Formerly the capital of Peru, Arequipa is a beautiful place to visit thanks to its wonderful historic buildings and scenic location amidst three towering volcanoes. Often known as the ‘White City’, much of its historic center is built out of dazzling white rock that was quarried from the spectacular El Misti volcano and the colonial-era architecture is mesmerising for its beauty and artistry.
A popular tourist destination, Arequipa has a wealth of religious buildings for visitors to enjoy and its stunning cathedral and delightful convents and monasteries are among its many highlights. With wonderful scenery around it and an intoxicating mix of Spanish and mestizo culture on offer; Arequipa is a must visit city when in Peru.
Best Organized Tours
- Arequipa City Tour Including St Catherine Monastery · 15 reviews
- Arequipa to Colca Canyon Small-Group Full-Day Trip · 7 reviews
- 2-Day Group Tour to Colca Canyon from Arequipa to Puno · 6 reviews
- Arequipa Countryside and La Mansion del Fundador 4-Hour Tour · 6 reviews
Located around ten kilometers from the city center, La Mansion del Fundador is a delightful seventeenth century mansion which once belonged to the founder of Arequipa itself. Now a tourist attraction, the mansion has some wonderful furniture and paintings on show and wandering around the restored rooms offers up a fascinating glimpse into the past. The kitchen and chapel are the most interesting parts of the building and the gardens are peaceful and picturesque and perfectly fit in amongst the colonial-era architecture.
This historic water mill is well worth visiting as it offers up a glimpse into Arequipa’s past and its peaceful grounds are the perfect place to relax amidst the nature on offer and enjoy the stupendous views of El Misti off in the distance. Built all the way back in 1621, the mill has since been restored and its gleaming white walls stand out delightfully against the green of the countryside all around it. A picturesque and charming spot, the architecture of the mill is marvelous to behold and its verdant grounds are home to a vast array of cacti and succulents, and some local animals can be seen peacefully ambling about here and there.
Rebuilt several times over the centuries due to the damaging earthquakes that plague the region, the Monasterio de la Recoleta is now a museum and is just a short walk away from Plaza de Armas in the historic city center. The diverse collection of Amazonian artifacts, religious art, and ethnographic items is interesting to explore and the monastery itself is fantastic to wander around. Of particular interest is the stunning library which hosts over twenty thousand works and the beautiful cloisters that can be found here and there. For a great view of Arequipa and El Misti volcano, climb to the top of the bell tower and revel in the peace and quiet as you gaze out over the beautiful scene.
Built all the way back in 1710, the Convento de Santa Teresa is located in the historic center of the city and the wonderful colonial-era buildings now host a fantastic art collection. The museum is peaceful to wander around and the religious artworks and historical artifacts are delightful to peruse. There are also over three hundred paintings, textiles, sculptures, and murals for visitors to enjoy. A living institution, a number of nuns still reside in the convent and the architecture itself is beautiful to behold with the church and cloisters being particularly impressive.
Not far away from Arequipa is the marvelous Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve and it is definitely worth a visit if you want to explore some of the beautiful nature that surrounds the city. A diverse array of landscapes can be found in the reserve and visitors can enjoy wandering along remote paths that overlook lagoons, wetlands, plains, and of course the breathtaking volcanoes and mountains that dot the countryside. Animals and birds which are native to the Andes can be spotted here and there, and the splendid scenery needs to be seen to be believed. Among the many highlights are the beautiful Laguna de Salinas and the El Misti volcano that towers over its surroundings.
Located on one corner of the Plaza de Armas, the Iglesia de La Compania is a small yet elegant Jesuit church and is well worth visiting although it is often overlooked as people ogle instead at the grand Basilica that dominates the square. The mestizo Baroque facade is wonderful to gaze upon and the ornate carvings are full of fantastic details and motifs. Work on the church began in 1590 although it would take over a hundred years for it to be completed and as with many of the other buildings in the city, it is built out of dazzlingly white sillar volcano rock. The interior is just as stupendous and the gold leaf covered altar is just one of the many highlights on show.
A short walk away from the city center is the district of Yanahuara and from here there are amazing panoramas over Arequipa and the sunsets are particularly stunning as the buildings are painted in a mesmerising array of reds, yellows, and oranges. Yanahuara itself is a lovely neighborhood to walk around and it is home to some brilliantly white buildings, colonial-era churches and leafy plazas. The undoubted highlight is the fantastic view from the iconic arches and from here you can gaze out over the city and the far off El Misti volcano.
An enthralling thing to do in Arequipa, Mercado San Camilo is a bustling market, full of life and energy that offers up an authentic look at the city. The endless stalls are laden with wares and you can find anything from fresh fruit and artisanal products, to gruesome butchers’ stands and a barely credible variety of potatoes. There is an intoxicating atmosphere about the market and the abundance of bright colors threatens to be overwhelming. Trawling the aisles is great fun and Mercado San Camilo is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs or stop for a smoothie and watch the world go by.
Widely considered to be the best museum in the city, Museo Santuarios Andinos is fascinating to wander around and offers up an interesting look at the culture and history of human sacrifices. The main attraction on show is the remains of the ‘Ice Maiden’ who was sacrificed to the gods by the Incas all the way back in the fifteenth century. ‘Juanita,’ as she is known, was discovered by an expedition to the mountains in 1995 and the museum showcases a number of artifacts from the trip. Thanks to its famous ‘resident,’ the museum is now one of the main attractions in the city and the atmospheric galleries and exhibition rooms are well worth stopping by.
Lining one side of the beautiful Plaza de Armas is the magnificent Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa which towers over the square. The original building dates all the way back to 1656 but over the centuries was damaged by fire and destroyed by an earthquake. As such, much of the wonderful neoclassical building we see today dates to 1868 when the Basilica was last rebuilt, and it is the most important religious site in the city. Built out of the white volcanic rock that makes Arequipa so distinctive, the Basilica’s interior is just as stunning as its exterior as the marble columns from Italy lie alongside a pulpit from France and an organ from Belgium. This massive edifice is a must see when in Arequipa and will certainly impress visitors with its gorgeous facade, shimmering white stone and two imposing towers that look out over Plaza de Armas.
The main square in the city, Plaza de Armas, is breathtaking to behold and is widely considered to be one of, it not the, most beautiful plazas in the whole of South America. As such, it is a very popular haunt amongst tourists who invariably come away astounded at the beauty of the place. Bordered by impressive colonial-era buildings that are dazzlingly white due to the volcanic rock that they are built out of, Plaza de Armas is a delightful spot to spend some time.
There are lots of restaurants and cafes for locals and tourists alike to grab a bite to eat and simply enjoy the plaza. The undoubted highlight is the stunning Basilica which borders one side of the square and with the sheer amount of brilliant white buildings on show, it is easy to see why Arequipa is often called the ‘White City’.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, Santa Catalina Monastery is a simply mesmerising visit to place and is often described as a city within a city due to the wealth of buildings that clutter the complex. Full of color and beautiful flowers and plants, the small streets of the monastery are marvelous to wander around and the colonial-era architecture makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time and consequently it is a great place to take some photos.
Founded by a rich Spanish widow all the way back in 1579, the monastery still hosts an operational nunnery and is located in the historic center of Arequipa. Visitors can explore the chapels of the complex as well as the living quarters of the sisters themselves, and the cloisters are particularly remarkable to behold. A must-see when in Arequipa, Santa Catalina Monastery will astound visitors with its endless streets and peaceful, reflective ambience.