When researching and planning a trip to Peru, you may come across the city of Arequipa, often called the “White City,” named for the sillar. This white volcanic rock is used to build much of the town. Many consider Arequipa a jumping-off point to visit Colca Canyon; however, this beautiful city has much to see and experience in its own right. With nearly perfect weather year-round, Arequipa boasts 300 days of sunshine, low humidity, and temperatures that reach highs of 25 °C (77 °F) and lows of 5 °C (41 °F). Therefore, you will have incredible weather to explore this vibrant city, visit its fascinating churches and monasteries, and try some tasty treats. Here are just some ideas of things to do with a free day in Arequipa!
Visit the Yanahuara Overlook
Constructed in the 19th century, this set of arches was made from sillar, and you will find an inscription in each arch telling a bit of history of each department in the country. This place also offers an incredible panoramic view of the city below and the Misti Volcano in the distance. It’s lovely in the golden hour before the sun starts to go down, and a great place to witness the sunset itself!
Visit the Catedral de Arequipa
Located in the historic center of Arequipa, this incredible cathedral was constructed between the years of 1540 and 1656, with its ornate façade in the Baroque style. Inside, you will find a lovely museum where you can see a large number of historic religious objects, many of which are made with the white sillar volcanic rock. With its vast collection of historical pieces, this cathedral is definitely worth a visit.
Visit one of Arequipa’s famous Picanterías
Arequipa’s picanterías form part of the South Peruvian tradition. A picantería is a popular center where they serve spiced dishes with a delicious chicha de jora (fermented corn beer). Here in the White City, many picanterías conserve the culinary tradition typical of Arequipa, cooking with a wood stove. Though many things have changed, the food remains exquisite. You can ask your guide which picanterías they recommend, as each Arequipeño will have their favorite!
Visit San Camilo Market and try some Queso Helado (Frozen Cheese)
San Camilo Market is a remarkable place to explore, offering all sorts of goods for sale. There are rows of ladies offering fresh juices, butchers offering every usable part of the animal, what seems like a million different types of potato, and more! One item that is unique to Arequipa that can be found here being whipped up in big wooden tubs is the artisanal queso helado ice cream. Don’t be fooled by its strange name – there is nothing cheesy about this refreshing, cinnamon-flavored treat. A queso helado is the perfect accompaniment to a stroll through the sunny streets of Arequipa.
Visit the Monasterio Santa Catalina and the Momia Juanita
While you can visit both of these sites on your own during a free day in Arequipa, another great way to visit them is as part of a day tour in Arequipa with an expert guide. The still-functioning Santa Catalina Monastery, constructed in 1579, is like a city within a city. You can walk through this incredible place, visiting its many cloisters, gardens, chapels, and kitchens, and really get a glimpse into what life was like for the nuns who called this place home. Then you can visit little Juanita, a little girl who was sacrificed in the 15th century and discovered in 1995 alongside the artifacts buried with her. Due to the conditions she was found in, high in the mountains, she is incredibly well preserved. You will find her to be a tiny mummified girl who gives a glimpse into another way of life entirely.
Whether you enjoy a guided tour of Arequipa, a free day to explore, or both, you will find much to see and taste and do in this incredible White City. More than just a launchpad to visit Colca Canyon, Arequipa is a great place to explore in itself, and worth visiting for a day, or two, or more!