This Peruvian city is colorful, easy to explore on foot, and has a bit of a European feel — we're in love!
Arequipa is known for its white volcanic stone, sourced from the four volcanoes that surround the city and repurposed in so much of the iconic architecture around the city. It's the second largest city in Peru and oh so charming.
Visit Arequipa During Your Semester Abroad In Peru
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We've met so many people who have traveled all over Peru and had rave reviews about Arequipa, saying that they stayed here for a couple months and never got bored. We love that while you're in the city, most sites are within walking distance from the city center making Arequipa so easy to explore.
And there is so much to do in the surrounding canyons, from hiking Peru's version of the Grand Canyon to white water rafting and soaking in hot springs. A trip here means a perfect mix of city + the outdoors.
Here are some highlights you'll want to fit into your trip:
Plaza de Armas
In Latin America it's pretty common to find the city center being the heart of the city. It's a great spot to start your day exploring, especially in Arequipa where so many things you'll want to see are within walking distance from this central point.
In Arequipa, the main plaza was designed with every detail in mind. You'll find palm trees and flowers, a fountain, and arches.
Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
The first thing you'll notice at the Plaza de Armas is the towering white catholic church, the Basilica Cathedral. It's considered the most sacred church in Arequipa ... and even one of the most beautiful in the country.
Visiting the cathedral is free, but there is a small fee to visit the museum.
Find it on Google Maps.
Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Monastery is a renowned religious complex and a photographer's dream! This historic monastery is known for its vibrant colors and offers a glimpse into the city's colonial past. You'll absolutely want to come wander under the arches and admire the painted walls.
Make sure to block off at least a couple of hours so that you don't feel rushed wandering the monastery grounds.
Learn a bit more about Peruvian culture by stopping by this textile museum. You can take a tour to get to meet some alpacas — learn how they are raised and how their fibers are repurposed into handicrafts and textiles.
It's free to visit and you might even get an opportunity to feed the alpacas. And don't forget to visit the shop where you can purchase some items of your own. It's conveniently located in the city center (and also within walking distance from the Santa Catalina Monastery), so you're bound to be in the area while you're exploring the city.
Yanahuara is a quiet little neighborhood with cobblestone pathways and narrow streets. We highly recommend that you set some time aside to come wander this area because not only is it so charming, but you can get some of the best views in the city here.
One of the main pulls to the Yanahuara district is the scenic viewpoint that overlooks the city and the surrounding volcanos. If you can time it right, it's a nice spot to watch the sun go down!
It's about a 20-30 minute walk from the city center, but we think it's worth it. A lot of travelers even prefer to book their stay out in this part of town, and then walk into the city center for the day. You'll find the Yanahuara viewpoint right in front of a park and next to the church San Juan Bautista. Find the scenic viewpoint on Google Maps.
Try a walking tour! Not only is it a better way to learn more about the city and see things you might not have found on your own, but it's a great way to support locals. It's free to join a tour, but you're encouraged to tip your guide.
Day Trip Tours
Escape the city for a day of hiking! There's great hiking just outside of Arequipa and it's easy to find 1 day (or even multi day) hiking tours. If you can have time for one hike, let it be Colca Canyon. Think the Grand Canyon, but even deeper!
Rafting, Hot Springs + More
Along with great hiking in the canyon, this area is ripe with so much to do. You could spend one day of your trip in the city and the next out enjoying hot springs and thermal baths, rafting the river, or walk through the "White City" filled with incredibly detailed stone carvings.
Find all kinds of surrounding Arequipa tours here.
Planning Your Trip To Arequipa
Arequipa is a major city in the southern end of Peru so while it's not off the beaten path by any means, there is quite a bit of ground to cover to get down in this part of the country.
Flights: There's a direct flight from Lima to Arequipa that will get you here in 1.5 hours. It's pretty affordable too (typically around $150 USD roundtrip).
Bus: It is possible to catch the bus down here but just know that the ride is 14 hours from Paracas. This option will save you a bit of money since the tickets are around $40 USD each way, but you're also spending so much time in transit.
There is no shortage of really, really affordable hostels here which is good news for us budget travelers! Here are a few with good reviews to get your search started.
There are some affordable Airbnb stays in Arequipa as well which can be good for a larger group. There are some great options in the Yanahuara district if you'd rather stay in that neighborhood.
See Arequipa While You Volunteer In Peru!
International Language Programs (ILP) has opportunities for college-age volunteers to live abroad with other volunteers — you'll give back by spending time with local kids and really get to immerse yourself into the culture. There are programs all over the world, but we're really excited about our volunteer program in Peru! Learn more by clicking the button below.