My name is Alejandro “Janox” Novoa, better known on Instagram as @the.janox. Thanks for stopping by my article on the best things to do in Arequipa, Peru. I’m a computer engineer and a professional photographer.
My passion for travel started three years ago when I became bored with my sedentary work life. I decided to look for new experiences through travel and my first destination was Ica. After this experience, I started to get into a professional photography career at the “Centro de la Imagen” in Lima.
This was the beginning of everything for me – I formed new friendships at the centre, started to see life in a different way, and built a great love for connecting with nature, capturing moments and meeting new people.
Four Wonderful Days in Arequipa
My trip to Arequipa all started when my girlfriend was coming to Peru for the second time. We had already visited Cusco and Piura on her first visit, so we decided on going to Arequipa for its architecture, food and history.
The first time I visited Arequipa was 10 years ago for a work trip but I was basically stuck at my hotel for the whole trip, and at that time my passion for travel and photography hadn’t blossomed yet. That is why we also chose Arequipa so we could take plenty of photos along the way.
We spent four days in Arequipa (at the beginning of August) and enjoyed many experiences like meeting up with some good friends, trying excellent local cuisine and enjoying our hotel which was a fantastic place. We also had the chance to visit Chiguata and Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation where we were able to observe wild vicunas and birds.
Arequipa is known for being a culinary destination as well as a historical destination for its architecture and unique culture. It has two national reserves. One is Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation (as mentioned above) and the other is the famous Colca Canyon which is one of the deepest canyons in the world where you can see condors flying.
My favorite places in Arequipa were the historic centre of the city for its gorgeous colonial architecture and Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation where I could enjoy observing animal species in the wild.
7 Best Things To Do in Arequipa
1. Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery
Built in 1579, this monastery served as a cloister for Dominican nuns from the time of its construction until the 18th century. Today you can visit the monastery to see a small religious community there, as well as marvel at the history and spectacular architecture on display. The complex was built from volcanic sillar stone, so it’s an epic place to photograph too.
2. Watch the Sunset from Yanahuara Viewpoint
Yanahuara Viewpoint offers views of the volcanoes: El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu. Walking to this viewpoint (especially for sunrise or sunset) is an awesome experience as you wander past colonial architecture and across Rio Chili. This is the perfect spot to capture photos at golden hour!
3. See the Flight of the Condors at Colca Canyon
The most common way to experience this destination is to take an early morning day trip from Arequipa. And when I say early, I mean early! Some tour buses leave as early as 3am to get you to Colca Canyon for condor viewing at 8am. If you don’t mind early morning wake up calls and have condor viewing on your bucket list, then this is the ultimate experience.
4. Explore Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve
Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve can be visited on the way to Puno. It’s located behind the imposing El Mist volcano which takes hikers 4,000 metres above sea level (I recommend hiking that volcano too if you have time). This national reserve is home to some incredibly diverse landscapes, grasslands, deserts, volcanoes and wildlife.
5. Head out to La Benita de Characato for Dinner
This culinary destination is one of the best restaurants in Arequipa. A rustic place that serves delicious and authentic Peruvian food with fantastic service and generous portions. The only downside is that it’s located 20 minutes from the Arequipa city centre, but the drive there is totally worth it and this actually makes for a nice little excursion outside of the city.
6. Eat at the Family Run Picanteria, La Nueva Palomino
Another culinary destination in Arequipa, this lunchtime restaurant is located in the city and offers patrons hearty Peruvian dishes (many originating from Arequipa). Lunch here is always a good idea, especially when you have skipped breakfast and have built up an appetite. Dishes like stuffed rocoto chilli peppers, prawn chowder and chica de jora are epic.
7. Discover the Incredible Sillar Route on a Tour
The Sillar Route has become a popular place on Instagram recently with many influencers and social media stars heading out this way to take incredible photos. Here you can learn about the entire process of extraction from this rock. Sillar Rosado is a big highlight with its pink color. You can join various walking tours for the Sillar Route that take you to all of the sites.
Where to Stay & Eat in Arequipa
We stayed at a place called La Hosteria which is a quiet and spacious accommodation located just four blocks from the Plaza de Armas (main plaza of the city). Our room had a jacuzzi and for an additional $20 you could enjoy the use of a sauna. We found La Hosteria on Airbnb.
As already mentioned, the cuisine in Arequipa is one of the best in all of Peru. Some of the emblematic dishes are stuffed rocoto chilli peppers, prawn or shrimp chowder, and pork ribs. If you want to try several dishes at once, you can choose a plate called “El Americano” which gives you small portions of various dishes on one plate. This is quite a unique experience.
A couple more places I recommend eating at, as well as La Benita de Characato and La Nueva Palomino, are: Republica Cafe, Lautrec Cafe, and Cafe y Vino Winebar. These places all have delicious food that you will love!
Tips for your Visit to Arequipa
Keep in mind that to really enjoy the Colca Canyon you should plan to have two or three nights out there to see the condors, go hiking and explore the area. A day trip is still worth doing but having a couple more days just gives you a much more in-depth experience. Plus you will avoid a 3am early morning wake up call that way too! So it’s a win-win if you ask me.
The climate in Arequipa is dry and temperate, not too hot or cold. It’s always sunny and it never rains. This city wanted to become independent from Peru at one point, which is why there is such a distinct culture and why the people are affectionate but also very fond of their local customs.
Arequipa should be visited before going to Cusco. Cusco is the cherry on the cake. I suggest going from northern Peru – from Piura, to Mancora, Vichayito, Trujillo, Cajamarca, Lima, Ica, Paracas, Arequipa, Cusco and Puno!