Top Things to Do in Arequipa

Arequipa is the second-largest city of Peru and one of the most important tourist attractions of Peru. The city itself holds an impressive colonial architecture where they used a volcanic rock to build most of its structures. Its surroundings are as impressive as you can imagine, with three towering volcanoes looming from a distance while the Chili river draws the course for several valleys.

If you’re looking for a unique place to visit in southern Peru, then you must certainly include this destination in your itinerary! The so-called White City of Arequipa comprises so many attractions and exciting adventures that we had to make a whole section about it.

1. Visit the historic center of Arequipa

For those who didn’t know, Arequipa’s old town is recognized as the most visually striking historical center in Peru (we are so sorry Cusco) due to its impressive architectural style and structures built entirely of white ashlar, a volcanic rock that originated from the Chachani volcano.

If you’re visiting Arequipa, then you can’t leave the historic center behind! The city comprises an important historical and cultural heritage that overflows on every corner. Likewise, the old town holds over 500 historical monuments and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000.

Each of those structures were built with Sillar Blanco, which gives them a unique presentation. Arequipa was surely one of the most important Colonial cities in Peru, where the Spanish influence is perfectly harmonized in its religious buildings and cobbled stone streets.

To help you get around town, we have structured a special Arequipa City Tour so you can experience the attractions within the historic center and the countryside of the White City. That way, you’ll get to visit attractions such as the Plaza de Armas, the Yanahuara Viewpoint, the Mansión del Fundador and much more.

2. Take the Sillar Route

As we mentioned above, the Sillar Blanco (white ashlar in English) was the principal construction element during the Colonial era and its quarries are located just a few minutes away from the city of Arequipa.

The Canteras de Añashuayco are now a tourist attraction and though the quarries are still being worked on, you can get to know about the extraction process and how these 30-meter walls originated 13 million years ago.

Most of the Historic Center of Arequipa is built with this volcanic rock since this material is easy to mold and very resistant to earthquakes. One of the most emblematic buildings constructed with white ashlar is a 20,000 m2 structure called the Santa Catalina Monastery

Nowadays, the Ruta del Sillar Tour will take you through these famous quarries, while also getting to know a National Heritage Site that guards a series of petroglyphs traced back to the Wari culture. Quebrada de Culebrillas is another quarry that has been preserved thanks to this archeological finding.

As you can see, Peru is so much more than just Machu Picchu. Our country is widely diverse and holds many experiences for all sizes. Start planning your dream vacations with us, contact our team now and get a personalized quote.

3. Explore the Colca Canyon

If you’ve been planning a trip to Arequipa, you surely have read about the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world and the second in Peru.

In case you didn’t know, this is the most in-demand attraction of the Arequipeñan region since its beautiful setting makes it suitable for adventure sports and to just unwind your mind in the middle of the Andes nature.

There are different ways to get to the Colca Canyon but it will all depend on the type of experience you’re looking for and your available time. Options range from multiple-day treks and full day tours so you can experience this natural wonder and its surroundings.

The Colca Canyon depth varies but it can reach over 4,000 meters at some points, which makes it a natural viewpoint to appreciate the entire Colca Valley and the majestic Andean condor’s flight, also known as the third-largest bird in the world!

Likewise, the Colca Canyon is also surrounded by many Andean villages that hold an authentic cultural expression, Chivay being the most emblematic among all of them, which we’ll talk about later in this post.

Also, the region was previously inhabited by ancient civilizations, where some of them date back to 5000 B.C. However, these ancient Peruvians didn’t settle here until 200 B.C. leaving Colcas and agricultural terraces scattered all over the region and some of them are in current use by local farmers.

4. Experience the cultural expression of Chivay

Chivay is a beautiful town located in the Colca Canyon and though as isolated as it can be, it is a tourist hub for those who wish to visit this natural wonder. 

However, Chivay comprises an extensive cultural heritage since it is part of the 20 villages that were founded by the Spanish colonizers in order to control the native Andean population during the colonial era in Peru.

Therefore, its structures have Spanish and Andean influences, making it one of the best places to stay in the Colca Canyon. Chivay is also known for practicing ancestral customs and most of its inhabitants still wear their traditional dresses.

The town is surrounded by an impressive natural setting, where towering mountains and evergreen valleys will leave you totally enchanted. Also, if you’re looking to just unwind your mind and rest from an itinerary full of adventures, there are some hot springs famous for its medicinal properties that you should visit.

In case you’d like to visit this small town, we have the perfect itinerary for you! Our Colca Canyon 2-Day Tour will take you to visit this natural wonder while also adding a night in this outstanding Andean village. Learn everything about this experience while you’re here!

5. Get to know the Santa Catalina Monastery

The Santa Catalina Monastery is the largest colonial construction in Peru, extending for 20,000 square meters. Also known as the city within the city, it was a religious cloister founded in 1579 which housed over 300 devoted women completely isolated from the outside world.

The monastery kept its doors closed for about 400 years, until they decided to make it a live museum in 1970, though a small portion of the complex is still closed for visitors since a group of nuns still live in the northern area.

As we mentioned above, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina is entirely built with white ashlar, the volcanic rock found in the Añashuayco quarries. The convent is composed of several narrow halls painted of bright yellow, blue and red colors, as well as picturesque courtyards complemented with  fortress-like walls. 

Before its opening to the public, the Santa Catalina Monastery was restored to highlight the colonial authenticity of the place, maintaining its original characteristics. The religious complex is composed of narrow streets, courtyards, flower gardens, dorms, living rooms and more. 

6. Discover the colonial mansions in Arequipa’s old town

Yes, we know, we have said this many times but one can’t get enough of Arequipa’s historic center. This area of the city holds beautiful structures that make you feel as if you were on a journey through time.

Besides, most of these colonial mansions are well-preserved and have been restored, maintaining their colonial characteristics intact, as well as some of their original furniture. Other buildings are functioning as the headquarters to renowned museums, as it is the case of Casa Tristán del Pozo, which is one of the largest museums in Arequipa.

Each one of these attractions are located at walking distance from Plaza de Armas, so if you wish to get a round like a local expert then it would be great if you take the Arequipa City Tour before doing so! That way you’ll be able to explore it on your own, while also experiencing more of this beautiful city.

These old houses hold the legacy of one of the most important eras in our country. If you love historical and instagram-worthy attractions as much as we do, this is the way to go. Luckily for you, we have prepared an entire section about the Colonial Houses & Mansions in Arequipa, so you can make the most of your experience in the White City.

7. Sample the Arequipeñan gastronomy

Arequipeñans are very proud of their cultural heritage, which is why some locals even joke that Arequipa is a whole other country within Peru. The gastronomic expression here is extensive, the region holds 194 typical dishes, each with authentic Andean and exotic flavours.

Most locals praise Arequipa’s culinary art due to its splendid creativity and how they managed to implement Andean and Spanish preparation techniques. If you’re planning a trip to Arequipa, sampling their food must be on your bucket list!

There are many good restaurants in Arequipa that you should definitely visit. Undoubtedly, Peruvian gastronomy is recognized as one of the best in the world, which is why Lima is also known as the Gastronomic Capital of Peru.

We believe that traveling goes beyond visiting nice places, experiencing culture and history add a special touch to anyone’s trip and our country surely offers that and much more. Get immersed in our heritage and make the most of your adventure through Peru, besides you’ll definitely love to try Peruvian food.

8. Take the white water rafting tour through the Chili river

The Chili River has the perfect rapid categories to practice white-water rafting since its levels range between III and IV. This water body crosses a great part of the Arequipa city, making its way through the Chachani and Misti volcanoes and bordering the Cusco and Puno departments.

The activity is as exciting as you can imagine since it crosses a beautiful natural scenery surrounded by towering volcanic walls, offering a breathtaking landscape from start to end. Also, the difficulty level of the river is suitable for beginners that look to spice up their adventure in Peru.

Arequipa’s surroundings offer the perfect setting for adventure sports, and here at Viagens Machu Picchu, we want you to have all the options so you can make your way through Peru as you’ve always dreamed it.

Take the Chili River Water Rafting Tour and live an adrenaline-packed experience through the Andes. Besides, the landscapes of the region will leave you totally captivated and the good thing is that you just need to be brave enough to join this adventure.

9. Visit the Juanita mummy

Juanita was an Inca child found in the crater of the extinct Ampato volcano in 1995. It was the biggest discovery of the century since its body was totally preserved thanks to the freezing temperatures of this snow-covered volcano.

Currently, the Santuarios Andinos Museum holds the remains of this exceptionally preserved mummy. The museum was born out of the initiative of an expedition carried out in 1995. 

It is one of the most significant museums in Peru, praised by its impressive collection of Inca and pre-Inca archeological objects and, above all, the Juanita mummy. Therefore, the exhibitions are more focused on the cultural and religious side of these ancient civilizations.

Taking into account the most important ceremonies that took place around the region, mostly in honor of the Apus, the spirits of the mountains. The Santuarios Andinos museum has gained popularity over the years thanks to its intimate approach to Inca culture.

10. Experience Arequipa’s nightlife

Yes, we know, there are so many things to do in Arequipa that sometimes the itinerary may fall short, and as if it wasn’t enough the city also provides everything for a fun night out. It may sound that we’re complaining about the city, but instead we are highlighting the fact that there is never enough time while you’re on vacation.

Whether you’re the party traveler type or just want to enjoy a chilly evening listening to good live music with a glass of wine, then Arequipa is certainly the destination for you. 

In addition to the natural wonders and historical attractions, there’s another side of Arequipa that you may not know of. The city is known for having lively nightlife, with pubs, bars, nightclubs, and more that complement the whole experience. Check this guide to know about the best places to party in Arequipa.

We’d love to show you everything about this magical destination in southern Peru, which is why we have structured some travel packages to Arequipa so you can experience everything at its fullest as well as other astonishing attractions in our country. Make sure to give it a look while you’re here!

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