Arequipa is a colonial-era city in Peru’s southwestern region, ringed by snow-capped volcanic peaks and considered by many as the country’s underrated gem. The city has acquired the nickname “La Ciudad Blanca” as a result of its unique white buildings made from sillar, a local volcanic material.
Arequipa will lure you in with its distinct beauty and charm, leaving you feeling as though you’ve left the Peruvian borders. In fact, there used to be an Arequipa passport, so some would say you actually have!
Arequipa is sure to capture your heart from the start, and its irresistibility goes beyond the 300 days of sunshine and its quaint cobblestoned streets. It’s a place rich with tradition refreshed by endless outdoor adventures and further opportunities for exploration.
Here are a few reasons why Arequipa is worthy of some of your valuable time in Peru. Don’t miss your chance to discover what is arguably this South American country’s most beautiful corner.
The local attractions
Arequipa’s attractions are vast and varied. One highlight is visiting the scenic viewpoint of Mirador de Yanahuara and taking a walk up Leoncio Prado, a pedestrian-only cobblestoned street in the same area. It is a tangible reminder of Peru’s colonial past and its unique aesthetic.
Alternatively, go to the Santa Catalina Monastery, which is potentially one of the most Instagram-worthy places not yet dominating the grid.
Furthermore, ever heard of Mario Vargas Lllosa? Literature buffs will be pleased to learn that he was born in Arequipa and there is a highly entertaining and interactive museum dedicated to the famous Peruvian author.
Arequipa’s lush and well-maintained plazas are the go-to hang out spot for local people. Why not stop by to take a moment of rest and enjoy a coffee or ice cream?
You’ll usually find a beautifully ornate church at the edge, a glorious fountain in the plaza’s centre, and plenty of paradisiacal palm trees and vibrant flowerbeds.
Moreover, these plazas are like Peru’s miniature answers to the garden of Eden. The hardest decision? Which one to visit! The main Plaza de Armas, the Plaza de San Francisco, the Plaza de Yanahuara, or the Plaza de Cayma are all worthy contenders.
The local cuisine
Arequipa has more local dishes than any other city in Peru! Try rocoto relleno (red pepper stuffed with spicy meat and vegetables), adobo (a flavourful pork stew served with a shot of anise liqueur), and ocopa (potatoes smothered in a creamy, herb-based sauce).
To sample Arequipa’s unique and delicious cuisine, visit a picantería. These lively establishments are spacious and usually have an outdoor area and a live music element. If you’re lucky enough to secure a table on the weekend, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with all the locals and their entire extended families! You might make some new friends, and at the very least it is one of the most enjoyable social experiences in the city.
Regarding sweet treats, Arequipa has a unique claim to dessert fame. Queso helado is the creamy local “ice cream” made from coconut, condensed milk, and egg. It’s a rite of passage for any traveller visiting the city!
Need a recommendation? Wander down the hill from the Plaza de Yanahuara and you’ll find a hole-in-the-wall vendor where a variety of fruity flavours are served. You can select the usual suspects like mango and strawberry, or opt for some local fruit flavours that you’ve never tasted before!
Arequipa enjoys warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine year-round. Grab a table at one of the open-air balcony restaurants in the arches of the Plaza de Armas and bask in the sunshine with a coffee while admiring the beautiful view.
Additionally, you can feel the freshest temperatures and see the clearest views of the volcanoes in the morning. In comparison, the evening offers some astoundingly beautiful sunsets which will make you feel like you’re in the most beautiful place on the planet!
Opportunities for adventure in the surrounding area
If you’re an adventure junkie, heading outside of the city will bring you face to face with 5,000+ metre high volcanoes and the Colca Canyon (which is, in fact, double the depth of the Grand Canyon!). These are perfect for trekking and the terrain is both stunningly beautiful and like nowhere else in the whole of Peru. Other activities to enjoy include mountain biking, horseback riding, and white-water rafting! Other activities to enjoy include mountain biking, horseback riding, and white-water rafting!
Ready to explore all that Arequipa and more has to offer? Check out our Peru tours here.