With a gorgeous backdrop of snow-crested volcanos and a comfortable spring-like climate all year long, Arequipa is often described as the most pleasant city in Peru. Most visitors use Arequipa as a halfway point between Lima and Cusco, and while Arequipa is more about atmosphere than attractions, there’s still plenty to see and do for those who decide to hang around.
1. Explore the historic center.
Arequipa’s main square is widely acknowledged as the most beautiful in Peru. Surrounded by sweeping neoclassical arcades carved from a white volcanic rock known as Sillar, the plaza is centered around a dozen palm trees and an elegant fountain filled with pigeons as often as it water. Arequipa’s main cathedral, the largest cathedral in the country, takes up an an entire side of the square .
2. Browse the market of San Camilo.
Five blocks from La Plaza de Armas is a massive indoor market spanning several blocks, El Mercado de San Camilo. Founded nearly a century-ago, the market is a whimsical maze of sights and sounds to indulge in with foods of all varieties and a cafeteria dining area on the upper level. If you’re keen to sample traditional Arequeño dishes on a dime, this is the place to do it.
3. Take in the view at Yanahaura Look-out.
The Yanahaura look-out offers a panoramic vista of old Arequipa with the majestic Misti Volcano looming in the background. The view is framed by an elegant 19th-century sillar arcade inscribed with famous quotes from well-known Arequipeños. Behind the arcade lies Yanahaura district’s main square where you can sample Arequipa’s signature queso helado and admire a beauitful church with an ornate Mestizo-Baroque facade.
4. Check out ZooMundo.
ZooMundo is a boutique zoo in Arequipa’s hilly suburbs. The zoo is home to playful, curious monkeys that rush up to the glass to interact with visitors, parrots that enjoy riding on visitors’ shoulders, and several big cats species, including lions and jaguars. You can reach ZooMundo by taxi from the center for just 10 sol.
5. Take a trip to Colca Canyon.
Just 99 miles northwest of Arequipa, Southern Peru’s Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world and the third most visited destination in Peru. Home to the legendary Andean condor, quaint pueblo towns, and well-preserved indigenous cultures, a trip to Colca is about more than just the geographic formation. Apart from the national park itself, all trips departing from Arequipa pass fuming volcanos, dreamy desert-scapes, and grazing packs of llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas along the way.