South America Living

Arequipa, Peru Travel Guide

Side Street Behind the Cathedral at Plaza de Armas with Indoor/Outdoor Restaurants. Lovely Spot for Lunch.

If I had to choose between a visit to Lima or Arequipa in Peru – the two largest cities – I would choose Arequipa. Its Plaza de Armas with El Misti Volcano in the background is spectacular and historic buildings regal; the central area around the plaza was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 (see video below).

    View Photos       Interactive Map
    Where To Eat       Where To Stay

Arequipa is hot on the backpacker circuit for two main reasons: to climb Volcano Misti and as a stop-over on the way to trek in the Colca Canyon. Travel Guide to the Colca Canyon & Trekking .

The city is full of attractions but very compact so you can walk and wander around without becoming overwhelmed. Lima has many highlights, yet is very large and cumbersome to navigate, taxi costs can add up quickly. In addition, Arequipa is much safer than Lima.

Editor’s Note: If it was lower-cost, Arequipa would have been included in our Cheap Places to Live section, yet is an excellent choice for a long-term stay for those with a budget of $900 USD per month or more.



Things To Do in and around Arequipa

  • Spend a minimum of two hours walking through the maze encompassing a full city block known as Monasterio Santa Catalina (Saint Catherine Monastery in English). Built in 1580, the convent is still active with around 20 nuns living there. It is two blocks from Plaza de Armas at Santa Catalina #301. View the official website here:
  • Museo Santuarios Andinos (Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria). Only a block from Plaza de Armas (opposite direction of the monestary) at La Merced #110. It currently houses the famous Ice Princess mummy though a site has been marked near Cabanaconde for an “Ice Princess Museum”. Official website here:
  • Museo de Arqueologia (Archeology Museum in English) – also sponsored by the Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria. It is located at Cruz Verde #303, open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Have an early breakfast in the cafeteria at Mercado San Camilo (main market in Arequipa) – open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – or afternoon wandering its sprawling ailes full of food, crafts and some clothing.   Photos & Video – Mercado San Camilo
  • Visit the Colca Canyon to hike and see the magnificent Andean Condors. No, not in Arequipa but is the main reason many travelers transit through the city. The first town on the Colca Canyon trail is Chivay, 3 hours by bus from Arequipa. If you would like to take a guided tour of the Colca Canyon and be chauffeured around in a private minivan that can be easily arranged. Pablo Tours has tours througout the area.

Note: In addition to Museo Santuarios Andinos and Museo de Arqueologia UCdeSA also runs the Yanque Museum (Museo de Yanque in Spanish) in the small town Yanque of the Colca Canyon.

Does Arequipa Have a Shopping Mall?

There are a couple of shopping malls in Arequipa, but both are very small. Plaza Real is the fanciest mall, with the lower level a huge Super Vea megastore, restaurant, cafe and a few shops. The upper level has a few more stores in addition to the large (clothing, homeware, kitchenware) department store Oechsle (which has an upper and lower level).

For information on grocery shopping read: Grocery Shopping in Arequipa & Price Chart of Items.

Beaches Near Arequipa

Want some time in the sand and sun when visiting Arequipa? Get out of town and to the beach! Around 140 km (87 miles) from Arequipa is the coast with the towns Mollendo (main port), Mejia (upscale resort) and Punta de Bombon (sandy beaches for swimming).

Hop on a bus for the approximate 3 hour ride and visit the Mollendo Water Park, Santuario Nacional Lagunas nature reserve (near Mejia) or any one of the many sandy spots to lay your towel and ‘in need of a tan’ bod.

Cusco Coffee – Where to Get an Espresso in Arequipa

Have a Starbucks fetish and going through withdrawls during your travels? Arequipa’s Cusco Coffee is the next best thing with plush interior, magazines and artwork that give the store a similar feel. Plus, where in the world can you order a coca tea at Starbucks? A WiFi hotspot, it is located two blocks from Plaza de Armas at Calle La Merced #135 (Cercado area) and open from from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Where to Stay in Arequipa

Name: Hotel Libertador Arequipa   Book Now
Address: Plaza Bolivar & Selva (no number)
Website: Click on the link and view the photos. Luxury haven inside the city with pool, spa, restaurant.

Name: Los Tambos   Book Now
Address: Puente Bolognesi #129
Website: Modern, elegant boutique hotel (even though it doesn’t call itself one) with two rooftop terraces, excellent breakfast, Internet, WiFi and rafting/biking/hiking tours.

Note: Just across the street from the new, upscale Mochileros Hostal in Vallecito area behind the gate is Arequipay Backpackers with dorm rooms, Internet, WiFi, enormous T.V. Worth a look. Backpackers ‘here to party’ environment, cheaper than Mochileros with 8-12 bed dorm rooms.

Name: The New Point in Arequipa
Address: Palacio Viejo #325
Website: Excellent central location four blocks from Plaza de Armas, party-fun atmosphere, game room with pool table, DVD collection, WiFi.

Where to Eat in Arequipa

Name: Sabine
Address: Andres Martinez #415 (short cab ride from Plaza de Armas)
Website: None. Upscale dining, parilla and gourmet fare.

Name: Granada
Address: General Moran #111 (one block from Plaza de Armas)
Website: Restaurant & parilla (grilled meats) with beef heart shish kababs, lomo fino, Fettucini Alfredo, creme of asparagas soup and a menu special consisting of soup, main course, bread, drink plus desert for 10 soles ($4 USD). Open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Name: El Fez
Address: San Francisco #229
Website: None. Falafel, French crèpes, sandwiches, salads, fresh juices & espresso all can be enjoyed in outdoor patio.

Interactive Map of Arequipa

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Photograph by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.

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