The White City of Arequipa has a historical heritage of incalculable value. The gastronomy of Arequipa is one of the most exquisite cuisines in Peru, and in the whole world. The days in Arequipa are sunny and warm throughout the year, and the sky is almost always blue. There is a mixture of pre-Inca, Inca and colonial influence present in the architecture of the city, and you will find a wide range of archeological complexes, temples, colonial mansions, and ancient constructions. Another reason why Arequipa is one of the top tourist destinations in Peru is its beauty. This you can see reflected in its monuments, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, medicinal hot springs, fertile green valleys, deep canyons, and towering volcanoes.
Among Arequipa’s principle tourist sites, three in particular stand out as world-class attractions: the Misti Volcano, the Colca Canyon, and the Monastery of Santa Catalina. Besides these three major sites, there are lots of fun activities and countless interesting tourist sites which you will want to visit. There are natural marvels with fantastic views, cultural and archeological sites, colonial mansions and churches made out of sillar, (which is the volcanic stone brought down from the neighboring mountains), a wonderful cuisine, the warmth of the people with their old customs and traditions, and a lively nightlife.
To help you have an unforgettable trip to this hallowed volcanic city of Arequipa, we have put together the following list of the very best tourist destinations that the White City has to offer.
The Colca Valley
The beautiful Colca Valley is located to the northeast of the city at an elevation of 3600 masl. This extensive valley of very fertile farmland is replete with over 8000 hectares of per-Incan terraces. The surrounding area is well known for its living culture, its colorful traditions, its fascinating history, and its pre-Incan ruins.
The Colca Valley is not famous only for its fertile fields, its legendary history, and its healing hot springs. It is also home to one of the deepest canyons on the planet, the Colca Canyon. On the rim of the canyon you will visit the Condor Overlook (the Cross of the Condor), where the magical wild condors will fly within a few meters of the place where you be standing. All of this you can see against the spectacular backdrop of the imposing Andes Mountains.
The Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is one the deepest and the most impressive canyons in the world. It is located in the Colca Valley. This important tourist destination is ideal for all sorts of adventure sports such as hiking, river rafting, mountain climbing, fishing, and trekking, and others.
The Cross of the Condor Overlook
This is a spectacular lookout point on the edge of the canyon from which you can observe the varied flora and fauna of the zone, gaze down into the canyon’s depths, and watch the majestic condors as they ride the thermals up out of their canyon home. Off in the distance the volcanic peaks of Coropuna and Ampato dominate the skyline.
The thermal hot springs of Calera Chivay
These are medicinal hot springs. The volcanic waters are rich in calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfates, and bicarbonates. The water comes out of the earth at 60 °C (140 °F). The healing waters are a cure for frayed nerves, and for muscle aches and pains. This is an enchanted spot where you can enjoy a relaxing bath as you pause on your journey from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon and Chivay. These warm, turquoise waters are just a 6 minute drive from the town of Chivay.
Monastery of Santa Catalina
The Santa Catalina Monastery is a religious shrine located in the historical center of Arequipa. The convent is one of the most fascinating religious buildings in Peru. It was built around 1579, and served as home for the totally cloistered nuns who were often the daughters of the wealthiest and most honored families of Arequipa.
The inside of this Monastery of St. Catherine of the Mountains was like a small, walled city. There were cloisters, plazas, streets and lanes, and little houses with clay tiled roofs. Two types of sillar were used in its construction: white sillar from the Chachani Volcano, and rose sillar that comes from the Misti Volcano.
This beautiful little city-within-a-city covered an area of more than 20.000 sq.meters. Although it was located in the heart of Arequipa, it was totally isolated from the larger city. A solid 13 ft. high wall separated the outside world from the cloistered nuns within.
On your journey to Arequipa, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit this Monastery. Not only will you be able to observe the beautiful tile work and the priceless paintings by the masters of the Cusco School of Fine Arts, but you will also be able to see how the women actually lived. You can visit the different neighborhoods, and see the great frescos, the Entry Portal, the Patio of Silence, the Orange Cloister, the Main Cloister, the kitchen, the laundry, the bell tower, and the church.
Arequipa Main Square
The Plaza de Armas of Arequipa is right in the heart of the city. It is the prime central point from which you can wander down the streets that run off the plaza. You can enjoy a cup of coffee on the plaza, and try out some of the delicious local cuisine. If you look up from the plaza you can see the two great sentinels watching over the city, Misti and Chachani. Also, on the plaza you can visit the Cathedral Basilica of Arequipa with its mythic colonial arches.
The Cathedral Basílica of Arequipa
This majestic Cathedral Basílica of Arequipa is one of the most important architectural symbols of the city. The temple highlights the religious devotion and deep faith of the city’s people, most of whom are Catholic. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic arch-diocese of Arequipa and its most important church.
This church was built entirely of sillar between the years 1621 and 1656. The church was destroyed by fire in 1844 and again by earthquake in 1868. Because of the faith of the local people, it has been reconstructed twice. The style of the church is neo-Renaissance with some gothic influence. The facade of the cathedral has 70 Corinthean columns, 3 main doors, and 2 great lateral arches. There is another musical treasure which is hidden inside the church. It is the antique organ which was brought over from Belgium, and it is one of the finest organs in all of South America.
The Jesuit Church and Complex
This compound of religious buildings was built by the Jesuits during the 1660’s. Many travelers consider these buildings to be the finest representation and the most beautiful example of 17th century mestizo religious architecture. The center of the complex is the church which was designed by Gaspar Báez in 1573. An earthquake destroyed the original church in 1584, but it was reconstructed in 1650. The interior of the temple features a polychrome image of the Jesuit’s founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. There are wooden altarpieces and over 60 oil paintings by Cusco School masters such as Bernardo Bitti and Diego de la Puente.
This famous lookout was built out of sillar, and it takes the form of a series of arches. Its location is right next to the Yanahuara Plaza. From this point you can view Arequipa in all its glory. You will be thrilled look out upon the old colonial houses lining the narrow streets, and see the three guardian volcanoes, (Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu), under the clear blue sky of Arequipa.
The construction of the Yanahuara Lookout Tower dates back to the 19th century. It is a very popular spot for visiting tourists because it offers such a wonderful panoramic view of the town. The thoughts of Arequipa’s leading citizens are carved into the sillar base of the lookout. Next to the plaza is the baroque style Church of San Juan de Yanahuara which was built in 1750.
Aguada Blanca National Reserve
The Aguada Blanca and Salinas National Reserve is a vast stretch of Andean territory which includes dormant volcanoes and lots of wildlife. It was created in 1979 in order to protect the South American cousins of the camel that live in the zone: vicuñas, alpacas, guanacos and llamas. The reserve is located in the provinces of Arequipa and Caylloma at an elevation of more than 4300 masl., and it contains 366,936 hectares within its boundaries.
The beautiful lakes and lagoons within the reserve are home to flamingos, Andean ducks, and many migratory birds. The volcanoes Misti, Chachani, Pichu Pichu and Ubinas form part of the reserve, and throughout these mountains and the high plains of the Andes the local people live in harmony with nature.
In the reserve it is possible to see petroglyphs and cave paintings at the Sumbay Cave, at the Forest of Rocks of Puruña, and at the Salinas Lagoon. You could also hike up the Misti Volcano and the Chachani Volcano.
Cotahuasi Subbasin Landscape Reserve
The protected area of the scenic Cotahuasi Reserve is located in the province La Unión. The Cotahuasi Basin Reserve is dedicated to the conservation of biological, cultural, and scenic diversity. Also in Cotahuasi, one of the deepest canyons in the world is located. The spectacular Cotahuasi Canyon is called the Canyon of Marvels.
Within the reserve you can find the Sipia Waterfall, the Luicho Hot Springs, the Stone Forest of Huarmunta, the Llamocca Fort, the snow-capped Firura Mountain, and lots of other beautiful sights and natural wonders.
On the other hand, this is the ideal spot to take part in adventure sports such as: trekking, river rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, etc. Here in the back country ancient traditions and customs are still followed by the mountain people. The farmers still farm using antique foot plows, while they practice rituals which will protect the Earth and produce an abundant harvest.
The Quarry of Añashuayco
Have you ever asked where all that sillar came from? The sillar which was used to build the buildings and the monuments in Arequipa? The answer is the Quarry of Añashuayco.
These sillar quarries are the where they extracted and worked the sillar blocks which are the main building blocks and the material used to construct the White City. The quarries can be found 14 km. to the northeast of Arequipa, in the Añashuayco Canyon which is in the district of Cerro Colorado.
It hasn’t been a very long time since Añashuayco Quarry became one of the chief tourist attractions of Arequipa. Everyday hundreds of travelers come to visit the quarry where they can enjoy the little sculptures and other curious items carved out of sillar. Aside from seeing how the sillar blocks were extracted, visitors can participate in a workshop where the sillar is cut and worked.
Are you a traveler in search of new experiences? Do you feel the need to escape from your routine and get away from the crowds? Are you looking for an incredible place to spend and enjoy your vacation? Then come to the White City where you can explore the wonderful tourist sites of Arequipa, and discover the city’s great cultural legacy.