Arequipa is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) for the white buildings in its historic center made from a porous, volcanic stone known as sillar. Easily explored on foot, must-see landmarks include the neoclassical Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and Monastery of St. Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina).
Options for exploring the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, range from afternoon walking tours to packages that combine the Historic Center of Arequipa with a stop at famous Colca Canyon (Cañon del Colca). Walking tours offer a closer look at the charming details that are easy to miss when traveling by coach or car, while panoramic bus tours allow time-pressed travelers to tick off more sights in less time.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Historic Center of Arequipa is a must-visit for history buffs and photographers.
- Wear comfortable shoes if you plan to explore the Old Town on foot.
- Express tours cover the area in a few hours, but you can easily spend a whole day exploring the UNESCO-listed Old Town.
How to Get There
From Lima or Cusco, travelers can take either a domestic flight or overnight bus to reach the city of Arequipa. If you’re crossing the border from Bolivia, Arequipa is located at the end of a highway that connects the floating villages of Puno with Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world.
When to Get There
The best time to explore the Historic Center of Arequipa is early in the morning, before the crowds descend upon the area. Most historic buildings are open from around 8am until 5pm, though their exteriors can be admired at any time of day. During the evening, the main square comes to life with lights and street vendors.
Adrenaline-Fueled Activities in Arequipa
Once you’ve had your fill of history and culture, satisfy an appetite for adventure at Colca Canyon, located around an hour from the Historic Center of Arequipa. Here, you can take part in activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, or white-water rafting, for which the area is famous.