With its elegant buildings of white volcanic stone (sillar), green countryside, rolling Chili River, and imposing volcanoes, Arequipa stakes a claim as the most scenic city in Peru. For those looking for a wonderful view and some memorable photos, we’ve listed here the most beautiful spots in Arequipa.
The picturesque country district of Sabandia is home to an old mill from the 1600s, the Molino de Sabandia, which supplied Arequipa with flour for centuries but was abandoned in the twentieth century as local technology surpassed the water power that it relied on. Luckily, it was rescued and restored by a group of architecture and history enthusiasts and opened to the public four decades back. Now, visitors can appreciate its white sillar walls and observe the still-functioning mill in action.
Sabandia Mill is a stop on the city’s panoramic bus tours, with most tourists opting to pay an additional fee to ride horses through the mill’s beautiful natural surroundings. Those who would rather see the mill can inform their guide, who generally does not accompany horse groups but rather passes them off to a local horseman. In many cases, the guide can accompany you, meaning you get a private tour within an otherwise group excursion! Sabandia Mill today is privately owned and operated, despite having been declared by the Peruvian congress as a protected national heritage site, and thus there is an entrance fee that you would have to pay to enter. Unfortunately, if you opt for one of these economical bus tours, you won’t have enough time during the stop to choose both horseback riding and entering the mill- you need to choose one.
The 19th century Yanahuara Lookout offers the postcard-perfect view of the city and iconic Misti Volcano rising behind it, framed by sillar arches engraved with quotes from illustrious arequipeño writers. (Our favorite is the one that ends, “not in vain is one born at the foot of a volcano”.)
The lookout is located in the main square of Yanahuara District. While there, buy a cup of the traditional local treat, queso helado. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually have cheese in it as the name implies, but is rather based on delicious coconut milk and known as queso helado simply because of its texture.
Also, make sure to take a look at the square’s church, which boasts an intricate mestizo-baroque façade._
Plaza de Armas
Arequipa boasts what many consider the nicest historical center in Peru. (And lucky for both us and you, Pirwa Arequipa is located within the historical center, just blocks from the main square!) The main square’s large central stone fountain is commonly filled with pigeons instead of water, and is surrounded by a series of paths, benches, palm trees, and flowers. The sillar buildings which delineate the square are marked by carved façades and two rows of arches. The massive Cathedral with its two towers takes up an entire side of the square; it’s the largest in Peru. The grandeur of the square takes one back to a time when Arequipa successfully defended the fledging country from invasion, produced notable writers and intellectuals, and was the leading contender to be the nation’s capital city.
You can see all of these sights and more by taking a campiñas (countryside) tour by bus.