Arequipa things to do

Top 17 things to do in Arequipa, Peru

Many people say that the moment you step into Arequipa, you wouldn’t want to leave anymore. I had the exact same feeling the moment I arrived in this city. With Arequipa’s rich culture, outstanding gastronomic delights, prestigious colonial buildings and picturesque landscapes, it wouldn’t take long before this city will capture your heart just as it did to mine.

I was able to spend only two days in Arequipa so I tried my best to make the most out of it. Here are the 17 things you should not miss out when you plan to step foot into this white city in the south.

Top things to do in Arequipa

Stroll around the ancient streets of Arequipa

Arequipa’s historical centre was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and strolling around the  streets will show you exactly why.

Buildings, dating back to the mid-19th century, line up the street exhibiting a great European architectural style fused with native characteristics. Wandering around will surely make you think you are in a different era.

Get to know the ice mummy Juanita

One of the most interesting and top discoveries in the world is displayed in Museo Santuarios de Altura in Arequipa known as the “Ice Maiden Juanita”. She is an Inca girl of 12-15 years that was killed with a sharp blow to the back of her head for an offering to the Inca Gods sometime between 1450 and 1480. This discovery baffled the entire scientific world because the body was well-preserved and thus her remains were not desiccated like the other mummies in other countries.

The tour starts off with a short video reenacting and explaining the ritual. It is then followed by a tour to a series of cases containing the artifacts and objects used by the Incas. And lastly, you will be seeing Juanita curled up inside a glass case.

Quick facts: It is prohibited to take photos inside the museum.

Location: Calle la Merced 110

How to get there: Exit Plaza de Armas towards the south then turn left to Calle la Merced. At 78 m on your left, you will find the museum.

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 AM-6 PM, Sun 9 AM-4 PM; closed Dec 25 – Jan 1

How much does it cost: 20 soles

Shop and eat like a local at San Camilo Market

If you are looking for some authentic Peruvian atmosphere, then San Camilo market is the perfect place to visit. It is the oldest market in the city existing for over 130 years already.

Wander around the ground floor and try some of Arequipa’s fresh produce at a very cheap price or head to the upper floor and eat traditional Peruvian food with the locals.

Hours: Daily from 6 AM to 6 PM

How to get there: Head to the south of the Plaza de Armas then left towards Alvarez Thomas street. Continue straight ahead then turn left to Consuelo street. San Camilo Market is on your right side.

Take a selfie with the alpacas at Mundo Alpaca

Ever wondered how those fine wool garments were made? At Mundo Alpaca, you will learn all about its process the traditional way. You will also be able to witness their weavers, from indigenous communities in Cusco, perform traditional sorting and weaving techniques.

After an informative tour, you will be invited look into their gift shop. Their products are of very good quality but extremely pricey. There is no pressure to buy so just look around without feeling guilty.

If the products are of no interest to you, you can, instead, spend your time petting and feeding the gang of llamas and alpacas grazing at the back.

Things to do in Arequipa

Location: Alameda San Lazaro 101

How to get there: Head to the west side of the Plaza de Armas and turn right towards Santa Catalina street. Continue straight until you reach the roundabout. At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto El Molino.

Hours: Mon – Fri 8:30 AM- 6:30 PM, Sun 9AM- 5:30 PM, Sat 9:30 AM – 6:30 PM

How much does it cost: Entrance is entirely FREE.

Peek inside the walls of Santa Catalina Monastery

If you think you’ve seen already enough of the historical structures, wait until you get to see what’s beyond those imposing walls that occupies one whole block. The Santa Catalina Monastery is a city within a city. There is a cafe, small houses which served as the living quarters of the nuns, a chapel, an art gallery, a park and streets.

The monastery, which was built in 1579, was filled with so much controversy. The nuns that lived there were actually daughters of rich Spanish families and a very huge dowry had to be paid for admission. They brought some of their luxurious possessions and even brought slaves to do the chores for them. All these controversies led to Pope Pius IX to send Sister Josefa Cardena to sort out the mess. All the rich dowries were sent back to Europe and the slaves were freed.

In the 1960s, the monastery was damaged by two earthquakes. Since they lack the funds to maintain the complex, they’ve decided to open the monastery to the public and from then on, it has became a tourist attraction.

Things to do in Arequipa
© www.santacatalina.org.pe

Location: Calle la Merced 110

How to get there: Exit Plaza de Armas towards the south then turn left to Calle la Merced. At 78 m on your left, you will find the museum.

Hours: Mon, Thurs, Fri-Sun 9 AM-5 PM; Tue-Wed 9 AM-7:30 PM; CLOSED on Lenten Season, Christmas and New Year’s eve

How much does it cost:  40 soles. Tickets can be bought at the monastery. Anyone can tour the area on their own but if you want to hire an informative guide, there are some available by the entrance for 20 soles.

Cross the bridge in Calle Puente Grau

Take a walk along Calle Puente Grau and enjoy the views of the historical centre from the bridge.

Things to do in Arequipa

How to get there: Head to the west side of the Plaza de Armas, then turn right to Santa Catalina street. Continue straight until you reach Calle Puente Grau. Turn left to Calle Puente Grau and continue straight.

Wander around the Plaza de Yanahuara

Take some time to chill in the peaceful neighborhood of Yanahuara just three kilometers away from the historical centre. The Plaza de Yanahuara is a little park with beautiful landscaping, an old stone church and an excellent viewpoint.

The well-known and one of the most active volcanoes of Peru called “Misti” can be viewed from underneath the arches engraved with quotes from famous Arequipeñas.

How to get there: Head to the west side of the Plaza de Armas, then turn right to Santa Catalina street. Continue straight until you reach Calle Puente Grau. Turn left to Calle Puente Grau and continue straight until you reach the roundabout. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Av. Ejercito. Continue straight the turn right to Jerusalem street. The plaza will be on your right side.

Cool up your day with Queso Helado

Along the sidewalk in the Plaza de Yanahuara, there are vendors selling Arequipa’s local treat called Queso Helado. Although it’s name literally translates to “cheese ice cream”, there’s actually no cheese in it. It tastes more like milk with a little bit of cinnamon and coconut. Try some of it, it surely does not disappoint.

Things to do in Arequipa

How much does it cost: 2.50 soles

Have some traditional Peruvian cuisine at La Nueva Palomino

La Nueva Palomino is not the fancy type of restaurant but you will find it bustling with people all the time. They have a very good variety of traditional dishes with very huge servings. From outside, it may look small but it is actually huge inside. The atmosphere is very authentic and homey.

Things to do in Arequipa

When you go there, order some “Super Americanos”. For the price of 50 soles, you will get seven variety of dishes. It has portions of Rocoto Relleno, Pastel de Papa, Beef Estofado, Locro de Zapallo, Ceviche, Torrejas de espinaca, Chicharron and white rice. The portions are really huge so you must be really hungry when you dine there or you can also share it with someone.

They rank no. 11 out of 395 restaurants in Arequipa. Read some of their customers’ reviews here.

Things to do in Arequipa

Location: Leoncio Prado 122, Yanahuara

How to get there: From the Plaza de Yanahuara, turn left onto Cuesta del Angel. Continue straight ahead then turn left to Calle Alfonso Ugarte. At 130 m, turn right to Leoncio del Prado. La Nueva Palomino will be on the left.

Hours: Mon 12-11 AM & 12-5 PM, Tue-Sat 12-5 PM, Sun 7:30 AM-12 AM

How much does it cost: Super Americanos platter costs 50 soles and it is good for 2-3 people.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Arequipa’s alfajores

Alfajores is a popular treat in South America. It is made from two biscuits pressed together with a sweet filling in the middle which is usually dulce de leche.

Antojitos de Arequipa put their own twist on it. Their alfajores is made using the richest flavors that will explode in your mouth.

Things to do in Arequipa

Location: Portal de Flores 144, Plaza de Armas

How much does it cost: One pack contains 16 pieces of alfajores and it costs only 8 soles. Perfect choice if you want to buy souvenirs for family/friends.

Enjoy a night with the locals at Plaza de Armas

The city’s main plaza boasts a wonderful exhibit of sillar architecture. It is surrounded by chalky white structures which shimmers on a sunny day and turns golden at dusk.

One corner stands the Basilica Cathedral. It is the most important Catholic church in Arequipa. Over the years, it faced earthquake and fire which did a considerable damage to the structure. It has been rebuilt and restored to its original glory.

Things to do in Arequipa

When the sun sets, the plaza gets filled with locals and tourists. For an amazing views of the plaza, you can dine at one of the restaurants located in the second floor of the building or you can also sit in the park while sipping a warm cup of chocolate sold by street vendors.

Hours: The plaza is open 24 hours

Try the famous salteñas of Salteneria Roma

If you are looking for some cheap but tasty snack, the salteñas from Salteneria Roma are the perfect ones to munch on. Salteña is a traditional Bolivian savory pastry. It looks similar to empanada but what makes it different is its crispy crust and its sweet, stew-like filling. Just be prepared to get spilled with its juices when you take a bite.

Location: Alvarez Thomas 219

How to get there: Head to the southern part of the Plaza de Armas, then right to Alvarez Thomas street. Continue straight for about 250 m. Salteneria Roma will be on your right.

How much does it cost: 2.50 soles

Warm up your night with Arequipeña

Arequipa has its own beer called Arequipeña. At dusk, head to your hostel’s rooftop and grab a bottle of  it to warm up your night. It is cheap and very refreshing.

Things to do in Arequipa

Explore the second deepest canyon

Just a 4-hour ride away from Arequipa is the Colca Canyon which is twice as deep as United States’ Grand Canyon. It is a great place to enjoy a vibrant indigenous culture and observe the majestic Condors in flight.

There are two ways to explore the canyon. It can be explored by trek which normally takes 2-3 days or just a full day tour from Arequipa. To do any of these, you can either book a tour or have a DIY trip.

Things to do in Arequipa

How to get there: The cheapest option would be to take public buses (15 soles/$5) which are leaving daily to the villages in Colca. Alternatively, you can book a tour with the travel agencies in Arequipa or pre-book in advance at www.findlocaltrips.com.

How much does it cost: I’ve found tour operators charging $28, the cheapest so far, for a 2-day trek and $50 for a 3-day trek. These costs include transportation, accommodation, breakfast and a tour guide. There is also a tourist entrance tax for the Colca (not included in tour prices) which amounts to 70 soles for foreigners and 40 soles for South American citizens.

Witness some locals dance in the town of Yanque

Yanque is a small town with a lively main square, an old colonial church, indigenous communities with Quechua descent and few stores selling local crafts. In the morning, children wearing colorful traditional costumes dance in front of the church. There are also women in native costumes with their llamas lining up the streets for you to get your photo taken with.

As compared to Chivay, Yanque has more to offer in terms of adventures and accommodations. But despite being a touristy place, Yanque still managed to retain its cultural values.

How to get there: There are public buses leaving daily to the villages in Colca. Alternatively, you can book a Colca Canyon tour with the travel agencies in Arequipa or pre-book in advance at www.findlocaltrips.com. These tours includes a stopover in the town of Yanque for a few minutes.

Enjoy the natural hot springs in a nearby town

A dip into this natural jacuzzi is really refreshing after an exhausting hike at the canyon. The water temperature reaches to a maximum of 50ºC and has mineral contents which provide healing properties to people suffering from arthritis and rheumatic diseases.

Take note that this is a public bath so expect to be dipping in with some tourists or locals. You can come early in the morning to ditch the crowd. There are also private thermal bath that belonged to recognized hotels in the area.

Things to do in Arequipa

Location: 2 km. de la Plaza Principal de Yanque, Yanque 04140, Perú

How to get there: From the main square of Yanque, walk downhill towards Ichipampa. There are signs along the way but in case you don’t see it, just ask the locals for aguas termales.

Hours: 6 am to 6 pm

How much does it cost: 15 soles

Defy the altitude at Mirador de los Andes

The journey from Colca Canyon to Arequipa passes through this vantage point which is the best spot to enjoy a picturesque sweep of snow-capped volcanoes. The altitude is at 4,910 meters above sea level (16000 ft.) – highest point you can be without climbing!

The Chivay-Arequipa road is the highest paved road in the world yet it is nameless.

How to get there: This is part of the stopovers when you book a Colca Canyon tour from tour operators.

How much does it cost: Access is free for this viewpoint


HOW TO GET TO AREQUIPA:

  • BY BUS – This is the most economical way to get to Arequipa and is only recommended for travelers who have plenty of time to spare. The journey takes about 16-22 hours depending on the route you choose. Most bus companies take the quickest route (about 16-17 hours) by crossing the Andes mountains which is not quite safe since a lot of hijacking has been reported in that area. The safest option would be to book a hop-on hop-off pass with Peru Hop. They break down the long journey by providing stops in certain areas like Paracas, Huacachina, Arequipa and Puno.
  • BY PLANE – There are daily departures to Arequipa from Lima and the travel time takes only 1 hour and 30 minutes. Airlines operating in Arequipa are Latam, Avianca, Peruvian Airlines, LC Peru, and Viva Air. Latam is the most popular one because of the number of daily flights they serve. You can search for flights using skyscanner to compare prices from different providers.

FINAL TRAVEL TIPS:

The city of Arequipa is best explored on foot. The streets in the historical centre are very narrow and there are even some areas where vehicles are not allowed to enter.

If you want to wander around the city and learn a little bit of its history and culture, then maybe try joining the free walking tours. However, if you don’t like to be herded around like an obedient sheep, touring the city on your own is also a good idea.

If you are looking for some cheap but good food, go to the upper floor of San Camilo Market. You will find a lot of food stalls serving local dishes with prices starting from 10 soles. For some real deal cuisines, dining in a picanteria is highly recommended. Picanterias are traditional restaurants in Arequipa which has been serving the locals for ages already. The atmosphere in a picanteria is very lively and homey.


Is Arequipa also in your bucket list destinations? Share me your thoughts below.

33 Comments

  1. Omg this place is just up my alley. History and Nature. Gosh I want to go now. Those alpacas are so cute too. So fluffy makes me want to hug them for the life of me.


  2. Wow so informative! I had never heard of this place before! I am planning a trip though to Peru in the fall, so I’ll be saving this post! 🙂

    1. Author

      That’s nice to hear. I hope you’ll enjoy your trip there. It is such a nice country.

  3. Wow! Arequipa as officially been added to my list! So much to do!! This post is so detailed and informative! The food looks SO delicious too!

    1. Author

      It’s funny because that cheese ice cream does not actually have cheese in it but it was still good.

  4. beautiful Place! Would love to check it out sometime. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome. Indeed! Arequipa is really a beautiful place and shouldn’t be skipped when visiting Peru.

    1. Author

      I feel you. The llamas are very cute creatures. i can watch and pet them the whole day.

  5. There’s so much to see in Arequipa – you’ve captured this wonderfully!

    1. Author

      Thanks Juliana. Arequipa is really nice. I would have stayed longer if I had more time.


  6. love how this post is so informative and interesting to read.
    thanks for sharing

  7. Wow, I never heard about Arequipa and I must amazed that the city has so much to offer, the food, the history, gorgeous buildings like Plaza de Armas, and even a Canyon!! I am a nature lover, so I’m inclined towards those hot springs!!

    1. Author

      Thanks for your comment Shibu. Those hot springs are really relaxing after a hike from the canyon.

  8. Ahhhh I never made it to Arequipa on my trip to Peru but I’m so sad I missed out on the colca canyon, it sounds amazing! And looks like Arequipa itself is lovely too.

    1. Author

      It’s really lovely. That’s so sad that you’ve missed it.

  9. Great post with lots of good things to see and do in Arequipa! We really loved it there and were so glad we took the long bus from Puno to spend a few days exploring. Glad to see you also found the alfajores — weren’t they yummy? 🙂 😋

    1. Author

      Yes they were. I loved the alfajores so much. I went also by bus. T’was too long travel but all worth it.

  10. I’ve never heard of this city before either and will put it on my bucket list – who knew there is a White City and with hotspring nearby, too!

    1. Author

      Thanks for commenting Nam. It was really a nice city and should definitely not be missed when you travel to Peru. There is so much to explore.

  11. Wow! I had no idea about this city, but it has so many things to offer! Arequipa looks simple and very pleasant to travel around. Thank for the tip!
    Also, the queso helado looks delicious! Going to add to my list!

    Bruna

    1. Author

      Thanks for commenting Bruna. Yes Arequipa is really nice especially its colonial architecture. I love the Queso Helado so despite the temperature I was still able to have two cups of it.

  12. I wrote a very similar post a few years ago, I loved that place! Can’t believe you managed to see so much in just two days! My highlights we’re definitely Santa Catalina, the incredible architecture and the food. Colca Canyon was amazing too 😀

    1. Author

      I’ve really tried my best not to get lazy and lay on the bed for the whole morning. 😀
      The weather was cold but for the two days I’ve been there I was already starting my day at 5 am and 3 am. That’s why I’ve managed to do so much. Didn’t want to miss a thing. 🙂

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