Arequipa is starting to become a touristic destination for those seeking unique places in Peru to immerse into the local culture. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru. Its stunning colonial baroque architecture built with white volcanic stones from the nearby volcanoes makes Arequipa a must visit destination.
We recommend to spend at least two days in Arequipa to fully experience all the things to do. The city is easy accessible by bus or plane and it is perfect for travelers who love to walk and explore. Arequipa is nestled between three volcanoes giving the city the perfect backdrop to your adventures in Peru.
The 12 best things to do in Arequipa in two days
1. Santa Catalina Monastery
The main thing to do in Arequipa is visit the Santa Catalina Monastery. It is famous for its beautiful architecture, red and blue colored walls, arches and flowers. The monastery is considered to be the most important colonial structure in Arequipa.
It is open daily from 9AM to 5PM. The best time to visit the monastery is during the afternoon to get the best lighting. The entrance fee is 40 soles (12 USD).
2. Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa + La Plaza de Armas
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is located in the main square of Arequipa, Plaza de Armas. It is the most important catholic church in the city. The Plaza de Armas is a monumental plaza surrounded by colonial buildings which now have restaurants and coffee shops on the ground floor.
3. Claustros de La Compañía and the Iglesia de La Compañía
It is an 18th century cloister that has been converted into a shopping mall with several stores surrounding the bottom floor. The church is stunning and worth visiting as well.
4. Visit the Churches of Arequipa
Arequipa has no shortage of churches with one seeming to stand on each street corner. Explore the history and heritage of religion in Peru through the impressive architectural works. Some of the best churches include:
- Iglesia Santo Domingo
- Iglesia de San Francisco
- Iglesia San Agustín
- Iglesia de La Merced
5. Museo de Arte Virreinal de Santa Teresa
The Museum of Virceregal Art Santa Teresa is a colonial era convent with a museum displaying hundreds of objects across 13 different exhibition spaces.
6. Casa Museo Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian novelist and a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. His birth home has been converted to a museum with stages of scenes from his novels and original manuscripts on display. Tours are only offered in Spanish, but is an interesting experience if you understand the guide or not.
7. Mundo Alpaca
Mundo Alpaca, or Alpaca World, is part education experience, part store and part petting zoo where you can interact with some alpacas! Learn all about the life of an alpaca, how its wool is harvested and dyed, and then weaved into countless colorful items.
With countless stores offering everything alpaca in Arequipa, Mundo Alpaca sets itself apart by also providing an interactive, informative and fun way to spend the afternoon.
8. La Recoleta Convent and Museum
La Recoleta is a 17th century convent that has been rebuilt several times due to earthquake damages. The museum has several exhibitions rooms where you can find religious art, mummies, masks and different souvenirs from missionary travels. It is definitely one of the most beautiful buildings in Arequipa and a to thing to do in Arequipa.
The Museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Wednesday and Friday they also offer night visits until 8:00 PM.
9. Mercado San Camilo
El Mercado San Camilo is the biggest and most popular market in Arequipa. Here you will find everything from fresh fruit and meat to souvenirs to a few small places to eat.
10. Yanahuara Viewpoint + International Country Club Park + Puente Grau
Yanahuara Viewpoint is located in the Yanahuara neighborhood, it has a beautiful scenic viewpoint of the volcano Misti and it is only a 15 minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas.
On the way to the viewpoint you will pass the Puente Grau which also has amazing views of the volcano Misti and the International country club park which has grazing llamas.
11. Colca Canyon
From Arequipa you can take a tour to Colca Canyon, which is about four hours outside the city. You can witness the splendor of the second deepest canyon in the world, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon! Tours range from a day trip to three days, with locals recommending two days to see the Andean condor and spend some time trekking.
12. Take an Arequipa Free Walking tour
There are two free walking tours in Arequipa that provide a good introduction to the history of the city. The first one is called Free Walking Tour La Llama and it takes you to the San Lázaro Neighborhood, the Llamas and alpacas museum, outside the Santa Catalina Monastery, to the San Agustin Church, the Plaza de Armas and the Catedral. It has three departures times from Monday to Saturday at 9:15 AM, 11:45 AM, and 2:45 PM. The tour starts at the Plaza San Francisco.
There is also the Arequipa Free tour that departures every day at 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM. The morning tour takes you around the historical centre and covers the history of Arequipa while visiting the cathedral and the local market, San Camilo. The afternoon tour carries slightly by visiting the Yanahuara viewpoint instead of the market. The meeting point is in Calle Francisco at the Picantería Victoria.
How to get to Arequipa, Peru?
Arequipa is easily accessible from the rest of Peru by bus or plane. It is the perfect place to stay on your way from Lima to Cusco. We took Peru Hop from Lima all the way to La Paz in Boliva, where we stopped in Huacachina, Paracas, the Nazca Lines, and includes a stop in Arequipa. With Peru Hop you purchase your desired route pass and have up to one year to complete the trip, so can choose to stay as long as you wish in each destination.
Where to stay in Arequipa?
One of the nicest hostels we have ever stayed is Selina Arequipa. Part hotel, part hostel and part co-working space, Selina Arequipa is all about sharing its funky vibe in a colorful and relax community.
Selina Arequipa is spread across several buildings with a small courtyard near the entrance and a large one in the middle with a pool. Around the grounds are countless places to sit and chill with your family or friends including a small tree house!
We stayed in a uniquely designed room overlooking the courtyard. The chic interior design is perfect for photos and the room even overlooks the iconic llama art on an exterior wall.
While we were staying at Selina Arequipa there was the Culturama Spring Fest with local artists selling their goods in the courtyard. There was also live music throughout the day and into the late evening evening.
Where to eat in Arequipa?
Honestly the best way to find good local Peruvian food is seeking out a restaurant that locals are eating in. These small restaurants offer a limited fixed menu option for both lunch and dinner for less than 10 soles. The full meal includes a soup of the day, a few main plate options including meat, chicken or vegetarian, along with a fruit drink.
The restaurant might look like nothing more than a hole in the wall, but it is the easiest way to find an authentic meal in Arequipa.
We do have to give a shout out to Arepa Fusión for not only the best Venezuelan arepas in Arequipa, but for the amazing family behind the restaurant and their welcoming atmosphere.