A UNESCO World Heritage site, Arequipa is framed by 3 volcanoes and surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings. It’s a charming city with plenty to see and do.
Take a walk around the Plaza de Armas and soak up its Spanish colonial architecture, palm trees, and bustling streets. Alternatively, venture into the city’s historic quarter and wander among its quaint cobblestoned streets.
Plaza de Armas
One of Arequipa’s main attractions, the Plaza de Armas is a historic center that UNESCO calls a World Heritage Site. It’s filled with white sillar buildings and a 17th-century neoclassical Basilica Cathedral that dominates the square.
Whether you’re walking around the cobbled streets or snapping photos from a roof terrace, it’s a great place to people watch and soak up the atmosphere. It’s also the starting point for most Arequipa sightseeing tours, which usually cover the highlights of the UNESCO-listed historic center.
The Plaza de Armas is also home to the city’s Museum of Archaeology, which has a fascinating collection of artifacts and exhibits. It’s a good idea to visit in the morning before the midday sun heats up the city.
One of Arequipa’s most beautiful buildings, the Basilica Cathedral sits on the north end of Plaza de Armas. Its twin towers jut from sillar (white volcanic rock) and are a dramatic focal point in the plaza.
The church is a must-visit. It has a museum on the first floor where you can see a collection of gold and silver liturgical objects used in Catholic masses and festivals, including a 1.10-meter-long silver tabernacle that was made in Arequipa in 1750 and is still used on Holy Thursday.
You can also climb to the top of the two towers, where you can get the best views of Arequipa and its 3 volcanoes. This can be done for a small fee on your own, or if you want to make the most of it you can do it as part of a guided tour.
Monastery of Santa Catalina
Situated in Arequipa’s historical downtown district, the Santa Catalina Monastery is a must-see attraction. Often described as a city within a city, this 20,000 square-meter complex is a must see for anyone visiting Arequipa.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an incredible example of colonial architecture and design from multiple periods. It features cobblestone streets, plazas, gardens and fountains.
Its walls are carved from volcanic stones, including white and pink ashlars from the Chachani and Misti volcanoes. It also has several facades, cloisters and cells.
Inside, visitors can take a tour of the complex and learn about its history. It has three main cloisters, living quarters and a chapel. Its museum also exhibits paintings from the Cusco School of Painting, as well as other relics of cedar, silver and gold.
La Mansion del Fundador
La Mansion del Fundador, or Founder’s Mansion, is a beautiful example of the Spanish colonial architectural aesthetic that flourished in Arequipa during the 16th and 17th centuries. Constructed with white sillar stone, it is a testament to the city’s rich architectural history and features antique furniture, a colonial-style decor, and Inca symbolism in its artwork.
This museum is a must-see for anyone visiting Arequipa. It contains a frozen child mummy discovered in the mountains near Arequipa and numerous other items of amazing condition.
It’s located about 9 km from Arequipa, about 15 minutes by car. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 17:00 pm.
San Francisco Water Mill
Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Arequipa. You’ll find handsome architecture, delicious food, great shopping, and a breathtaking landscape.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Arequipa is known as the “White City,” thanks to its impressive architecture made from white volcanic stone. Start your visit at the main plaza, a crowning point in the heart of the city and home to Arequipa’s cathedral and colonial buildings.
Take a 20-minute drive outside Arequipa to the district of Sabandia and visit the Molino de Sabandia, a meticulously restored water mill that’s a must-see for visitors who want to learn about the city’s colonial past. The site also offers beautiful views of El Misti, one of Arequipa’s most impressive volcanoes.