The white city of Arequipa is sumptuously photogenic, and has enough attractions and insights into day-to-day life in Peru to keep every traveller occupied for a stay of at least two or three nights. Although already a popular and integral part of many Peru itineraries, we think it’s also a more attractive, less touristy, and slightly cheaper base than Cusco if you’re travelling a little slower or wanting to learn Spanish (although Cusco’s day trips are a little better).
Whether you’re in the city for a few days or longer, here’s seven of the best day trips and tours from Arequipa if you want to explore within and beyond the city limits during your stay. If you want to know more about things to do and where to stay in the city, then read our traveller’s guide to Arequipa next!
The Best Arequipa Day Trips
Conquer The Colca Canyon
One of Peru’s most important and breathtaking sights, the Colca Canyon is home to soaring Andean condors and a challenging multiday independent or guided trek into one of the world’s deepest canyons. We didn’t make it here during our first visit to Peru, which placed it right at the top of our to-do list when we came back.
An absolute must-do for all travellers.
Do it independently | This is the way we did it, and can highly recommend it as the very best way to experience the grandeur of the Colca Canyon. We’ve written a comprehensive guide to the trek, so suggest starting there.
Take a tour | There are a variety of different tours on offer that claim to offer the best experience of the Colca Canyon, and which one you choose will depend very much on fitness levels, time available and budget. After having spoken to a number of people who visited the canyon on a day trip, we would struggle to recommend this as an option. Instead, you’d be much better off opting for a two day/one night tour, such as this.
Rafting on the Chilli River
Located just 7 km out of Arequipa, the Chilli River (perhaps the best named river in South America!) provides a great value introduction to rafting, where you can experience and conquer class II, III and IV rapids It’s perfect option for beginner rafters and travellers looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush in Arequipa, all whilst accompanied by a professional rafting guide.
Note that the best time to do this activity is April to December - once rainy season begins, the river is closed to rafters for safety reasons.
Do it independently |Unsurprisingly, that’s not an option here.
Take a tour | This half day tour allows nearly two hours on the water and includes pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Arequipa.
Visit Salinas Salt Lagoon
Hands up, who knew that Peru had its own salt flats? Nope, us neither. Which probably explains why it’s so damn difficult to reach!
Visitors during the rainy season will be treated to flocks of flamingoes, but all year round there are vicuña, alpacas and llamas - plus the hike around the lagoon is beautiful whatever the weather.
Do it independently | Unlike much of Peru, this remains one destination that has not been commercialised, and as such, there is no physical way to make it there by public transport.
Take a tour | After a scenic early morning three-hour drive from Arequipa, you’ll have some off-roading, a hike to the impressive Salinas Salt Lagoon, and plenty opportunities to spot the local wildlife. See a typical tour and itinerary here.
Read Next | The Best Things To Do In Arequipa
Hike Volcan El Misti
Arequipa is surrounded by volcanoes, and they are a sight to behold. Its most famous and visible one - El Misti - stands at 5,822 meteres, and hiking to the summit is a popular trip for the more adventurous traveller. Be warned however, this is not an easy trek, and certainly not something that should be attempted by those with even average fitness or the unacclimatised.
Do it independently | Due to the complexity of reaching the summit, this is absolutely not recommended and almost certainly not possible. As far as we know, it’s via a tour company only.
Take a tour | The most common hike to undertake takes two days and one night (like this one), setting off around 8 a.m. and arriving back to Arequipa in the late afternoon the following day. Tours can be found advertised in tour agency windows across the city, but be sure to vet your company properly. As we mention above, this hike is not without its challenges and you will need assurance that your agency has good equipment and competent guides.
We’d recommend taking a look at this blog post for more information.
The Peruvian Countryside
Not every single day trip from Arequipa involves hiking for multiple days, high altitude, or hits of adrenalin!
The town of Paucarpata and the small village of Sabandia (both less than 10 km from Arequipa) are becoming increasingly popular day trips and provide the opportunity for the curious traveller to experience a different side to the region, as well as provide stunning views of Misti.
Do it independently | You can reach Sabandia with a colectivo or taxi from Arequipa, departing from the nearby Plaza de Armas (just ask your hostel)
Take a tour | This half-day tour also includes a visit to La Mansion del Fundador, an iconic mansions in the region, the Eiffel designed ‘Iron Bridge,’ and (curiously) a stone mill.
Climb The Chacani Volcano
We told you Arequipa was full of volcanoes!
Tougher than the Misti volcano hike we mentioned earlier, the completion of a trek up to the top of the towering extinct Chacani Volcano (6070 metres) is one should be worn as a badge of honour. It’s seriously high, it’s seriously cold and it’s seriously draining; we have it on good authority that it will make you swear and pray for it to be over. But, those views - those views make it all worth while.
It’s certainly possible for non-technical climbers to complete this trek, but you absolutely need to be fully acclimatised to the altitude and beyond prepared.
Do it independently | Yeah, this is another trek that needs a tour, sorry.
Take a tour | Whilst the route remains the same, you will have the option to undertake this trek over one or two days. Whilst it’s certainly possible to complete with one day, this would involve leaving Arequipa in the night and hiking in the darkness and without a substantial break. Instead, we’d recommend a two day option, like this one.
Whichever tour company you pick, be sure that equipment provided is up to scratch for a nights camping at significant altitude. Additionally, do note that most tour prices in Arequipa and online do not include the price of a porter in the upfront cost. Whilst not essential, many people opt to hire a porter to limit what they need to carry whilst trekking.
and if you want to know a little more arequipa…
In the past, when we’ve travelled on a little more of a budget, we’ve shunned city tours simply to keep costs down. Now we find that having a deeper understanding of a location from a local is hugely beneficial to appreciating the places we visit.
Take a tour | This private four hour tour around Arequipa is very highly rated and provides deeper insights into Arequipa’s history, stories, and main sights. It also includes entry to Monasterio de Santa Catalina.