The city of Arequipa will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my home in Peru for a long period of time as I ventured off to other parts of South America in between visits. Beyond being Peru’s second largest city next to Lima, it is also unarguably the most attractive. The city is built almost entirely from a type of cement taken from the volcanoes know as Silar. It is a chalk white colour and the main reason that the city is known to many as the “white city.” However, the city isn’t all white, as many have painted over the chalk exterior in full colours of red, blue, yellow, and basically any other colour you can imagine. Arequipa’s main plaza is perhaps the most beautiful in South America and sights like the Santa Catalina Covenant and visits to see Juanita the Ice Princess make this city a hit among tourists.
Many simply use Arequipa as a base for excursions into the Colca Canyon but the city is so much more than that, as those who spend time here soon find out.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Budget Needed: 35-40US$ a day
Getting in or Out of Town
Arequipa is the hub of Southern Peru, as such you can basically get anywhere by land. You’ll find that travel in Peru via air for foreigners isn’t very cost effective. A quick flight comparison will tell you that although there are plenty of flights within Peru, most are overpriced. You can fly from Arequipa to Lima, Trujillo, Juliaca (Lake Titicaca), Cusco, and many more places. There are also often flights to Arica, Chile and some other internation destinations for Arequipa.
Bus destinations are as follows:
- Lima (13-15 hours) is between 15-30US$ depending on the class. Most take this trip during the night.
- Nazca (8-9 hours) buses on their way to Lima stop in Nazca and cost about 10-25$
- Ica (10-11hours) is just past Nazca you can get off in Ica which is the jumping off point for Huacachina
- Cusco (9 hours) is a popular travel route so be sure to book in advance. The cost is between 20 and 30 US$
- Puno (6 hours) on Lake Titicaca is about 10-20US$ and buses run very regularly
- Chivay (3 hours; 4US$) is the base for most in the Colca canyon. If you want to head further in you’ll go to Cabanaconde which is two hours and 2US$ farther.
- Getting to Chile: To get to Chile you’ll need to catch the bus to Tacna (6 hours; 15$) and then take shared taxis to Arica.
- Getting to Bolivia: There are direct buses to La Paz daily. It takes 12 hours and costs about 35$.
Things to do in Arequipa
- Santa Catalina: This is Arequipa’s must see. It is an old painted monastery famous for the poor behaviour of the nuns that occupied it. It is as beautiful as it is interesting and well worth the price of admission
- Plaza de Armas: Especially at night the plaza is impressive. The Cathedral is worth a look inside and there are some great restaurants around the edges
- Juanita the Ice Princess: They have actually now found a second princess caked in the glaciers of the nearby mountains so Juanita is alternated with her sister. This is creepy, but it is also impressive to see this young girl seemingly frozen in time. You can find her at the Museo Santury
- El Molino: On the outskirts of town El Molino is an interesting place to visit. It is an old estate and you can also take part in activities like horseback riding.
- The Colca Canyon: This is the starting off point for most Colca Canyon excursions, but for more info visit the Colca Canyon guide (coming soon).
Where to Eat
- La Italia: On Calle San Francisco this place doesn’t just serve Italian but actually offers three different types of food. Try the Alpaca Tornado or the guinea pig. (Mains around 8-15us$)
- Fory Fay: This is one of the best places to get ceviche in the city, although you’ll certainly pay for it. You’ll find it on Calle Alvarez Thomas (Mains around 12US$)
- Bruno’s Pizza: Bruno’s has a number of locations around the city but the best one is famed to be on Calle Jeruselen. Whenever I’m in town I stop in and get my pizza fill here. (Pizzas 5-12US$).
- El Turko: If you’re craving Middle-Eastern food this little place on San Francisco does very well. It is a popular spot among backpackers and expats (meals 5-8US$).
Where to Stay
- The Point Hostel: Maybe the most popular hostel chain in Peru the Point always seems to bring a bit of a party crowd with it. In Arequipa they are located on Avenida Lima and run about 7-8US$ a night for a dorm.
- La Casa de mi Abuela: If you’re looking for a nice little hotel with a great atmosphere look no further. La Casa de mi Abuela is popular among tour groups which is always a good sign. There is a huge courtyard, swimming pool, on site restaurant and bar, and a beautiful included breakfast. Single rooms are around 30US$.
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