Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and it’s located in the Peruvian Andes, sitting at an altitude of 2,335 meters above sea level. Many travelers have described Arequipa as the most beautiful city of the Andes due to its impressive colonial architecture, historical attractions, and natural wonders. Dare to discover Arequipa and its surroundings, you surely won’t regret it.
This outstanding city played an important role during colonization since it was one of the principal economic centers of the country. However, the region was previously inhabited by natives who took advantage of the Chili river valley around 6,000 years ago.
Due to the Spanish influence, Arequipa’s old town is recognized as the most visually striking historical center in Peru due to its authentic architecture and structures built entirely of a white volcanic stone. For that reason, Arequipa is also known as the White City.
The Historic Center of Arequipa comprehends over 500 historical monuments which granted recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2000. Therefore, this location has become an important tourist attraction overtime
In addition to the fascinating scenery of the region, Arequipa is guarded by the imposing Misti, Picchu Picchu, and Chachani volcanoes. This region holds many other natural wonders like the famous Colca Canyon and the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve.
For these and more attractions, Arequipa has gained popularity among travelers. Recent stats show that the so-called White City receives over 2 million tourists per year, making it one of Peru’s most visited regions.
Things to do in Arequipa
Here we’ve gathered a few of the many attractions within the city of Arequipa and its surroundings. Likewise, if you’d like to know more about them check this section’s menu and start planning your stay in the so-called White City!
This authentic old town is recognized for offering a well-preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture. It holds over 500 historical monuments built with White Ashlar, a volcanic rock found in the quarries of the Chachani Volcano.
Due to the earthquakes that struck the White City, some of its constructions had to be rebuilt, maintaining its unique style and materials. However, Arequipa’s Historic Center has flourished to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Although most of its colonial buildings are mainly religious centers, Arequipa also holds neighborhoods that have preserved their authentic features. Noble and vernacular houses complement this outstanding historic center with their large doors, beautiful courtyards, and tall walls. Likewise, we want you to see it for yourself, which is why we have gathered some of its impressive structures:
1. Plaza de Armas
Arequipa’s main square defines the heart of the old town, it is surrounded by three large portals made entirely of granite, the Catedral de Arequipa, La Compañia Church, and Nuestra Señora de la Merced Church.
2. Cathedral of Arequipa
This is the principal church in the city and one of the first religious monuments in Arequipa. Its construction took around 15 years, and it was completed in 1656. The Cathedral of Arequipa is one of those sillar examplaries worth visiting, its whole structure is made entirely of White Ashlar and it presents Neo-Renaissance styles with some Gothic influence.
3. Santa Teresa Virreinal Art Museum
The San Jose and Santa Teresa Monastery of the Barefoot Carmelite Sisters holds a collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, and more objects that date back to 300 years ago. It wasn’t until 2005 that they opened their doors to the public.
4. Monasterio de Santa Catalina
This religious tourist attraction is considered a masterpiece of the colonial era. It dates back to the XVI century and extends to 20,000 km2. The monastery remained as a cloistered convent that housed over 300 nuns until 1970 when the convent opened its doors to the public light.
The Santa Catalina Monastery is known as the city within the city due to its massive extension. However, part of this building is closed to the public since some nuns still live in the northern area of the complex.
The site remains a paid tourist attraction and it’s open from Monday to Sunday. Likewise, located at walking distance from the main square of Arequipa.
5. Yanahuara Viewpoint
This viewpoint offers an incredible view of the city and its surroundings, including the Misti and Chachani Volcanoes, two of the three mounts that guard the White City.
It is located 17 kilometers away from the main square in the Yanahuara neighborhood, one of the oldest suburbs in Arequipa. The Yanahuara Viewpoint is composed of a series of portals made entirely of white ashlar.
If you’d like to know more about Arequipa's Historical City Center, we have prepared a special travel guide with all the details you SHOULD NOT miss during your stay!
Arequipa is located in a flourishing highland in the Peruvian Andes, surrounded by imposing volcanoes and flanked by one of the deepest canyons in the world. The region is one of the most popular among tourists in our country and here we’ll tell you why!
1. Misti Volcano
This active volcano is located 24 kilometers away from the Arequipa city, and it sits at an altitude of 5,820 meters above sea level. Recent studies state that the Misti volcano is around 800,000 years old.
Nowadays, the Misti volcano has become a snow-capped mountain, though it still presents seismic volcanic activity. The last time that the Misti showed any type of relevant activity was large fumaroles in 1870.
2. Colca Canyon
Considered as the world’s second-deepest canyon and the deepest one in South America, it is located in the Arequipa countryside, bordering the colca valley, and has a depth of 4,160 meters. The Colca Canyon is home to the third biggest bird of the world, the Andean Condor.
Likewise, this natural wonder receives over 300,000 visitors per year due to its authentic scenery that surrounds it. There are different ways to visit the Colca Canyon, either you take a trek or a traditional tour, this will be an unforgettable experience.
However, this is not everything the region has to offer. As we mentioned earlier, you can find information about the natural attractions of Arequipa, tours, treks and more in this segment’s menu.
How is the Weather in Arequipa?
The climate condition in Peru varies according to its different regions. However, the Andes have two stationary seasons and Arequipa isn’t so different from the rest of the region.
-Dry Season: It takes place between May and October. It is considered as the coldest season of the year though rain is nearly nill during this period.
- Rainy Season: It transitions from October to December, but it finally settles from January until April. Small chances of rain are expected throughout the region. However, days are warmer with temperatures ranging between 21°C and 9°C.
Make sure to learn everything about the weather conditions in Peru and pack your bags accordingly. Here’s a blog with all the details about when is the best time to visit Peru.
How to Get to Arequipa?
Depending on the time you might have to complete your trip and the type of experience you’re looking for, there are different ways to reach the White City:
- By Bus: For those looking to explore Peru like a local expert, bus travel is the best option. Luckily, Arequipa is easily accessible by bus, either you’re coming from Lima, Cusco, or any other part of the country.
- By Flight: For travelers with a short itinerary, we highly recommend taking a flight to Arequipa. That way you will save time to explore the different destinations you’d like to visit.
-By Train: Arequipa is also accessible by train rides, either you start in Cusco or Puno, you’ll have an exclusive experience through the Peruvian Andes.