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Top 8 Things to Do in Arequipa

Amy Kruger
April 1, 2021
10 min. read
Arequipa · Peru

After much deliberation, you’ve finally taken the plunge and have booked your trip to the southern part of Peru, Arequipa. You probably have all the main 'bucket list' excursions booked, however, there are a few 'hidden gems' you cannot miss!

Here is my list of the 8 ‘must-sees' when traveling through Arequipa (and Colca) to help you out:

Visit a genuine Picanteria for lunch on a Sunday

A Picanteria is a traditional lunchtime eatery that serves regional dishes. Officially declared as a Cultural Heritage site of Peru, these local Picanterias remain loyal to the region’s colonial flavors. One of my absolute favorites and my recommendation for you to try is La Nueva Palomino. Here you will be able to find 200-year-old traditional methods of cooking. We recommend that you try the 'Chicharron de Cerdo' (traditional deep-fried pork), or the stuffed pepper ('rocoto relleno'). Or if you happen to visit on a Sunday, try the star of Arequipenan cuisine – the 'Adobo' with its “pan de tres puntas” (as shown in the picture)

Traditional 'picanteria' in Arequipa - > La Nueva Palomino
Adobo pork stew served with the typical bread 'Tres Puntas'

Escape the crowds and stroll through the Santa Catalina Monastery

If you’re looking to escape the crowds or if you’re a budding photographer, visit Santa Catalina Monastery in the evening. Before the sun sets you will capture the most incredible stills as you wander around this 20,000 m2 complex. The citadel is so big, that it's often referred to as a ‘city within a city’. With this exquisite monastery being open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 17:00 through 20:00, you will be able to experience the almost maze-like alleys and massive grounds in the same way that the nuns did centuries ago - by candlelight. It is a truly unforgettable experience and the perfect place to test out that new lens you bought for your Nikon.

Ocre-wall at the colonial Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa

Eat your dinner off of hot volcanic rock at the exquisite Zig Zag

Located in a cozy house built from volcanic stone, and facing the beautiful Plaza San Francisco, this chic restaurant offers some delicious Peruvian-European fusion cuisine. With meticulous attention to detail, this is the must-visit restaurant in Arequipa, perfectly priced and tasty as ever.

The elaborate spiral staircase was even designed by the world-famous Gustave Alexandre Eiffel (yes, he designed France’s Eifel Tower). So be sure to get a picture while you're there. This charming restaurant is mesmerizing, and the food even more so. Try the house specialty and allow your taste buds the opportunity to sample a trilogy of meats served on a hot volcanic stone.

Signature cocktails at La Compania

On the southeast corner of Plaza de Armas, you will find this Baroque (also called Churrigueresque) styled church and courtyard. Visit its very own gold leaf-laden and its equally as detailed altar.

Look for 'La Benita de Los Claustros' (my favorite restaurant in the area) in La Compania's courtyard. Ask your waiter for their signature drink (Pisco Sour Picantero), sit back, relax and reflect on all of the incredible things that you have managed to see on the day.

La Compania Church illuminated at night in Arequipa's historic center
Tables of La Benita de los Claustros in the inner courtyard of La Compania Church in Arequipa

Visit San Camilo Market

Due to its proximity to the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), San Camilo is worth a visit. Its internal metallic structure was once designed by the famous French architect Gustave Eiffel. In 1987 the market was declared a Monumental Historical Heritage. During your stroll, you can discover artisan bread, colorful produce, and street food bites.

Different cheese sorts at San Camilo Market in Arequipa

Local Organic Chocolate & Craft Beer Tasting

Arequipa is renowned for its gastronomy but few know of the entrepreneurial spirit of its people. Chaqchao produces organic chocolate just a few meters from the main square. In its cozy chocolate-factory-coffee-shop-lounge, specialists can teach you how to make chocolate from bean to bar. Enjoy one of their delicious desserts or a steaming cup of hot chocolate on the sundeck or rooftop. On some days they even have live music so make sure to check their Facebook Page before planning your visit.

The so-called 'White City' is home to a wide range of beverages, from variations of the traditional Peruvian drink, pisco, to many craft beer options such as NowhereAQP. This innovating micro-brewery run by a Canadian/Peruvian couple offers an open and comfortable space to enjoy unique beer and delicious food. Make sure to try some of their thick-cut fries as you enjoy the sun on the patio and give the brewery dog, Pisco, some loving pats.

The first picture below depicts a 'Carnavalera', their delicious cream Ale made with purple corn, pineapple, and cinnamon. They use recyclable bottles and hops that are grown in the area. If you want to try as much as possible, our tip is to arrange a beer tasting with snacks.

Indulge in the breath-taking scenery of Colca

The Colca Canyon is actually the second deepest canyon in the world, second only to the Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet, and comes in at approximately 3,400m (11155 ft) at its deepest point. To put this into perspective, it is roughly twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the USA.

A knowledgeable guide will accompany you for the entire trip from Arequipa and will even suggest some afternoon hikes for you to go on based on your fitness level. One thing to note before venturing out on this unique journey is that a majority of the excursion takes place at a relatively high altitude which can be problematic for some visitors. Therefore, I suggest that you acclimatize for at least 2 days in Arequipa first, as well as drink as much coca leaf tea as you can.

Top 8 Things To Do in Arequipa - Colorful pre-Inca terraces in the Colca Valley

Glide through the air with a zipline tour in Chivay

There are three zipline courses to choose from in Chivay, each with a different amount of adrenaline required to have a good time. These adventure-filled zipline tours have something to offer for everybody.

Getting the gear for ziplining over the Colca Valley in Chivay Arequipa

From tandem rides for the nervous first-timers to upside-down riding at 550 feet above a river with speeds of up to 88km/h (55mph) for the hard-to-satisfy. This truly is an unforgettable experience and a really unique way to enjoy the canyon, so bring a camera, try not to scream, and enjoy the views as you whiz through the air like an Andean Condor.

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