Arequipa is one of Peru’s most beautiful cities. Composed mainly of chalky white volcanic rock, Arequipa’s squat and medieval looking buildings transport you back to Spain. The best thing you can do in Arequipa? Just walked around and soak up the uniquely Peruvian atmosphere in a uniquely European-feel setting.
#1 Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery
This monastery is often #1 on the list of attractions in Arequipa and for that reason, it’s touristy and can get busy but it’s really worth having a look- just come early. The monastery was founded in the 19th century, mainly admitting nuns from a wealthy Spanish background. Each family had to pay the equivalent of a whopping $150,000 for their daughter’s admission to the monastery. Clues in the size of the monastery and especially its kitchen, show that at its height it housed around 450 nuns.
Visiting the monastery feels like walking around a small town. The buildings are beautifully preserved and painted, the gardens perfectly groomed and fruit trees growing in every corner. Even the streets here have names. Make sure to seek out the intricately painted cloister and the guinea pig enclosure.
Where? Santa Catalina 301, Arequipa
How much? Entrance costs 40 sol (£9/ $12)
#2 Eat some of the best plant-based Japanese food this side of the Equator
Nikkei, Japanese and Peruvian fusion cuisine, is somewhat popular nowadays and if it all started with this little restaurant it would explain why it is so. I wanted to take a little break from Peruvian fare and this restaurant got recommended to me by a local. I’ve got to be honest, I was sceptical at first as excellent Asian food is difficult to come by in South America. El Buda Profano serves mainly sushi, gyoza, salads and soups in a quaint, cave-like setting and is 100% plant-based. All the food was freshly made, seasoned to perfection and perfectly cooked. If you’re looking for a break from Peruvian fare, this is the place to go.
Where? Calle Bolivar 425, Arequipa
How much? A meal for two with tea set us back about 70 soles (£16/ $21) It’s not cheap but really worth the extra money.
#3 Stroll around Plaza de Armas
Arequipa has one of the most beautiful main squares in Peru. Why not stroll around and admire the Cathedral that’s so big it takes up a whole block? You can also relax on the shaded benches, people watch and admire the chalky white architecture so unique to Arequipa. Do as the Peruvian’s do.. take a seat and let life flow by.
Where? Plaza de Armas, square, the main city square
How much? Free.
#4 Admire the volcanic views at sunset on a rooftop
Arequipa is almost entirely surrounded by volcanoes; Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chachani making it a perfect location for watching the sun go down amid these geological gems. If you’re already paying the entrance fee to the Cathedral then they have a spectacular rooftop, but don’t get too close to the bells. Alternatively, many hostels and hotels have their own rooftops, so grab your favourite ice cold beverage and a camera and watch the ending of another great day.
#5 Visit Juanita
The discovery of Juanita was the key to unlocking some of the most valuable history and beliefs of the Incan Empire. Juanita was a teenage girl who was supposedly sacrificed to the Incan gods in the 15th Century, mummified and buried in a tomb high on a mountain alongside some of her belongings. There she remained frozen until 1995 when the melting glacier exposed her body and allowed it to be found. However, due to having been frozen for so many years Juanita’s body is so well preserved that the detail is outstanding.
Visit the museum where she is housed and learn a valuable but brutal lesson in Incan culture.
Where? You can find Juanita in the Museo Santuarios Andinos, La Merced 110, Arequipa
How much? 20s (£4.50/ $6) per person. This includes a compulsory, multi-lingual guide who will take your round and explain the exhibits.
Where to Stay
Casona de Asis This hotel, located in the historical centre in made from the same white chalky stone that Arequipa is famous for. Rooms are spacious and clean, it’s really quiet and the staff are super friendly. Find it on Booking.com here.
Friendly AQP Hostel This family-run hostel is a great budget option, just 4 blocks from the main city square. It’s set in a really quiet part of the city, the staff are friendly and they even do banana pancakes for breakfast. Winner! Book it here.