Arequipa Cuisine and Must See Sights

Arequipa Cuisine and Must See Sights

Alana Lewthwaite – South America Travel Centre

Lesser known than capital Lima or the infamous Cusco, Arequipa is the second largest and arguably the prettiest city in Peru with around one million calling it home. This colonial city is famed for its baroque and neoclassic architecture and is home to one of the most magnificent and unique cathedrals in the whole of South America.

The city foundations and many of the buildings were constructed out of sillar rock which explains how the city got it moniker ‘the white city’. Daylight paints the town white, and as the sun set behind Misti, the volcano that backdrops the city, the buildings turn a blush pink – a spectacular sight to witness from a vantage point in the main square, Plaza de Armas.

However it is not all sandstone and sunsets in Arequipa, that is just the beginning of Arequipa’s charm. While Peruvian gastronomy has been on the world stage for sometime now, what people may not know is that each department (zone) in Peru has their own regional cuisine, and Arequipa is a thriving hot spot for foodies who want to experience something beyond ceviche and pisco sours (but of course, you can find these in Arequipa too!)

Must-try dishes from Arequipa

Rocoto Relleno

Rocoto is a type of chilli that resembles the common capsicum. It’s considered spicy, with some of the chillis rated up to 40 times the spiciness of a jalepeno. Don’t worry, the way the dish is prepared the chilli is hollowed out, steamed which takes away some of the heat, then stuffed with a delicious mix of cheese, meat, onion, olives and fresh herbs like oregano or basil. Sometimes raisins are added for a surprise of sweetness. This is a dish not to be missed!

Pastel de Papa

This side dish is the perfect pairing for your Rocoto relleno! Layers of potato and a special salted cheese. That’s it! While served all over Peru, Arequinenos consider this their dish and say that the secret is all in the cheese.

Chupe de Camarones

I can’t go past a big bowl of spicy soup and this does not disappoint. The serving sizes are large, so large that my waiter suggested a half portion which at first I scoffed at, but was glad for the tip when the bowl arrived. The soup is made from a thick tomato base, filled with vegetables, cheese and whole camarones. Not your usual prawns, these are huge scampi type crustaceans that were worth getting messy for.

Rocoto Relleno with Pastel de Papa

Chupe de Camarones

Queso Helado

No list is complete without a little sweet, and sure enough I found “Queso Helado” – cheese icecream you say? I say yes please! This popular street food does not actually contain cheese but is made from a variety of milk such as evaporated and condensed milk, cinnamon and sugar. As the local ladies scrape the icecream down from the mixing bowl, the mix looks like slices of cheese, hence how the name came to be.

Queso Helado


Arequipa is bustling and there is no shortage of top-class restaurants. For a more local feel, try a picanteria. Traditionally these popular spots would offer only a single dish designated for each day of the week. Now, the menus will have more variety – usually a set menu (a rice dish, a meat/vegetarian dish, a soup). Picanterias are just for lunch.

The Sights of Arequipa

By now all this food has left you wondering what is there to do to get the legs moving and burn off some of that food?

Santa Catalina Convent

Take a walk through the Santa Catalina convent – a sprawling walled citadel in the heart of the city. One of the most fascinating religious complexes in Peru, it was only opened to the public in 1970 after being shrouded by centuries of mystery.

Museo Santuarios Andinos

Visit the museum that houses the ice girl “Juanita”, a young girl whose well-preserved remains were only discovered in 1995, by two climbers on a summit of Mount Ampato, around 75 km from Arequipa. The girl is between 12-15 years old, and believed to have been sacrificed to the Incan gods in the mid 1400’s.

Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca

A little further afiled, Arequipa is the launching point to access the beautiful Colca Canyon (4 hours by road). From the Colca Canyon, you can continue to Lake Titicaca ( 4hrs) to link onto Cuzco or cross into Bolivia.

In 2017, the rail line access was reopened after years of inactivity and now is operational for the stunning Belmond Andean Explorer train journey which meanders through the Andes mountain from Arequipa to Lake Titicaca and Cusco. Spanning across three days, it’s a journey not to be missed. (train runs in both directions).

Uros Islands at Lake Titicaca

Condor in Flight at Colca Canyon

Belmond Andean Explorer Train

Belmond Andean Explorer Train Lounge

Explore Arequipa and Peru on Your Own Tailor-Made itinerary

Below is a suggested itinerary which can be tailored to suit your travel interests and needs.