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Arequipa - A city of Architectural Wealth, Gastronomy, and Amazing Sights

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 21-06-2023

Arequipa is a city located in southern Peru and is known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty. Nestled in the southern region of Peru, Arequipa stands as a testament to the country's rich heritage and cultural tapestry. With its unique blend of colonial architecture, breathtaking landscapes, and culinary delights, Arequipa has rightfully earned its place as a special destination worth exploring. Find out more about why you should include Arequipa on your trip to Peru!


Visit Arequipa on your 12 days in Peru. Also known as the "White City", its many buildings are constructed from white volcanic stone. Arequipa is surrounded by several volcanoes, including Misti Volcano. Misti is an iconic symbol of the city, standing at approximately 5,822 meters (19,101 feet) above sea level.

Misti Volcano



Arequipa is one of Peru's most historically and culturally significant cities. Founded in 1540 by the Spanish conquistadors, the city played a crucial role during the Spanish colonization era. Its strategic location along the trade route between Lima and the mines of Potosí made it an important economic and political center. Arequipa also boasts a distinct blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures, resulting in a unique cultural heritage that is evident in its architecture, cuisine, and traditional festivals. 


Make sure you visit the cathedral on your Arequipa tours. This magnificent building on the Plaza de Armas is the main attraction in the historical center. Construction of the cathedral began in 1540 and continued over the centuries, resulting in a blend of architectural styles, including Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic.

Arequipa Cathedral


Arequipa's architectural richness can be attributed to its colonial past. The city was founded in 1540 by Spanish conquerors, and its historical center reflects a fusion of Spanish and indigenous influences. Arequipa is often referred to as the "White City" due to its numerous buildings constructed using a unique white volcanic stone known as "sillar." This distinctive material lends a pristine, European-like appearance to the cityscape. Arequipa boasts a remarkable collection of Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles. The Cathedral of Arequipa, for instance, showcases exquisite Baroque façades, while the Santa Catalina Monastery exhibits a stunning blend of Spanish and indigenous architectural elements. The Plaza de Armas, Arequipa's main square, epitomizes the city's European influence. Surrounded by beautifully adorned colonial buildings, it serves as a vibrant social and cultural hub, inviting both locals and tourists to soak in its historical ambiance.

Our Peru 2 week itinerary, visits Arequipa as well as the Colca Canyon. On an Arequipa walking tour,  you can see many ornate churches built from the white volcanic ash called "sillar".

Arequipa Church



Arequipa's gastronomy is a tantalizing fusion of indigenous, Spanish, and Andean flavors. The city's culinary scene is influenced by traditional Peruvian ingredients and cooking techniques, resulting in unique dishes. Must-try delicacies include rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy pepper), adobo arequipeño (marinated meat), Chupe de Camarones (shrimp soup), and chuño colada (potato-based hot beverage). Exploring the local markets, such as San Camilo Market, provides an opportunity to taste regional specialties and purchase artisanal products. Arequipa offers a diverse culinary scene with an abundance of restaurants, from upscale establishments to cozy local eateries. Visitors can savor traditional dishes as well as innovative takes on Peruvian cuisine, prepared with locally sourced ingredients.


Arequipa is famous for its gastronomy. The city's gastronomy is a blend of Spanish, indigenous, and African influences, resulting in a unique and flavorful cuisine. Make sure you sample Chupe de camarones, Adobo and  Rocoto Relleno on your Arequipa tours!

Rocoto Relleno

Natural Prowess

Dominating the skyline of Arequipa, the Misti Volcano is an iconic symbol of the city. While climbing to the summit is a challenging endeavor, you can enjoy its impressive presence from various viewpoints in the city. Misti Volcano is an iconic natural feature of Arequipa. It is an active stratovolcano that stands at an elevation of 5,822 meters (19,101 feet). Its symmetrical cone-shaped peak dominates the skyline of the city and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve is a protected area situated between Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. It encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems, including high-altitude plains (punas), wetlands, lakes, and volcanoes. The reserve is home to numerous wildlife species, such as vicuñas, alpacas, llamas, flamingos, Andean geese, and more. It's a great place for nature lovers, birdwatching, and hiking.


On your way from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, you will pass through The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve. The reserve is home to numerous wildlife species, such as vicuñas, alpacas, llamas, flamingos, Andean geese, and more.

The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve

Must-Visit Places in Arequipa


Santa Catalina Monastery

The Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa is a fascinating historical and cultural attraction that offers several compelling reasons to visit. The monastery dates back to the 16th century and holds great historical significance. It provides a glimpse into the colonial era and offers insights into the lives of the nuns who resided there. Exploring the monastery allows you to step back in time and appreciate the architectural beauty and cultural heritage of the period. The Santa Catalina Monastery is renowned for its unique architectural style, blending Spanish colonial and indigenous influences. The vibrant colors of the buildings, the narrow cobblestone streets, and the ornate decorations make it a visually striking place to visit.


Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa is a fascinating historical site. Founded in 1579, the monastery is a large complex that once housed over 450 nuns from wealthy Spanish families. Visit Santa Catalina on your Arequipa tours.

Santa Catalina Fountain


The Santa Catalina monastery's architecture is a testament to the blending of cultures and traditions that occurred during the colonial period. Once you step inside the monastery, you'll be transported to a peaceful oasis within the bustling city of Arequipa. The monastery's sprawling complex covers an area of over 20,000 square meters, providing ample space to wander and soak in the serene atmosphere. The tranquil courtyards, charming gardens, and quiet corners offer a respite from the outside world, making it an ideal place for reflection and relaxation. Visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery offers a unique cultural experience. As you explore the various sections of the monastery, you can learn about the daily lives of the nuns who lived there for centuries. The displays and exhibits showcase their living quarters, kitchens, chapels, and artwork, providing insights into their traditions, rituals, and religious practices.


Spend 2 weeks in Peru and visit the incredible Santa Catalina monastery during your stop in Arequipa. One of the highlights of a visit to Santa Catalina is the chance to see the daily life of the nuns who still reside there.

Santa Catalina Monastery


Yanahuara District

Yanahuara is known for its historical and architectural significance, as well as its stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The district is characterized by narrow streets lined with white volcanic stone buildings that showcase the Spanish influence in the region. The facades of these buildings often feature intricate carvings and ornate balconies, adding to the district's charm. One of the main attractions in Yanahuara is the Yanahuara Mirador, a viewpoint that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Arequipa and its iconic volcanoes, including the Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu volcanoes. The Mirador is adorned with a beautiful arch made of "sillar", a white volcanic stone, and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. This picturesque district is known for its charming plaza, narrow streets, and traditional houses adorned with volcanic stone arches. 


 The Yanahuara Viewpoint in Arequipa offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes, of Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. You can visit on your Arequipa walking tour and explore its colonial architecture and narrow cobblestone streets.

Yanahuara Viewpoint



Juanita, also known as the "Ice Maiden," is an exceptionally preserved mummy of a young girl from the Inca civilization. She was discovered on Mount Ampato, a volcano near Arequipa, Peru, in 1995 by an expedition led by Dr. Johan Reinhard, an American archaeologist. Juanita's discovery has provided valuable insights into Inca rituals and practices. After her discovery, Juanita was taken to the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa, where she underwent extensive scientific analysis and preservation. She was then put on display at the Museo Santuarios Andinos (Museum of Andean Sanctuaries) in Arequipa, which is dedicated to showcasing the artifacts and information related to Juanita and other archaeological findings from the region. At the museum, you can see Juanita herself, preserved in a specially designed refrigerated glass case to prevent decay.  You can observe her clothing, jewelry, and other personal belongings, providing a glimpse into the Inca society and their rituals surrounding human sacrifices. The museum also displays other artifacts related to the Inca civilization, including ceramics, textiles, tools, and religious offerings. 


Juanita, also known as "The Ice Maiden," is one of the most famous mummies discovered in Peru. She was found in 1995 on Mount Ampato, a dormant volcano in the Andes Mountains near Arequipa. You can visit Juanit on an Arequipa city tour.

Museo Santuarios Andinos

The Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is widely recognized as one of the deepest canyons in the world and offers breathtaking views and rich cultural experiences as well as the perfect opportunity to spot the giant Andean Condor. The Colca Canyon is situated in the Andes Mountains, approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa, and stretches across the Colca River valley, which is surrounded by rugged terrains and picturesque landscapes. The canyon's formation is attributed to the combined forces of tectonic activity and the erosive power of the Colca River. Over millions of years, the river has carved out the steep canyon walls, resulting in the stunning natural wonder that exists today. The exact measurements of the Colca Canyon can vary, but it reaches a depth of around 3,270 meters at its deepest point. In comparison, the famous Grand Canyon in the United States has a maximum depth of approximately 1,857 meters. The Colca Canyon is over twice as deep, making it a remarkable sight for visitors.


The Colca Canyon in Peru is one of the best places in the world to see the majestic Andean condor in its natural habitat. See this magnificent bird on a Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa.

Colca Canyon


The canyon is renowned for its awe-inspiring beauty, characterized by dramatic landscapes, terraced agricultural fields, and towering cliffs. The steep canyon walls are often adorned with pre-Inca agricultural terraces, known as "Andenes," which were built by indigenous cultures centuries ago for cultivation purposes. The Colca Canyon is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. Visitors can spot various birds, including the majestic Andean condor, which is one of the world's largest flying birds. Other wildlife commonly found in the area includes alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, and foxes. The Colca Canyon region is also rich in cultural heritage. It is inhabited by local communities that have preserved their traditional way of life for generations. Many of these communities still practice ancient agricultural techniques and maintain a close connection with the natural environment. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the local culture, interact with the locals, and witness traditional ceremonies and festivals.


Not only can you see the stunning Colca Canyon and impressive Andean condors. On an Arequipa to Colca Canyon tour, you can visit traditional villages that offer a glimpse into the rich culture and way of life of the Andean people. Head to Chivay, Cabanaconde, Yanque and Coporaque!

Colca Canyon Community


Arequipa stands as a captivating destination that showcases a wealth of architectural wonders, influenced by European styles, along with a diverse gastronomic heritage. Exploring the city's historic center, indulging in its culinary delights, and visiting iconic sites like the Santa Catalina Monastery and Colca Canyon are just a few highlights awaiting travelers who venture into this enchanting Peruvian city. Arequipa's unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty promises an unforgettable experience for all who visit. Ask for more information here!