Landmarks of Arequipa

Landmarks of Arequipa, Arequipa, Peru (A)

Arequipa is called the "White City", because many of the cities buildings are made of sillar, an off-white volcanic rock. The second-largest city in Peru at nearly 800,000 inhabitants, Arequipa is framed by views of two active volcanoes - El Misti and Chachani.
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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Landmarks of Arequipa
Guide Location: Peru » Arequipa
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Author: Jim Reynoldson
Author Bio: Jim Reynoldson is an avid traveler and writer who grew up in Oregon. He enjoys hiking, camping, and sightseeing throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Museo de la Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria
  • Iglesia de la Compania
  • Plaza de Armas
  • La Catedral
  • Casa de Moral
  • Monasterio de Santa Catalina
  • Iglesia de San Francisco
  • Museo Regional Historico
  • Museo de Arte Virreinal de Santa Teresa
Museo de la Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria

1) Museo de la Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria

Also called simply “Museo Santuary”, this small but charming museum near the central Plaza de Armas is a fascinating look at the region’s history. A collection of pre-colonial art and artifacts displays the story of ancient peoples – but the highlight is a well-preserved 600 year old mummy named “Juanita – the Ice Princess”. Juanita was found on the volcano Ampato, preserved in ice and in ceremonial garb after being ritually sacrificed and buried. A thorough guided tour in English (for a tip) is available, although photography is not allowed. However, the charming courtyard just outside of the museum entrance is worth snapping a few pictures.
Iglesia de la Compania

2) Iglesia de la Compania

One of the oldest churches in the city, construction on this Jesuit church began in 1590 and was completed in 1698. Like many of the historic structures in Arequipa, the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus is built from white sillar ash stone from the surrounding volcanoes. The main alter is ornately carved from cedar, and covered with gold leaf – and the chapel contains paintings by the Italian artist Bernardo Bitt, among others. Gothic-style rooftop gargoyles divert what little rain falls on Arequipa. The iconic elements of figures carved into the chapels and other areas of the church are interesting – with representations of animals and plants that harkens back to pre-Colonial times.
Image Courtesy of Antonio Velasco.
Plaza de Armas

3) Plaza de Armas

The city centerpiece of Arequipa is this beautiful plaza, with a fountain in the center and dotted by a number of palm trees. White colonial buildings made from volcanic sillar stone surround the plaza – including the grand, twin-spire Cathedral. From the plaza, the visitor can enjoy views of the surrounding volcanos (El Misti, Chachani, and Ampato). A number of cafes and restaurants in the arcaded buildings overlook this public plaza from balconies. A number of lively patriotic celebrations and ceremonies occur at the Plaza de Armas on the weekends, and the plaza is often alive with tourists, locals, and a number of vendors hawking souvenirs.
La Catedral

4) La Catedral

Dominating one entire end of the Plaza de Armas, La Catedral epitomizes Arequipa’s iconic architecture. The original building dates back to 1656, and was destroyed by a fire in 1844. The newly rebuilt cathedral was then flattened in a massive earthquake in 1868. The once-again rebuilt cathedral (damaged by yet another earthquake in 2001) is a masterpiece – with high vaulted ceilings, an altar and columns made of Italian marble, a pulpit carved in France, a huge organ from Belgium (reportedly the largest in South America), and an enormous Byzantine brass lamp from Spain. La Catedral de Arequipa is also one of only 100 or so cathedrals in the world entitled to display the Vatican flag –which it does next to the altar.
Casa de Moral

5) Casa de Moral

This 18th century colonial mansion is one of the best-preserved structures of its type in the city. Named for a mulberry plant, this mansion was likely built around 1730 – and is considered a great example of baroque-mestizo architecture, with white sillar volcanic stone and an elaborately sculpted facade. Currently owned and managed by the Peruvian bank, Bancosur, Casa de Moral also houses a collection of paintings (many representing the Cusquena colonial style) and a library of more than 3000 works of literature. Historic furniture and artifacts – as well as brightly colored open-air courtyards and patios – make this mansion worth a visit.
Image Courtesy of Valentin Ramirez.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina

6) Monasterio de Santa Catalina

Originally built in 1580, this beautiful convent and monastery is over 20,000 square meters in size, and once housed about 450 people. Centrally located near the main plaza in Arequipa, most of this historic building is open to the public – although a small section still houses a small group of nuns. Traditionally, nuns accepted into the convent came from wealthy Peruvian families, with nuns having servants to attend to them – although these practices were discontinued during reforms instituted in 1871. Today, the monastery is among the most visited sites in Arequipa – a gorgeously photogenic structure full of brightly colored walls, quaint alleyways, and numerous interesting nooks and crannies. Don’t forget your camera!
Iglesia de San Francisco

7) Iglesia de San Francisco

Originally commissioned by Gaspar Baez and built in 1569, this church – like many others in Peru – was ravaged by earthquakes. Damaged by a quake in 1687, the cathedral was rebuilt and expanded – this time, using the white volcanic sillar ash stone now so prevalent in the buildings of Arequipa. Another upgrade was performed in 1960, with an emphasis on restoring the original Spanish Baroque architectural style. The Iglesia de San Francisco also contains an enormous library of 20,000 books as well as a gallery of paintings by local artists, and the cloisters – built by the Franciscan Order – also contain a convent, a smaller temple, and a small, park-like public square.
Museo Regional Historico

8) Museo Regional Historico

Housed in an old colonial mansion (which is somewhat dilapidated) just east of the Iglesia de San Francisco, this small museum explores the unique history of the city of Arequipa and the region with a number of artifacts and works of art. Exhibit pieces include historic maps, documents, paintings, and a number of caricatures drawn in the early 1900’s by local artist Jorge Vinatea Reynoso depicting elite Peruvian social and political figures from the previous century. All in all, this museum – officially called the Museo Regional Historico Etnologico Municipal - gives insight into a city with a fascinating political history.
Museo de Arte Virreinal de Santa Teresa

9) Museo de Arte Virreinal de Santa Teresa

Originally constructed in 1710, this church and Carmelite convent recently opened as an art museum to the public. The complex is brimming with ornate furniture and gilded artworks, and the grounds have a stunning collection of courtyards and arcaded corridors. Exhibits include works in metal, paintings, sculptures, and murals – and an onsite gift shop sells soaps made by the nuns, in addition to other items. To end this tour, walk three blocks west to the Iglesia de San Francisco and another three blocks south to return to the Plaza de Armas in the city center – or simply catch an inexpensive taxi along Melgar.
Image Courtesy of AgainErick.

Walking Tours in Arequipa, Peru

Create Your Own Walk in Arequipa

Create Your Own Walk in Arequipa

Creating your own self-guided walk in Arequipa is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Arequipa Introduction Walking Tour

Arequipa Introduction Walking Tour

Capital of the eponymous region of Peru, Arequipa is a colonial-era city rich in architecture built of the volcanic stone provided by three neighboring volcanoes. The historic downtown area of Arequipa is dominated by Plaza de Armas complete with a plethora of ancient churches located nearby, of which the most notable is the 17th-century Basilica Cathedral. This orientation tour will walk you...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Historical Churches

Historical Churches

Colonists from Spain brought to Peru and Arequipa the power of Catholicism, which is beautifully reflected today in the splendid architectural designs of Arequipa's numerous places of worship. Arequipa’s churches are among the most striking in Peru. Take this self-guided walking tour to explore the city's religious heritage.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles