Arequipa

Arequipa is a city in the Southern Coastal region of Peru just below the edge of the Altiplano, at 2380 meters above sea level and surrounded by three impressive volcanoes. It's Peru's second most important city (after Lima), and the second most popular among tourists (after Cusco).

Understand

The city is part of the so-called "Southern Peru Tourist Corridor", together with Nazca, Puno and Cusco. In contrast to these other cities, Arequipa is an example of the Spanish and mestizo culture developed in Peru. There are no Inca artifacts or ruins in the city.

In the winter it is warmer than in the summer. It is nicknamed the 'white city' (la ciudad blanca, in Spanish), because many of the buildings in the area are built of sillar, a white stone. This rock was quarried from the many volcanoes that surround the city, including the towering El Misti. Ask for local help to identify Misti, Chachani and PichuPichu, the three volcanoes surrounding the city.

Arequipa embodies a rich mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. With 468 years of history since its founding, examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the center of the city and several surrounding districts. UNESCO has declared it World Heritage site. Catholic churches are scattered throughout the center of the city. Some ancient houses have been refurbished by the local authorities and serve as living museums. An example of this are the so-called "Tambos" located at Puente Bolognesi street.

Get in

By plane

By far the easiest way to get to Arequipa is by plane, landing in Rodríguez Ballón airport (IATA: AQP), 8 km from the city. Lan, , Peruvian Airlines, Avianca and LC Perú fly from Lima, Juliaca and Cusco. A taxi from the airport to the Plaza de Armas costs a flat-rate of S/25. Signs are posted with this rate, but depending on the size of the car, the size of your bags and your bartering skills you could pay less. No public transportation is available to/from the airport.

By bus

There are two terminals serving the city, Terminal Terrestre and Terminal Terrapuerto. They're next to each other, about 3 km from the center.... a taxi should cost around 8 soles.

Try to avoid cheap buses the more you pay, the higher the quality of service, and safety. Some of the more reputable companies are Cruz del Sur, Ormeño, Excluciva (full 180º beds with meals served, 130 Soles), Oltursa and Cromotex (70 soles to Lima, good value and security), Flores (a good budget option, but only with their "super dorado" and similar services, their economic is best to be avoided for safety reasons (high accidents rate). Their station is located across the street from Terminal Terrestre.) If you take the night bus make sure the bus is climated. There are cheap companies like Julsa which don´t use heating in the bus, some don't have bathrooms, and the temperature can sink close to zero degrees Centigrade - don´t use them. Compare prices between booking online, in the office or via an agency since it can vary up to 100% for exactly the same seat and service.

From Lima (30-130 soles, 16–18 hours) it's advisable to take non-stop express buses though more expensive, they tend to be safer. Oltursa and Excluciva buses depart from dedicated VIP terminals in the San Isidrio area of Lima.

There are several buses per day from Cusco (9 hours, 50-120 soles), Puno (5–6 hours, 25-50 soles), Pisco (12–14 hours, 50-150 soles), Nazca (9 hours, 50-150 soles) and Tacna (near the border with Chile, 6–8 hours).

La Paz Ormeños has direct buses leaving at 1AM every day, passing through Puno at 6AM (40 Soles) and arriving in La Paz at 12 midday ($60).

By train

Charter trains to Juliaca and Puno are only available for groups of 40 or more.

Get around

Plaza de Armas of Arequipa, Peru

The city has an urban area that can be explored on foot. The historical center is a 5 block area around the main square and it's very easy to visit following one of the many maps available at the hotels or any information office. Some ancient districts like Yanahuara and Cayma are also within walking distance. The rural area is a whole attraction in itself. With gorgeous terraces, Spanish mills, palaces and an unobstructed view of the volcanoes from wherever you are. A great way to visit most of the tourist spots from the rural and urban area is to take a bus tour. These special buses are available at the main square and you can book the tour at your hotel or directly with the bus driver. In two or four hours, depending on the tour you book, you will visit most of the famous viewpoints of the city. A great experience (from 6 to 10 dollars). If you want to take a taxi, you should take a "safe one". Rules to recognize them: they have signs on the roof. The more common the sign, the bigger the company and the safer the taxi. Another tip is to take one that has just left a passenger. Avoid taking taxis that are stopped and waiting for passengers. Prices are per ride. A ride from the main square to any place in the central district will be 4 - 7 soles. A taxi from the bus station to any hotel, 8 soles. From the airport, the price varies between 20-30 soles. Some cab drivers try to rip you off by saying prices are per head but price is always per ride for all passengers. Allow for a minor extra charge for luggage (usually half a sol per large piece).

You can rent a car with a driver included and go all around Arequipa for just $6 an hour. There are many taxi companies that can be trusted like Panataxi, Taxitel, Turismo Arequipa and Megataxi. For your safety, if you leave a restaurant or disco late night and want to come back to your hotel in a taxi, ask the restaurant to call a safe taxi.

See

Convento de Santa Catalina, Arequipa
Molino de Sabandiá, Arequipa

Do

James's flamingos, Laguna de Salinas

Adventure

Learn

  • EDEAQ - Legally established and recognised by the Peruvian Ministry of Education. City Centre Location. Swiss Management. Bildungsurlaub (Germany). –
  • Peruvian Cooking Experience (4 blocks from Main Square sharing Casa de Avila Hotel facilities),  +51 54 213177. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The cooks are local people who learn cooking from their ancestors and include Felipe a 70 year old Inca cook who shares his own exclusive recipes. Classes are held in a kitchen and outdoor barbeque area. 6 persons per group. The cooking area is surrounded by a garden. 3 hour on hands activity suited for travellers of any ability level. Reservations are required. Wine and cocktails can be ordered but are not included in the price.

Buy

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Eat

Around Plaza de Armas you will find a lot of people approaching you with menu cards and offering you a free drink, etc. Local laws frown on this practice. It is best to avoid places such as these. If you do choose to patronize them, check prices and haggle a bit for an extra free drink. Food in Plaza de Armas in general is good but not outstanding.

Arequipa keeps one of the most varied and flavorful cuisine cultures in the country. Meals are robust with soups as one of their main dishes. Local food is usually served at lunch time but you can also find it in locals for tourists during dinner time.

Spicy food is very popular. Locals use rocoto (Capsicum pubescens) to provide the hot taste to their foods. This flavour is different than the spiciness in Indian or Mexican cuisine.

Try Rocoto relleno con pastel de papa, a large stuffed pepper with potato pie. Ask beforehand if it has been made for "tourists" or if it is the original, quite hot, style; if the last one, be careful, it can be extremely hot!

Try Alpaca steaks. This meat, very low in fat, is juicy and very tender. It is presented in the same manner as traditional beef.

This city is the best place in Peru to eat river shrimps. They are presented in several ways, the most popular being Chupe de Camarones, a thick, savory soup featuring many shrimps in it. Beware, the plates here are big.

Arequipa is only three hours away from the sea, so many fish restaurants are available. If you have not tried Ceviche in Peru yet, this is a great opportunity. There are also many other sea delicacies.

Local restaurants are called Picanterías. They are still very popular among locals. Some are within the urban area and some others on the outskirts of the city. There is a neighborhood called Arancota, where you can find many of these restaurants. Some of them are huge (600 tables or more) and they are usually full of locals. The main food attraction in this area is chicharron (fried pork with corn). Menu's are usually set, consisting of a hearty soup followed by a main dish. Drinks are often included. Prices are generally very cheap, ranging from 5 S/ to 10 S/.

As with all Peruvian food, local delicacies are heavy and sometimes very hot. Proceed with caution when eating here, especially since the height of the city (around 2,300 meters) makes digestion slow. Take a mate de coca, coca-leaf tea, after meals: it helps digestion and makes the altitude more bearable.

For dinner, you can find the best restaurants in the city around Calle San Francisco:

Vegetarian

Drink

The most popular Peruvian alcohol product is Pisco. Arequipa is the cradle for the Acholado type, a Pisco derived from a blend of several grapes. Locals drink it pure, in little sips. Chilcano is another way to drink it, Pisco with white soda. And of course, the Pisco Sour, which is a must for any visitor.

A famous local alcoholic product is Anis Najar. Chicha, a slightly fermented corn beer and Pisco Sour are also considered traditional drinks.

The local soft drink is Kola Escocesa, not as sweet as Inca Kola.

There is also a popular mineral water called Socosani. Energina is a yellow soft drink produced with this water. Some other soft drinks area available from the same factory.

Most bars and clubs for tourists are on Calle San Francisco, uphill from the main square. Many have happy hour specials until 10.00PM.

There is an area of the city called Calle Dolores, with discothèques, karaoke bars, and salsa ball rooms usually attended by locals but usually safe enough for travellers. A taxi is needed to get there.

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Stay safe

All the usual advice given for Peru applies here as well. When taking standard precautions, Arequipa is a safe city, and like most of the other major Peruvian cities, there is always a fairly large police presence. That said, don't flaunt your valuables or your money. There are occasional robberies reported. DO NOT walk alone after 11.00PM in the downtown area!

In the downtown area, there is a fairly large presence of tourist police, wearing white shirts. Ask them for help.

The most common form of crime involving tourists is when a foreigner takes a no-name cab and a robbery occurs. To be safe, don't just hail any old cab that passes by. Always take reputable large company taxis (of which you can see plenty). Several of these taxi companies are very careful about the owners/drivers they take on. Consequently, they are very reliable. The best of these is the "Turismo Arequipa" company with a green and white logo (watch out for fakes). "Taxitel" is also good.

The safest way to call a taxi is to ask your hotel or hostel to do it for you. Almost all hostels and hotels have a relationship with a taxi company whose drivers are known and trusted. This holds for the rest of Peru as well.

Go next

There are many travel agencies, but only few tour operators without commissions. Best operators are Andina (Jerusalen 402A), PeruSchweizExplorer (Jerusalen 314) for Colca Canyon Tours (around 150 Soles for a 3D/2N trip) and Quechua Explorer (San Francisco 218) for hill climbing. For guided and unguided trips you can also contact Rafael Llosa

View of Chachani from El Misti
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