Arequipa is a beautiful city in southern Peru, known for its colonial architecture, vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes. Here’s a more detailed and expanded guide on what to do in Arequipa:
1. Santa Catalina Monastery:
The Santa Catalina Monastery is not just a religious site; it’s a city within a city, encapsulating history and art. Founded in 1579, this sprawling complex is a maze of narrow streets, vibrant courtyards, and stunning architecture. Spend your time exploring the different sections, each with its unique charm. The Upper Cloisters showcase beautiful frescoes, while the Orange Tree Cloister is a peaceful retreat. Learn about the lives of the nuns who resided here and the monastery’s role in Arequipa’s history. Don’t miss the kitchen area, where large clay pots and traditional cooking utensils give insight into daily life.
2. Plaza de Armas:
The heart of Arequipa, Plaza de Armas, is a lively hub surrounded by architectural gems. Start your visit by admiring the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, an impressive structure with a mix of architectural styles. Join a guided tour to uncover the cathedral’s rich history and see its intricate chapels. Take a leisurely stroll around the plaza, appreciating the well-maintained gardens and the grand Archbishop’s Palace. As you absorb the ambiance, you’ll notice the significance of the square as a cultural and social focal point for locals.
Arequipa’s museums offer a fascinating journey through its past and present. The Museo Santuarios Andinos is a must-visit, housing the remarkably preserved Inca mummy “Juanita.” Delve into the scientific and cultural significance of this discovery, gaining insights into Inca rituals and sacrifices. The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Arequipa showcases a different aspect, displaying a vibrant collection of modern Peruvian art. Engage with local artists and understand the contemporary art scene in Arequipa.
4. Yanahuara and Carmen Alto Viewpoints:
Yanahuara, perched on a hill, provides breathtaking panoramic views of Arequipa and the surrounding volcanoes. The district’s charming architecture, characterized by white sillar stone buildings, adds to the visual appeal. Explore the San Juan Bautista Church, a colonial gem with a picturesque plaza. For a quieter experience, head to Carmen Alto, another viewpoint offering serene landscapes. Capture the essence of Arequipa’s natural beauty and gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s layout from these elevated vantage points.
5. Arequipa’s Culinary Scene:
Arequipa boasts a culinary identity that is as rich as its cultural heritage. Immerse yourself in the local flavors by trying signature dishes at traditional restaurants. Rocoto relleno, a spicy stuffed pepper dish, showcases the region’s love for bold flavors. Adobo, marinated pork, is a savory delight that reflects Arequipa’s gastronomic prowess. However, don’t miss the highlight – “chupe de camarones,” a hearty shrimp chowder that encapsulates the fusion of indigenous and Spanish culinary traditions. Visit San Camilo Market to witness the array of fresh produce and local ingredients that contribute to Arequipa’s unique dishes.
6. Sabandia Mill and Paucarpata:
Escape the bustling city and venture to the Sabandia Mill, a historic water mill surrounded by lush gardens. Take a guided tour to understand the mill’s role in Arequipa’s agricultural history and appreciate its well-preserved machinery. Wander through the gardens, filled with indigenous plants and flowers, creating a tranquil atmosphere. Nearby, the village of Paucarpata offers a glimpse into traditional rural life. Engage with locals, visit small artisan workshops, and explore the pre-Inca ruins of Puente de Fierro, showcasing the region’s ancient history.
7. Colca Canyon Excursion:
Arequipa’s proximity to Colca Canyon presents an unmissable opportunity for nature enthusiasts. Consider a day trip or a multi-day excursion to explore one of the world’s deepest canyons. The journey to Colca Canyon is an adventure in itself, with stunning landscapes and traditional Andean villages along the way. In Chivay and Yanque, experience the local culture, witness traditional dance performances, and indulge in local cuisine. The highlight is, of course, the awe-inspiring views of the canyon and the chance to spot Andean condors soaring in the thermals.
8. Chachani Volcano Trek:
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, embark on a trek to the Chachani Volcano. Various tour operators offer guided hikes that cater to different skill levels. The trek to Chachani not only provides a physical challenge but rewards hikers with unparalleled views of the surrounding landscapes. As you ascend, witness the changing ecosystems, from highland flora to rocky terrain. The summit offers a sense of accomplishment and a panoramic vista that encompasses the city of Arequipa and beyond.
9. Hot Springs:
After days of exploration, unwind in the natural hot springs of La Calera in Chivay. Nestled amidst the mountains, these thermal pools provide a therapeutic and relaxing experience. Soak in the warm waters while enjoying the surrounding scenery. It’s a perfect way to rejuvenate your body and mind, especially if you’ve indulged in trekking or other physical activities. Consider visiting the hot springs during the evening to witness the sunset against the mountain backdrop, creating a truly magical atmosphere.
10. Local Festivals:
Check the local calendar for festivals and events happening during your visit. Arequipa hosts vibrant celebrations throughout the year, each offering a unique cultural experience. The Festival of the Virgin of Chapi, for example, is a religious celebration with processions and traditional dances. The Anniversary of Arequipa in August brings the city alive with music, parades, and fireworks. Participate in these festivities to immerse yourself in the local culture, witness traditional rituals, and enjoy the lively atmosphere that defines Arequipa’s community spirit.
In conclusion, Arequipa is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and nature. Whether you’re exploring the cobblestone streets of Santa Catalina Monastery, savoring the flavors of local cuisine, or trekking to the summits of majestic volcanoes, Arequipa offers a diverse range of experiences. Take the time to connect with the locals, appreciate the architectural beauty, and soak in the natural wonders that make Arequipa a captivating destination.