Arequipa is a beautiful place to visit in Peru thanks to its wonderful historic buildings and scenic location amidst three towering volcanoes. In this post, we will refer to some of the great things to do in Arequipa.
Great Things to Do in Arequipa
1. Marvel at the Basilica Cathedral
The centre of Arequipa is built around the Plaza de Armas, which houses the impressive Basilica Cathedral.
Standing in this stunning central square, gazing at the beautiful fountain, cathedral and other wonderfully preserved colonial buildings around, it’s easy to see why the centre of Arequipa was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Free to enter during the hours of 7am – 10am and 5pm – 7pm, visiting the huge Basilica Cathedral is a must-do thing in Arequipa. It’s definitely one of the most impressive religious buildings in the whole of South America.
2. Admire the Iglesia de la Compania
A more modest although arguably more interesting church is Iglesia de la Compania, located on the opposite corner of the plaza. The beautifully carved facade of this elegant Jesuit church is the main attraction, a masterful display of the churrigueresque style of design which was first made famous by the beautiful churches of Seville.
3. Explore the Monasterio de Santa Catalina
One of the great things to do in Arequipa, Santa Catalina Monastery is a simply mesmerising visit to place and is often described as a city within a city due to the wealth of buildings that clutter the complex.
Full of color and beautiful flowers and plants, the small streets of the monastery are marvelous to wander around and the colonial-era architecture makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time and consequently it is a great place to take some photos.
Founded by a rich Spanish widow all the way back in 1579, the monastery still hosts an operational nunnery and is located in the historic center of Arequipa. Visitors can explore the chapels of the complex as well as the living quarters of the sisters themselves, and the cloisters are particularly remarkable to behold. A must-see when in Arequipa, Santa Catalina Monastery will astound visitors with its endless streets and peaceful, reflective ambience.
4. Enjoy Sunset at Yanahuara
The other best place to enjoy the volcano views from in Arequipa is the Yanahuara Mirador.
This gorgeous suburb, which lies on the other side of the Rio Chili, can easily be accessed on foot from the centre of Arequipa via a 20-30 minute stroll.
The lookout here, which gives a great shot of the city from under some picturesque arches, also has a quaint little plaza and an 18th Century church, which is free to enter.
But perhaps best of all, is the local speciality queso helado – literally translated as cheese ice-cream!
Trying some is a must, but don’t worry there’s no cheese involved, only vanilla and coconut!
5. Go to Museo Santuarios Andinos
Widely considered to be the best museum in the city, Museo Santuarios Andinos is fascinating to wander around and offers up an interesting look at the culture and history of human sacrifices.
The main attraction on show is the remains of the ‘Ice Maiden’ who was sacrificed to the gods by the Incas all the way back in the fifteenth century. ‘Juanita,’ as she is known, was discovered by an expedition to the mountains in 1995 and the museum showcases a number of artifacts from the trip.
Thanks to its famous ‘resident,’ the museum is now one of the main attractions in the city and the atmospheric galleries and exhibition rooms are well worth stopping by.
6. Shop in San Camilo Market
One of the best markets in Peru, San Camilo in Arequipa is the bustling hub of local life here.
Providing visitors with a very authentic experience, the market gives travellers a wonderful opportunity to sample an amazing array of traditional treats and delights, including a few Peruvian cuisine classics, such as Rocoto Relleno and Soltero de Queso.
Don’t miss the unique black corn either, or the amazing avocados, which Peruvians called paltas.
A very local affair, the prices are incredibly cheap in San Camilo Market and the atmosphere is unbeatable.
7. Visit Colca Canyon
The world’s second deepest canyon, Colca is a hiker’s dream and understandably many tourists like to make the epic trek inside this impressive geographical feature.
Walking (or horse riding) in the canyon is definitely the best way to experience this amazing place on a budget and quite easy to arrange too via a local tour.
Situated few hours’ drive outside Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is definitely the city’s main excursion for either 1,2 or 3 days, not least for the chance it offers to spot great Andean Condors, bathe in hot springs, watch smoking volcanoes or experience very authentic village life.