Arequipa Travel Guide
Introduction to Arequipa
Ranking as Peru’s second largest city, and the de facto capital of Southern Peru, Arequipa is a culturally significant city, and not just a base camp for those hoping to explore the Colca Canyon.
With a spectacular Plaza de Armas, amazing colonial structures, and spectacular natural scenery surrounding the city, it is a destination that will rank among your favorites during your trip to Peru.
Cultural Attractions in Arequipa
While many people use Arequipa as a base for exploring Colca Canyon, it is a very stunning city in terms of its architecture as well. Nowhere is this more abundantly clear than at the Plaza de Armas, which is the city’s main square.
While there are many beautiful structures surrounding the main town square, which is highlighted by a lush Garden filled with palms, trees, shrubs and flowers, and a beautiful fountain at its center, the building that dominates the rest is none other than the Cathedral of Arequipa.
Massive in scale, it is the most significant Roman Catholic church in the area, but that’s not all that there is to check out when in the Plaza de Armas, as the Portales on the western side of the square will also attract the attention of avid photographers.
Hungry? There are restaurants located on the second floor of the Portales, but many tend to be overpriced for what they serve. Within a few blocks in each direction of the Plaza de Armas, there are lower priced restaurants that serve better quality cuisine.
After getting your fill of the previous attraction, head several blocks north to the Santa Catalina Monastery. Founded as a convent for nuns in the late 16th century, it ended up being dominated by the upper classes of Arequipa, with the dowry for entering equaling roughly $150,000 in today’s money.
With two-thirds of the population of the convent being slaves and servants, it eventually became so bad that Pope Pius IX eventually sent a member of his inner circle to fix the situation at the monastery.
While the backstory of this place is definitely intriguing, the construction of this place is equally interesting, as it resembles a citadel within a city. Those that wander around without a tour guide might end up getting lost; thankfully, there is a map of the complex on the back of your ticket, so don’t lose it!
Well, there are many beautiful private homes in Arequipa, Casa del Moral is one that has been open to the public. Built in the early 18th century, its exquisite design, rare book collection containing over 3,000 volumes and expansive private art collection will charm those that make the time to pay this place a visit.
Those looking for an amazing view of the mountains that surround the Arequipa area will want to head to the rooftop terrace, as an unobstructed view of these peaks can be had from there.
Other Attractions in Arequipa
There are many day trips that you can take from Arequipa, but the ones that head into the Colca Canyon are among the most popular. While there are options that will have you travel there for an overnight visit, heading there over the course of a very long day is also possible.
While in this massive canyon (which has been found to be twice as deep is the Grand Canyon), you will have a chance to view the rare Andean Condor, whose wingspan dwarfs that of any other bird that you will find in South America.
Additionally, you’ll have a chance to observe cave art that is over 6,000 years old, farmland that has been tilled here since the time before the Incas, and festivals that best express the spirit of the Peruvian people.
If you’re up for even more adventure, then you might consider trying to climb the volcanic slopes of El Misti. While attempting to climb this peak will require a period of acclimation to high altitudes (the summit of El Misti is over 19,000 feet above sea level), and a patient approach to ascending, the view that you will be rewarded with at the top will make all the effort put into this expedition well worth the trouble.
There are many amazing restaurants around the city of Arequipa that do an excellent job of showcasing Peruvian cuisine, so why not learn how to cook it for yourself? There are many schools that put on Peruvian cooking classes around town, so at your accommodation, inquire about enrolling in one of their courses while you are here.
Learning how to create dishes such as an authentic Rocotto Relleno will make you the star of the show when you come home and are able to do the same thing for your significant other or friends.