With a long list of stunning cities and towns scattered throughout South America, it may be an underdog, and lesser known city like Arequipa in the south of Peru that will win your heart as the most enchanting city you will visit in Latin America, maybe ever.
Many city centers in Latin America will bear the name Plaza de Armas, whose literal translation is ‘Weapons Square.’ However, none will be able to compete with the sheer beauty of the center of Arequipa. In the morning, the rising sunlight shines through the pink clouds and speckles off the center fountain, and Basilica Catedral which is the highlight of Arequipa.
Sunset At The Plaza De Armas
At night, the archways that surround the Plaza de Armas, as well as the cathedral itself, all light up in a gorgeous glow which attracts locals and travelers to sit on the benches and enjoy the few remaining hours of the day.
No true South American city is complete without a local market, and no trip to Arequipa is complete without a trip to San Camilo Market. Located only four blocks southwest from the Plaza de Armas in the center of Arequipa, San Camilo Market will allow you to find anything you are looking for, whether necessities you forgot to bring on your travels, or a souvenir to take back home, and give you a chance to eat and shop where the Arequipeños do.
Similar to how the Basilica Catedral overlooks the center of Arequipa, the looming volcano of ‘El Misti’ sits in the backdrop to the north of Arequipa overlooking the whole city as if to protect it. You can do day trips and treks to conquer the volcano, and gain an incredible view of the surrounding area and city itself.
In almost European fashion, the street known simply as ‘Mercaderes’ runs perpendicular to the northeast corner of the Plaza de Armas and offers wanderers the ability to stroll on a pedestrian-only promenade with restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and always some entertaining street performances as soon as the sun sets.
Ranking as the second deepest canyon in the world, and providing some of the most breathtaking scenery in Peru, it comes as no surprise that the Colca Canyon is one of the highlights of visiting Arequipa. Jagged cliffs, open fields, gushing rivers, and constant wildlife, spending a night or two outside of the city and in the surrounding wilderness will make you fall in love with this area even more.
The historical beauty of Arequipa does not simply remain in the Plaza de Armas. Towards the west, across the Chili River, is a neighborhood known as Yanahuara, where you can enjoy the colonial beauty you have come to expect from Arequipa, but without the crowds. Sit under the archways and get a view of the city, river and El Misti lurking in the distance.
Continuing with the trend of searching for peace and quiet, Parque Selva Alegra, at the north of the city, will make you feel as if you have left Arequipa altogether. Catch your breath while enjoying the very well kept grounds, beautiful flower arrangements, few water works, and even some wandering llamas.
It will be a challenge to leave Peru without some sort of souvenir, and those chances diminish even more when you see the top quality of alpaca clothing and Peruvian jewelry available on almost any street corner. To get the best selection, walk up to Parque San Francisco and pass through the Artisanal Market and grab something you know no one back home will have.
Want to see where your brand new sweater came from? Take a free and very educational tour to Mundo Alpaca. Feed llamas, learn about the different types of fiber from the different breeds of animal and how different elevation creates different density, including some fibers softer and more expensive than cashmere. You can see the old way of weaving with some of the traditional weavers on site as well as the machines used in the early 1900s from North America and Europe.
Take a step back in time and visit the roughly 215,000 square foot Santa Catalina Monastery. Inside the towering walls you can find the beautiful grounds in pristine condition, painted in bright colors that still contain a number of nuns living on the property.
Arequipa oozes historical significance and amazing stories, none more so than the story of Juanita, the “Inca Ice Maiden.” Killed as an “offering” to the gods, this well preserved frozen body of a 12- to 15-year-old girl provides a spooky insight to the way the world was when the beautiful architecture throughout Arequipa was being constructed.
Peru is quickly gaining attention on a global stage not only as a culinary leader in South America, but closing the gap on the world powerhouses like France and Italy. The country that created ceviche has so much more to offer than simply fish dishes, so let Arequipa showcase that to you with many mouth watering restaurants for a great price point.
Arequipa is not known as a party town, yet you are guaranteed to have fun as soon as the sun sets. Casual and traditional Peruvian bars, German beer gardens, relaxing lounges, and of course, as everywhere, an Irish bar ensures no matter what you like your Saturday night to entail, you will find it in Arequipa.