Best things to do in Arequipa

Arequipa, the iconic white city, is known for its architecture. Many buildings are built with white volcanic stone sourced from the nearby misti volcano. This beautiful city is the second-largest city in Peru and with an altitude of 2,400 meters (7,900 feet) it’s the perfect place to get acclimatized before heading to Cusco. The cities charm is enough to draw you in for a visit, but the surroundings also have some interesting activities. Here’s my little guide to all the best things to do in Arequipa.

What to do in Arequipa

1. Santa Catalina Monastery

Arequipa is filled with beautiful colonial buildings, but Santa Catalina Monastery is surely the most impressive.  You can easily spend two hours exploring the monastery as it’s quite large! Santa Catalina is one of the largest monasteries in the world and for hundreds of years over 400 nuns inhabited it. Nobody was allowed to enter, so the people had to wonder what happened inside those monastery walls. Finally, in 1970 it opened to the public. The walls inside are beautiful colors of red an blue and the many rooms show what life used to be like on the inside.

It is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. Entrance fee: 40 soles. (~ 12 USD) Tickets can be bought online or at the door. 

2. Mundo Alpaca

All around Peru you’ll find stores selling things made from Alpaca wool. If you’ve ever wondered how these things were produced, you can find out exactly how at Mundo Alpaca. They show the process from start to end. You’ll see how Alpaca’s are raised, the different types of wool they get from the Alpaca’s. llama’s, vicuña etc. and finally how the wool is transformed into a garment or handicraft. The entree is free.

3. Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Arequipas most important and most beautiful building is the famous Cathedral. It’s situated in the bustling main square of Arequipa.

4. Claustros de La Compañía

This is a beautifully preserved 18th-century cloister converted to a complex of shops & cafes. It’s a cute little stop to make when exploring the city. Have a drink it the courtyard or browse around the shops.

5. See the Misti Volcano from Yanahuara Viewpoint

Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the volcano when we were there. However, if you time it right, you’ll get a beautiful view of the Misti Volcano from here.

6. Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world. A trek through this canyon was one of the highlights of our trip through Peru. Even though the Colca Canyon is a 6 hour drive away from Arequipa, many people choose to visit it from this city, as there is not much else nearby. There are day tours, but this is not recommended as you’ll spend most of your time in a car. Much better is to take the bus there, take a day to acclimatize and do at least a 2 day trek.

7. Enjoy the sunset on a rooftop bar

At ‘La Terraza on the Top’ you have an incredible view of the cathedral with the setting sun. Try Peru’s famous Pisco Sour or have a coca tea to help with the altitude.

Where to stay in Arequipa

Casona Plaza Hotel Colonial: This hotel is simple, but close to the center and clean large rooms. The staff was extremely helpful when we needed help organizing some things and with storing our luggage when we went to the Colca Canyon.

Selina Arequipa: The Selina hostel might be the right place for you if you’re looking for a more social accommodation with a swimming pool. Keep in mind that they do organize parties every now and then and the evenings may be noisy.

Best restaurants in Arequipa

Pasta Canteen: Fresh pasta’s for an affordable price.

Masamama – Bakery & Mill:  One of the few places with good sourdough bread. Great breakfast spot!

Kao Thai and Peruvian Cuisine: Interesting mix of Thai and Peruvian dishes.

Zig Zag: Slightly more high end restaurant with traditional Peruvian dishes. Great service!

12 Monjas: We noticed this place, because there was always a line of people waiting in the evening. They serve simple bar food (nothing too special), but the vibe is great.

How to get to Arequipa

Huacachina to Arequipa

From Huacachina you can travel to Ica in 15 minutes by tuktuk or taxi. From Ica its another 13 hours by bus to Arequipa. Since its such a long distance, most people travel by night-bus with chairs that decline 160 degrees.

Nazca to Arequipa

From Nazca its a 10 hour bus journey to Arequipa. Because of the long distance, most people travel by night-bus with chairs that decline 160 degrees.

Lima to Arequipa

You can also fly from Lima to Arequipa, which is what we did, because of our limited amount of time in Peru.