Things to Do in Arequipa
Plunging 13,650 feet (4,160 meters) down, Peru’s Colca Canyon is officially one of the world’s deepest canyons—with a breadth of activities to match. Visitors opt to visit this off-the-beaten-track attraction for its opportunities for adventure in a stunning natural environment, its large population of Andean condors, and its pre-Inca historical sites.
Arequipa is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) for the white buildings in its historic center made from a porous, volcanic stone known as sillar. Easily explored on foot, must-see landmarks include the neoclassical Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and Monastery of St. Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina).
Among the oldest structures in Arequipa, the historically significant Monastery of St. Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina) covers an area of 15,615 square feet (20,000 square meters). The convent harbors a complete city with parks, houses, plazas, chapels, and a cemetery, offering visitors a meditative break from the busy historic center of Arequipa.
The Sachaca District is most famous for the Mirador de Sachaca, a 5-story tower that offers panoramic views of the city and the snow-capped El Misti volcano. The neighborhood’s food is another highlight: Sachaca has earned a reputation for its picanterías, traditional restaurants serving local dishes to the strains of live Creole music.
Yanahuara is a middle-class residential neighborhood known for El Mirador e Iglesia de Yanahuara, a lookout point that offers panoramic views of Arequipa and El Misti volcano. As in the Historic Center of Arequipa, Yanahuara’s architecture is dominated by white volcanic rock, and the streets are dotted with pretty Spanish colonial churches.
Plaza de Armas—with its palm trees, fountains, and symmetrical landscaped gardens—forms the cultural and social heart of the historic center of Arequipa. On the edge of the square is the twin-towered Basilica Catedral de Arequipa, one of the volcanic-stone structures that give Arequipa its nickname: La Ciudad Blanca (The White City).
A fine example of Arequipa’s sillar stone architecture, Sabandía Mill (Molino de Sabandía) was built in 1785 as the first mill of its kind. The mill still operates today, attracting visitors with its historic status. Peppered with weeping willows and cacti, the tranquil grounds surrounding the mill are a favorite among picnickers.
Due to its position near the imposing Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, it’s easy to overlook the small yet perfectly formed Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús). The church’s facade pays homage to the churrigueresque style typical of 16th-century Spanish churches, while its interior is dominated by an intricate altar smothered in gold leaf.
The Museum of Andean Sanctuaries offers an intimate glimpse into the ancient history of the Andes Mountains. After watching a short video that puts the museum’s cultural relics into context, visitors can wander the atmospheric rooms, which are filled with artifacts discovered during a significant Andean excavation.
Founder's Mansion (La Mansión del Fundador) dates back to the 17th century, when the Spanish first colonized Peru. Characterized by white volcanic rock painted warm pastel colors, the grand building once belonged to the founder of Arequipa and now attracts visitors with its antique furniture, colonial-style decor, and artwork imbued with Inca symbolism.
More Things to Do in Arequipa
Towering over the Historic Center of Arequipa and backed by the imposing Mt. Misti volcano, the Basilica Cathedral is a photographer’s dream. The colonial structure, which dates back to the 14th century, has survived natural disasters including fires, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions and is the most important Catholic church in the city.
El Misti is a soaring stratovolcano near Arequipa, popular with experienced trekkers and climbers. From the 19,101-foot (5,822-meter) above sea level summit, peer over the peaks of neighboring volcanoes. The volcano features a symmetric conical shape, characteristic of rotating layers of lava and debris from eruptions. El Misti’s last eruption was in 1985.
Characterized by a Romanesque steeple, Recoleta Convent provides a pocket of tranquility in the midst of the Historic Center of Arequipa. As well as boasting traditional sillar (white volcanic rock) cloisters, the convent has a museum of Amazonian artifacts—which include preserved jungle animals—and a library with more than 20,000 books.
The active Chachani Volcano, near Arequipa in southern Peru, is known amongst the climbing set as one of the world’s easiest 20,000-foot (6,075-meter) climbs. Still, reaching the summit is considered an intermediate to challenging two-day climb. At the top, marvel at the sight of the Pacific Ocean and the spectacular Andes mountainscape.
Surrounded by agricultural landscapes and rolling mountains and home to the charming Our Lady of Assumption church, Chivay is best-known as the gateway to Arequipa’s spectacular Colca Canyon (Cañón del Colca). A plethora of shops selling high-quality alpaca handicrafts make it a great place for souvenir shopping, too.
Sabandía is marked by rural plains, rolling hills, and historic landmarks, making this southern Arequipa province in Peru a draw. Among the highlights are the district’s traditional shops and restaurants, and the chance to see the Sabandía Mill, built in 1621 with the region’s signature white volcanic rock (sillar) and populated by animals such as alpaca and peacocks.
Cayma is one of the 29 districts that make up Peru’s Arequipa Region. Some 75,000 people call this place, which covers approximately 246 square-kilometers, home. Adventurous travelers can trek to the top of nearby El Misti, the most popular climb in the area. Those who prefer a more leisurely outdoor adventure can stay close to city center with a number of stunning local parks, including Señor de la Caña, Urbanización Tronco de Oro and Urb. La Explanada.
Built around 1730, Moral House is a solid example of stylized baroque architecture. The house’s name has nothing to do with ethics, but instead comes from the ancient moras (mulberry) tree in the central courtyard. Today, the building is known for its collection of maps, religious art, and Peruvian coins that date back hundreds of years.
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