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Arequipa is known as La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), and it's easy to see why – it's flanked by four snow-topped volcanoes and teaming with buildings made from pale sillar, or volcanic stone. Known for its authentic vibe, this city in South Peru is packed with colonial-era churches, convents and local markets where you can try adobo, the city’s famous pork stew. Get to grips with local life then head out on a hike. The terrain's varied: you could head up high on a mountain, or down one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Many Arequipa hostels host top DJs so you can party all night, or wind down in a place with Netflix in the common area. Take your breakfast with a view of the volcanoes at a hostel with a roof terrace. If you're likely to need a little help planning your next move, pick an Arequipa hostel that has an in-house travel agency to give you helpful tips. You can start each day with artisan pastries at a hostel with its own café, or if you're looking to socialise, choose a colonial house with plenty of outdoor games.
The historic centre is in the heart of Arequipa and home to a multitude of museums, plazas, churches and more – don't miss the magnificent Plaza de Armas square. For a view of the volcanoes, head to Yanahuara District, a sophisticated residential neighbourhood that's famous for its sillar buildings. Paucarpata is just outside the city and a peaceful spot for a countryside walk. Stroll among pre-Incan terraces as you look up at El Misti, the snow-capped volcano.
Make sure the Santa Catalina Monastery is on your to-do list in Arequipa. The peaceful passageways of this Dominican religious centre are alive with colour. The 17th-century Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa gives you a close-up look at the pearly sillar stones used to build the city. For shopping, you can try Fundo el Fierro artisan market, where you'll find authentic alpaca clothing. Want an adrenaline rush? The Chili River is famous for its whitewater rafting, or you can take a hiking tour in Colca Canyon – you might just be lucky enough to spot condors flying overhead.
Rodríguez Ballón International Airport is the closest airport to Arequipa. A taxi will have you downtown in around 20-30 minutes. Arriving by bus? Cruz del Sur and Tepsa run buses from other Peruvian cities like Lima into the central Terminal Terrestre. For getting around the city, hailing a taxi is an easy and affordable option.