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Arequipa
Travel Guide


Plan for Arequipa with Local Expertise

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Arequipa at a glance

Arequipa is Peru’s second city. Between 1835 and 1883 Arequipa served as the capital of Peru, a distinction it gained due to it’s important economic, industrial and administrative role in the country’s development. Founded in 1540, Arequipa maintained strong links with the Spanish crown and established as Peru’s central regional trading hub with Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil. Because of Arequipa’s alliance with Spain, a unique architectural style developed, which encompasses native constructions, colonial mansions and European-influenced religious buildings, such as the Santa Catalina Monastery. This particular style of architecture came to be known as the “Escuela Arequipeña,” or the “Arequipa School,” and earned Arequipa the nickname of “The White City.” Many of Arequipa’s buildings are made from a local volcanic stone called sillar, tying the city’s built environment to its natural volcanic surroundings.

Experiences around Arequipa

What not to miss

Volcanoes are another defining feature of this Peruvian city. The snow-capped peaks of the El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu volcanoes tower over Arequipa and visitors cannot but be awed by their immense presence. This impressive natural frame is another reason for Arequipa’s popularity, and travelers can indulge in spectacular hikes up the volcanic slopes, or adventure into the extraordinary Valley of the Volcanoes where two of the world’s deepest canyons, the Cotahuasi and the Colca, can be found. Lovers of wildlife will likely be treated to the sight of a majestic condor soaring through the valley, and people wishing to experience some local traditions can venture into the nearby villages where natives practicing ancient customs still live to this day. For the thrillseekers out there, Arequipa’s surroundings offer an abundance of adventure sports, such as trekking, mountain biking, and rafting. Foodies will delight in the city’s culinary offerings, and for an authentic local experience should try the “rocoto relleno,” Arequipa’s version of stuffed peppers, or the “chupe de camerones,” a local shrimp stew washed down with a shot of “anisado,” an aperitif made from anise that was popularized in Mediterranean countries. Arequipa is also known for its wool industry, where alpaca, llama and sheep’s wool is processed and made into artisan goods.

City tour & Santa Catalina Convent Top

This remarkable city tour offers a myriad of must-see places such as the Church of the Company (a 17th century Jesuit church with a striking sculpted facade and a carved wooden pulpit), followed by a guided tour of the main square (Plaza de Armas) and the Cathedral. The next stop and a real highlight is a visit to the Santa Catalina Monastery, Peru’s most impressive religious construction. Founded in September 1579 under the patronage of Saint Catherine of Sienna, its doors remained closed to the world until 1970. Spreading over 20,426 square meters, its 16th and 17th-century design have remained unbelievably intact. To finish the day off, you’ll visit Yanahuara, a district of Arequipa with breathtaking views over The White City.

City tour & Santa Teresa Convent Top

During the city tour, you will visit a myriad of highlights such as the Church of the Company, a 17th century Jesuit church with a remarkable sculpted facade and carved wood pulpit, the main square (the Plaza de Armas), and the Cathedral. Another must-see highlight as you explore Arequipa will be a visit to the Santa Teresa Monastery, opened in 1710. In the museum, they exhibit one of the best collections of paintings, sculptures, works of precious metal, daily objects and decorative artworks in the country. One of the galleries, which still preserves its original furnishings and appearance, is the Chapter House.

Explore the Colca Canyon Top

A color-filled Andean valley with pre-Inca roots, the Colca Canyon has many small villages filled with local traditions and culture that are some of the most well-preserved in the country. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, the landscapes surrounding the Colca Canyon are just breathtaking! This is one of the best places to spot the Andean Condor as it soars and glides through the vast valley. There are 1, 2, & 3-day tours which allow enough time to visit all sites en route and much, much more. There is also the possibility to carry on through to Lake Titicaca or return to Arequipa, before heading into more incredible Peruvian countryside and mystical Inca culture.

Arequipa Culinary Tour Top

Your day begins visiting the central market in Arequipa named San Camilo. Here you will buy all the local ingredients needed to prepare an entree and main course later that day. Afterward, you’ll visit a local family’s home where you will be able to cook your own meal following the chef’s instruction. Your local guide will always be on hand to translate if need be, making sure you don’t miss out on anything. This hands-on culinary experience offers you the opportunity to taste the best of the Peruvian cuisine, specially prepared by you…for you!

Sanctuary of Mummy Juanita Top

The Lady of Ampato, in Spanish La Dama de Ampato, is an Incan mummy of a 12 to 14-year-old girl found at the top of the Ampato volcano in 1995. According to specialists, it is very likely that the girl, whose remains were found frozen, died from a blow to the temple by a five-pointed granite mace. It is believed that she was sacrificed to the Ampato Apu (protector god) some 500 years ago. At the sanctuary, you´ll be able to observe the Lady of Ampato up close. Juanita was buried in macaw feathers and fully dressed with textiles from Cusco, she seemed to be in good health and was believed that she was of noble Cusqueña decent. The mummification was done by natural methods, similar to the mummies found in Egypt. Her body and garments well-preserved, offering historians a glimpse into Inca culture.

Adventure Rafting the Chili River Top

A perfect activity to enjoy with family or friends, rafting down the Chili River through the stunning Chilina Valley is guaranteed to be a memorable experience. You will first be picked up at your hotel for a 25-minute drive outside of Arequipa where, upon arrival,  you will put on the provided equipment. You are then transported directly to the starting point on the Chili River that flows through a canyon at the foot of the Misti volcano for an approximate rafting adventure of just over an hour. As you float down through exhilarating and continuous Class II and III rapids, an intermediate level considering the international classification reaches class V, your guide will have a GoPro mounted on his helmet to record your thrilling ride down the Chili River surrounded by spectacular landscapes. Don’t miss out on this brilliant opportunity for adventure that can be enjoyed by all, making kids squirm, and adults scream!

Chaqchao Chocolate Workshop Top

Are you a chocolate lover? Then you should take part in this fun chocolate workshop at the Chaqchao organic, artisanal chocolate factory to learn about the exciting history of cacao and the process of making chocolate from bean-to-bar. You will be given the opportunity to make your own Aztec-style chocolate bar, with local Andean grains like quinoa, kiwicha, and cocoa! The class also includes making cacahuatil, a traditional Mexican drink and blind tasting different types of chocolate to understand the fundamental differences between commercial chocolate and artisan chocolate. This unique experience takes place in the Chaqchao café where you´ll also find Peruvian organic coffee, homemade desserts, and Peruvian craft beer, so you have plenty of tasty treats to accompany your chocolate!

Alpaca wool & Textile Factory Top

Located only three blocks away from the historic center of Arequipa, this experience will wrap you in the magical universe of the Alpaca textile industry.  The materials are given first to the local sorters who by the feel of the fleece can ascertain the quality of the raw materials. Once the wool is cleaned and combed, alpaca is then prepared for spinning and processing. Your guide will show you the production process used to create different textile articles, from separation to dying and finally the making of the fabric.

Campina & Chilina Valley Tour Top

This exciting tour begins with a visit of the Chilina Valley, where we will be able to admire Arequipa in all its splendor and also enjoy sensational views of the Chili River with a backdrop of the impressive Misti volcano. Our next stop is the traditional Peruvian town of Paucarpata, where we will visit the ancient Molino de Sabandia (Sabandia’s mill), built in 1785. Following this historical stop, we will delve deeper into Arequipa’s history by visiting the Mansion del Fundador (Founder’s mansion), made entirely out of sillar, white volcanic rock and perched on the edge of a cliff. From the Founder’s estate, we will drive to the Sachaca viewpoint, where you can enjoy splendid views of the enchanting city of Arequipa and the three volcanoes that watch over it. We will conclude the excursion by driving through the Puente del Fierro (the iron bridge), designed by the famous French architect Gustav Eiffel in 1882 before returning to the hotel.

Arequipa Local Shopping Guide Top

During this fabulous shopping tour, you will get the chance to purchase an array of traditional items, visiting factories where clothes are made from Alpaca and Vicuna wool, as well as a cooperative of local artisans where local souvenirs and textiles available for purchase. You will also visit a distillery where the typical liquor of Arequipa is prepared, and later a renowned local shop specializing in leather goods. Finally, you finish the day off with chocolate…yes chocolate! The local factory is one of Peru’s best-kept secrets, offering handmade chocolates, toffees, and marzipan for you to finish off the day with a sweet tooth surprise.

Fast Facts on Arequipa

USEFUL TRAVELER INFORMATION

This section is a quick overview to help in planning your trip to Arequipa.

When to go

Arequipa benefits from a sunny and dry climate almost all year round. It enjoys very little rainfall during the year, apart from December and January when rainy days become more numerous, sometimes causing the Chili River to flood. It is perhaps best to visit Arequipa during the driest months, from May to November, and if you are planning on heading to the nearby Colca Canyon, condors can be seen in their highest numbers between June and September. The average annual temperature in Arequipa is around 58 °F (14 °C), so it’s never too hot, or too cold. If you are there in August, make sure and stick around for the Arequipa Day festivities on August 15th.

How to get there

Daily flights to Arequipa are scheduled from Lima, Juliaca, and Cusco. Many different airlines including LATAM, Aero Condor and Star Peru offer daily flights between these cities, and we will arrange internal flights and transfers for you as part of your itinerary. The Plaza de Armas, Arequipa’s main square, is located 8kilometers (5.5 miles) from the airport. The best way to get around the city’s historic center is on foot, and taxis or combis can bring you into the surrounding area. Alternatively, we can book a private driver or group excursion for you, just ask one of our travel experts, and they can arrange this. If you’re coming to Arequipa from the lowlands, we recommend spending a day acclimatizing in the city before heading on to treks in the Colca Canyon.

Infrastructure

Arequipa is a developed city that is used to welcoming tourists, and as such has a sophisticated tourist infrastructure. There is a wide range of hotels, from budget accommodation to luxury lodgings, and many high-end restaurants can be found in and around where the hotels are situated. However, do venture further afield when looking for somewhere to eat, as the city is full of eateries from street food to fine dining, and make sure to try cuy, a fried and marinated guinea pig, which is a local delicacy. Taxis can be hailed in the street, and since drivers usually work independently, fares are reasonable. However, note that while the taxis may have a meter machine, none of the drivers use it, so agree on a price to your destination before getting in the car. Be careful with your belongings after dark, especially in the market area where pickpocketing can be common.

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