Bienvenido in Arequipa! Arequipa in Peru is the second-largest city in Peru after Lima and one of the best destinations during your trip through Peru. Arequipa in Peru is not as well-known as some other cities in Latin America, but once you are in Arequipa you will realize why this colonial city is so special. Most of the buildings in Arequipa are white, as they are built of volcanic rock. Arequipa is a perfect city to discover because there are a lot of fun things to do in and around Arequipa. Besides, Arequipa is higher above sea level compared to Lima, Paracas, and Huacachina, so you can acclimatize to the altitude before you go into the mountains. Curious about what you can do in Arequipa? In this article, you can read all our tips for Arequipa!
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What to do in Arequipa in Peru?
Arequipa in Peru is surrounded by three large volcanoes (Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu) which ensures that the city has exceptionally beautiful views. The volcanoes aren’t the only reason to visit Arequipa. We give you in this article the 14 best things to do in Arequipa so you can make your trip to Arequipa will be an unforgettable experience.
#1 Visit Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa is one of the most famous religious buildings in Peru. It is one of the largest monasteries in the world making it almost a city of its own within a city. The monastery was founded in 1580 and has served for hundreds of years. Until 1970 it was not open to the public, so no one knew what it looked like and what happened in the monastery. Once you are inside you immediately see the high red walls, the beautiful courtyards and the many beautiful colors. You can hire a guide for 1 hour at the entrance for $21 or you visit it independently.
#2 Discover the center (Plaza de Armas)
In the center you will find Plaza de Armas, the central square of Arequipa. It is wonderful to walk or sit here and enjoy the surroundings. It is surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings with the cathedral (Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa) as the highlight. What makes it great is that from the center you have a view of the volcano Misti. The free walking tour also starts on this square.
#3 Learn everything with a free walking tour
A free walking tour is one of the best ways to get to know Arequipa in Peru. During the free walking tour they explain everything about Plaza de Armas, visit the Alpaca museum, visit the best local viewpoints and you will try local food, this means that Pisco is definitely on the program. The free walking tours depart daily at 10:00 AM and last until 3:00 PM. They gather at Plaza de Armas in front of the tourist information building.
If you don’t like free walking tours, because you prefer to do a private tour, you can easily book this via the below link.
Tour Arequipa | $47 per person
#4 Hike Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon hike is one of the best hikes we have ever done. It is one of the best tours you can do in Peru. The surroundings are breathtaking, the hike is tough but gives you so much in return. We have written an article about the Colca Canyon hike in which we tell you everything you need to know. For example, we tell you how to prepare yourself, which hike is the best option for which type of traveler, what you should bring with you, what the best place is to book and we give personal tips that you certainly need.
Tip: we advise you to plan the hike at the end of your stay in Arequipa so that you don’t have to return to Arequipa after the hike but you can continue your journey to Puno or Cusco, for example.
#5 Take a private pre Inca cooking class
Sonccollay is located at Plaza de Armas where you can eat with a beautiful view of Plaza de Armas. The special thing is that this food is very different from all other places you will find in Peru. They prepare the food as they did it during the pre-Inca time, which makes the food taste completely different and they use ingredients that you have probably never tasted.
When we were here we received all the explanations from the owner and we could also help to prepare the food. If you also want this cooking class, the best thing you can do is to ask in the morning or early afternoon when it is possible to do it. They only give you a cooking class when there are not a lot of other guests at that moment. At the time, they didn’t charge extra cost for the cooking class.
#6 Visit the San Camilo local market
If you really want to do something local and don’t want to share it with many other travelers, you should visit the San Camilo market. It is the best place to buy fresh ingredients such as fruits and vegetables. If you go to the first floor you can get a typical Peruvian breakfast which is definitely recommended.
#7 Enjoy the sunset at Yanuhuara
If you want a cool view of the city and volcano Misti, you should visit the viewpoint Yanuhuara. You can easily walk here or take a taxi for a few soles. The Yanuhuara district is one of the quietest areas of Arequipa in Peru where you can find nice parks and streets. Almost all walking tours visit Yanuhuara so make sure you visit this too, it is definitely worth it.
#8 Visit the Santuarios Andinos musuem to see Juanita
Museo Santuarios Andinos has the best archaeological collection in the area. The best piece of the collection is without a doubt the mummy Juanita. Juanita is a 12 year old Inca girl who was sacrificed in 1450. The special thing about Juanita is that it is still well preserved. This makes it one of the most important things to see in Arequipa in Peru because it is really special. Your ticket includes a guide. The guide shows all the highlights in 1 hour.
#9 Drinking pisco with a fantastic view
Pisco is Peru’s local drink. You can drink this all over Peru only in Arequipa there is one really great place. You have to go to the rooftop bar Los Portales de Venezia which is located on Plaza de Armas. The best time to do this is during sunset because you have a beautiful view of the cathedral, the square and the volcano Misti.
#10 Visit Arequipa’s oldest neighborhood
San Lazaro was founded in 1540, making it the oldest district of Arequipa in Peru. This makes it the most beautiful area of Arequipa with its narrow streets, white buildings and colorful flowers. It is very easy to get here as it is one block away from Plaza de Armas. It is located between Jerusalem, Puente Grau and Avenida Juan de la Torre streets.
#11 Go to a rooftop to see the beautiful sunsets in Arequipa
Whether you are sitting at a rooftop bar, you are at the viewing point Yanuhuara, Arequipa is known to have beautiful sunsets because of the beautiful scenery. Because of this, we recommend that you enjoy it every evening and sit somewhere with a good view.
We stayed at la Casa de Ana where they have a rooftop. Here we often relaxed all alone with a drink to watch the natural spectacle. Highly recommended!
Tips: 12, 13, and 14 are great things to do in Arequipa if you have more time in Peru and you like challenges.
#12 Hike the Misti volcano
Around Arequipa, there are three volcanoes, of which the volcano Misti is the highest at 5822 meters above sea level. If you want to do something adventurous, you can climb to the top. This tip only applies to real adventure seekers and this hike is also not for beginners. You can easily book this tour via the below link.
#13 Day trip to Salinas and Aguada Blanca
If you have more time and you’ve done all the fun things in Arequipa, you can also find fun things outside the city. A nice day trip is to visit a national reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca. This is mainly ideal for people who cannot travel to Salar de Uyuni de Bolivia. In this reserve, you can spot llamas, vicunas, foxes, and many other animals. This reserve is not popular, making it difficult to visit independently. Therefore we highly recommended doing this with a tour. We recommend the below tour.
Salinas y Aguada Blanca Full Day Reserve | $44 per person
#14 Go rafting in Rio Chili rafting
Is rafting a passion or do you simply want to do it once, then you are in the right place. Just outside Arequipa, a 20-minute drive is a river where you can go rafting for three hours. The best time to do this is between April and November. You can book your ticket via the below link.
Raften Rio Chili | $31 per persoon
How many days do you need for Arequipa?
It is recommended to stay longer in Arequipa than you initially think because Arequipa is a very good place to acclimatize to the altitude. If you travel too fast, your body cannot get used to the altitude, which increases the risk of altitude sickness. We recommend a stay of 4 nights. This gives you enough time to see all the best things about Arequipa. If you have more time you can do tip 12, 13, and/or 14.
How do you get to Arequipa?
Most travelers come from Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Puno, or Cusco. If you follow our Peru itinerary you will come from Huacachina. It is very easy to travel to Arequipa by bus. The best way where possible is to do this with a night bus. This saves you a lot of time. The buses in Peru are extremely good where you can sleep very well. We recommend bus company Cruz del Sur.
Lima to Arequipa: travel time +/- 17 hours. Costs from 60 soles ($16) per person. Night bus recommended.
Paracas to Arequipa: travel time +/- 13 hours. Costs from 65 soles ($19) per person. No night bus so not recommended for traveling from Paracas.
Huacachina to Arequipa: travel time +/- 13 hours. Take a taxi from Huacachina to Ica. From Ica to Arequipa it is recommended to take a night bus. Costs from 60 soles ($16) per person.
Puno to Arequipa: travel time +/- 6 hours. Costs from 30 soles ($8) per person. Night bus not recommended.
Cusco to Arequipa: travel time +/- 10 hours. Costs from 40 soles ($12) per person. Night bus recommended.
Tip: if you already know when you are going to leave, buy your ticket in advance so that you are assured of a seat and can choose your preferred departure time.
What’s the best way to travel to your next destination from Arequipa?
If you plan tip #4 Hike Colca Canyon at the end, you can indicate when booking that you want to travel directly to Puno or Cusco after the hike. This is highly recommended as it means you don’t have to go all the way back to Arequipa in Peru.
If you aren’t going to hike Calca Canyon you can easily book your ticket for your next destination at the bus station.
Where to eat in Arequipa?
A unique place where you can eat good is Sonccollay, which is located directly on Plaza de Armas. More information can be found above at tip #5. Another recommendation is La Nueva Palomino Picanteria. This restaurant is surrounded by colonial streets located in the Yanahuara district. This restaurant offers travelers a great opportunity to try truly authentic Arequipa cuisine.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of cold cuts, stews, and other classic specialties such as adobo, chupe de camarones, and pastel de papa (cheesy potatoes).
Another recommendation if you don’t want to eat Peruvian food, visit El Buda Profano. They serve the best sushi in Arequipa in Peru.
Where to stay in Arequipa?
It is important in Arequipa to select a stay where you can relax well because afterward, you will most likely do the Colca Canyon hike. La Casa de Ana and Palla Boutique Hotel are both very good accommodations. The advantage is that Palla Boutique is very popular, offers very good quality, and is the ideal place to meet other travelers. La Casa de Ana is more authentic and smaller, which has its charm. It is wise to book in time because both accommodations are quickly full.
Casa de Ana
We stayed at La Casa de Ana and highly recommend it because you have a fantastic view without having to share it with many other people. La Casa de Ana is located in the area of Yanuhuara just outside the center, making it extremely quiet which is very pleasant. The rooms are very neat and most of all the staff are extremely nice. Believe us they want to help you with everything. Besides, the breakfast is very tasty.
Price per night from:
$ 39 double room
Palla Boutique Hotel
Palla Boutique Hotel is a special place to stay. The hotel has a gigantic roof terrace where you have a fantastic view over the city and the volcanoes. Your day always starts great at this hotel, because you will be served a breakfast buffet. The rooms are luxurious and it has a top location, 200 meters from Plaza de Armas. Highly recommended!
Price per night from:
$ 62 double room
Arequipa other travel tips
– Is Arequipa in Peru safe? Yes, Arequipa in Peru is completely safe. The best way to discover this city is on foot.
– There is a government tourist office in Plaza de Armas. Here you can ask for excellent (English) advice about the activities you can do in Arequipa. Here you can also get a city map which is very useful to orient yourself.
– There are plenty of ATMs to withdraw from. Also, many companies accept card payments.
– It is not recommended to drink tap water. To save money and plastic we recommend buying a Crazycap. This allows you to make any water into safe drinking water.
– If you are looking for a supermarket, you can go to El Súper on Plaza de Armas. Here you can get supplies for trekking snacks, for example.
– If you are in Arequipa in Peru you can buy good quality trekking / outdoor clothing. We have also done this and are satisfied with it.
– In Arequipa, you will find plenty of restaurants serving ceviche, Peru’s most famous dish. However, it is strongly recommended to eat this on the coast (Lima or Paracas), because the fish is caught fresh.
Hopefully, you enjoyed our article. If you follow our Peru itinerary your next destination will be the Colca Canyon trek. the Colca Canyon trek is one of the best hikes you can do in Peru. The only preparation is key for this hike! Read everything you need to know about this trek via our article: Colca Canyon guide. If you can’t do this hike, which is a shame you will probably travel to Cusco or Puno. Open the article about Cusco or Puno via this link.