Arequipa is a vibrant city full of bustling streets, historic buildings, and unique attractions. It is also a stunning area surrounded by massive volcanoes and canyons. Not only is it a beautiful and fun place to visit, it is often deemed to be one of the most important cities in Peru for its political and economic significance. There is so much to do and see in and around this large Peruvian city. Here is a city guide to help you plan a visit to Arequipa.
When to Visit Arequipa
Arequipa has fairly pleasant weather year-round, so we think that there isn’t really a bad time to visit. The average temperatures don’t vary much over the course of a year. The average highs stay in the mid-70s and the lows in the 40s to low 50s (that’s low 20s for the highs and around 10 for the lows in Celsius). Note that if you venture to Colca Canyon or surrounding areas, it gets colder at higher elevations. We encountered snow and chilly temps in the winter!
It is also fairly sunny and dry year-round. But, it is a bit cloudier with more days of rain December through February/March. So if you plan to hike Colca Canyon, it may be more enjoyable to avoid these wetter months and opt for April to November instead. These months are considered peak months in Arequipa.
Getting to Arequipa
Rodríguez Ballón International Airport serves the Arequipa area. It has many domestic flight options to and from Lima, Cusco, Iquitos, etc. and many international flights with routes to and from the United States, Argentina, Spain, Colombia, and more. Note that many flights may connect through Lima before reaching Arequipa and that flights to Lima and Cusco are generally cheaper if coming from an international location.
Many travelers more commonly reach Arequipa by bus. The city is a major hub in southern Peru, so there are daily buses to and from many cities in the country and countries around it. Some popular routes include Cusco, Lima, Puno, and La Paz. We took a bus from the Santiago area to Tacna, Peru, and then caught a bus the next morning to Arequipa.
A couple reputable and popular Peruvian bus companies in the area include Cruz del Sur and Civa. Many times we showed up the day of our trip and bought tickets at the station. However, for longer journeys or if you don’t have much flexibility in your schedule, we recommend booking online in advance or at the station a few days before your journey.
Arequipa is a pretty large city, but many of the tourist attractions, plenty of restaurants, and many hotels are concentrated in the heart of the city. This makes it pretty walkable.
However, for further attractions or if you aren’t up for walking, there are many taxis and combis around the city. Combis and public buses are definitely the cheapest option. Many will list the number or route on the vehicle. If you’re unsure, just confirm with the driver or another local.
If you wave down a taxi on the street, note that many aren’t metered. So, always confirm a price before taking a ride. It is a safer bet to use official dispatch taxi companies, though it can be hard to distinguish them while walking the city. Many hotels and some staff at various attractions may be able to call a taxi for you. Uber and Easy Taxi/Cabify are also options here and are often more straightforward due to the predetermined price.
Where to Stay in Arequipa
Arequipa has a wide range of accommodation options whether you are on a strict budget or are looking for a more luxurious option. There are also quite a few Airbnb and homestay opportunities in the city. Here are a variety of hotel options.
Casa de Turistas: double rooms with private bathrooms.
La Casa de Chamo: private apartments and double rooms with shared or private bathrooms.
Casona Moya: double rooms with shared or private bathrooms.
Hotel Tierrasur: double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Hotel Conquistador: double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Acolpacha Tambo Boutique: double rooms and suites and included breakfast.
Hotel Casona Solar: double rooms, suites, and private apartments and included breakfast.
Wyndham Costa del Sol: suites and double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Casa Andina Premium: suites and double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
CIRQA: double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast and dinner.
Where to Eat
Arequipa has many delicious restaurants offering varying cuisines. Peruvian food is truly delicious and meals here are affordable, so we definitely recommend trying some local dishes! Some great places to try traditional cuisine include Chicha, Zig Zag, Sol de Mayo, and El Tío Dario. There are many more great options beyond these!
The most budget-friendly way to try some local dishes is to visit the local markets or look for local restaurants serving the menu del día. The menu of the day generally consists of multiple courses and a drink or dessert for a great deal!
Some more restaurants in the city offering other tasty cuisines include Mumis for fusion, Eco Brunch for breakfast/brunch, Il Caffė de la Nonna for Italian dishes, Omphalos for vegan and vegetarian options, and INDIA for Indian (something we didn’t come across often in South America!).
There are several larger supermarkets in Arequipa, such as El Súper, offering many groceries, bottled water, beer, and basic toiletries and home goods. Additionally, there are many smaller tiendas around the city where you can find basic groceries and home goods.
The markets around Arequipa are also a great place to pick up food items if you plan to cook a meal at your accommodation or just want to grab some fruit, bread, cheeses, and more for cheap.
There are many ATMs in Arequipa, some of which are located inside banks. However, like in Cusco, be aware that some have lower withdrawal limits and charge high fees.
We recommend carrying some soles wherever you go because, while card is becoming more accepted, many establishments still only accept cash. This is especially true at smaller hotels, the less-touristy restaurants, street stalls, local markets, and in the smaller towns outside the city.
If you need to exchange currencies, you can do so at the exchange houses near the city center. While you won’t get the exact exchange rate, know the current rate at the time of your trip to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. Banks will also exchange currencies, though we typically found the casas de cambio to have more favorable rates. Unlike where we lived in Lima, we don’t recommend exchanging in the streets.
Lastly, we were surprised to see that some places accepted USD. But, if you decide to pay in another currency instead of soles, you’ll likely be charged more.
With so many great things to do in Arequipa and this area of Peru, tours are quite common and there are many tour operators located in the city. There are varying tour options, such as city tours, Colca Canyon excursions, multi-day trips that hit the highlights in Arequipa, Puno, and/or Cusco, and more.
Some companies may provide their information online and allow you to book online in advance. There are also companies with offices in Arequipa where you can book in person if desired. If you go during peak season, it is better to book in advance if you don’t have the flexibility, want to go with a certain company, or are considering a multi-day tour.
Whatever you decide to do, we suggest doing some research beforehand, visiting a couple offices to explore your options if you book in person, and asking for recommendations before making a decision. This will ensure that you go with a reputable company that will give you the best possible experience.
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