11 top-notch things to do in Arequipa, Peru’s White City

things to do in arequipa peru - churches

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Known as the White City, Arequipa has got to be one of Peru’s most beautiful destinations. Surrounded by mountains and steeped in history, Arequipa is a masterpiece in terms of architecture. It get its nickname from the fact that almost all buildings are made from white volcanic rock, called sillar. The centre of Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ll see indigenous and colonial cultures collide within the very walls of the city, so if you love cultural history, you’re going to have a bloody great time of it.

How to pronounce Arequipa: ah-reh-KEEP-ah

This post will take you through all of the best things to do in Arequipa, Peru, and a little on where to stay for either budget, comfort or extravagance at the end of the guide.

things to do in arequipa peru - churches

After you’ve finished reading about the things to do in Arequipa, Peru, check out these guides:

11 top things to do in Arequipa, Peru

1. Find a GOOD walking tour

Arequipa is absolutely full to the brim with history and culture, and getting a good baseline understanding early on in your trip is really important for appreciated all that you see around you. That’s why finding a decent walking tour is up there with the best things to do in Arequipa on your first day.

That being said, Arequipa is one of the few places in which we wouldn’t recommend the tip-based walking tour we took. The tour we went on, which met at Casona de Santa Catalina, was run by a man who seemed to doubt his own words, and didn’t have a huge amount interesting to say.

Disappointed that we may have made a poor choice of tour company despite thorough review-checking, we asked a few of our friends how their tours with other companies were, but it seems there are feelings of below average content and unenthusiastic guides across the board.

In contrast, this tour is one of the more well-reviewed options for city tours. It takes you to all the important spots in the city and fills you in on all the background you’ll need.

2. Spot condors in the Colca Canyon

One of the most famous things to do outside Arequipa is to visit the Colca Canyon. This can be a single or multi-day trip depending on how immersively you want to explore it/how much physical torture you fancy.

The canyon is the second-deepest in the world, and is home to a large community of the Andean condor, the largest bird in the Americas. Obviously there is no guarantee of catching sight of any when you visit the Colca Canyon, but if you happen to be so lucky, prepare to be well and truly wowed. Going earlier in the day gets you to the canyon at the time when the condors are most active.

The whistlestop 1-day tours takes you straight to a viewing platform in the Colca Canyon where the vistas are outstanding and condors are known to frequent. This particular one-day Colca Canyon tour also brings you back via natural thermal springs to relax before heading back to the city.

Multi-day tours will obviously give you a much deeper view of the canyon and all the live around it. You can expect to see traditional farmland, local villages and much more wildlife on this 3-day Colca Canyon tour, which takes you via the thermal baths and lets you spend time at the cooling Sangalle oasis, too.

3. Say hola to Juanita

In Museo Santuarios Andinos, you can see a mummified Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the gods (known as Momia Juanita, or the Inca Ice Maiden), perfectly preserved in her original clothes through hundreds of years of being frozen. Unfortunately she’s moved to another museum for preservation for a few months of the year, so check before you go in that she’s there.

You will get to watch a video for around 15 minutes before entering the main museum, which has both Spanish and English slots.

Note that this is one of the more expensive museums we’ve found in South America, and you have to leave cameras outside the exhibit in lockers.

4. Explore the religious history in Arequipa

Just walking around the centre, you’ll be able to see the many churches which were engraved with Inca influences in order to convince the indigenous people that Christianity was the way forward. Look closely, and you’ll find references to the Snake, Puma and Condor; Inca representation of the earthly present, the afterlife of the ancestors, and divine heaven of the Gods.

In Iglesia de la Compañia, there is even a painting of the last supper with a local twist – Jesus is depicted offering the Peruvian dish ‘chuy’ (roasted guinea pig) to his disciples.

things to do in arequipa peru - churches

And of course, there’s no missing the colossal Basilica Cathedral de Arequipa (below), which stands proudly along one side of La Plaza de Armas. One of the towers actually collapsed due to an earthquake and was reconstructed in 2002, but the building has managed to maintain its colonial beauty.

Made of volcanic stone, it is one of the main buildings that gives Arequipa the nickname ‘The White City’. 15 soles will get you entry and a guided tour (but no photos are allowed inside).

things to do in arequipa peru - churches plaza de armas

Santa Catalina Monastery is a splash of colour (below), and a lovely way to spend an afternoon. It’s a 16th century maze of living quarters, alleyways and gardens which transport you into an immersive view of how nuns have lived here for hundreds of years. The Monastery is still run by nuns, so remember to be respectful in terms of the noise you make and Insta-poses you strike.

Not had your fill of monastic goodness? Santa Teresa Monastery also offers tours of its 17th century beauty up in the Yanahuara district of Arequipa.

5. Take a hike

For the adventurers out there, add a hike to the summit of El Misti to your list of things to do in Arequipa. El Misti is the iconic mountain that looks over the city and has been believed by locals to have protected the area since the days of the Incas (they even made offerings of both the golden and human kinds). It’s best explored with a two-day guided trek so you can visit the two craters and see the incredible views at sunset.

At over 5,800m in altitude, try to tackle El Misti only once you’re acclimatised to the altitude and also when the sky is clear! Since we visited Arequipa during rainy season, we sadly never even caught sight of the mountain behind the clouds.

If you don’t want to do a whole hike to see El Misti, you can get some of the best views of the mountain from the arches of the Yanahuara district of Arequipa city.

Not quite done with your walking boots? Another hike from Arequipa is the Capua Waterfall hike, which takes you out into the canyon for an epic rush of agua.

6. Make friends at Alpaca World

No one should have to miss out on Alpaca World when visiting Arequipa, Peru. A short walk from the city centre, this is home to several different types of alpaca, which you can feed through the fence.

There is then a short museum where you can see the processing of wool, and watch a woman weave the wool in the traditional Peruvian way.

It’s not the world’s most riveting of things to do in Arequipa, but it’s free, so…

things to do in arequipa peru - alpaca world

7. Fill up on local delicacies

The white city is fullll of different foods to try, so cramming your face should definietly be on your plan of things to do ihn Arequipa. Don’t miss out on dishes like rocoto relleno (meat-stuffed spicy peppers), adobo (spicy pork stew), cuy (roasted guinea pig) and chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder).

One of the best places to stock up on these foods are small lunchtime restaurants called picanterías run by local families, or you can opt to be guided by a local on a food tour.

8. Feel fancy in the Plaza de Armas

Once you’ve ticked everything off your lost of local street food to try in Arequipa and want something a bit more posh, the most snazzy place to fill your stomachs is in one of the many bars and restaurants in the cloisters of the Plaza de Armas.

You will pay a little more for these, but the views in the evening are worth it. Most of the upper floor establishments don’t have a proper entrance, but they’ll have a member of staff with a menu trying to get you up the stairs; feel free to tell them you’ll just have a look upstairs before committing to staying.

things to do in Arequipa - eat at plaza de armas sunset architecture

9. Pump the adrenaline

Being in the middle of such an interesting landscape means there are plenty of things to do in Arequipa (or just outside it in the Chilina valley) for people who seek adrenaline rushes and activities to push their limits, such as rock-climbing and white-water rafting.

10. Lose yourself in the market

Though there are a number of markets in and around the centre, it’s Mercado San Camilo that takes the top spot for purse-opening things to do in Arequipa. Not only can you find souvenirs here, but also fresh fruit & veg, clothing and that all-important street food I mentioned earlier.

It’s built on top of the site of an old church (called San Camilo) that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1800s – quite a common theme in this part of Peru.

11. Get salty

About 2 hours from Arequipa, you can find the Salinas, salt lakes that look an awful lot like the Bolivian Salt Flats of Uyuni. Nearby are the Salinas hot springs and also a mirador you can hike to, all covered in this ‘ere small-group tour.

Where to stay in Arequipa


We stayed in 2 hostels in Arequipa, and one of them we will recommend until the cows come home. Le Foyer was clean, airy, spacious, and the staff were very attentive. The 4-course breakfast served in the rooftop bar certainly sealed the deal for us (dem views).

Since my sister met us in Arequipa, we were able to get a 3-bed room at a pretty reasonable price – less than $30 a night.

where to stay in arequipa - things to do in peru

The other hostel we stayed in, La Puerta del Sol, was decidedly less luxurious. We started off in a private twin room, which oddly had a huge window onto the main stairwell and not enough curtain to cover it.

We then asked to extend our stay by one day, and the woman at reception said that would be fine, however, the next morning we had a man barge into our room angrily telling us we’d missed check-out, and that the room had been booked by someone else overnight.

Instead, we were given spaces in a 6-bed dorm which was just an old converted cellar/storage room, and was dark, dank and cramped. One of our least enjoyable night’s sleep in Peru (but we’ll give that crown to Loki, Máncora). So yeah, this is more of a warning of this budget hostel option than a recommendation, if you can’t already tell.


La Hostería Boutique Hotel is a perfect little splash of colour in a brilliant local near to the action of Arequipa.

And for a bit more of a glampacker/digital nomad crowd, Selina Boutique Hotel is another great option to stay in Arequipa within a mid-range price bracket.


CIRQA, CIRQA, CIRQA! There’s really little better than Arequipa can offer as a place to stay. It’s bougie as all hell and well worth every penny, if you ask me. Exploring the chateaux during a stay here is one of the top things to do in Arequipa in itself! Dreamy!


Recommended stay to enjoy Arequipa: 3 days – more if you want to explore more of the longer tours & hikes.


Now you’ve finished reading about the best things to do in Arequipa, Peru, check out these posts:


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Last Updated on 18 April 2023 by Cuppa to Copa Travels

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