After Cuzco, the favorite town in Peru for travelers and the second most important city after Lima, Arequipa is a magical town in the southern part of Peru. It´s at 2380 meters above sea level and surrounded by three big volcanoes. The city is also called the ´white city´ because the majority of the buildings in the old center are build of white stones. Arequipa is a great example of the mixture between indigenous and Spanish colonial culture and the center of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage. All around the center can you find churches and ancient houses that are turned into living museums. Here is our top 5 of things to do in and around this beautiful city.
The city center has been declared UNESCO World Heritage site and it is understandable why they call it the ´white city´. With beautiful white buildings of over 400 years old, the city center of Arequipa feels like another world. The main square of the city is La Plaza de Armas. From here you can walk around the center and gaze at the almost 250 colonial buildings. Most of them have been taken into use again and now serve as restaurants, banks, stores, etc. This way it feels like walking around in a living museum which makes the city even more alive than it already is. The Convent of Santa Catalina is the building that is most visited in the city center. It is a nice place with many colors, flowers and little streets and conveniently close to the Main Square. Most churches in the city center are actually in use during the day. You can of course still visit, but be sure to be respectful of the services going on and respect the no-picture policy. Some of the nicest churches around are the Compania, San Francisco, La Merced and the Cathedral.
San Camilo Market
This market is located in the center of the city and is the oldest market of Arequipa. Daytime. During the day you can find many little restaurants inside the market which are very popular with the locals. It is here that you can find the most authentic typical Arequipan cuisine. There are also many juice bars. It´s great for picture taking, though, as always, ask before you take a picture of somebody, especially elderly or children.
Walk the bridges
Strange but true, Arequipa has beautiful bridges. The nicest one is the Puente Bolognesi. It´s close to the main square and you can right away visit the Tambos. These are ancient houses that are rebuilt by the city government. Also, if you´re lucky you will have breathtaking views of the El Misti and Chachani volcanoes. Another one is the Puente Fierro, an iron bridge designed by Mister Eiffel himself. This one is great to do around 4-5 pm, just before sun sets, because you can get some great pictures from the volcanoes and the city of Arequipa. It is about 15 minutes walking from the main square.
Enjoy the Arequipan Cuisine
Because of the proximity of Arequipa to the sea and the location in the altiplano, the local cuisine gives you the best of both. It´s a great place to try Peruvian seafood, ceviche or river shrimps. But also the cuy (guinea pig), alpaca (family of the lama) meat. The local restaurants in Arequipa are called Picanterias. Generally, they love soups and spicy food. Basically every meal will come with a soup. If you would like to learn how to cook traditional Arequipan food yourself, Chaska Tours can arrange cooking courses for you.
Climb the volcanoes
Around Arequipa you can find two big volcanoes: El Misti (5822m) & Chachani (over 6000 meters). The most common way to climb is the El Misti. Though it´s lower in altitude, the climb is harder and quite steep. For the Misti, no special equipment is required for there is no snow nor ice. For the Chachani, you need crampons and an ice axe for there is ice and snow on top. However, the Chachani is considered one of the easiest 6000 meter peaks in the world. Tours can be arranged for you by Chaska Tours.