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Nestled between the desert coast and the foothills of the Andes, Arequipa is renowned across Peru for its architecture, volcanoes, delectable food specialties, and distinctive regional traditions. Spend a few days here and you are sure to become enamored by its quiet charm, uncommon elegance, and eternal springtime weather.
Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city after Lima and has an energy all its own. Enjoy a sunlit day on the gorgeous Plaza de Armas, visit the Ice Maiden Mummy, and venture to the rolling countryside for bucolic fun.
By plane: The Arequipa airport is called the Manuel Ballon International Airport (airport code: AQP). There are regular connecting flights to/from Lima, Juliaca, and Cusco. The airport is 5.5 miles (8 km) from the Plaza de Armas of Arequipa.
If arriving by air, an English-speaking representative from Incas Expert Travel will be waiting for you outside of the baggage claim area, holding a sign with your name on it. If you arrange your own transportation from the airport, we recommend using one of the licensed taxi companies inside the airport.
By bus: Arequipa has 2 major bus stations, Terminal Terreste and Terminal Terrapuerto, which are adjacent to one another and 2.4 miles (3.8 km) from the Plaza de Armas. For long distance travel between Arequipa and Cusco, Puno, or Lima, the best and safest option is to look for non-stop overnight routes with companies such as Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, or Excluciva.
If traveling to/from Colca Canyon, private vans pick-up and drop-off directly at your hotel.
You can easily explore the historic center of Arequipa by foot. For longer distances, such as to the miradores (lookout points) or into the countryside, your travel advisor can arrange transfers in advance. You can also ask your hotel concierge to arrange transfers for you. For your own safety and peace of mind, do not hail a taxi from the street.
In Arequipa, the same advice holds true as it does for any new city you visit.
Keep valuables at your hotel, stow money under your clothes in a zippered or sealed container, wear backpacks on your front when in crowded areas, and in general stay alert. Common sense goes a long way to avoid potential incidents like petty theft and pickpocketing. In the historic center, you will see a visible police presence. Ask for help if you need assistance. Please speak with your travel advisor about any specific concerns.
ATMs and casas de cambio (currency exchange offices) are widely available on the Plaza de Armas and surrounding streets. If withdrawing money from an ATM, it’s best to use a machine that is attached to a bank. Some machines will give you the option to withdraw in Soles or US dollars.
A few hotels, restaurants, and expensive shops in Arequipa accept credit cards, many others don’t. Some establishments will add a commission (5-10%) if paying by credit card. For purchases in small amounts, it is best to pay in cash. Keep note of emergency numbers for all credit or debit cards in case of loss or theft.
As with any of Peru’s mountain destinations, the key to packing for Arequipa is to plan to dress in layers. Mornings are cold and you’ll want to start the day with outer layers that you can remove as the day warms up. By late afternoon, temperatures begin to drop again.
If you’re wishing for sunny skies, the dry season from April to October is the best time to visit.
In August, Arequipa celebrates the anniversary of its founding with a month-long calendar of events that draws a mix of locals, Peruvians, and international travelers. Hotels can book up quickly, so be sure to make your plans well in advance.
Arequipa is located on the popular southern route through Peru.
+ Direct domestic flights connect Arequipa to Lima (1 hr 30 min) and to Cusco (1 hr). Most travelers stop in Arequipa in between visits to the desert coast (Lima, Paracas, Nazca) and the Andean highlands (Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca).
+ For an extended look at truly breathtaking Andean landscapes, many travelers choose the overland route from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon and onward to Lake Titicaca, or vice versa. The route can be crossed aboard a comfortable minibus. Peru Rail recently introduced a new offer geared toward high end travelers: the Andean Explorer luxury sleeper train which connects Arequipa - Lake Titicaca - Cusco. Inquire for details.
If you’re planning to travel to destinations in the Andes such as Cusco and Lake Titicaca and are concerned about altitude, rest assured that Arequipa is the perfect intermediate stop after Lima and before heading to higher elevations.
Arequipa is located at 7,700 ft (2,340 m) — about 3,000 ft (1,000 m) less than Cusco or Puno. Few travelers ever experience altitude sickness while visiting the city, but it does give you some time to acclimate if coming from sea level.
Be aware, however, that the road between Arequipa and the Colca Canyon reaches altitudes of 12,000 ft (4,000 m). You will notice the elevation if you step out of the car and try any strenuous activity, such as climbing or sprinting. Gladly, these activities are not part of the program. Stick to the comfort of your car, bus, or van and you should have no problem. Chivay and other Colca Canyon villages are at about the same altitude as Cusco 11,150 ft (3,400 m).