If you’re planning a trip to southern Peru, Arequipa shouldn’t be left out of your itinerary. This magical city is the second largest of the country and comprises a beautiful natural setting, surrounded by three towering volcanoes and one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Arequipa has become one of the unmissable attractions in this South American gem, thanks to the many attractions and things to do there. Therefore, getting there isn’t as difficult as you may think though it will all depend on your available time and the things you’d like to do in between.
One may say that Arequipa is caught in the middle of the action in Peru since it is close to the highest navigable lake in the world and the former capital of the Incas. So, it isn’t as isolated as you may think; whether you’re planning to visit the White City from Lima or Cusco, there are some special things to do in between and here we’ll tell you all about it.
In this honest guide, we’ll tell you about the different transport options to Arequipa, so you can have a broader view on how to prepare the perfect itinerary to Peru. Check this table of content and jump right on to what you’d like to know:
- Traveling by Bus to Arequipa
- Lima to Arequipa Bus Itinerary
- Cusco to Arequipa Bus Itinerary
- Flying to Arequipa
- Train to Arequipa
Traveling to Arequipa by Bus
Bus travel is possible to nearly all the main tourist destinations in Peru and Arequipa is perfectly located along the main roads of the country. Bus fares are significantly cheaper than domestic flights, but if you’re on a tight schedule bus travel can be quite time consuming.
One of the reasons to travel by bus in Peru is being able to know much more of the regions and somehow experience a bit more of the local daily life.
Traveling by land is considered a much more culturally enriching experience than flying to certain places, besides that you can easily organize an itinerary through Peru’s main attractions starting from Lima or even Cusco.
Keep in mind that most bus companies in Peru don’t depart from a single bus terminal since some of them have private bus stations. Likewise, it is important to know the company that you’ll choose for this trip since comfort and safety should be your #1 priority. For more information, remember we are just a click away.
Quick Tip: If your itinerary takes you to high-altitude locations, you might want to consider traveling by bus since it would be the best way to ascend and avoid altitude sickness.
Lima to Arequipa by Bus
If you’re wondering about the travel time from the Peruvian capital to Arequipa, then let us tell you that it is long. A direct bus ride from Lima to Arequipa takes about 18 hours to complete, something that can be very exhausting.
Therefore, if you have the time and it’s best to start your trip from Lima, keep in mind that you can make some stops on the way. The capital of Peru is the starting point for most travelers in the country and here’s what they usually do:
Day 01 | Lima to Paracas & Huacachina_
In case you didn’t know, there’s something that tourists call “The Gringo Route,” which basically takes you through the main attractions of southern Peru by bus. The first places to visit are Paracas & Huacachina, two villages located in the impressive setting of the Peruvian coast and desert.
Paracas is located 4 hours south of Lima and comprises a national reserve and the most biodiverse location within Peru’s coastside. This beautiful beach town is surrounded by colorful deserts and scenic beaches, without even forgetting about the Ballestas Islands, home to exotic birds, humboldt penguins and the largest colony of sea lions in the country.
After the visit to the Ballestas Islands, most tourists decide to get a 1.5-hour ride to one of the most remote locations in the desert. The Huacachina Oasis is one of those special places to disconnect from the outside world and just enjoy a well-deserved break.
This is the only natural oasis in the continent and offers the perfect setting to practice sandboarding and exploring the desert on a dune buggy. Likewise, Huacachina is known for its party hostels and the relaxing space it offers, so whatever your interests are, make sure to not overlook this special spot.
We would recommend staying in Huacachina or Ica (located 15 min away from the oasis), so you can continue your journey on the next day.
- Lima to Paracas – 4 hours.
- Paracas to Ica – 1.5 hours.
- Ica to Huacachina – 15 minutes.
Day 02 | Ica to Nazca (Optional) & Arequipa
It is worth noting that Huacachina is a small village that comprises several hotels, hostels and restaurants in the surroundings of the lagoon. The nearest bus terminal is located in the city of Ica, which is easily accessible by car and it only takes about 15-20 min to get there.
From the Ica bus terminal, you can decide if you’d prefer to visit the famous Nazca Lines or simply continue to Arequipa. As you may know the Nazca geoglyphs are one of the biggest mysteries of the ancient world, comprising thousands of years of history in just one place.
However, the only way to fully appreciate these enormous geoglyphs is by taking the Nazca lines overflight, which are mainly operated in the morning due to weather conditions.
Later, you can continue discovering the mysteries of the desert by visiting the Chauchilla Cemetery or the Cahuachi Archeological Site. Afterwards, you can easily take an overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa.
- Huacachina to Ica – 15 minutes.
- Ica to Nazca – 2.5 hours.
- Nazca to Arequipa – 10 hours.
That way you’d have arrived in the White City of Arequipa! The Gringo Route doesn’t finish there since it goes all the way up to Cusco through Puno afterwards. If you’d like to know more, here you can check the full itinerary for exploring southern Peru.
Cusco to Arequipa by Bus
For those of you starting your trip from Cusco, the travel times are shorter and less strenuous, you can choose between visiting Puno before arriving at Arequipa or simply taking a 9-hour direct bus ride from Cusco. Just in case you’re interested on a longer adventure, here’s what you can do between Cusco and Arequipa:
Day 01 | Cusco to Puno via Ruta del Sol
As some travelers decide to start their bus trip from Lima, others might find it more suitable to fly from Lima to Cusco and start their adventure from this ancient capital. So, for those with a relatively long itinerary, one of the best things to do between Cusco and Arequipa is visiting Lake Titicaca.
However, the way to Puno from Cusco is remarkably historical and beautiful, something that can’t be overlooked while traveling to this region. The Ruta del Sol will take you through colonial, Inca, pre-Inca and natural attractions before arriving at Puno.
It will take about 11 hours to get to the so-called Folkloric Capital of Peru with this itinerary. But, if you’re looking to save time, you can easily take a 6.5-hour overnight bus ride to Puno, visit Lake Titicaca upon arrival and depart the next day.
- Cusco to Puno on a Direct Bus – 6.5 hours.
- Cusco to Puno via Ruta del Sol – 11 hours.
Day 02 | Lake Titicaca Full Day Tour
Lake Titicaca is known as the highest navigable lake in the world since it sits on an elevation of 3,812 m.a.s.l. and comprises a cultural expression like no other in Peru. With the Lake Titicaca Full Day Tour you’ll get to visit a great part of it while also getting to know a bit of their traditions and customs.
On this occasion, the Floating Islands of Uros will be the first stop on the lake, which are a group of man made islands, a tradition passed by generations since pre-Inca times.
Later, you’ll get to explore Taquile island, known as the happiest place in the lake. There you’ll get to know more about the cultural expression of the region, including their way of living. Finishing the tour, you will head back to Puno for the evening.
Day 03 | Puno to Chivay – Altiplanic Route
As you may know, Chivay is the town located at the banks of the Colca river in the famous Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. If you’re eager to explore this outstanding natural wonder of Arequipa, this would be the best way to do so.
The Altiplanic Route will take you through the impressive scenery shared by the Puno and Arequipa regions, composed of beautiful lagoons, snow-capped mountains and even volcanoes. This bus ride has a duration of 7 hours and though it might take longer than a regular bus ride, it is certainly best if you’d like to experience more of our natural heritage.
Upon arrival, you’ll realize that the town of Chivay holds a beautiful cultural expression, without even forgetting about the landscapes that surround it. Once there, you’ll be able to explore the town and visit the hot springs for a well-deserved rest.
- Puno to Chivay via Altiplanic Route – 7 hours.
- Puno to Chivay on a Direct Bus – 4.5 hours.
- Puno to Arequipa on a Direct Bus – 5.5 hours.
Day 04 | Colca Canyon & Arequipa
We recommend waking up early in the morning so you can explore the Colca Canyon before heading to the White City of Arequipa. In our Colca Canyon itinerary, we start with a visit to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint so you can have sweeping views of the valley and get to observe the Andean Condor flight.
Afterwards, you can have some lunch at the town of Chivay to later get everything ready and finally get on the bus towards Arequipa. The ride will take about 3 hours, where you’ll get to see part of the Salinas & Aguada Blanca National Reserve.
If you take this itinerary, keep in mind that you’ll be arriving in the evening to the white city, so it will be best to know where to stay in Arequipa first. The next morning you can start by exploring the historic center or visiting the Añashuayco Quarries.
What you’ll do afterwards will depend totally on you, but if you have the time you can continue to do the ‘Gringo Route’ on the way back to Lima. For more information about this adventure, check our Classic Peru with Arequipa itinerary.
Flying to Arequipa
For those on a short itinerary, taking a domestic flight to Arequipa might be the most suitable way to reach this famous city. That way, you’ll be saving time, allowing you to visit even more places during your stay in Peru.
Arequipa has one airport and receives arrivals from nearly everywhere in the country. However, it is worth noting that the flight tickets are significantly more expensive than bus fares.
There are different airlines that offer this destination though it would be best to go with the most reliable ones since they don’t usually cancel or delay their flights. For more information, please contact us right away!
Train to Arequipa
This information might be new to many of you but train travel is possible between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. Nonetheless, it is by far the most expensive way to reach the White City since the railway is operated by the most luxurious train service in Peru.
If you’re looking to do something unique during your trip, this might be the best option. The Belmond Andean Explorer connects three of the most important travel destinations of the Peruvian Andes allowing you to get totally immersed in the everlasting energy of this region.
The Andean Explorer comprises 16 carriages thoughtfully decorated with modern touches and artisan furnishing, giving you a sense of comfort at every look. Likewise, it offers a fine dining experience allowing you to sample the full spectrum of Peruvian flavors.
The experience in this sleeper luxury train is like no other and it is complemented with a visit to Lake Titicaca and the Archeological Site of Raqchi. Luckily for you, we have prepared a special itinerary including the Belmond Andean Explorer.
As you can see, there are different ways to get to Arequipa but it definitely depends on your available time and budget. Peru has a great extension and not all the travel destinations are gathered in just one region, so plan your trip with time and make the most of your stay in our country!
We want you to travel in comfort and safely, so don’t forget to check our travel packages and learn how to experience the real authenticity of Peru with Viagens Machu Picchu.