I didn’t know quite what to expect from Arequipa. I’d seen pictures and I was excited to see the super colourful Santa Catalina Monastery but what I didn’t realise is that Arequipa is a charming city that I could happily have explored for a few more days.
Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa is nicknamed Ciudad Blanca because of the white sillar volcanic rock that many of its buildings are made of. Unlike Cusco, Arequipa doesn’t have any Inca ruins for you to visit. Instead, it is its colonial architecture that earned its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
What to see
Santa Catalina Monastery (40 soles) should be number one on your list of places to visit in Arequipa. This 16th century convent is almost like a village within the city. You could easily get lost here, exploring the many quiet rooms that nuns used to live in. I loved the colours – red walls paired with green cacti and blue walls with red flowers.
Mundo Alpaca (free) is the place to learn about alpacas and llamas (and the difference between the two!). You will see both animals, as well as learn about their cousins and how their wool is dyed using natural ingredients and used to make gorgeous jumpers and tapestries.
Casa del Moral (free) is now a commercial bank but you can still wander around this 18th century mansion and enjoy its mestizo baroque style of architecture. Not the worst place use an ATM!
Iglesia de la Compania (free) is a small church with an intricately decorated facade. Worth a detour.
Mirador de Yanahuara (free) is located within walking distance of the city centre (roughly 25 minutes) and has a great view of Arequipa and El Misti volcano.
Museo Santuarios Andinos (20 soles) is where you can come face to face with Juanita, the frozen mummy of an Inca girl who was sacrificed in the 15th century. We didn’t have the time to visit but people say great things about this museum.
Go to San Camilo market (free) to see how the locals shop or to buy a few souvenirs. How many types of potato can you find?! Go to the top floor to try queso helado (literally ‘frozen cheese’), which is kind of like a vanilla flavoured shaved ice and is a speciality of Arequipa.
Where to eat
If you love food, Arequipa is the place for you!
Zig Zag is the place to try a juicy alpaca steak served on volcanic stone, although their fish, lamb and beef are also super tasty and perfectly cooked. Look out for the iron staircase – it was designed by Gustave Eiffel.
Crepisimo has a huge menu of crepes and is a great option for a quick lunch. I just had to try a cheese and avocado-filled crepe, yum! They make the crepes with cañihua, quinoa’s cousin.
Go to Chaqchao to enjoy some fine Peruvian chocolate from a balcony overlooking a pretty street.
Potato lovers, rejoice! Visit Hantunpa (Quechua for ‘big potato’) to try seven different types of potatoes with your choice of delicious topping. My friends went there and really enjoyed it (I was ill and didn’t eat that night, boo!).
Where to stay
We stayed at Dragonfly hostel which is central, quiet and affordable. We enjoyed the hammocks on the rooftop and the crepes for breakfast.
If you’re looking for more of a party hostel, Wild Rover is the place to be.
If you have a bigger budget, Katari Hotel looks AMAZING. Right on the main square, its breakfast view is hard to beat! Casa Andina Select is also super central with a beautiful view from its rooftop swimming pool.
Arequipa is also the best place to stop on your way to the Colca Canyon – if you love beautiful mountain landscapes you shouldn’t miss it. I’m going to write another post about our two days there so stay tuned!
Are you going to Arequipa? Let me know in the comments!