What I Love About Amazing Arequipa, Peru

August, 2011

Not only is amazing Arequipa aptly named the ‘White City’ with dazzling Spanish-influenced architecture, but it is one of those cities that you instantly fall in love with and this is why…

The fact that you can arrive and instantly feel relaxed and at ease in this gorgeous South American city, is such a lovely change.

Stayed for around ten days in Arequipa, absorbing the culture discovering a favourite quaint coffee shop, and exploring, whilst taking it slowly…what’s the hurry?

Tip: This article is now available as a mobile app on iTunes and GooglePlay. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Puno, Arequipa, South AmericaGetting there

Don’t believe the timeframe that Google maps at right displays – it’s all fabricated. If you’re catching a bus from Puno to Arequipa, then this journey takes around 6 hours, if all goes to plan – protests and road blocks last month saw long delays.

Long-distance bus journeys such as the Cruz del Sur buses, leave from Puno’s Terminal Terrestre De Puno on Jr. Primero de Mayo, n.703.

Today’s scenery became spectacular after Juliaca, so have your camera ready.

Expect to see loads of Llamas, Alpacas, and Vicunas whilst travelling along the open flat road, through the expansive plains of the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve Park.

Arequipa, Peru, South America
Too much for some…

Arriving right on peak hour at the bus station, which is three kilometres from the city centre, decided on a taxi with a fixed price to the hostel. You can also take a bus or combis to the Plaza de Armas.


Three soaring snow capped mountains enclose Arequipa on one side with majestic El Misti, a massive active volcano at a height of 5,822 metres, on the other. Misti’s last awakening from slumber was in 1985, so hoping that she lays dormant during our stay.

Just so you get the picture, Misti sits happily between Pichu Pichu – another but inactive volcano, only a couple of hundred metres lower than Misti – and Mount Chachani, a couple of hundred metres higher than Misti.

The region has been inhabited since 7,600 B.C., followed by the pre-Inca tribe the Collaguas, and then the Incas, which gave Arequipa its name around 1,300 B.C. Of course, don’t forget the Spanish arrived in 1540, so with this colourful historic background, Arequipa is a fusion of cultures, which is also visible in local faces.


Arequipa holds much for a traveller and captivates enough to make you want to stay here for a month or two…

The more you wander around this beautiful city, the more you want to stay and explore further – I’ve only scratched the surface in this post. Everything seems clean and orderly, and a pleasure to discover.

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Plaza de Armas

Striking about this plaza and different to others in South America so far, is the dazzling soaring buildings constructed in Sillar – a white volcanic stone.

Part of the historic centre and UNESCO World Heritage list, the plaza’s architecture emanates charm and timeless beauty. The plaza’s sheer size is jaw-dropping.

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru, South America
Update: since 2015, traffic has been banned in the plaza

As with most public spaces in a city’s centre, which draws many locals either enjoying watching their children feed pigeons, or just soaking up the warmth amid the winter’s clime, typically they are a city’s hub and favourite meeting place.

Basilica Cathedral

Dating back to around 1540, the splendid neo-Renaissance-style cathedral with a splash of Gothic, is breathtaking. Taking up one whole side of the plaza, this imposing building really is massive and stunning.

Basilica Cathedral, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Suffering four earthquakes between 1600-1700s, then again in 1868 and another in 2001, reconstruction commenced following each earthquake.

Basilica Cathedral, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Hailing from France over two hundred years ago, the curious solid timber showpiece of the ‘Winged Devil’ at the base of the pulpit, is a surprise to bump into in this cathedral, and attracts many tourists each year.

The Devil, Basilica Cathedral, Arequipa, Peru, South America

La Compañía Church

Dating back to the 17th century, the impressive and opulent interior of the Jesuit Church of the Company of Jesus, was built for religious and living purposes by the Jesuits.

La Compañía Church, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

From the moment you walk through the monastery’s ochre-hued arch, a silence and peacefulness envelops you – albeit for the occasional rowdy tourist.

Founded in 1579 by Doña María de Guzmán, the monastery is now maintained in vibrant colours, which makes it a pleasure to meander through, whilst discovering more of the history around each colourful corner.

Widowed, without children, and very wealthy, Doña María de Guzmán decided to become a recluse in this monastery, which was still under construction.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru, South America

The frescos gracing the cloisters are intricate and also restored.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Some of the statues exude pain and are realistic.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Local students are content with resting against the cooling aged stone, whilst creating their masterpieces. With more than fifteen universities in Arequipa, there’s no shortage of education.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru, South America

San Camilo Market

Stroll only three blocks from the main square and you bump into this traditional market, which is the oldest in Arequipa.

San Camilo Market, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Local sights here will remain with you forever.

San Camilo Market, Arequipa, Peru, South America

The butcher’s area is gripping…

San Camilo Market, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Lunch and juices are inexpensive at the markets and loads to choose from, so why not indulge in traditional cuisine or fresh produce?

San Camilo Market, Arequipa, Peru, South America

Great for people-watching and your lens.

Street scenes

Lucky enough to have stumbled on an exhibition of artisans creating brightly woven indigenous pieces, paintings, ironwork, wooden sculptures, and excellent to watch artists at work.

All types of artistic creations in the making in many mediums, right in front of our eyes.

Fascinating and traditional weaving on ancient tools that probably haven’t changed through time.

Passed down through the ages, techniques haven’t changed either…

Makeshift work space in the park.

Trekking Tour

Whilst travelling in South America we heard about the Colca Canyon trek, which is one of the deepest canyons in the world, so decided to book a three-day/two-night trek from Arequipa. More on the exciting but arduous trek in this separate post: Incredible Colca Canyon 3-day Trek.

Lots of active volcanos in the vicinity, so may also do some volcano trekking, purse permitting.


A plethora of wonderful restaurants and cafes await any discerning palate, and all budgets.

Valenzuela Cafe Gourmet

By far my absolute favourite for its ambience and great service, the cosy Valenzuela, which reminds me of an underground bunker or train tunnel, offers delicious Peruvian coffee and great snacks.

Valenzuela Cafe, Arequipa, Peru, South America

A comfortable place to sit back and unwind.

Arequipa, Peru, South America

Where to sleep

The fabulous Hostal Santa Marta is a colonial building dating back to 1650 with a beautiful interior and only four blocks from the main square – couldn’t have picked a better hostel. Staff are wonderfully friendly. The spotlessly clean comfortable room boasts a 3-seater black (faux) leather lounge and a decent bathroom complete with an actual bath – lush.

Included in the room’s price, a delicious breakfast awaits each morning in the lovely dining room.

Leaving Arequipa

Sad to be leaving Arequipa as I really love this gorgeous city, but so happy and excited to travel to Cusco next, to organise the 5-day Salkantay trek to mystical Machu Picchu.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Peru at Image Earth Travel.

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60 responses to “What I Love About Amazing Arequipa, Peru”

  1. Francis.R. Avatar

    Is said that the name “the white city” is because the white ashlar but seems all the colonial city was painted as colorful as Santa Catalina monastery. It seems the name is because that is the city with most of white population in Peru. That is probably truth because is the city that conserves more of the colonial Spanish culture. Old citizens of there are quite friendly and polite. The persons working or reading or even sleeping… they look so close and intimate; leaving a slow and gentle time.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Francs, interesting points. I didn’t know about Arequipa having the most white population in Peru and one of the reasons for its name.
      Buildings are very white in Arequipa and the Santa Catalina monastery was the only colourful building I saw…maybe there are more.

      Many thanks for your feedback and comment. 🙂

      1. Francis.R. Avatar

        It is a strange story, although I am from the highlands I studied architecture in Arequipa. What my teachers explained to us is that around fifties one mayor decided to strip from colors the colonial buildings till expose the white ashlar. Santa Catalina is very colorful except from the street. Thanks to you instead ^_^

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        That is interesting and something that a traveller would not know – what a strange thing to do to buildings in a city. But then again, I find it awful and more strange how through the ages, beautiful frescos and intricate works of art were painted over – what a tragedy!

  2. neredenasilgidilir Avatar

    Woow. Good. I wana see to there. Thanks

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your comment – it is a beautiful city and hope you visit Arequipa.

  3. The Agape Co. Avatar

    Wow it looks absolutely incredible! Have you returned since 2011?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Sadly no, I’d love to return to South America as still have more countries to explore.

      I’m writing many more posts on Peru then on to Ecuador. After Ecuador, my trip was cut short as my mother was very ill and I had to return to Australia – we’d be travelling about 10 months all up. But, I also have to say by then, I was ready to leave the continent as a couple of nasty incidents happened, which I’m currently writing about, as in my mind, they’re both clear as day.

  4. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Nice tour. I like the red hats. Different. Isn’t Arequipa Vargas Llosa’s birthplace?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you, it’s a gorgeous city.

      I love all the wonderful hats in South America – such an assortment and worn with so much pride, but then again, I’m a lover of hats. And yes, it is indeed where Vargas Llosa was born.

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Hats are back in fashion. 🙂
        Vargas Llosa is the only major Latin-American writer I don’t like. I loved García Marquez and Allende, but with Vargas Llosa I always drop the book. Don’t know why.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I have to admit that I haven’t read of Llosa’s work, but it’s interesting you can’t finish one of his books.

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        And I’m totally fluent in Spanish, after so many years. A matter of style I guess. It’s all right. There are more books than days in Life anyway. 🙂
        Be good.

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Speaking Spanish fluently is one talent, but also reading Spanish…hats off. Absolutely.
        Ha, ha, never! 😉

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Well, I worked in Spanish for close to 30 years. And being a Market researcher it meant writing (reports) in Spanish. I actually started writing fiction in Spanish… I like languages…
        Ciao, ciao…

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Now I understand – so talented. 😉

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        It’s luck and a gift. Luck to be brought up… everywhere. Picking up languages on the way. And a gift, because I can recognize the structure of a language relatively easily. I don’t know how. Hence it’s a gift. Some paint. 😉

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        So lucky to have the gift of picking up languages. It would be great to be able to insert a language chip in our head for each change of country. 😉

        Are you also musical? You know the old saying, if you’re musical you can pick up languages easily.

      9. equinoxio21 Avatar

        A language chip would be great but less fun.
        Not so musical. Played the piano a bit. Guitar. Forgot all. 🙂 But I will take piano lessons in January again. Tadadada!

      10. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        True, but so much easier, providing a richer experience of understanding the locals.
        You’ll have to post a video on a blog of you playing the piano next year. 😉

      11. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Haha! A video? I don’t think so. 🙂
        (Thanks for the laugh though!) 😉

  5. LiveWithHabiba Avatar

    I Just came back from Peru 2 days ago. I did the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Rainbow mountain and Humantay lake. It was awesome!
    I have a lot of upcoming articles about all of it 🙂


    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, thanks for sharing your links and I’m sure you had a fantastic time.

      I’m currently writing about the Salkantay 5-day trek I did so stay tuned. My Colca Canyon trek post is coming out tomorrow, then followed by Cusco next week, then Machu Picchu. 😉

  6. gillmorris Avatar

    This places looks amazing! I love the buildings and watching those artists at work would have been fab! 🙂 xx

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It is Gill and you’d definitely love it in Arequipa.

      Spent a few hours wandering through and just watching artists at work. This is what I love about art, it’s in any form around our globe and anyone can create something – there are no constraints. You don’t have to be rich or educated to participate in art – it’s for everyone. x

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        Indeed it is.. I love creating things, just need more hours in the day to do everything! xx

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I know exactly what you mean.
        Bet you’re busy getting ready for your move to Spain – must be hectic and sad saying your goodbyes in Bangkok. x

  7. fakeflamenco Avatar

    I really like the choices of B and W versus color photos. You make the most of both. What a wonderful guided tour, loved it.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, thank you, B&W is my favourite medium. Just popped over to your site, are you updating your site at the moment?

      1. fakeflamenco Avatar

        Mysteriously, Fake Flamenco is linking to my site I plan to develop in a year, rather than my active blog. Thank you very much for calling attention to it! I’m working with customer service to resolve it. -Rebecca

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I should have let you know sooner but thought you must be building a new site and meant for that to happen.
        I’m so sorry as I noticed this a few weeks ago, Nilla

  8. Sandra Avatar

    I have never visited Peru, but I fell in love with the cuisine years ago, so it’s on my list🙂. Thank you for that beautiful glimpse of Arequipa.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Sandra, the cuisine is delicious but I loved the Quinoa dishes in Bolivia.
      I hope you get to Peru and that my posts provide inspiration and tips. Stay tuned, I have many more on Peru to come yet…

      1. Sandra Avatar


      2. Sandra Avatar

        Must not be awake yet

      3. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        No problem 🙂

  9. rachaelstray Avatar

    Looks like there’s a lot to see and do – I’ve never been.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      There certainly is Rachael and I’d love to return to South America, as I still have a lot of the continent to explore.

  10. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    Gorgeous photos! The Cathedral is amazing!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thanks Lulu, South America has come incredible cathedrals and churches – maybe a legacy of the Spanish.
      Saw so many opulent cathedrals and churches that I could probably write a post just on cathedrals in South America.

  11. fancypaperblog Avatar

    Ten years ago since my trip there! Juanita the ice princess is my stand out memory and a night on the Pisco sours plus Arequipina. Also the condors at Colca- wow. Thank you for reminding me.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Wow, that’s longer than mine in 2011. I’m so glad my post could throw you back in time and surface great memories. I’d love to read about the ice princess and I know all about the delicious Pisco Sours!

      My Colca post comes out this Sunday and hope I can do the canyon justice, let me know what you think and whether it was a hard climb for you…

      1. fancypaperblog Avatar

        I didn’t climb- we had a tour on a bus. Very early in the morning if I recall. I haven’t blogged about any of it actually. Maybe someday! Looking forward to your post.

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ah right, one of the reasons I love independent travel.
        Well, more content for your blog and I’m sure your audience would love the read… 😉

  12. josypheen Avatar

    I love all your photos at the markets, but that trek you mentioned to the canyon sounds amaaaazing too!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Josy, I always visit markets regardless of village, town, city, country – they’re usually very raw and a great indication of a place.
      Keep an eye for my Colca Canyon post, it’s schedulled for this Sunday 3rd December. 🙂

  13. thewonderer86 Avatar

    I’m with you. Arequipa is a lovely city – especially Santa Catalina. I loved that place.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly is and a city that I would visit again. 🙂

  14. the eternal traveller Avatar

    Beautiful photos again! You’ve captured the essence of this city. I do enjoy a nice wander around a church or two.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you!
      So do I but when it’s free, too many churches are charging to wander through now, unless you attend a service, which means you can’t take photos. I refuse to pay.

  15. Anindya Avatar

    Loved your travel story from Peru, Nilla…..your pictures are lovely as always, and the black and white ones will make anyone nostalgic. Peru seems to have stopped in time, maintaining an age old heritage and all the nostalgia about it. 🙂

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Anindya…many thanks for your great feedback and continual support.
      Glad you enjoyed my photos and post. Yes, some areas of Peru have stopped in time but then again, some countries in South America have also…an amazing continent!

      1. Anindya Avatar

        Yes an amazing continent indeed….😊

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hope you have the chance to visit. 🙂

  16. Sudha Avatar

    Wow, you got this colourful place beautifully to life, in front of us. Pleasure reading about this gorgeous city.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Sudha and glad you enjoyed my post on Arequipa. It’s such a picturesque city and easy to take good photos of buildings and locals. 😉

  17. Christie Avatar

    Everything looks so beautiful, thank you for sharing! This is actually part of my itinerary next year:) I’m all so excited about!! Looking forward to read about your Colca Canyon trip.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Christie…it certainly is a beautiful city and wished I had time to stay longer.
      My Colca post is scheduled for Sunday the 3rd, so only next week. 😉
      Had an incredible time on the trek and hope you can clean some tips from my trip. Look forward to reading about your travels in the new year.

  18. Emma & Nathan’s Travels Avatar

    I loved Arequipa it was so beautiful! We happily wondered round for days there it’s so picturesque

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It certainly is and hope my post brought back memories for you guys. Many thanks for your continual support. 🙂

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