Famous for its white-stone architecture, active volcanoes, and plunging canyon, Arequipa is a dream destination for history buffs and thrill seekers. Three days give you enough time to enjoy all of Arequipa’s main draws, which include its historic center and the Colca Canyon. Here’s how.
Day 1: Discover the White City
Dedicate day one to the historic center of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, characterized by the white-stone colonial architecture. Explore either on foot on a walking tour or visit via a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Must-sees include Plaza de Armas, Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, and the Monastery of St. Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina), all of which are staples on sightseeing tours.
Then, delve deeper into the city’s culture on a food tour—which typically includes multiple tastings and a market visit—or a countryside tour that takes you off the beaten path to more remote landmarks such as Founder’s Mansion (La Mansión del Fundador), Sabandía Mill (Molino de Sabandía), and Moral House (Casa de Moral), which houses a collection of maps, religious art, and Peruvian coins that dates back hundreds of years.
Day 2: Colca Canyon
No visit to Arequipa would be complete without a visit to Colca Canyon (Canon del Colca), which—at a depth of 13,650 feet (4,160 meters)—is one of the deepest canyons on the planet. Day trip options from Arequipa are plentiful, with nearly all including convenient round-trip transport and a Peruvian lunch. Tours give you the chance to hike to overlooks such as La Cruz del Condor, bike through the Colca Valley, or kayak or raft down the Colca River, while some include stops in the traditional town of Chivay, which serves as the gateway to the canyon and boasts shops that sell souvenirs made with alpaca fiber.
Day 3: Adrenaline-Fueled Adventures
Devote day three to discovering why Arequipa is considered to adventure capital of Peru. The area is world-renowned for its white-water rafting, making a trip to the Chili or Majes rivers a must for thrill seekers; in the wet season, rapids can reach Class IV, and tours are recommended for visitors with some white-water experience. Another adventurous option is to climb or downhill bike at El Misti, which stands at 19,101 feet (5,821 meters) above sea level, or Chachani, the highest of the volcanoes near Arequipa. Neither are too technical, although both require some physical fitness due to challenging terrain and the high altitudes reached.
For something less physically taxing, spend the afternoon browsing Arequipa’s museums, the highlight of which is the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (Museo Santuarios Andinos). Here, you find the preserved mummy of the Ice Maiden, Juanita, a young Inca girl whose remains were discovered in 1995.