Arequipa, Peru - The White City

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 25 Jan 23

Arequipa in Peru, also known as the White City, is well worth a visit. But what is Arequipa known for & what can you do there?

Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru by HippoPX

Plaza de Armas in Arequipa, Peru by HippoPX

It might not be the most well-known Peruvian city, but Arequipa is actually its second most populous city and well worth a visit!

Located in Peru’s Arequipa Region, Arequipa is a stunning city filled with wondrous sights, tantalising cuisine and a unique history. We might be biased, but making a stop in Arequipa Peru is an absolute must. Curious to learn more? Read on!




Why is Arequipa called the White City?

Sparkling in the sun, Arequipa is called the White City because of the sillar, a white volcanic stone that makes up its buildings (both modern as well as Spanish colonial). Framed by three towering volcanoes, including the 5,800 metre El Misti, there are phenomenal views all round and with 300 days of sunshine each year it’s not hard to enjoy them!

Green palm trees in front of the white Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Image credit: Paul Cook

The white-coloured Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

Image credit: Paul Cook


What is Arequipa known for?

Santa Catalina Convent

While Arequipa in Peru is home to the monastery of La Recoleta (with a museum and library) and several interesting churches, its highlight is the Santa Catalina Convent. Built in the late 16th century (but closed to the public until 1970), the convent was a self-contained community, a place where nuns could worship and live in total isolation. On a small group tour, you can walk through the well-preserved convent, soak up the peaceful atmosphere and discover the tiny, secluded plazas and lovely courtyards within. Taking a stroll in Arequipa is like walking through a living museum with around 250 significant historic and colonial buildings in the town centre alone.

Image credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr

Image credit: Fatima Trasmonte

The food 

As well as beautiful buildings, Arequipa has a fantastic food scene with more local dishes to try than any other city in Peru. Most famous would have to be ‘cuy’, an Andean delicacy of guinea pig. When visiting Arequipa make sure you try their take on it, which sees it covered in hot sauce and then fried! Also make sure to try Estofado de res (a marinated beef drizzled with delicious sauce), adobo (a pork soup and famous hangover cure!), pastel de papa (similar to lasagna, but with just cheese, eggs and potatoes), helado queso (a type of ice cream which is actually made from cheese) and alfajores arequipenos (colourful cookies) while on a food tour.

Two people standing next to a stack of vibrant fresh fruit at a market

Image credit: Kaya Russell

Plates of meat and vegetables

Image credit: Marion Bunnik

The volcanoes

While it’s known as the White City, there are many people who would also refer to Arequipa as the volcanic city, thanks to the imposing volcanoes on its outskirts.

El Misti is the most famous volcano in the area – not because it’s the tallest (at a ‘mere’ 5,800 metres), but because you can see its snow capped peak standing tall in the distance from just about any open space in the city. It’s possible to hike El Misti over a two day period, and the views from the top will definitely take your breath away!

The two other volcanoes framing the city are Ampato which stands at 6,288 metres and Chachani which is 6,075 metres. There are also many more in the surrounding areas including Coropuna which is Peru’s highest volcano at 6,425 metres, Solimana, Hualca-Hualca, Sabancaya and Ubinas.

Snow-capped Volcano with greenery in front of it

Image credit: Kaya Russell

The Ice Mummy

The city of Arequipa in Peru is also home to Juanita ‘The Ice Mummy’, an Incan girl who was said to have been sacrificed to the Inca gods in the 15th century. Her body was discovered in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and his assistant Miguel Zarate. They came across a bundle in a crater of Mt Ampato, and much to their surprise it was the frozen body of a young girl. Despite having passed away some 500 years earlier, the freezing temperatures had preserved her body until the ice began to melt following a volcanic eruption. According to researchers, Mummy Juanita was part of a ritual sacrifice known as Capacocha, which required the Incas to sacrifice the best and healthiest amongst them as an attempt to appease the gods. It was hoped this ritual would result in a good harvest and prevent natural disasters.

These days, Juanita’s body is on display in the Catholic University of Santa Maria’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa – a wonderful museum where you can learn more about the Incan civilisation. Make sure you rug up when visiting, as the nature of the artefacts they have on display means the temperatures have to stay cool!

The Colca Canyon

While not actually in Arequipa, the nearby Colca Canyon is a huge drawcard for the town, and you’ll see some pretty incredible views on your trip out there. With a depth of 3,270 metres, the Colca Valley is the one of the world’s deepest canyons (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon), and it is where you can watch the majestic Andean condor as it cruises over the morning thermals.

Llamas eating grass in a green field in front of large mountains

Image credit: Marion Bunnik

Large Andean Condor bird flying in front of mountains

Image credit: Jean Vella/Unsplash


Is Arequipa Peru worth visiting?

Often considered the underrated gem of Peru, the gorgeous city of Arequipa is not just well worth the visit – it’s a must-do! Whether you are seeking divine scenery, glorious weather, delicious cuisine or unique local attractions, Arequipa is sure to check all these boxes for you!

If you are a traveller lured in by beautiful landscapes, then prepare to be seduced by Arequipa. Combine the imposing snow-capped volcanoes that line the city’s outskirts with the colonial-era architecture that fill the city centre; Arequipa is one charming and distinctive-looking destination. In fact, it’s so unique that you may feel as if you are not in Peru anymore! And if the postcard-worthy scenery isn’t enough, maybe the almost year-round pleasant spring weather will entice you, boasting 300 days of sunshine yearly.

Colonial-era white arch

Image credit: Fatina Trasmonte

Columns and red flowers in front of a large Volcano

Image credit: Marion Bunnik

In each of Peru’s provinces, you’ll stumble across micro-cultures which all have their own unique cuisines. It’s said that Arequipa is an upcoming culinary destination in Peru, mainly because of the more than 500 local dishes on offer and unique flavours available to the region. If you mix Peru’s indigenous traditions with the abundance of international influences over the country’s long history; the result is a delicious fusion of practices and flavours that reflect immense multiculturism. So if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, Arequipa is well-worth the visit.

Another reason why Arequipa is worth visiting is because it is a great city to simply (and easily) explore. That may seem obvious, but if you’re a wanderer at heart, you’ll fall in love with the endless cobblestone streets found at every turn within the city. Arequipa also boasts several gorgeous plazas located around the city and they’re the perfect spot to immerse yourself in local life and culture. You can people watch surrounded by picture-perfect palm trees, bright flowers and stunning architecture.

Colourful buildings in front of a volcanic mountain range with a bright blue sky

Image credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr


Why is Arequipa important to Peru?

According to some Peruvians, Arequipa is one of the most important cities in all of Peru due to its historical significance. The city centre of Arequipa, with its buildings crafted with volcanic sillar, represents the fusion of European and native building characteristics and techniques. The Spanish conquered and established the city in 1540; but before the conquest of the Inca Empire, Arequipa was inhabited by several pre-Inca tribes related to the Tiwanaku Culture.

The Spanish arrival was the beginning of the European architectural aesthetic – and subsequently, Arequipa became home to several large churches, homes and convents, such as the impressively beautiful Santa Catalina. Arequipa’s city centre is so significant, it has been included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.

History aside, Arequipa is also important as it’s regarded as the gateway to the impeccable Colca Canyon in southern Peru. Here you’ll experience drastically different views to the city, enjoying the incredible scenery that is found within one of the world’s deepest canyons. Here you can also spot the majestic Andean Condor, the largest flying bird on the planet!


Explore Arequipa in Peru with Bunnik Tours

Thinking of hiking the Arequipa volcanoes, exploring the White City or trying ‘cuy’ for yourself? Book a tour with Bunnik Tours today! Whether you visit Peru for 17 days or 35, it’s going to be a trip of a lifetime. Get in touch with our Travel Specialists or book online today. The Peru Tourism website is also a great resource for anyone considering a trip to this vibrant South American nation.


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