Expert Review: Arequipa Peru
| Expert Advice
Arequipa is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru and travelers are realizing this as it’s becoming a top trending travel destination for its cuisine, beautiful architecture and surrounding Colca Canyon. This is a great tour to add to your Amazon River cruise or Cusco and Sacred Valley Tour. After a weekend in Arequipa, I have put together a little review of my favorite experiences in the White City.
What to do in Arequipa, Peru
1. Plaza de Armas
The main plaza is the heart of Arequipa, it’s located in the Historical Center of the city and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking around, you’ll feel like you are in an outdoor museum of the city’s Sillar architecture. Essentially the entire historic center is built in volcanic sillar rock. Everywhere you turn you’ll see European baroque decor, mixed with local influences. When standing in the center of the square, you can get an impressive view of Misti Volcano peaking over the cathedral.
2. Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Convent was built in 1579 and is made entirely out of Sillar Stone. It’s located in the historical center and still serves as a convent for a small group on nuns today. The entrance fee is 40 soles and it costs 10 soles to hire a guide. The tour is very informative and the history of Santa Catalina is quite fascinating. The nuns that lived in this convent came from very rich Spanish families, and many of them lived with up to 4 maids. Many women entered by family tradition, typically the second daughter had to serve a religious service. Once you entered the monastery (at age 12 or so), you were completely cut out from the outside world. At age 16 you were able to decide if you wanted to return to the outside world, or stay in the convent. Mostly because of family pressure, the girls stayed in the convent serving the church.
3. Walking the Cobble Stone Streets
Walking around the Historic City Center is how you really get to know the city. The cobble-stone streets of Arequipa are very charming. Taking a few hours to walk around will really give you a better feel for the city. There are many artisan shops along the way where you can shop for local handicrafts. Stop by one of the local cafes for a coffee, tea with anis liquor (traditional digestive drink) or craft beer. If you are feeling the altitude, you can ask for a Mate de Coca infusion for an energy boost.
4. Mundo Alpaca
In Mundo Alpaca you will get the full Alpaca experience. Learn about Alpaca wool, feed alpacas and see traditional weaving techniques in action. Here you can also buy high-end alpaca products. Guests are able to visit the Museum of Textile Machinery to see a live demonstrations of traditional fibre sorting techniques, traditional weaving and to learn about the process of making alpaca wool.
5. Iglesia de la Compañía
Built in 1590, this is one of the most impressive churches in Peru. Its Baroque architecture is beautiful and its facade is made out of Sillar Volcanic rock. The murals are very strange, filled with tropical figures mixed with warriors, angels and gargoyles. This cathedral is very similar to the Seville Cathedral in Spain.
6. The Sillar Route (Ruta de Sillar)
The Ruta de Sillar is a new destination becoming popular with tourists. It’s located about 30 minutes outside of Arequipa City. It’s the site of of the popular Sillar (type of volcanic rock). Here, local artisans come to work. They cut the sillar into bricks and sell them to locals. In order to draw in more tourists, local artisans started carving out arches, pillars and coats of arms into the walls, trying to replicate a mini “Petra.” It was interesting to learn about the Sillar volcanic rock and to see its “raw” form after seeing it all over the city. It costs 5 soles to enter the route.
7. San Camilo Market
If you are looking to learn about local produce, San Camilo market is the place to go. Here you can buy some of the local delicatessens like Paria Cheese, Manjar Blanco, Alfajores and Papaya jelly. There is also a section for natural medicine where you can shop for essential oils, medicinal plants and elixirs from the region. I recommend going to the market with a guide if you can. That way you can learn about the region's local produce. There are many fruits, vegetables and herbs that are very different from what you are used to back at home.
8. Yanahuara Scenic Viewpoint
The Yanahuara viewpoint is one of the best in the city. Here you will be able to see a clear view of the surrounding volcanos. Misti Volcano is the most impressive and is still an active volcano. The series of sillar arches at the viewpoint have written inscriptions from famous poets and writers. This little plaza is also home to one of the most important churches in the city, the Church of Saint John the Baptist.
9. Arequipeña Cuisine
On of the best reasons to visit Arequipa, is to taste the local cuisine. From Chupe de Camarones to Queso Helado, the city offers a wide range of flavors. We visited La Nueva Palomino for traditional dishes, Zig Zag Restaurant for fusion and the local market desserts and sweets. Las Gringas and Chaqchau Chocolate is also a great option for a quick lunch and coffee.
10. Hotels in Arequipa
While there are many hotel options in Arequipa, we ended up staying at Casa Andina for its price, quality and location. Casa Andina is a hotel chain that is all around Peru and they are always reliable, consistent and offer a fabulous stay. They also always have different style options depending on your budget (Casa Andina Standard, Select and Premium). The service is wonderful at the hotel and the best part is that the hotels are very centrally located. You are essentially walking distance away from all of the main tourist sites in Arequipa. We particularly enjoyed the view of Misti Volcano from the terrace. It was quite the sight to wake up to. The Casa Andina in the Plaza de Armas is absolutely beautiful. An expert tip is to have lunch or coffee on the terrace overlooking the plaza.
For more information about booking an Arequipa tour, please contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.