While we were planning our Peru itinerary, we thought of Arequipa as merely a base before and after our hiking trip to Colca Canyon (one of the deepest canyons in the world). How wrong we were! After spending 5 days in Arequipa, we were stunned by its beauty, energy and cultural heritage, and it quickly became one of our most favorite cities in South America.
Here are some things we loved about Arequipa, the most underrated city in Peru.
Arequipa is situated at the base of three snowcapped volcanoes, the most famous one being El Misti. Make sure you visit at least one of the multiple viewpoints (Miradores) scattered around the city to take in the amazing views (especially at sunset). For a viewpoint that is easily accessible from the city center, I can recommend Mirador de Yanahuara, located just a short ride or a 20-minute walk from the main plaza.
On our very first day exploring Arequipa, we went into a leather goods store asking for directions. One thing led to another and the shop owner, a native arequipeño, ended up giving us a walking tour around hidden alleyways and courtyards. Coming from a family of landowners, he told us interesting facts about the history and architecture of the colonial city center. It was such a memorable experience (and it’s all documented on our Arequipa vlog on Youtube)
So my tip is, don’t be afraid to talk to locals, they are welcoming, open, and proud of their city!
Mercado San Camilo
Peruvians know how to do fresh markets like no other country in South America and Arequipa wasn’t an exception. For a truly local shopping experience, head to Mercado San Camilo – a huge covered market with lots of fruits, vegetables, dried fruits and souvenirs. Don’t miss the corner with all the medicinal products and potions, it’s super interesting! If you’re there during lunchtime, you can grab a yummy lunch at the food stalls located upstairs.
One of the first things you will notice in Arequipa is the beautiful white buildings, which are built with a volcanic rock called Sillar. Many of the prominent buildings that have survived past earthquakes and are still standing today, showcase intricate engravings full of symbolic European and native motifs.
For a close look at the Sillar in its natural state (and some Instagram-worthy photo opportunities), consider visiting Canteras de Sillar, just 30min by car from the city center. We couldn’t make it this place during our stay so I suggest you reviews before heading there. If you’ve been there, let me know how you liked it in the comment section below!
High-quality Alpaca Wool
During our 4-month backpacking trip in South America, I refrained from buying stuff for obvious reasons (extra weight, no thank you). The only exception was a beautiful alpaca wool scarf I purchased at a store called Kuna Casona Santa Catalina. When they told me they supply to high-end European brands like Calvin Klein, I knew it was legit and probably the best quality you could find (for a fraction of the price you’d pay outside of Peru).
If you’d like to shop some wool items, I also recommend checking out Mundo Alpaca (bonus: you’ll get to see the cutest llamas & alpacas hanging out in the backyard of the premises).
San Lazaro Neighborhood
Besides exploring the city center of Arequipa, I highly suggest you visit San Lazaro neighborhood, a quaint colonial quarter with a noticeably different atmosphere. With narrow streets and low-rise houses, it gives you a glimpse of the Inca-influenced urban planning that remains to this day. Also, there are many hidden cafes and gastro pubs in this neighborhood waiting to be discovered.
The Food, oh the Food!
We had some of the best meals ever while we were in Arequipa. The food quality is definitely above average and offering so many creative fusion cuisine options.
One of the highlights was Japanese-Peruvian restaurant El Buda Profano, where we indulged in a vegan sushi tasting menu that made us forget about fish. Each of the (28!) sushi pieces was full flavor and meticulously put together. If you’re after some vegan/vegetarian options, I highly recommend this place!
I could keep talking about all the things we loved about Arequipa but I’ll leave you to it to discover them during your visit.
Where to Stay in Arequipa
We stayed at this Airbnb and would totally recommend it if you’re traveling on a budget. It’s located in a student neighborhood, just a short taxi ride away from the historic center (you can also walk 20-25min). It is a safe and lively area with plenty of dining options nearby.
The hostess, Claudia, is very responsive and helpful. A huge bonus was that she can always look after your belongings for a couple of days if you decide to make a trip to Colca Canyon.
❏ New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 USD off your first adventure! (invite link, not sponsored)
- Related post: Hiking Colca Canyon Without a Tour
Hope you enjoyed this post on the best things to do in Arequipa. As always, if you have any questions, leave me a comment or connect with me on Instagram (@inbetweenlattesblog)
Backpacking in South America? Check out these travel guides to help you plan your trip.
PERU TRAVEL GUIDES
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- 9 things to know before hiking Peru’s Colca Canyon without a tour
BOLIVIA TRAVEL GUIDES
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ARGENTINA TRAVEL GUIDES
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ECUADOR TRAVEL GUIDES
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