Explore Arequipa from Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux: historic sites, cuisine, natural wonders. Unmatched comfort & cultural insights.

Embarking on a week-long exploration from the luxurious base of Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux in Arequipa, Peru, presents an opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty that this region offers. Below is an itinerary that highlights the best of Arequipa and its surroundings, ensuring a memorable adventure that combines relaxation at Cirqa with the exploration of the White City and beyond.

Arequipa City From Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux

Pros, Cons, Features, Review Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux

Arequipa, Peru, Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux emerges as a beacon of luxury and historical preservation, offering guests an unparalleled experience. As a couple who recently spent a week at this architectural marvel, we were captivated not only by its beauty but also by the depth of experience it offered. Below, we share the pros, cons, and notable features of staying at Cirqa, providing a glimpse into life within the white volcanic stone walls of this unique property.

Architectural and Historical Significance: Cirqa is a testament to the rich history of Arequipa, also known as the White City. Built as part of a 16th-century ecclesiastical complex, its ancient walls and soaring barrel ceilings are a constant reminder of the past, while the modern glass panels insert a touch of contemporary elegance.

Exclusive and Intimate: With only eleven rooms, Cirqa offers an exclusive retreat, ensuring that every guest receives personalized attention. The design of each room, from the emerald green velvet chairs to the matte black floor lamps, speaks volumes of the attention to detail that has gone into creating an intimate atmosphere.

Culinary Delights: The on-site restaurant, led by Executive Chef Maria Fe Garcia, is a highlight. The menu, rooted in local dishes presented with modern flair, offers a gastronomic journey through Peruvian cuisine. The rocoto relleno is a must-try, and the promise of a rooftop restaurant adds to the allure.

Location: Cirqa’s location in the historical center of Arequipa puts guests within walking distance of the city’s main attractions, including the Plaza de Armas and the Santa Catalina Monastery. The blend of local culture right at the doorstep makes it an ideal base for exploration.

Service: The service at Cirqa is exceptional, with staff who are both chatty and affable, quickly becoming friends rather than mere attendants. Their recommendations for local dining and sightseeing add a personal touch to the stay.

Limited Dining Options: While the food is excellent, the menu could benefit from more vegetarian options to cater to diverse dietary needs.

Restaurant Seating: The design-oriented seating arrangement in the restaurant, though aesthetically pleasing, lacks comfort. An adjustment to prioritize guest comfort without sacrificing style would enhance the dining experience.

Airport Shuttle and Concierge Services: Cirqa’s commitment to guest convenience is evident in its offerings, including airport transfers and a concierge service that assists with tours and local experiences.

Amenities: Despite its historical setting, Cirqa does not skimp on modern amenities. Air-conditioned rooms equipped with a desk, safety deposit box, TV, and a private bathroom ensure a comfortable stay. Free WiFi throughout the property keeps guests connected.

Garden and Terrace: The hotel’s garden and terrace are perfect for those seeking a tranquil spot to unwind, offering a quiet escape from the bustle of the city.

Cultural Immersion: Cirqa, through its architecture, location, and services, provides a deep dive into the culture and history of Arequipa, offering more than just a place to stay but an experience that enriches one's understanding of the region.

Our week-long stay at Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux was a journey through time, culture, and culinary excellence. While the hotel excels in creating an atmosphere of luxury and historical reverence, minor adjustments in dining options and seating comfort could elevate the experience even further. Nevertheless, Cirqa stands out as a must-visit destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the wonders of Arequipa, offering a blend of intimacy, luxury, and cultural richness that is hard to find elsewhere.

Arequipa From Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux Room

7 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and Cirqa Exploration

Morning: Arrive at Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux, settle into your room, and acquaint yourself with the hotel's stunning architecture.
Afternoon: Enjoy a leisurely lunch at Cirqa’s restaurant, sampling Chef Maria Fe Garcia's exquisite dishes.
Evening: Relax in the hotel's garden or terrace, soaking in the serene atmosphere.

Day 2: Arequipa City Tour

Morning: Start with a guided tour of Arequipa's historic center, including the Plaza de Armas and the intricate baroque architecture of the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa.
Afternoon: Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery, a 'city within a city' with its vividly painted walls and silent cloisters.
Evening: Dine at a local restaurant recommended by Cirqa’s concierge, experiencing the city's vibrant culinary scene.

Day 3: Culinary and Cultural Exploration

Morning: Participate in a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional Arequipan dishes.
Afternoon: Explore the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see the Ice Maiden, Juanita, and learn about Inca culture.
Evening: Enjoy a relaxed dinner at Cirqa, perhaps trying a dish you learned to make earlier.

Day 4: Colca Canyon Adventure

Early Morning: Depart for a day trip to Colca Canyon, the world's second deepest canyon. Watch the majestic flight of the Andean condors from Cruz del Condor viewpoint.
Afternoon: Visit the hot springs at La Calera for a soothing soak before heading back to Arequipa.
Evening: Return to Cirqa for a well-deserved rest.

Day 5: Arequipa’s Artisanal Markets and Shops

Morning: Visit San Camilo Market, Arequipa’s oldest market, to explore the colorful array of local produce and crafts.
Afternoon: Browse through the artisanal shops for unique souvenirs, including fine alpaca wool products.
Evening: Dinner at a rooftop restaurant, enjoying panoramic views of Arequipa by night.

Day 6: Surrounding Villages and Countryside

Morning: Take a tour of the countryside, visiting the picturesque villages of Yanahuara and Cayma, known for their beautiful churches and stunning views of the volcanoes.
Afternoon: Enjoy a picnic in the countryside, surrounded by terraced agricultural fields and ancient Inca terraces still in use.
Evening: Return to Cirqa for an evening of relaxation, perhaps indulging in a spa treatment.

Day 7: Leisure and Departure

Morning: Spend your final day at leisure. Enjoy a late breakfast and a leisurely morning at Cirqa.
Afternoon: Take a final stroll through Arequipa, capturing last-minute photos and memories.
Evening: Prepare for departure, reflecting on a week filled with the beauty and culture of Arequipa.

This itinerary combines the luxury and comfort of Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux with the diverse experiences Arequipa and its surroundings offer. From historical tours and culinary delights to natural wonders and artisanal treasures, a week spent exploring from this unique base promises an unforgettable adventure through the heart of southern Peru.

Arequipa From Cirqa - Relais & Châteaux Food

Things to Do in Arequipa

Arequipa, known as the White City, offers a rich tapestry of activities that blend its colonial history, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant cultural scene. Here are some highlights:

Explore the Historic Center: Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city's historic center boasts beautifully preserved colonial architecture made from sillar, a white volcanic stone. The Plaza de Armas and the Basilica Cathedral are must-visits.

Visit Santa Catalina Monastery: This sprawling convent offers a glimpse into a bygone era with its vividly colored walls, peaceful courtyards, and narrow alleys.

Climb Misti Volcano: For the adventurous, a climb up Misti Volcano presents a challenging yet rewarding experience, with stunning views of the city and the surrounding landscape from the summit.

Tour the Museo Santuarios Andinos (Museum of Andean Sanctuaries): Home to 'Juanita', the Ice Maiden, this museum provides fascinating insights into Inca culture and practices.

Enjoy the Local Cuisine: Arequipa is known for its distinctive culinary traditions. Don't miss trying Arequipan specialties like rocoto relleno (stuffed hot peppers) and chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder).

Dealing with Altitude Sickness

Arequipa sits at an elevation of approximately 2,328 meters (7,638 feet) above sea level. While not as high as other Andean destinations, some visitors may still experience mild altitude sickness. Here are tips to mitigate its effects:

  • Acclimatize: Allow your body to adjust to the altitude by taking it easy for the first day or two upon arrival.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to help your body acclimate.
  • Coca Leaves: Chewing coca leaves or drinking coca tea is a traditional remedy for altitude sickness.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Heavy Meals: Both can exacerbate altitude sickness symptoms.


The currency in Peru is the Sol (PEN). Credit cards are widely accepted in Arequipa, especially in hotels, restaurants, and shops. However, carrying some cash is advisable for small purchases, especially in more remote areas or when dealing with street vendors.

Weather and Volcano

Arequipa enjoys a mild and sunny climate year-round, with average temperatures ranging from 10°C (50°F) at night to 25°C (77°F) during the day. The dry season from May to September is considered the best time to visit, offering clear skies and cooler temperatures ideal for outdoor activities.

Misti Volcano, standing at 5,822 meters (19,101 feet), is an iconic symbol of Arequipa. It's relatively inactive, with its last significant eruption occurring in the 15th century. Climbing Misti is a popular activity, offering breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding landscape. However, it's essential to go with an experienced guide and proper preparation due to the high altitude and potential risks.er.

Why Am I Here?

Travelers come to Arequipa for numerous reasons. The city's well-preserved historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a glimpse into its colonial past with beautifully adorned churches and monasteries. The surrounding natural landscape, including the Colca Canyon and the desert, provides a playground for adventurers and nature lovers. Additionally, Arequipa serves as a base for exploring the region's unique ecological zones, from snow-capped volcanoes to deep canyons.

Exploring the Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon, one of the world's deepest canyons, is a highlight for many visitors. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, it offers breathtaking views, hiking trails, and the chance to see Andean condors soaring overhead. A day trip to the canyon typically involves an early start to catch the condors at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint, visits to local villages, and the opportunity to soak in hot springs.

The Desert and Elevation

Arequipa's surrounding desert landscape is marked by vast, open spaces and rugged mountains, offering a stark contrast to the lush greenery found in other parts of Peru. The city itself sits at an elevation of 2,328 meters (7,638 feet), which can affect visitors not accustomed to high altitudes. It's recommended to acclimatize by staying hydrated and taking it easy during your first day.

Traveling from Cusco to Arequipa

By Air: The most efficient way to travel between Cusco and Arequipa is by air. Arequipa’s Rodriguez Ballon International Airport (AQP) serves as a convenient gateway to the city, with several daily flights from Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ). The flight time is approximately 1 hour, making it an excellent option for travelers looking to maximize their time exploring the rich cultural and natural attractions of both cities.

By Bus: For those who prefer to soak in the vistas, bus services offer a more scenic route through the Andean landscape. The journey by bus can take between 10 to 14 hours, depending on the service chosen. Various companies operate comfortable buses with amenities such as reclining seats, meals, and onboard entertainment, ensuring a pleasant journey through the stunning Peruvian highlands.

Day Trips and Activities

Beyond the Colca Canyon, Arequipa offers a variety of day trips and activities:

  • Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve: A haven for wildlife, including vicuñas, alpacas, and flamingos, set against a backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes.
  • Petroglyphs of Toro Muerto: Discover ancient rock art spread over a vast desert landscape.
  • Monastery of Santa Catalina: A city within a city, this sprawling convent offers insight into the lives of nuns in the 16th century.

Selina Arequipa Hotel

For those seeking a comfortable and stylish stay, the Selina Arequipa Hotel offers a blend of traditional Peruvian charm and modern amenities. Located in the heart of the city, it's an ideal base from which to explore Arequipa's attractions. The hotel also organizes tours and activities, making it easy for guests to experience the best of the region.

Making the Most of Your Stay

Whether you’re drawn to Arequipa by its colonial charm, the culinary delights, or the call of the Colca Canyon, the city offers a wealth of experiences:

  • Explore the Historical Center: Wander through the UNESCO-listed city center, visiting the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa and the Santa Catalina Monastery.
  • Culinary Adventure: Arequipa is renowned for its picanterías, traditional restaurants serving spicy, flavorful dishes. Be sure to try local specialties like rocoto relleno and chupe de camarones.
  • Visit the Colca Canyon: Arrange a day trip or a multi-day trek to one of the world's deepest canyons, home to traditional villages and the majestic Andean condor.

Whether traveling by air or overland, the journey between Cusco and Arequipa is part of the rich tapestry of experiences that Peru offers. Each city presents a unique aspect of Peruvian culture and history, set against the backdrop of the Andes, making for an unforgettable adventure.

  • If You Have One Day: Focus on Arequipa's historic center. Visit the Plaza de Armas, the Basilica Cathedral, and the Santa Catalina Monastery. Enjoy a traditional Arequipan meal at a local picantería.
  • If You Have Two Days: Add a day trip to the Colca Canyon to your itinerary. The journey provides a scenic overview of the Andes and a chance to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region.
  • If You Have More Time: Explore further afield with trips to the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto, or embark on a multi-day trek in the Colca Canyon.

Hiking and History

Arequipa offers ample opportunities for hiking, from gentle walks around the city's outskirts to challenging treks in the Colca Canyon. The city's history, from its pre-Hispanic foundations to its colonial and republican eras, is etched into its architecture and museums, offering visitors a deep dive into Peru's complex past.

Arequipa stands as a testament to the enduring allure of Peru's natural and cultural heritage. With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and vibrant local culture, it's a destination that offers something for every traveler. Whether you're staying at the Selina Arequipa Hotel or venturing into the surrounding wilderness, Arequipa promises an adventure that's as enriching as it is exhilarating.

Arequipa’s Rodriguez Ballon International Airport (AQP)

Arequipa's airport is situated about 8 km from the city center, offering easy access to downtown and nearby attractions. The airport accommodates a variety of domestic flights from major cities within Peru, including Lima, Cusco, and Tacna, as well as international flights from destinations like Santiago, Chile.

Facilities and Transportation: The airport provides essential services, including car rental agencies, taxi services, and public transportation options, facilitating smooth transfers to the city center or directly to hotels like the Selina Arequipa. Visitors can also find information desks, dining options, and shopping within the airport premises.

FAQ: Traveling to Arequipa, Peru

What is the best time to visit Arequipa? The best time to visit Arequipa is during the dry season, from May to October, when the weather is sunny and mild, perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing.

How do I get to Arequipa? Arequipa is accessible by air through the Rodríguez Ballón International Airport, which has regular flights from Lima and other major cities in Peru. Alternatively, bus services connect Arequipa with various cities across Peru, offering a scenic, though longer, travel option.

What currency is used in Arequipa? The currency used in Arequipa, as in the rest of Peru, is the Sol (PEN). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it's advisable to carry some cash for small purchases.

Do I need to worry about altitude sickness in Arequipa? Arequipa sits at an elevation of 2,328 meters (7,638 feet). While altitude sickness is less common here than in higher regions, it's still possible. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and give yourself time to acclimatize.

Can I visit the Colca Canyon on my own, or do I need a tour? While it's possible to visit the Colca Canyon independently, joining a tour can enhance the experience with guided hikes, visits to local villages, and insights into the canyon's history and geology. Tours also often include transportation, which simplifies logistics.

What are some must-try dishes in Arequipa? Arequipa's cuisine is renowned for its flavors. Don't miss trying rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy peppers), chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder), and queso helado (a traditional ice cream dessert), among others.

What should I pack for a trip to Arequipa? Pack for a variety of conditions, including warm days and cooler evenings. Sun protection, comfortable walking shoes, and layers are essential. If planning to visit the Colca Canyon, include hiking gear.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Arequipa? It's advisable to drink bottled water rather than tap water to avoid stomach upsets. Bottled water is readily available throughout the city.

Are there any cultural norms I should be aware of? Arequipans are known for their hospitality. When greeting, a handshake or a single cheek kiss is common. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites. Tipping is appreciated but not mandatory.

What is the situation with the Misti Volcano? Is it safe to visit? Misti Volcano is closely monitored, and tours are available for those wishing to climb it, usually requiring good physical condition and acclimatization to altitude. Always check current conditions and go with a reputable guide

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