There are parts of Arequipa that I won’t talk about…
When I took 9 other people to Peru, I wanted to make sure Arequipa was on the itinerary. I wanted to make sure we had enough time to relax and enjoy the second largest city in Peru…. and thank god that we had that time because almost everyone got sick at this point in our trip. I will spare you the details but I will leave you some nuggets of wisdom: eat probiotics before you travel, don’t drink the water, and pack some pepto. Besides a handful of people being sick, everyone was a trooper and we still had a great time in this beautiful city.
We arrived early in the morning on a Cruz del Sur bus, traveling 12 hours from Huacachina (read about our stay in Huacachina here) and we checked in to our hostel, Home Sweet Home. When you travel to Arequipa, I recommend making sure your lodging is close to the city center. We were able to walk everywhere, and it made things very convenient.
We did a lot of exploring in this giant city. But the following 4 things are the main things that stuck out, and what I recommend everyone to do while staying in Arequipa:
Spend time in Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is just a real fun way to say “city square”. Every city we visited in Peru had a Plaza de Armas, and they all were beautiful. So when you visit Arequipa, make sure you visit this city square. Make friends with the pigeons, and visit during the evening. The buildings are absolutely beautiful when they are lit up at night, and the atmosphere is perfect (also get ice cream… where ever and whenever you find it).
Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery
Located not far from the Plaza de Armas, this monastery is a photographer’s dream. This breathtaking place was build in 1579, and has amazing colors and architecture all throughout. If you are lucky (like we were) there won’t be too many people here, so you should be able to enjoy things leisurely. Make sure you climb the large building with the dome on top of it to enjoy a roof top view over Arequipa.
Shop at the San Camilo Market
…but watch your pockets (our friend got pick pocketed outside of the market). Even if you aren’t a big shopper, this is an awesome market to visit. The colors of the fruit, fabrics and flowers is worth the trip. Its an 8 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas: exit the main square via Calle San Francisco, turn left on Consuelo and walk 2.5 blocks and you’ll see entrances to the market.
Take a day tour to Colca Canyon
This was, by far, one of the highlights of our entire stay in Peru. Colca Canyon is said to be one of the deepest canyons in the world, twice as deep at the Grand Canyon. The landscape was as awesome as you would expect it to be. We booked our tour through our hostel and it cost $18 per person for the entire day. We were picked up from our hostel at 2:30 am, followed by a 3 hour bus ride to Colca Canyon.
The entire day was amazing, but the most memorable part for me was when we visited the Mirador Cruz del Condor. The Andean condor is a large species of bird that was almost gone forever due to over hunting. In the last few years, conservation efforts have brought the population back and there are now about 80 Andean condors living at Colca Canyon. We were lucky enough to see 10 of these condors (I even got pooped on by one as it swooped down over my head). We watched in silence as these huge birds soared around the most beautiful backdrop you could ever imagine.
After being mesmorized for an hour, we continued our tour. We got to see alpaca, llamas, and vicuñas off in the distance. If you visit Arequipa without planning on seeing Colca Canyon, you’re doing it wrong.
There is, of course, so many other things to do while staying in Arequipa. However, if you find yourself with little time, I encourage you to make sure you do these four things in the small amount of time you do have.
If you are wondering how to fit Arequipa into a Peru trip, make sure to read my blog on my full Peru budget and itinerary for 14 days in this wonderful country.
Till next time 🙂