What to do in Arequipa?
Often known as The White City, Arequipa has a population just shy of 1.5 million, making it the 2nd most populated city (the first is Lima). The nickname comes from the fact that many buildings were made with a white volcanic stone, known as “sillar”.
Arequipa is at an altitude of 2335m (7760 feet) above sea level, and thanks to its geographical location, it’s ideal to make a little stop if you’re travelling from Lima to Cusco, since your body needs to adjust to the oxygen level changing. Whether you’re passing through Arequipa for this reason, or you’re just interested in getting to know the area, here are some activities to do in the city:
Plaza de Armas
Founded in 1540, the historical city centre has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Being the main square, it’s surrounded by some of the most important buildings in colonial times. Any city tour will be in this area at some point. The Cathedral and the Jesuit church are also right there and they’re worth a look.
Santa Catalina Monastery
Founded in 1579, this beautiful monastery will give you the sensation of wandering around a city inside another one, where the streets are named after cities in Spain, and they will take you through the dwellings, the square, the hospital, etc. The original buildings and its subsequent constructions have been severely damaged by earthquakes and restored several times. They offer optional -and very recommended- guided tours (not included in the main ticket, available in several languages) ,and it’s possible to visit during the night too. More info here
Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (MUSA)
This museum is famous because it contains the remains of Juanita, a young girl offered in sacrifice to an Inca mountain deity, her body was discovered in a volcano expedition in 1995. Not mummified, but frozen, and very well preserved. There are several other objects from Inca times, ceramics, fabrics, daily objects, over 500 years old! (the experts estimate the year of her death around 1450). The guided tour is very interesting.
Check our article for museums in cusco here
San Camilo Market
The largest market in town, filled with colourful stalls. You’ll find from clothing, to snacks, flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices. Everything is here. On the top floor you’ve got some small coffee shops and restaurants to sit and relax.
This is one of the beautiful places you can get to see on a day trip from Arequipa. It’s one of the deepest canyons in the world (actually, it’s the second!), with a depth between 3500m-4000m (10500-13100 feet) depending on which part you’re at. The landscape in front of you will leave you amazed, and you might get to see condors -the largest flying bird- hunting! You can do this as a single or multi-day trip, and remember to follow any indication from your guides to prevent altitude sickness!
Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World)
Great place for your to learn about alpaca wool. You’ll see llamas and alpacas (you can interact with them as they’re used to visitors, but be careful not to bother them as they like to spit!). Maybe avoid selfies this time (we’ve warned you!). You’ll learn about the sorting process and the preparation of the wool, and see weavers at work. There’s a textile museum and an art gallery too. More info here
Since Arequipa is surrounded by them, it’s only natural that volcanoes are a typical part of the itinerary. The two most traditional tours are on the active volcanoes named Misti and Chachani, tours of two days with experienced guides. They’re normally considered medium-hard, not for beginners.
Map of Attractions