also an option and will offer visitors greater insight into the rich history of a monastery which has endured for centuries.

three crosses santa catalina monastery
red walls and beautiful tree in the santa catalina monastery

10. Enjoy the sunset from a rooftop bar

A great way to end any day exploring this wonderful city is to enjoy an artisanal beer or coffee in one of the many rooftop bars that can be found in the city. Knockback an artisanal beer with your travel companions and also drink in the views of a city all too aware of its colonial charms before heading back to your hotel or out for a night in the city.

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