Looking for things to do in Arequipa? Well, I have the blog post for you. Arequipa was my favorite city in Peru (by far) and I even extended my time here, I loved it so much.
However, in all my research on things to do in Arequipa, I found that most articles focus on day trips or activities that aren’t actually in Arequipa at all. That’s why I’ve written this extensive post with 20+ activities that are actually within Arequipa city (most are walking distance from the Plaza de Armas!).
And, if you’re looking for information on day trips, just scroll to the bottom. I’ve also included the five most popular day trips from Arequipa ranging from half day to three day trips.
Ready? Let’s go!
Check out my other Peru posts…
17 Photo Spots in Arequipa, Peru
7 Best Coffee Shops in Arequipa, Peru
27 Things to Do in Arequipa Peru
1. Visit Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World)
When I heard there were actual alpacas living in central Arequipa, I knew I had to see them for myself. At Mundo Alpaca there is a petting zoo of adorable alpacas and llamas.
You also get a free tour where you get to observe women weaving in the traditional way passed down through generations, and you can peruse the finely-made alpaca sweaters and scarves.
Address: Mundo Alpaca, Alameda San Lázaro 101, Arequipa 04001
2. See the Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas is the heartbeat center of every South American city. After two months in Peru I can officially say that Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas is the most beautiful!
Here you’ll find beautiful architecture, volcano views, and a mixture of both tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine.
Tip: While you’re there, go inside the Basílica Catedral de Arequipa. The museum is open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm for 10 soles (~$2.60). We were told there was also free entry between 5-7pm, but each time we tried it was closed to the public, so I’d go during the museum hours.
Address: Plaza de Armas, Arequipa 04001, Peru
3. Get a Really Good Coffee
Arequipa surprised me with its great coffee scene (I’d been a bit disappointed elsewhere in Peru). In fact, I wrote a whole blog post about Arequipa coffee shops, including the ones with best wifi for remote workers.
If you have limited time, my top picks for coffee in Arequipa are:
- Palacios Coffee: Locally owned and roasted. Truly great coffee with an Arequipa touch, not too far outside the Plaza de Armas.
- Kafi Wasi: Good location near the Plaza de Armas and a brunch and coffee-based cocktail menu to boot.
Both of those cafes let you order your coffee based on how it’s prepared: chemex, moka, pourover, french press, etc. I’d really been missing my Bialetti coffee maker at home so I LOVED this!
Additionally, both of those coffee shops offer classes! Want to learn how to taste coffee’s subtle flavors? How about a multi-day Barista course? Arequipa is your place.
RELATED | 7 Best Coffee Shops in Arequipa, Peru
4. Eat a Rocoto Relleno
You absolutely must eat a rocoto relleno while in Arequipa! This dish is a specialty of Arequipa and hard to find elsewhere in Peru. It also happened to be my FAVORITE Peruvian food I tried.
What is a rocoto relleno? Well, it’s a red pepper (of varying spiciness levels depending on the restaurant), stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, cheese, egg, peas, and olives. It’s also usually served alongside a dish of thinly sliced, crispy potatoes. YUM.
In Arequipa, I ate my favorite rocoto relleno at Lokanta, a nice cafe near the Plaza de Armas.
Address: Lokanta, Santa Catalina 215, Arequipa 04001, Peru
5. Wander Mercado San Camilo
Another one of the best things to do in Arequipa is visit Mercado San Camilo, the city’s central market. Unsurprisingly, this was one of my favorite central markets we visited in Peru (sensing a theme yet? Love ya, Arequipa).
Of course, the meat section is expectedly gruesome, but the fruit aisles are extensive and delicious. Be sure to also go upstairs, where you can grab a menú del día for just 7 soles (~$1.80) alongside the locals.
Address: Mercado San Camilo, 487, C. Piérola 407, Arequipa 04001, Peru
6. Eat a Queso Helado (Preferably from Doña Rosa)
Queso Helado is a street food specialty of Arequipa, and you can’t miss it. All across the city, women in traditional dress with small carts will try to sell you queso helado.
It translates to “frozen cheese,” but don’t worry. It’s actually ice cream! It’s made with condensed milk, coconut, sugar, vanilla, and a healthy dash of cinnamon. The whole mixture is stirred by hand mega-quick in metal bowls, before being served up in slabs (that slightly resemble cheese, maybe?).
It’s local lore that the very best queso helado in Arequipa is served by a woman named Doña Rosa in a stall on the second floor of Mercado San Camilo. You probably can’t miss it due to the crowd, but also look out for the signs saying “Doña Rosa” – who we actually got the pleasure of meeting.
Address: Queso Helado Doña Rosa, Mercado San Camilo Puesto 1 Segundo Piso, La Seccion De Flores Cercado, Arequipa 04001, Peru
7. See the Views at Mirador de Yanahuara
“Mirador” is a Spanish word that translates to “viewpoint.” You’ll find a lot of miradors throughout Peru, but the Mirador de Yanahuara was one of my favorites!
Mirador de Yanahuara is located in the quiet and residential Yanahuara neighborhood, just over the river. The viewpoint itself is a series of arches by the Plaza de Yanahuara, overlooking Misti Volcano. Stunning!
We took a few photos here, ate a queso helado in the plaza, and spent some time wandering the peaceful Yanahuara neighborhood. One of my favorite afternoons in Arequipa!
Tip: I recommend going in the couple hours before sunset, for the best lighting.
Address: Mirador de Yanahuara, JF75+282, Miguel Grau, Yanahuara 04017, Peru
8. Spend an afternoon at Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Monastery is seriously a must-do in Arequipa. This monastery is a massive 20,000 square meters of colonial architecture (called a city within a city) that has a fascinating history and is even currently home to 20 nuns.
We whiled away an afternoon wandering the brightly painted blue and red walls, walking from cloister to cloister and truly getting lost in the maze of streets.
Cost: 40 soles (~$10.30 USD) for adult entry, making it one of the more expensive things to do in Arequipa, but definitely worth it in my opinion.
Address: Santa Catalina Monastery, Santa Catalina 301, Arequipa 04001, Peru
9. Say Hola to Juanita at Museo Santuario Andinos
The Museo Santuario Andinos is one of the top recommended things to do in Arequipa because here you can actually meet Juanita, the perfectly-preserved mummy of an Incan girl.
Juanita was discovered by mountaineers in 1995 when a glacier thawed on Ampato Volcano, and she was spotted in the crater. She is approximately 550 years old, but was only 13 or 14 when she died. It’s believed that she was a child sacrifice.
Unfortunately for us, during our time in Arequipa Juanita was not on display, and another mummy (“Sarita” – a less well-preserved child sacrifice) was displayed instead. I would recommend checking the recent reviews on Google Maps to see which mummy is on display before your visit.
Cost: 25 soles (~$6.40 USD) for adults, and open Monday-Saturday 9am-6pm and Sundays 9am-3pm.
Address: Museo Santuario Andinos, C. la Merced 110, Arequipa 04001, Peru
10. Get Cocktails at Waya Lookout
Arequipa has its fair share of rooftop bars, but in my opinion Waya Lookout tops all the others. You can get appetizers, beers, cocktails from 22 soles (~$5.60), and the best views in Arequipa.
This bar is located in the Plaza de Armas. Look for a small door with a sign that says Waya Lookout (on the left-hand side of the Basilica) and then climb your way up a few flights of stairs before emerging to incredible views over the Plaza, the Basilica, and Misti Volcano!
Address: Waya Lookout, Portal de San Agustín 115, Arequipa 04001, Peru
11. Walk the Rooftops of Plaza de Armas at Sunset
After sipping on a golden hour cocktail (a pisco sour would be very fitting – you’re in Peru after all), take a stroll around the rooftops of the Plaza de Armas. Yes, you can actually walk on the roofs!
We did this from Waya Lookout, which gave an amazing sunset view of Misti Volcano between the Basilica’s towers. However, the other two sides of the Plaza de Armas also have rooftop bars where you can access the roof to walk!
12. Visit the Cloisters of the Company
The Cloisters of the Company is a really beautiful cloisters built in the 1700s, made of Arequipa’s signature white sillar stone. That’s pretty much all I could find out about its history because now it’s… a shopping center!
Yep, it’s a little surreal to walk into this gorgeous, historic courtyard and just see a couple cafes and clothing shops. But, it’s a great place to wander for a little while and take photos.
Address: Cloisters of the Company, Gral. Móran 118, Arequipa 04001, Peru
13. Photograph the City at Golden Hour
One of my personal favorite things to do in Arequipa was just explore the city and take photos. It’s an incredibly photogenic city.
I wrote a whole self-guided photo tour of Arequipa which covers 17 different photo spots in and around the city. Check it out if you’d like some guidance as you explore Arequipa, camera in hand!
RELATED | A Self-Guided Photo Tour of Arequipa, Peru
14. Explore Barrio del Solar
We discovered Barrio del Solar by accident, and I’m so glad we did. This is a small, walled-in neighborhood not far from Plaza de Armas and the river.
To find Barrio del Solar, go to the city block north east of the Puente Bolognesi bridge. Like us, you may have to be patient and walk a little bit before some kind Peruvian lets you in! (Sometimes, the gates are locked, but keep walking and you’ll find open ones).
Inside its walls, Barrio del Solar is a peaceful haven within the city. It’s quiet, with nearly empty, sunny streets. There are flowers lining the walls, a few restaurants, and beautiful views.
Address: The block/area within Calle San Agustin, Cruz Verde, Calle Puente Bolognesi, and Avenue La Marina.
15. Try the Menú del Día
Across Latin America, the menú del día refers to an extremely cheap, two to three course menu (plus a drink) that changes daily.
This is usually offered at local restaurants frequented by locals, but you can also sometimes find it at higher end restaurants – and at miles cheaper than the normal menu, too.
In Arequipa, the cheapest menú del día can be found upstairs at Mercado San Camilo. We also had the menú del día at Omphalos, a popular vegetarian restaurant.
Address: Omphalos, C. Bolivar 107, Arequipa 04001, Peru
16. Get a Smoothie from Lokanta
I already mentioned Lokanta once in this post (#4 above), but I have to give them another shout out. I am a huge smoothie fiend, and the jugos (juices) in Peru just didn’t really do it for me. At Lokanta I was able to get a real, thick, actual fruit smoothie and it was AMAZING.
If you love smoothies like me, then get yourself to Lokanta. I loved both the strawberry one and the banana one!
Address: Lokanta, Santa Catalina 215, Arequipa 04001, Peru
17. …And a Croissant from Masamama
I’m just going to embrace that this is becoming a foodie post, okay? If you have taste buds and you can eat gluten, then you also must get a pastry from Masamama while in Arequipa.
Dan and I walked by this bakery twice and did a literal double-take both times. And they were even at separate locations! After our second double-take, Dan gave in and got a pain au chocolat – not typical Peruvian cuisine, but probably the best pastry you’ll find in all of Peru!
(Of course, I’m one of those non-gluten-eating folks, so I could only smell/drool over the pastries and report Dan’s thoughts here! If you’re gluten free like me, head to Lima where you can get gluten free churros and croissants – sadly there aren’t any for us in Arequipa).
Addresses: Masamama, Los Cristales 102, Arequipa 04000, Peru | Masamama, C. Bolivar 107, Arequipa 04001, Peru
RELATED | Gluten Free Lima Peru Guide
18. Take a Chocolate Making Class at Chaqchao
Chaqchao is the first bean-to-bar chocolate company in Arequipa, which is saying a lot for a country so famous for its chocolate! I definitely recommend visiting, checking out the artisanal chocolates, and having a cheeky sample (or two, or three).
For $25USD, you can also take a chocolate making class here! Classes are offered at 11am and 2:45pm daily, and can be booked in advance here.
We’d already taken a bean-to-bar chocolate making class in Lima, so we didn’t try out Chaqchao’s class personally. However, I absolutely recommend taking a chocolate making class at some point during your Peru travels, so why not make it happen in Arequipa?
Address: Chaqchao, Calle Santa Catalina 204, Arequipa, Peru
RELATED | Is the ChocoMuseo Lima Chocolate Making Class Really Worth It?
19. Go on a Free Walking Tour
For a thorough introduction to Arequipa, try out the city’s free walking tour during your visit. The tour lasts 2.5-3 hours and happens daily at 11am and 3pm. Although it’s free, a small tip to the guide is expected.
Currently, the tour meets in front of Chaqchao Chocolate and Las Gringas Pizza. I recommend double checking the location with your hostel, because things can change (any hostel in Arequipa should know!).
Address: In front of Las Gringas Pizza, Santa Catalina 204, Cercado De Arequipa 04001, Peru
20. Say hi to Loki the Dog at Hotel Friendly AQP
Speaking of hostels in Arequipa… I have to call out the hostel we stayed at: Hotel Friendly AQP. Dan and I both really enjoyed this hostel and extended a few days as a result. It’s owned by a local family, is social yet quiet, and has a fabulous rooftop (with hammocks!).
What’s more? The family has the CUTEST 9-month old puppy, Loki (who 100% took over my Instagram). To me, Loki looks a bit like a dachshund mixed with a golden retriever. But, according to the family, he’s pure street pup. Loki lives at the hostel full-time so you’ll definitely meet him if you stay here.
I have to say, he is a little bit of a terror (he’s a puppy, after all) but if you love dogs, then this is your accommodation in Arequipa.
Address: Hotel Friendly AQP, C. Consuelo 418, Arequipa 04001, Peru
21. Go to the Carmen Alto Viewpoint
Visiting the Carmen Alto Viewpoint is one of the few things to do in Arequipa that I didn’t get a chance to do during our time in the city. I found this viewpoint on Google Maps (surprisingly a useful travel tool for more than just navigation!). It is a one hour walk or 15 minute taxi ride from central Arequipa and the views of Misti Volcano look incredible.
There is also a small museum here, and a restaurant that has giant (but apparently overpriced) hammocks. If you can spare the time, it looks like a cool way to spend an afternoon near Arequipa!
Address: Mirador de Carmen Alto, JFJ7+394, Ramon Castilla, Arequipa 04017, Peru
22. See a Parade
Arequipa is a city that LOVES parades. Chances are, you’ll happen upon a few parades during your visit purely by accident.
If you can, though, I highly recommend planning your trip to Arequipa to coincide with Arequipa Anniversary Day (every August 15). Magically, we were in Arequipa over this weekend and we got to see their epic annual Anniversary Day parade.
Tip: Puku Puku rooftop bar is the perfect vantage point to watch the Anniversary Day parade from!
Things to Do in Arequipa: Day Trips
We’re getting into day trip territory now! There are five main day trips near Arequipa, ranging from half day to multi-day trips.
I’ve listed all five below, in order of how extensive they are.
23. Take a Ruta del Sillar Tour | Half Day
The Ruta del Sillar tour is a half day trip from Arequipa that takes you to a sillar quarry (the white volcanic stone that much of Arequipa is built from). Local people have carved statues and monuments into the sillar, so it’s almost more like a photo-taking/art tour than just a quarry tour.
The quarry is only a 30-minute drive from Arequipa, but there’s no public transport so unless you want to splash out on a private taxi for a half day, then a group tour is your best option.
Tip: Be sure to book a tour that also takes you to the beautiful Culebrillas Canyon and “Eiffel’s Bridge.”
Ruta del Sillar tours leave from the Plaza de Armas at 9am and 2pm, and there are pros and cons to both. We did the afternoon tour, which gave nice sunset views over the Eiffel Bridge, but if I had to do it again I’d book a morning tour (I think the light in the quarry would be less harsh then).
How to Book
We booked our tour in the Plaza de Armas the night before, and it (like a lot of tours we did in Peru) was entirely in Spanish. Our tour cost 25 soles (~$6.40 USD) per person. It did cost an additional 5 soles (~$1.30 USD) for entrance and 5 soles to access the hand sculpture.
If you prefer to have your travels more planned out, then I recommend booking this tour online before your trip.
24. Reserva de Salinas | Half Day
You’ve definitely heard of the salt flats in Bolivia, but what if your travels aren’t taking you down south? Peru has an answer to that!
The Reserva de Salinas (also called Salinas and Aguada Blanca) tour is quite similar to the famous Bolivian salt flats in appearance, but accessible by just a half-day trip from Arequipa.
Most tours leave the Plaza de Armas at 6am, and return at 2pm. The drive is about two hours each way, but you’re rewarded with views of the salt flats, plus llamas, flamingos, and more.
How to Book
You can also book this one in the Plaza de Armas once you get to Arequipa, but if you want to plan ahead, then I recommend this Salinas small group tour.
It runs for $65/person (with a lowest price guarantee – online only), and has much better reviews than other options.
25. Go Rafting on Chili River | Half Day
Yes, you can go white water rafting near Arequipa! This is one of the most popular things to do in Arequipa, and while Dan and I gave this one a miss (in favor of more coffees + rooftop cocktails, LOL), we did meet a lot of people at our hostel who loved this trip.
Rafting on the Chili River is just a 20-minute drive from Arequipa, and involves a range of Class II-IV rapids (no prior experience required).
How to Book
Our hostel in Arequipa offered this tour. One benefit of booking through your hostel for this one as they’ll likely offer pick-up/drop-off right at the door.
Alternatively, this Chili River Rafting tour has really amazing reviews online, and is only $24/person (which is pretty cheap for booking online ahead of time).
26. Go on a Colca Canyon Tour | 1-3 Day Options
Chances are, if you’re planning a trip to Arequipa then you’ve already heard of the impressive Colca Canyon. Arequipa is the jumping-off point for visiting the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world, where you can also spot the famous condor birds!
You’ll see tons of tours to Colca Canyon around Arequipa, and options range from one to three day trips. From speaking to lots of travelers in Arequipa, I’d highly recommend the 3 day/2 night trekking trip.
Why’s that? It sounds like the one day trips are too long, full, and don’t actually give more than a small peek into the canyon. The two day trekking trips are too tiring and packed, with not enough time to explore the bottom of the canyon.
Dan and I were recovering from the Salkantay, so we didn’t actually complete the Colca Canyon trek (next time!), but our German traveling friends highly recommended the three day trek.
How to Book
Once in Arequipa, you can inquire at your hostel about trips to Colca Canyon (chances are, whether you book with them or not, they’ll hold your luggage for you). Our hostel offered trips which a lot of travelers raved about.
You can also book the Colca Canyon trek online. In fact, this is a good option because you’ll be at the mercy of your trekking company for a few days and it’s worth checking into reviews first.
Colca Canyon tours from Arequipa:
- 3 days/2 night trek to Colca Canyon – $87/person, this one is most recommended!
- 2 days/1 night trek to Colca Canyon – $67/person
- 1 day tour to Colca Canyon – $52/person
27. Summit Misti Volcano | 2 Days
Finally, remember that perfectly pyramid-shaped volcano looming over Arequipa? That’s Misti Volcano, and it’s actually possible to summit it (with no mountaineering skills!) while in Arequipa.
Treks to the summit of Misti Volcano are usually two days long. The first day, you’ll drive to the volcano and then trek up to the base camp. The second day, you’ll get up really early and complete your ascent to the summit for an epic sunrise view over the clouds!
I unfortunately didn’t do this during our time in Arequipa, but it’s at the top of my personal list for next time! (In fact… unpopular opinion… I’d trek Misti Volcano over Colca Canyon!)
How to Book
Again, you can book this trek in Arequipa or online ahead of time. Booking online may help with travel planning and also research into the company’s prior reviews. This 2 day Misti Volcano trek is an option with good reviews!
Where to Stay in Arequipa
We really loved our stay at Hotel Friendly AQP and I’d recommend it to other backpackers in Arequipa!
Pros: It has a great location, super nice and helpful family, a rooftop with hammocks and city views, a big breakfast included (complete with banana pancakes for the gluten-eating folk), and… the most adorable puppy ever. We stayed in a private room which was nicer than some hotel rooms! There are also dorm rooms of various sizes.
Cons: I will say, their wifi is passable but not good enough for working (hence why I visited so many coffee shops in Arequipa!). You also may get woken up by people leaving for the Colca Canyon trek at ungodly hours, but I think that’s inevitable no matter where you stay in Arequipa.
Other places to stay in Arequipa:
- Sambo’s Hostel ($): A centrally located hostel with stellar reviews, dorms and privates, a rooftop terrace, and offers tours.
- Le Foyer Arequipa ($): A slightly more upscale hostel with only private rooms/private bathrooms, and a beautiful rooftop terrace.
- La Hosteria Boutique Hotel ($$): A really gorgeous but still relatively affordable boutique hotel in a colonial house, complete with a spa, sauna, continental breakfast, and rooftop terrace.
How to Get to Arequipa
The most common way to get to Arequipa is by bus (what we did), but it’s also possible to fly if you’re short on time and higher on budget.
Flights to Arequipa
You can catch a flight to Arequipa from either Lima or Cusco, but you’ll pay a premium for it (and miss some sights along the way).
Flights to Arequipa:
- Lima-Arequipa: 1.5 hour flight with airlines LATAM (best departure times and frequency), Viva Air, Star Peru, and Peruvian. Check flights to Arequipa on Skyscanner.
- Cusco-Arequipa: 1 hour flight with airlines LATAM or Peruvian (both have twice daily departures). Again, I recommend checking flights to Arequipa on Skyscanner.
Tip: LATAM and Viva Air are the most reliable and safe airlines in Peru – try to book with them if you can!
Buses to Arequipa
In general, buses are the easiest and cheapest way to get around Peru. Some of them (lookin’ at you, Cruz del Sur) are also REALLY nice with TVs, and spacious lay-flat seats.
Buses to Arequipa:
- Cusco-Arequipa: 10 hour, overnight bus. This is the route we did, and it worked great!
- Ica-Arequipa: 13 hour, overnight bus. We took this route to Ica after our time in Arequipa, but you could easily reverse it!
- Lima-Arequipa: 16-18 hour, overnight bus. I wouldn’t recommend doing this, because you’ll skip over Paracas and Ica/Huacachina which are both worth a visit!
Tip: Cruz del Sur was our favorite bus line in Peru, by far. I recommend checking out route on Red Bus Peru, and then booking directly with Cruz del Sur. Movil Bus is the second-best option (although not as nice by far), and I’d avoid Civa at all costs (they have the absolute worst safety record). Peru Hop is another, highly marketed, bus option solely for tourists. They drop you off directly at your hotel, but it is incredibly overpriced, in my opinion.
Things to Know About Visiting Arequipa
That covers all the things to do in Arequipa, but here are a few more travel tips as you’re planning your time in the white city!
Arequipa sits at 2300 meters, and altitude sickness generally starts at 2500 meters. However, everyone is different, and plenty of people do feel the effects of altitude in Arequipa. If you’ve never experienced altitude before, give yourself a couple days to acclimate in Arequipa before planning any big days out (like Colca Canyon, Misti Volcano, or Chili River rafting).
There are quite a few ATMs around Plaza de Armas in Arequipa but most of them charge a small fee. Look for BCP, which we found to reliably be free in Peru.
The El Súper grocery store in Plaza de Armas is great (and they had some gluten free options!). If you’re looking for fresh fruit and veg, head to Mercado San Camilo.
Arequipa is pretty walkable so you might not need any taxis in the city, apart from your transport to/from the bus station or airport. Always confirm the cost (“cuanto cuesta?”) before getting in the taxi.
Where to Go Next?
You have quite a few options on where to head next from Arequipa! You could reverse our route, and take an overnight bus to Cusco next. This is your jumping off point to the epic Inca or Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley.
Or, you could take the bus up to Ica next, like we did. Go on a wine tasting tour, try out sandboarding in nearby Huacachina (or don’t – it’s somewhat terrifying), or head to Paracas on the coast (where you can see Peru’s Poor Man’s Galapagos).
Done with Peru? A lot of people travel south to Bolivia from Arequipa, via Puno and Lake Titicaca (about 6 hours away).
I hope that this list of things to do in Arequipa was helpful! It was honestly our favorite city in Peru, and I really recommend adding it to your Arequipa itinerary.
Check out my other Peru posts…
17 Photo Spots in Arequipa, Peru
7 Best Coffee Shops in Arequipa, Peru
Eco-Luxury at Inkaterra in the Peruvian Amazon: Hotel Review