As Peru’s most beautiful city (sorry, Cusco), there are a plethora of exciting things to do in and around Arequipa. From coming face to face with an ice maiden, to wandering around a colorful monastery or spotting condors in a jaw-dropping canyon, here’s 10 things you mustn’t miss on your next trip to Arequipa.
Arguably the most grandiose plaza in Peru, Arequipa’s central square is guaranteed to impress. Set among leafy palm trees and flanked by stunning colonial churches, the Plaza de Armas is the true heart of Arequipa and the perfect vantage point to appreciate why it is known as the “White City.”
Towering over the plaza is the impressive 17th century city cathedral, Arequipa’s largest and most important church. Stretching the entire length of the plaza, this mammoth house of worship in largely built from sillar, a type of white volcanic rock that is common throughout the city center.
Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru +51 54 213149
A more modest although arguably more interesting church is Iglesia de la Compania, located on the opposite corner of the plaza. The beautifully carved facade of this elegant Jesuit church is the main attraction, a masterful display of the churrigueresque style of design which was first made famous by the beautiful churches of Seville.
If you were to check out just one colonial site in the city, this should be it. A town within a town, this expansive monastery is packed full of chapels, bedrooms and cooking quarters which provide a fascinating insight into the lives of devout catholic nuns back in the 16th century. Each new passageway is as cheery and colorful as the next, meaning the perfect photo op awaits on every corner.
For a different perspective of the city, head away from the center towards Yanahuara. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of colonial era churches and elegant archways surrounding a leafy plaza, all with unbeatable views of the majestic ice-capped volcanoes that encircle the city.
Plaza de Yanahuara, Cuesta del Ángel 513, Arequipa, Peru +51 54 253668
Welcome to the city’s premier museum, the final resting place of a local celebrity dubbed the “Ice Maiden.” Guided tours in English, Spanish or French shepherd visitors past a number of artifacts from a 1995 expedition that led to the discovery of the body of a 12 year old Inca girl who was sacrificed to the gods back in the 1450s. The finale is a close up view of the gruesome remains of “Juanita.”
Museo Santuarios Andinos, La Merced, Arequipa, Peru +51 54 215013
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With such majestic surroundings at every turn, it makes sense to take your time and soak up the glory of Peru’s most beautiful city. Meander between leafy plaza, stroll down the happening pedestrian thoroughfare known as Paseo Mercaderes, or just watch life slowly pass by in the city’s numerous hip cafés, bars, and restaurants.
The greatest attraction of the region is not some church built from volcanic stone. Rather, tourists flock to the region to admire the majestic condor in full flight, marveling as these massive flying beasts swoop right past onlookers in search of hot updrafts which allow them to effortlessly glide around the canyon. Although it is possible to visit in just one day, a combined Colca Canyon hike is the best option.
Peru’s answer to the Grand Canyon, Colca is one of the deepest canyons in the world at a staggering 3,270 meters (10,730 ft). Tours through the region last two to three days, depending on the amount of time spent hiking each day, and pass through breathtaking scenery as the glorious condor flies overhead.
Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Peru
Those with a serious adventurous streak should consider scaling El Misti, the ominous volcano that towers over the city. A strenuous two day ascent reaches heights of 5,822 m (19,101 ft), meaning proper acclimatization is of utmost importance.
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