Each year, thousands of tourists arrive in Lima and fly to Cusco for Incan ruins and, of course, Machu Picchu—but if that’s all you do in Peru then you’re missing out on perhaps its best city, Arequipa. It straddles the line between Cusco’s rich history and the modernity of urban Lima, giving you the best of both worlds in one place.
Outside Arequipa you’ll get a chance to see pre-Incan cave paintings in the Sumbay caves. These mysterious white drawings in the desert are sure to amaze and make for a perfect day trip.
This canyon makes the Grand Canyon look like child’s play. Twice as deep, it’ll take more than a couple of days to explore. You can take hikes into the giant canyon or enjoy the view from the top—whichever you choose, it’ll be awesomeness guaranteed.
Outside of Lima, there’s no better museum city in Peru than Arequipa. Museo Santuarios Andinos is a must-see with its frozen Inca girl dating back to the 1450s. Take a day to enjoy all the quality museums in Arequipa.
This colonial building stands out among the crowded field of beautiful colonial architecture in Peru. It was founded in 1580 and takes up an entire block, making it quite the event to explore, and more than worth your time.
You want to hike up towering volcanoes? Arequipa is your city. El Misti looms over the city and makes for great multi-day treks—come on, how many people can say that they’ve climbed to the top of a giant volcano?
For the adrenaline lovers among us, you can head to quality rapids and put your gumption to the test. Peru is home to world-class rapids, and when in Arequipa, you won’t have to go far to experience them.
Mountain biking lovers will have days of fun going up and down Canyon Colca, especially those who love downhill biking. Once you tread all over Colca, you can ride along Arequipa’s rivers or head to El Valle de los Volcanes.
Some of Peru’s most famous dishes, such as rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), ocopa
(potatoes in a creamy, spicy sauce) and chupe de camarones, come from Arequipa. You’ll also find ceviche and cuy (guinea pig) done to perfection. Lima may get all the credit as Peru’s gastronomical center, but Arequipa is a close number two.
Peru is certainly not short on stunning architecture in its main plazas, and Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas may be the finest—which is saying a lot. The square is anchored by a beautiful church and surrounded by white buildings, with volcanoes in the backdrop.
For city lovers, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest, just behind Lima. While it’s large and urban with plenty of entertainment options, Arequipa keeps its traditional roots and Incan history. Arequipa is the perfect blend of Cusco and Lima.
While Cusco may get all the attention for its alpaca products, Arequipa may actually give you better options. If you don’t want to buy anything in Cusco or don’t have the time, wait until Arequipa. You’ll find everything Cusco’s got and more, and most likely for a cheaper price. All alpaca products pass through Arequipa before they’re shipped out to the rest of Peru, so finding deals is easy.
For more adventures in Peru, check out Intrepid’s range of trips here.