Doesn’t take long to see why people think of Arequipa as the Disneyland of Peru. You won’t see rides or roller roasters and there definitely isn’t a log ride, but after taking a stroll through the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa you’ll feel it, especially in the evening as the sun is setting and the lights turn on and the castle turns a purplish hue. It’s the feel of being there, staring at the giant cathedral, that takes you back to one place: Disneyland. Here is why Arequipa really is the Disneyland of Peru.
The feel. The sights. The energy. All of it inspires the Disneyland comparisons. If you’ve ever seen the castle in Disneyland, which also lights up purple at night, then you will know what we’re talking about. The similarities are striking, and as you walk through the plaza, you realize that you’re in the presence of an even more remarkable cathedral—one that takes up an entire block in the plaza.
A main attraction of Disneyland is the chance of coming upon Mickey or Minnie Mouse, taking pictures of the kids. It is something that a child never forgets. Well, in Arequipa you’ll also find Mikey or Minnie Mouse walking around, hugging kids and taking pictures—and they aren’t the only dress-up characters that you’ll find. A figure of nights in Arequipa is the Predator, a menacing figure that Peruvians who visit the plaza have taken kindly to.
While there isn’t a log ride, there are plenty of mountains that you can climb up. The towering El Misit, a volcano that stands guarding the city, is a popular destination for hikers. It’s one long way up and one long way down, making it one of the easiest hikes in the world for its tremendous heights. You’ll also have a chance to see the gigantic Colca Canyon, the world’s second deepest canyon. If this doesn’t inspire wide-eyed, childlike wonderment then nothing else will. The amount of outdoor activities that you can do in Arequipa is overwhelming—the difficulty is deciding on what to actually do in your limited time.
When you walk around Disneyland you can’t help but notice the smiles. Everyone is wearing one, from ear to ear, and not just the kids—the same can be said of Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas. For kids the plaza is the ultimate playground, despite its evident lack of a playground. Kids instead run around wild with squirt guns and any new toy craze that the vendors around the park are selling. Recently fed pigeons are constantly fluttering to get away as children play with their new toys. At night, you’ll find light-up toys being tossed around and launched at unexpecting friends. The adults, too, share the joy of the park. The beauty of the gardens and surrounding white buildings will do that, no matter how old you are.