Arequipa is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru, and the second biggest city in the entire country. Magically positioned surrounded by three volcanos. It is known as “The White City” because most of the old buildings were built using Sillar white volcanic stone. From Arequipa, you can explore two of the deepest canyons in the world, the Cotahuasi Canyon and the Colca Canyon, and take in the stunning scenery.
Try the local cuisine - it’s one of the best and most varied in Peru. Go to the traditional Picanterias and sample some of their amazing dishes like Rocoto Relleno: a spicy red pepper filled with meat, eggs and raisins, covered with cheese and cooked in the oven. If you’re planning to try guinea pig then this is the place to do it, because they cook it in the best way.
Below is our Arequipa travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go, and what not to miss.
COTAHUASI CANYON – One of the deepest canyons in the world. Called "The Wonderland Canyon", it is located approximately 400 km north-west of Arequipa city. Here, part of the Canyon is a protected reserve for the animals and plants - you'll spot many species of birds, including the famous Andean Condor.
COLCA CANYON – Is the second deepest canyon in the world, and almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. What makes this canyon one of the best in the world is not so much its depth but its diversity. You can take a tour or trek to this beautiful place, and along its 100-kilometre route you’ll see more landscape changes than in most European countries!!
RAFTING AT RIO CHILLI – A must-do activity for any extreme sports lover! It’s close to the city and you can do it in half a day.
MONASTERIO DE SANTA CATALINA – This is a beautiful colonial monastery that was cut off from the outside world for almost 500 years. A city within a city almost. To this day it is still home to the nuns of Santa Catalina, located a few blocks from the main plaza. It’s frequently visited by tourists because of the beautiful paintings, colourful walls and many sculptures inside.
MUMMY JUANITA – The Museo Santuarios is renowned for its exhibition of the Mummy Juanita. This mummy was found by accident, buried at the Ampato Mountain and in perfect condition. Scientists think that she was part of a human sacrifice. The National Geographic said that, “She was the best human being preserved from the Americas”. Here at the museum you can find tours in many languages, but be sure to check the timetable for availability.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Explore Colca Canyon and Cotahuasi Canyon
Visit the Museo Santurios to see the Mummy Juanita.
Try amazing traditional food at the Picanterias.
The food in Arequipa is absolutely delicious, and the best place to go is to the Picanterias, which are traditional restaurants outside of the city. If you’d like to eat guinea pig, or 'cuy', then this is the city where you should do it!
One place you HAVE to pay at least one visit to is La Nueva Palomino (Leoncio Prado 122) - this is a traditional restaurant, still relatively unknown to tourists and extremely popular with locals. You may have to wait for a table, but this is a big place with many areas for seating. Everything is delicious, and the rocoto relleno is to die for!
The nightlife in Arequipa is not to be missed, especially on the weekend! The best club is Casona Forum (Calle San Francisco 317), centrally-located and boasting four floors. There's a wide variety of music: on the first floor, you’ll find every type of music, on the second one they play rock, the third floor is Latin, and the fourth floor is for 80’s.
Another popular place to go is Deja Vu (San francisco 319-B). It has two floors: Latin music on the first floor and electronic music on the second. From here you can also enjoy a magical view of the night in Arequipa.
From May through to September is the dry season, with July and August being the busiest months when tourists flock to Arequipa. It's better to come in May, June, or September to beat the crowds. If you visit during the dry season, you'll get clear skies, and sunny, warm days, in contrast with cold nights: the temperature can even drop below 0.
From November to April it's the wet season, and heavy rain can occur as from January. Despite this, December and January are also popular months for tourists, and temperatures can range between 23 and 32 degrees Celsius.
You can take a bus or take a flight to Arequipa:
If you’re coming from Lima, it’s 16 hours by bus, and 1.5 hours by plane.
If you’re coming from Cusco, it’s 10 hours by bus and 1 hour by plane.
If you’re coming from Puno, it’s 6 hours by bus.
There is no direct flight to Arequipa from Puno, the connection is in Lima or Cusco. Remember that prices for bus tickets vary, depending on what kind of seat and company you choose.
Arequipa is a big city, the second most populated in Peru. The best area to stay is in the Historic Centre by Plaza de Armas, as most of the historical buildings are here, and because travel agencies only pick up their passengers from this area.
La Casa de Melgar (Melgar 108) is an attractive hotel set in a colonial house. It's very charming and traditional, with spacious rooms. The courtyards are beautiful, and you can enjoy a buffet breakfast on the patio facing the garden. For a lower-budget option, go to Flying Dog (Calle Melgar 116 esq. Calle Riveros). Private rooms and dorms are available, and there is a bar, although this is not a 'party hostel'.
Taxis are very cheap, but don’t forget to ask at the reception of your hostel how much you should pay.
Use a lot of sunblock, the sun is very strong. Arequipa has the highest rate of skin cancer in Peru.
If you visit the canyons, bring mosquito repellent. If you plan to stay overnight, pack a torch and toilet paper! Sleeping bags can be rented in Arequipa.
If you go to visit the Mummy Juanita wear a jacket because it is very cold inside (in order to preserve this historic jewel).