As a designated UNESCO "human heritage" site, Arequipa is popular for history buffs and regular travelers alike. From its beautiful colonial-era architecture to the more humble but nonetheless intricately carved houses made from sillar, Arequipa will fascinate and charm you with its rugged volcanoes, fluffy Alpacas, delicious Peruvian cuisine, and more.
Arequipa's "human heritage" draws people from all over the world. Architecture, burial grounds, and ruins are perfectly preserved and captured in time - not just at one spot but throughout the town.
One cathedral after the next dots the Historical Center of Arequipa, beginning with the grandest of them all, the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.
The gorgeous Colca Canyon is yours to discover on guided tours full of treks, forest animals, and even flamingos!
Going uphill or biking down: it's all up to you. Regardless of what you choose, scaling a volcano is something you'll be able to live to tell your grandkids (and friends!) about.
For a taste of something that is truly different, why not put what you've been eating to the ultimate test? Try your hand at combining local ingredients and age-old techniques with Arequipa's Cooking Classes.
Walk over to Plaza de Armas, Arequipa's main square. You'll be mesmerized by the giant palm trees, bird fountains, and vibrant gardens encompassing the colonial architecture. Relax at one of the beautifully crafted benches and stare out onto the city. The pigeons hanging around the water fountain will keep you company. The plaza has the best access to Arequipa's government offices and other stunning attractions such as the twin-towered cathedral. Take a break from touring and stop at one of the many restaurants, cafes or bars surrounding the plaza to taste the wonderful Peruvian cuisine with Pisco Sour. If you plan to visit the elevated ruins, have a coca tea to help with the altitude.
Visit the Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery, a community guarded by a gate and vibrant red wall. As you enter the monastery, the arched doorway houses the statue of St. Catherine of Siena. Stroll down Sevilla Street where you'll be amazed at the kitchen with its darkly colored painted ceilings and walls that display the original utensils. Walk over to the main cloister decorated with paintings depicting the life of Jesus and Mary. As you walk through this monastery, you'll feel you are traveling back in time inside another city.
Take a tour of the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries and marvel at its most precious and famous inhabitant, "Juanita, la niña del los hielos" (Juanita, the ice girl), a mummified girl sacrificed in a Capac Cocha ceremony 500 years ago. The museum houses the most amazing artifacts indigenous to Arequipa culture. Peruse the pottery, textiles and other artifacts that were considered offerings to those mummified and buried. The museum also offers a short film depicting Juanita's discovery and the reasons why an Inca child would be sacrificed to the Gods.
If you love animals, then Mundo Alpaca will introduce you to both the Alpacas and Llamas, Peru's most treasured creatures. Learn to recognize different breeds of both animals. Marvel at the magnificent back-strap weavers demonstrating how they produce textiles. This live demonstration will leave you breathless as you witness pre-Inca techniques. When you stroll over to the Art Gallery, you'll be delighted by the three exhibition rooms displaying permanent exhibits of watercolors, oils, and traditional textiles sponsored by Mitchell & Company.
The monastery was originally constructed in 1648, but has since been completely rebuilt. Today it is a museum with a gigantic library full of over 20,000 books and maps. Marvel at the Amazonian artifacts on display. You'll be fascinated by the collection of preserved jungle animals collected over the years by missionaries. The museum also houses Amazonian artifacts and religious art dating from the days before the conquistadors.
Traveling to Arequipa in the dry winter season, from May to September, is the best time; temperatures are still a pleasant 68. November through April is summer time and there are heavy rains with temperatures ranging from 75 to the high 90s.
Getting to Arequipa, you'll land at the Rodríguez Ballón International Airport (AQP), which is around five miles from the city center. From here, take a taxi into town for a rate of around S/. 20.
While you can travel by train, there are only "charter" services available from Juliaca and Puno and only for groups of 40 or more.
If you're driving from cities like Cusco to Arequipa, the route heads south and then west. Use Route 3S and 34G then transfer onto 34J. Take Route 34A to Aviación in Cerro Colorado and continue on Aviación and take Chachani, José Abelardo Quiñones, and Andrés Martinez to Calle Socabaya in Arequipa.
Services from companies like Cruz del Sur, Ormeño, and Excluciva arrive at the Terminal Terrestre and Terminal Terrapuerto. A trip from Lima starts at S/. 30.
If you're looking for lush gardens, with pools and hammocks, there's no better place than La Casa de mi Abuela. For something that has cleanliness and comfort built into the price, check out La Casa de Melgar Arequipa.
Historical Center - the "historical center" contains the famous Plaza de Armas and the Basilica Cathedral among other shops and attractions.
Vallecito - this is a great place for budget travelers to find cheap but hospitable accommodation and trendy eateries while still being within walking distance to downtown.
Yanahuara - visitors flock here to take in the gorgeous but faded architecture built from sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock. Not for nothing, this is one of the best places in the city to view the three surrounding volcanoes.
While most of the city relies on foot, bikes, or taxis to get around, there are special buses that service visitors who want to check out the neighboring rural areas of interest. These trips usually include a tour of the area. The whole experience costs around S/. 35.
Taking a taxi in Arequipa is essentially like renting a car with a driver from local companies like Panataxi and Taxitel. Fares start at S/. 4 and it's S/. 3.61 per mile thereafter.
You can pick up a rental car from companies like Hertz at the airport. Fares for a standard compact four-door start at S/. 168.
Plenty of malls have recently opened in Arequipa, including Parque Lambramani and Mall Aventura Plaza Arequipa. If you're into local crafts and alpaca wool, check out the square close to La Compañía church.
A quart of milk costs S/. 3.65 and a dozen eggs will come to about S/. 4.49.
The best spots to eat in Arequipa are the traditional picanterias. Get your fill of the famous (and favorite) local dish chicharrón: fried pork with corn. Meals come with a soup and a main course for around S/. 10, and up to S/. 30 at La Capitana.