Arequipa sits sun-baked and stately beneath towering mountains and big blue sky. The historic centre is built almost entirely out of sillar, a white volcanic stone, and its chequerboard of streets house a mix of colonial and native architecture. The town is known as a jumping-off point for adventures into Colca Canyon, but Arequipa is so much more than a base camp. With atmospheric squares, Baroque churches and monuments dating back centuries, the city’s made for leisurely walks and sightseeing. The highlights are undoubtedly the massive Basilica Cathedral and the peaceful gardens of the Santa Catalina Monastery. Those keen on the macabre shouldn’t miss the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries – here you’ll find ‘Ice Princess’ Juanita, the mummified body of a girl sacrificed to the mountain gods 500 years ago.
Sights aside, the highlight of a stay in Arequipa is undoubtedly its cuisine. Regional specialities include chupe de camarones, a rich and creamy prawn chowder, and rocoto relleno, spicy red pepper stuffed with beef and cheese. On Sundays, head to the elegant Plaza de Armas for fresh adobo, a dish of marinated pork and gravy, served simmering from a clay pot. There’s fried guinea pig in these parts too – but the less daring should opt for locro de pecho, a mouthwatering meal of tender brisket and mashed potatoes typically served at picanterías. These rustic eateries originated in the countryside, supplying field workers with their midday meal of corn beer and stew. Nowadays, picanterías offer a rotating lunch menu – and are the best spots for traditional Arequipa cuisine.
When to go?
The southern hemisphere’s dry, clear winter runs from May to September, so this is the best period for a visit. As most tourists head to Peru in July and August, you can beat the crowds with a visit in May or September. Expect sunny, mild days, and refreshingly chilly nights.
Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa
Where to stay?
Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa – Arequipa, Peru
This luxurious hotel is housed in an 18th-century mansion made of bright volcanic stone. In the heart of the historic district, it’s only a short walk to the Santa Catalina Monastery and the Plaza de Armas. Alma Restaurant & Bar opens onto the inner courtyard, where you can feast on Peruvian cuisine, while the sunny fourth-floor terrace offers views of Arequipa Cathedral and the Misti Volcano.
Hotel Casona Solar
Hotel Casona Solar – Arequipa, Peru
Hotel Casona Solar is a peaceful place to stay, right in the heart of colonial Arequipa. The building was built in 1702, and now features exposed antique bricks made of volcanic rock and a traditional stone courtyard. You can choose between single, double and triple rooms, or opt for more space with a suite or studio. The rooms are romantic and fitted out with warm colours and vaulted ceilings.
La Plaza Arequipa Hotel Boutique
La Plaza Arequipa Hotel Boutique – Arequipa, Peru
This boutique hotel is situated directly on Plaza de Armas, with lively bars and restaurants just seconds away. The rooms are small but stylish, and a hearty breakfast is included in the rate. It’s served outside on the terrace, with unrivalled views of the square and the cathedral.