A breathtakingly beautiful city, you simply must see.
Picturesque snow capped mountains provide a backdrop to this cobbled stoned city. Architectural heritage is never hard to find and attractions are plentiful. And that’s just Arequipa City, with Arequipa region boasting good hiking, adventure activities and even more spectacular scenery. If you’re going to Peru, don’t just head straight to Cusco. You’ll be missing out on so much more.
When we first arrived in Arequipa we didn’t quite realise the vastness of the region and how much lied within. For that reason, we would suggest any backpacker heads straight to the iPeru information site (closed Sundays) in the main square. Pick up a map of the city, the region and as much information as possible. We’ve attached an Arequipa Centro Map and Regional Arequipa Map to get you started.
You could spend many days in Arequipa without getting bored. Here’s some of our Arequipa City highlights:
Peruvian Flavours Cooking School: This cooking school was very different from the one we experienced in Mexico. Although both were enjoyable, this was much more professionally presented. Infant, you cook in the chef’s restaurant! We thoroughly enjoyed this course, learnt some great cooking skills and took home recipes to enjoy with friends and family. Address: Pasaje Violin 100-102, San Lazaro, Arequipa. 100 soles per person or USD$30.
Culinary experiences: If you’re in Peru you’ll want to try as many of the great dishes on offer as possible. Arequipa is a great place to do this. Although we tend to stay clear of restaurants right in the heart of the square, we were tempted into Sonccollay. Apart from the stunning balcony view, the place is owned by a particularly knowledgable guy who uses local ingredients and traditional techniques. Clay pots, charcoal ovens and the elimination of cooking fats creates a unique taste that may be unfamiliar but enjoyable to foreign taste buds. This is also a good place to enjoy the vast variety of Peruvian potatoes and a glass of Peruvian wine.
Ice Maiden Museum (Museo Santuarios Andinos): This is a stand out museum (20 soles for adults, 10 soles students + voluntary tip) where you’ll learn about Incan sacrifices and the discovery/ recovery process of the Ice Maiden (Juanita). At the end of the tour you will see her preserved remains. We don’t want to say too much about the information as we found it fascinating to learn about without any background information. Address: Head down La Merced off the main square. The museum is about 20m on your left in a building with a red exterior.
Basilica Cathedral de Arequipa/ Plaza de Armas: This cathedral is only opened at night from about 5pm. We would really recommend going just before sunset as the colours of the sky against the church are stunningly spectacular.
Santa Catalina: The entry fee of 40 soles per person put us off visiting Santa Catalina for many days. Charlie eventually made the visit and enjoyed the vast area inside. Choose to take a tour for an extra 20 soles if you are loaded.
Walking Tour: There are 2 main companies doing this in Arequipa, each company leaving twice a day in peak times. We chose to go with a walking tour hosted by university students. Although not our favourite walking tour, it was still an enjoyable 4 hours and funded by tipping meaning you don’t have to push your budget. Our main dislike was the very large group which made it quite difficult to hear things at times.
Munro Alpaca: If you’re on a backpackers budget, you’re probably not going to be able to afford anything here. On the plus side, there are cute alpacas and one can see the alpaca wool process from start to finish. Address: Juan de la Torre 101 | San Lazaro, Arequipa.
Puente Fierro (The Iron Bridge): This bridge is designed by Eifiel and best discovered in the evening when there is a pink evening glow over the city and distant mountains. From the main square follow Calle La Merced onto Ave. Parra and the bridge is eventually on your right.
The wider Arequipa Region is just waiting to be explored and enjoyed. These are some of our highlights:
Colca Canyon: If you’re coming to Arequipa you’ll almost certainly be heading here. In our opinion, the Colca Canyon is best explored over a 3 day hike without a guide. Check out our blog for tips on how to do this great trip!
8 days wasn’t quite enough time to fully explore Arequipa. Here’s a few things we didn’t do but would’ve loved to:
Cotahuasi Canyon: We really wanted to check out this canyon. Unfortunately there is no direct transport options from the Colca Canyon to Cotahuasi without going back to Arequipa. The distance (10-12 hours) makes it unachievable for a lot of travellers. This is especially true as the Cotahuasi Canyon is not en route to anywhere, meaning a whole lot of back tracking. Those lucky enough to get here will be treated to the world’s deepest canyon with it’s vast range of untouched landscape and biodiversity.
Valle de los Volcanes: A good range of hikes up twin peaks and surrounding areas. Again, this area is not easily accessible. If you do make it, its virtually untouched by tourists.
Rafting: Rafting is an unregulated activity in Peru. For this reason, we decided against it. On the plus side, its cheap compared to most parts of the world. There are about 3 options around the Arequipa area. Almost all tour companies provide the service.
Sumaq House Backpackers: was one of the best hostels we stayed in with a great homely vibe. 27 soles per person for a 4 bed dorm. Breakfast of buns, jam, ham, cheese, fruit, juice, tea and coffee included. Fully equipped kitchen and super friendly staff. The hostel is within 3 blocks of the central square but set on a quiet street. Nice courtyard to enjoy the morning sun. We would defiantly recommend this place.
Getting there from Nazca: the cheapest bus we found from Nazca to Arequipa costs 50 soles per person with Civa. This was not a nice bus but got us there, taking 13 and a half hours. We took an overnight bus. From what we could see, we kind of wish we took a day bus as the scenery would have been spectacular.
Depending on the company you ride with, buses in Arequipa arrive at Terminal Terreste or Terrapuerto Internacional. Although the buildings are seperate, they are within 100metres of each other. A taxi from the bus station to Central Arequipa will cost around 8 soles or less, taking about 15 minutes in low traffic.
Getting away to Cusco:
• Return to the main bus terminal (Terminal Terreste or Terrapuerto International are side by side). A taxi here should cost about 8 soles or less.
• Unsurprisingly, buses to Cusco run extremely frequently. We took Tulsa for 25 soles per person, taking 12 hours. Despite arriving 3 hours later than advertised, the bus is passable if you need a cheap bus.
• There is a 2 sole charge to depart the terminal in Arequipa.
• Buses in Cusco arrive at Terminal Terrestre Cusco along Luis Vallejo Santoni. This is about 2.5km from the central historic area. Taxis are available or buses leave from San Martin (the main highway just past the roundabout).