Known for its proximity to canyons and volcanoes, as well as its colonial architecture, Arequipa is a thrilling yet historical destination for your next vacation. To help you see a variety of sites, here is a suggested three-day itinerary.
Day 1: Learn why Arequipa is the “White City”
Wandering around the streets of Arequipa, it’ll become apparent that many of the colonial buildings are constructed in white rock. Due to its proximity to volcanoes, many are made of sillar, a volcanic white stone. The local material gives the city a unique character, and is used for everything from simple walls to ornate cathedrals.
Start in Plaza de Armas, near where most of the almost 250 colonial UNESCO World Heritage buildings are located. Most notable is the plaza’s Cathedral, originally constructed in 1656 and considered the city’s most important church. It is also known as one of Peru’s most unique cathedrals since the Spanish conquest. The facade, which takes up an entire side of the plaza, can be described as majestic and ornate, and tall wooden sculptures, a bell tower and ancient relics add to the ambiance. Moreover, inside you’ll find the largest organ in South America, donated by Belgium in 1870.
Casa de Moral is another prime example of colonial sillar architecture. Built around 1730, the building is adorned with extremely detailed carvings and depictions. At Sabandia Mill, you’ll be able to explore the area’s first stone mill, as well as enjoy a pool, hiking trails, gardens and great views of El Misti.
Day 2: Have an adventure
Many travelers visit Arequipa specifically for its adventurous offerings. If you have time to only experience one thrilling activity, visit Colca Canyon. You can choose to explore by hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking or rafting. Because the city is world-renowned for its white water rafting, you may want to incorporate that into the trip and have two adventures in one. Another adventurous option is to do some volcano climbing or downhill biking by visiting El Misti, which stands at 19,101 feet above sea level, or Chachani, the highest of the volcanoes near Arequipa at 19, 872 feet. Neither is very technical, although both require some physical fitness due to challenging terrain.
Day 3: Get to know the history and culture
Before you leave the city, gain some historical and cultural knowledge. Start your day with a visit to San Camilo Market, open daily from 7am-5pm. Located three blocks from Plaza de Armas, it’s the oldest market in the city and one the locals go to for Arequipa’s best cuisine. Typical foods like “Queso Helado,” an ice cream made from cheese, “Chicharrones,” local deep fried pork and fresh fruits, vegetables and cheeses can be sampled. You can also get clothing, household goods and handicrafts.
Once you’ve had your fill at this vibrant market, head to Museo Santury, which focuses on the history and archeology of the Andes Mountains. You’ll see tombs, burial artifacts and preserved mummies, including the famous ‘Ice Princess’ Juanita. This young Inca girl was about 11 to 15 years old when she was sacrificed as part of a Capac Cocha ceremony to appease the mountain gods. Moreover, the Recoleta Convent is home to various museum collections, including the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Religious Arts Museum. A library housing over 20,000 books, including a volume dating back to 1494, can also be explored.