20 things to do in Arequipa, Peru

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Arequipa, Peru

Located at 2,335 meter above sea level and guarded by the Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu volcanoes, Arequipa is an impressive city. Its architecture based on volcanic stone, its canyons, cliffs, viewpoints and an impressive Natural Reserve make it a great option for travelers.

Last year, I took a trip from Da Nang to Peru, and if you’re planning to go too, these are the places to visit in Arequipa that you can’t miss.

1. Plaza de Armas - Historical Center

The city welcomes you with a Historic Center that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its beautiful white volcanic stone facades, the Plaza de Armas is surrounded by churches, museums, hotels and restaurants on the terraces for a traditional meal or a drink in the evening. Walking around it little by little and letting yourself be admired at every corner is the perfect plan.

2. Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery

Built in 1579, this convent, which is still active, has opened part of its cloisters to the public making it an attraction that every visitor to Arequipa should see.

In the tour with a guide, you will learn about the lifestyle of the cloistered nuns. In addition, it is an invaluable sample of the local architecture that deserves to be visited. The atmosphere is mystical and captivating, a real experience.

3. Arequipa Cathedral and its museum

Travel through more than 400 years of history discovering the interior of the Cathedral of Arequipa, as well as pieces of gold work, ornaments, paintings and a visit to the bell tower of the Cathedral to see the city and the volcanoes from this height.

4. The valley and the Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is the best place in South America to see the majestic Condor of the Andes. It is also one of the most chosen destinations for trekking in Peru.

Its surrounding villages are very picturesque and you can get to experience them on the way to Colca. In this valley you can also find the La Calera hot springs mentioned below in this list.

5. Convent of Santa Teresa

Founded in 1710, a part of this monastery is also open to the public and is a very special place. Its visitors tell that the tour fills them with a sense of peace. The exhibits of paintings, sculptures, furniture and silverware are captivating.

One of its main attractions is to go at noon to hear the nuns sing the Angelus. You cannot see them, but you can hear them, and the experience is mystical. On the way out you can also buy the typical sweets made by the sisters.

6. Rafting on the Chili River

Rafting on the Chilli River is an opportunity for adventurers to experience something different. It is not a very large river, but it has many rapids for a fun and adrenaline filled canoeing session.

7. Church and Cloisters of the Company

This church is famous for the elaborate reliefs on its façade, its enormous white stone walls and its interior with altarpieces and a painting of the Virgin and Child by the Italian Bernardo Bitti.

Its cloisters were built in the 18th century; at present, in what used to be cells, there are galleries and craft shops.

From its second floor there is a beautiful view of the city. Don’t forget to see the plants, animals and mythological themes native to the engravings, called Andean Baroque.

8. The Petroglyphs of Toro Muerto

Three hours away from Arequipa are these rock art manifestations, distributed in more than 5 square kilometers. More than 6 thousand blocks of volcanic stone were engraved in low relief with geometric, anthropomorphic and animal figures.

Very close to Toro Muerto is the “Parque Jurásico Querullpa” where you can see traces of prehistoric animals from 150 and 200 million years ago.

9. Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve

It is the perfect opportunity to see incredible landscapes and beautiful animals that live in this protected territory, such as llamas, alpacas, condors, vicuñas and pink flamingos.

You must go in the company of certified guides and check weather forecasts, because the temperature can drop below zero when the sun sets.

You can’t camp in the reserve, but you can visit different places like the Salinas Lagoon, and the Lagunas de Mejia National Sanctuary, where every year migratory birds from the northern hemisphere come to rest, before continuing their journey south.

10. Thermal waters of La Calera

Located in the Colca Valley, these hot springs offer a source of groundwater that comes from an inactive volcano. Therefore, they are nourished with potassium, calcium, sodium, chloride, magnesium and sulfates that serve to alleviate circulatory, muscular and nervous system problems.

11. Sillar of Arequipa

The impressive walls formed with volcanic material are one of the places to visit in Arequipa, less crowded, but more impressive. Here, you will see the active quarries of Añashuayco and learn how a whole city was built with this material. This is why Arequipa is known as “The White City”.

12. Casa Goyeneche and Casa del Moral

Arequipa’s architecture is so unique that it is worth visiting emblematic mansions such as Casa Goyeneche and Casa del Moral, samples of the colonial architecture of the time. Made of sillar, you will appreciate its internal patios.

13. San Lázaro Neighborhood – Picanterías

It is one of the places to visit in Arequipa that has more to offer. Narrow streets, charming facades and the best snacks in town.

Ask for the more traditional ones and order some of the local specialties like shrimp ceviche, rocoto relleno, cuy chactado and chica de jora.

14. Uyo Uyo Archaeological Complex

Located near the Colca Valley, this archaeological citadel was the main seat of political power of the Curacas and is the largest pre-Hispanic village in the region with at least 10 thousand square meters of area.

It was recognized as a National Cultural Heritage Site and has an Interpretation and Information Center where you can learn about its past.

15. Cotahuasi Canyon

380 km from the city of Arequipa, the Cotahuasi Canyon is the third deepest canyon in the world and offers an impressive landscape for trekking and expedition lovers. Tours usually last 3 days and condors can be seen.

16. Mario Vargas Llosa House Museum

The old house where Arequipa writer Mario Vargas Llosa was born was restored and turned into a museum about the life and work of the Nobel Prize winner in Literature, from his birth to the present day.

The collection includes videos, films and personal objects of the author of “The City and the Dogs”.

17. Viewpoints such as the Yanahuara Viewpoint

The viewpoints are some of the best places to visit in Arequipa. From them you can appreciate the city in all its dimension. The traditional viewpoint of Yanahuara, with its arches made of sillar, has been renovated with a glass viewpoint that rises over 50 meters and only works on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

There are other interesting viewpoints such as Sachaca, a 19-meter tower from which you can see the volcanoes.

The Carmen Alto viewpoint with a view of the Inca terraces. The Sabandia Mill and the Founder’s Mansion, all on the outskirts of the city with spectacular views.

18. Museum of Archaeology and Archaeological Museum Andean Sanctuaries

Very close to the Plaza de Armas, the Archaeology Museum of the Universidad Católica de Santa María, exhibits archaeological objects that date from 12,000 years before the Common Era (BC) to the years of the Conquest. Ceramics, textiles and funerary materials are on display. Access is free.

In the Andean Sanctuaries Museum, the objects are approximately 550 years old. Its main attraction is the Juanita Mummy, discovered in 1995 and called “the girl of the ice”.

19. Alpaca World

It is a museum about the making of alpaca cloth, where you can also interact with these animals in a natural environment. Learn how to make traditional fabric with waist looms and buy original alpaca pieces in their exclusive boutique. Admission is free.

20. San Camilo Market

Located in the Historical Center of the City, it is a mandatory stop to learn more about the culture and flavors of Arequipa. We recommend that you try the fruit juices and the cheese ice cream.

This market was declared Historical Monumental Heritage in 1987 and the community makes great efforts to keep it safe and well cared for by visitors.

Both the city of Arequipa and the entire Arequipa region have impressive places to visit and incredible stories to tell. Discovering Arequipa in all its glory may take a few days, but it is an experience worth living.

After visiting Areqipa you can follow your adventure to Cusco and Machu Picchu!

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