Discover Arequipa: The White City’s Timeless Charm

In the shadow of Peru’s grand Andean peaks lies a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. Arequipa, known as the White City due to its stunning colonial architecture crafted from white volcanic stone, offers a wealth of experiences that beckon travelers from around the world. Join me as we explore the top ten reasons to discover Arequipa, a place where time seems to stand still and the spirit of the past gently whispers through the streets.

Arequipa Volcanoes
The Misti (right) & Chachani (left) Volcanoes rise ominously above the city of Arequipa, Peru. Pictured from the Puente Grau Bridge.

Discover Arequipa: The White City’s Timeless Charm

Ruta del Sillar Statue
A statue of a craftsman carved from the white sillar stone that Arequipa was created from.
  1. Majestic Colonial Architecture of Arequipa
  2. Santa Catalina Monastery
  3. El Misti Volcano
  4. Discover the Ice Maiden, Juanita
  5. Gastronomic Delights
  6. Explore the Ruta del Sillar
  7. The Mirador de Yanahuara
  8. Vibrant Markets
  9. Visit Mundo Alpaca
  10. Mysterious Colca Canyon

1. Majestic Colonial Architecture of Arequipa

Discover Arequipa at Sunset
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and the Misti Volcano rise above the Plaza de Armas at sunset.

The heart of Arequipa is its remarkable colonial architecture. Walk through the Plaza de Armas, where the grand Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa stands as a testament to Spanish influence, its twin towers reaching toward the sky. Constructed from the pearly sillar stone, these buildings glow with a mystical radiance, especially at sunset. Each edifice tells a story, preserving the elegance of a bygone era.

2. Santa Catalina Monastery

Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa, Peru.

Stepping into the Santa Catalina Monastery is like stepping back in time. This city within a city, founded in 1579, is a labyrinth of narrow streets, colorful walls, and serene courtyards. It offers a glimpse into the secluded lives of the nuns who once lived here, a quiet, contemplative world isolated from the bustling life outside its walls.

3. El Misti Volcano

Misti Volcano
The Misti Volcano rises beautifully above the city of Arequipa, Peru.

El Misti, is the most beautiful and imposing of Arequipa’s three volcanic guardians. Its conical mass looms majestically over the city. For the adventurous, a 2-day trek to its summit is an exhilarating experience, offering panoramic views of the surrounding Peruvian landscape. For others, simply admiring its symmetrical cone from afar provides a sense of awe and wonder, a reminder of nature’s grandeur.

4. Discover the Ice Maiden, Juanita

Ice Maiden
Photos are not allowed to be taken of Juanita but this is a scientific recreation of what she might have looked like.

The Museo Santuarios Andinos is a must-visit for anyone interested in the rich cultural heritage of Arequipa. The museum is home to the famous Ice Maiden, Juanita, a remarkably well-preserved Inca mummy discovered on the summit of the 20,630′ high Mount Ampato in 1995. She is believed to have been sacrificed to the mountain in the 1,400’s and her 12-year-old body was preserved by the deep cold of the extreme altitude for over 500 years. Her story, along with the artifacts and exhibits in the museum, offers profound insights into the rituals, beliefs, and daily lives of the ancient Inca civilization that inhabited the Arequipa region.

5. Discover Arequipa’s Gastronomic Delights

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is lit beautifully at night.

The culinary scene in Arequipa is nothing short of extraordinary. Traditional dishes like rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy pepper) and adobo (pork stew) tantalize the taste buds. Each meal is a celebration of local flavors, lovingly prepared and generously shared. Check out El Fuego De San Antonio for some of the best Peruvian dishes in the city. If you love Thai food as much as we do then you will want to check out Kao Thai with its unique Thai-infused take on Peruvian cuisine.

6. Explore the Ruta del Sillar

Canon Ruta del Sillar
I am a Canon guy so this statue was my favorite amongst the dozens found in the Ruta del Sillar quarry.

For a deeper understanding of the iconic architecture of the White City, a journey along the Ruta del Sillar is essential. This fascinating tour takes you to the quarries where the white sillar stone is extracted. You will learn about the geologic forces that created this gorgeous stone. You will see dozens of unique sculptures in the quarry and gain an appreciation for the craftsmanship and effort involved in creating Arequipa’s stunning buildings. It’s a journey through history, geology, and the artisanal skills that have shaped the city.

7. The Mirador de Yanahuara

Mirador de Yanahuara
The sun sets on the Pichu Pichu Volcano seen through one of the archways of the Mirador de Yanahuara.

The historic Yanahuara District offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Its charming streets are lined with white sillar stone arches, each inscribed with poetic verses. The Mirador de Yanahuara provides some of the best, unobstructed views of Areqquipa’s volcanic neighbors, Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. It is a perfect spot for reflection and to watch the sunset.

While you could take a taxi or Uber to the Yanahuara District, we suggest walking across the Puente Grau bridge which also has stunning views of the surrounding volcanic peaks and the Rio Chili. Then head north through Malecón Bolognesi Park above the river. If you are here near sunset there is a good chance you will be greeted by hundreds of noisy parakeets coming into roost in the park’s tall trees. When you’ve had enough of the parakeets deffeening noisy head up the Cta. del Àngel to the Mirador de Yanahuara.

8. Vibrant Markets

San Camilo Market
You must experience the San Camilo Market when out to discover Arequipa.

The markets of Arequipa are a sensory delight. San Camilo Market, in particular, is a bustling hive of activity where vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to local crafts. It’s a place where the everyday life of Arequipeños unfolds, vibrant and unfiltered, offering an authentic glimpse into the city’s soul.

9. Visit Mundo Alpaca

Jennifer gets to feed an Alpaca at Munco Alpaca in Arequipa, Peru.

A visit to Mundo Alpaca is a delightful experience that combines education, culture, and nature. This center provides a free in-depth look at the traditional methods of alpaca wool processing. You can observe the entire process from shearing to weaving. You even get a chance to interact with the gentle alpacas and explore the museum showcasing the exquisite garments. While Mundo Alpaca is free, many alpaca products are available for purchase at the end. A visit to Mundo Alpaca is an immersion into the rich textile heritage of Peru.

10. Mysterious Colca Canyon

Just a few hours from Arequipa lies the awe-inspiring Colca Canyon. With a depth of more than 11,000′ this is one of the deepest canyons in the world and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This natural wonder is home to soaring condors and offers breathtaking vistas and challenging hiking trails. Whether you spend 2 to 3 days exploring its depths or simply gazing upon its majesty, Colca Canyon is a testament to the raw, untamed natural beauty to be discovered in Peru.

Discover Arequipa

Discover Arequipa Peru
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In the end, Arequipa is more than just a city; it’s a living canvas of history, culture, and natural splendor. Each corner, each story, and each face contribute to a rich narrative that has been centuries in the making. To discover Arequipa is to step into this narrative, to become a part of its ongoing story, and to be forever touched by its timeless charm.

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