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Arequipa Highlights

Top-Rated Tourist Highlights of Arequipa

Nestled in the heart of southern Peru, Arequipa is a captivating city that beckons travelers with its rich history, stunning architecture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Known as the “White City” due to the distinctive volcanic stone used in its construction, Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers visitors an unforgettable experience.

With its stunning architecture, rich history, and vibrant culture, Arequipa has something to offer everyone.

The Historic City Center

Plaza de Armas

At the heart of Arequipa lies the Plaza de Armas, a grand square surrounded by elegant colonial buildings and the iconic Cathedral. This bustling hub is the perfect starting point for your exploration of the city. Take a moment to admire the intricate facade of the Cathedral, which combines Renaissance and Neoclassical styles, and houses priceless works of art and a renowned 19th-century Belgian organ.

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is a stunning example of colonial architecture. Its construction began in 1621 and took nearly a century to complete. The cathedral’s interior is adorned with exquisite frescoes, paintings, and a magnificent altar made of Italian marble. Climb to the top of the cathedral’s tower for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding volcanoes.

Monastery of Santa Catalina

Step back in time as you enter the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a 16th-century complex that once housed cloistered nuns. This vast citadel spans over 20,000 square meters and features a labyrinth of narrow streets, plazas, and colorful buildings.

Cloister of the Society of Jesus - Arequipa, Peru.

This walled complex has been home to nuns since 1580 and offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these devout women. Wander through the narrow streets and explore the Colonial paintings, wood carvings, and artifacts that tell the story of the monastery’s long history.

Founded in 1580, Santa Catalina Monestery was during its first 300 years a refuge for unmarried daughters of wealthy Spanish families who paid a dowry for inclusion into the Catholic order. But instead of keeping to vows of poverty, these nuns kept servants and slaves and lived lavish lifestyles.

In 1871, the Pope sent Sister Josefa Cadena to put things right, which she did by sending most of the daughters of nobility back to Spain, setting the slaves and servants free and giving them the choice of staying on as nuns. The walled-in convent, covering an area of more than 35,311 square yards (29,426m2), was opened to the public in 1970. Since then, visitors have been able to stroll through the streets and cloisters and appreciate this masterpiece of colonial architecture.

The convent houses some of the finest examples of Spanish American religious art.

La Recoleta Monastery

Built by the Franciscans in 1647, contains several cloisters, a huge library of more than 20,000 rare books, museums covering religious art, the Amazon and Pre-Columbian artifacts.

Museums and Cultural Attractions

Andean Sanctuaries Museum

Contains the remains of several mummies, most notably “Juanita,” a teenager who was ritually sacrificed to the Inca mountain deity Ampato and buried in the snow on the mountain at about 19,800 feet (6,000m). Her perfectly preserved body was discovered tightly wrapped in richly patterned fabric in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and Peruvian mountain climber Miguel Zárate.

Delve into the fascinating world of Inca and pre-Inca cultures at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum. This museum is home to the famous Ice Maiden, also known as Juanita, a well-preserved mummy discovered on the summit of Mount Ampato. The exhibits showcase the rich history and spiritual practices of the ancient Andean civilizations.

Museum of Contemporary Art

For a glimpse into Arequipa’s thriving art scene, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. This museum features a diverse collection of works by local and national artists, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Don’t miss the stunning pieces by the renowned Vargas brothers, who have captured the essence of Peruvian culture through their art.

San Camilo Market

You can experience the vibrant local culture at San Camilo Market, a bustling marketplace where you can find everything from fresh produce and traditional textiles to handcrafted souvenirs. Sample exotic fruits, try delicious street food, and interact with friendly vendors who are eager to share their stories and knowledge.

Natural Wonders and Outdoor Adventures

Colca Canyon

Embark on a breathtaking journey to Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. This natural wonder is home to soaring condors, terraced agricultural fields, and charming colonial villages. Take a hike along the canyon’s rim, soak in hot springs, or simply marvel at the awe-inspiring landscapes that surround you.

Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve

Discover the unique beauty of the Andean highlands at Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve. This protected area encompasses towering volcanoes, shimmering salt flats, and pristine lakes. Keep an eye out for the reserve’s diverse wildlife, including vicuñas, Andean flamingos, and parihuanas.

Misti Volcano

The Misti Volcano, Arequipa.

“El Misti” is located at an altitude of 19,108 feet (5,825 m.a.s.l.) near the city of Arequipa, at the foot of the Chili Valley, in southern Peru, and is part of the Andean mountain range. It was famous for its eruptions centuries ago, with the most significant one occurring in 1870. Additionally, it is flanked by two surrounding volcanoes, Mount Chachani at 19,931 feet (6,075 m) and Pichu Pichu Volcano at 18,599 feet (5,669 m).

Being an active volcano, it is constantly monitored by scientific organizations in Peru.

Yanahuara Viewpoint

The Yanahuara Viewpoint is located near the main square of the Yanahuara district and is the main meeting point for tourists who come to the “White City” to take in the best views of the city.

The Misti Volcano perfectly stands out among the ashlar arches with engraved messages from renowned Arequipa writers. While enjoying the landscapes, you can taste the famous “queso helado,” an exquisite milk-based dessert that curiously does not contain cheese in its ingredients.

The Colca Canyon

About 124 miles (200 km) and a 5-hour bus ride from Arequipa, this natural attraction has gained importance as one of the main tourist spots in recent years and is one of the deepest in the world. The Colca Canyon is home to animals such as the Andean condor, among 100 other bird species, and four types of camelids: vicuña, guanaco, llama, and alpaca.

Furthermore, there are more than 300 plant species, of which 30 are cacti, not to mention the primitive green yareta. One of the most invaluable spectacles when visiting the canyon is the sunrise next to the precipice, where you can observe the flight of approximately 20 condors at dawn.

The valley is ideal for recreational and artistic activities such as painting, photography, poetry, among others, as well as being suitable for adventure sports like hiking, canoeing, climbing, cycling, etc.

Festivals and Events

Arequipa Day

Celebrate the city’s founding on August 15th, during the vibrant Arequipa Day festivities. This annual event showcases the best of Arequipa’s culture, with parades, traditional dances, live music, and fireworks. Join locals and visitors alike as they fill the streets with joy and pride.


Experience the passion and artistry of Peruvian dance at Festidanza, an international dance festival held in Arequipa each year. This event brings together dance troupes from across the country and beyond, showcasing diverse styles such as marinera, tango, and folkloric dances.

Arequipa is a city that captivates the heart and soul of every traveler who ventures within its walls. From its stunning colonial architecture and rich cultural heritage to its breathtaking natural wonders and vibrant festivals, this enchanting destination offers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a unique and authentic Peruvian getaway, Arequipa is sure to exceed your expectations. So pack your bags, book your ticket, and prepare to fall in love with the White City of Peru.

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