Peru’s second-largest city, Arequipa has been a breeding ground for rebels and intellectuals since its founding in 1540. Among its famous residents is Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. The rich architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage site is worth the long journey from Lima. All prices are in U.S. dollars.
1. Treat yourself to a taste of Arequipa. Queso helado, a sweet dessert made of vanilla, coconut, milk, cinnamon, and cloves, is hard to pass up. The treat gets its name from its cheese-like appearance and is traditionally served by street vendors.
2. Visit Arequipa’s oldest resident. The mummy known as “Juanita” was sacrificed to the Incan gods over 500 years ago. Discovered in 1995, Juanita resides at Catholic University of Santa María’s Museo Santuarios Andinos. Call ahead. ($5 admission)
3. Soak up Andean melodies. Head to Las Quenas in the old quarter for traditional Andean music. Open Monday to Saturday, the restaurant offers folkloric dance performances on weekend nights. ($1.50 admission)
4. Get your feet wet. Nature lovers can escape to the Valle de Chilina, 20 minutes outside of town, and raft down the pristine Río Chili. Rapids range from beginner to advanced. ($23 for three-hour trip with Cusipata)
5. Enjoy a world-class meal. Credited with putting Peruvian cuisine on the global map, Chef Gastón Acurio’s local restaurant, Chicha, is the perfect place to sample classics such as adobo and alpaca.
6. Step back in time. The Plaza de Armas has preserved its colonial splendor. Sillar, a white volcanic stone used for many of the buildings,
gives Arequipa its nickname—the “White City.”
7. Step outside your comfort zone. Hike up El Misti, a 5,822 meter (19,101-foot) active volcano, for spectacular views. Caution: high altitude and extreme temperatures can make the climb dangerous. ($130 for a two-day guided tour with Incaventura).
8. Strike a deal. There are 4,000 Peruvian varieties of potato—and you can find many of them in the 134-year-old Mercado San Camilo, Arequipa’s main farmers’ market, open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
9. Explore a city within a city. The most famous resident of the Monastery of Santa Catalina, founded in 1579, was Sor Ana de los Ángeles, a nun beatified by Pope John Paul II. It also houses the Pinacoteca art gallery. ($8 admission)
10. Make your own ceviche. The Casa de Ávila hotel offers cooking courses in traditional cuisine such as ceviche and rocoto relleno. ($21 for a two-hour class)
View a slideshow of attractions from Arequipa here.
Slideshow images courtesy of José Gutiérrez Contreras.