Arequipa’s gay scene may be small, but boy is it fabulous!
We came to Arequipa as the base for our trek to the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world. We ended up staying a week because we fell in love with the cutesy old town and the chilled vibe of the “White City”.
On that note, the ‘White City' nickname has nothing to do with coca(!) play or Miami-style White Parties…it is simply because the city is almost completely built out of “sillar” – a white volcanic stone.
Put simply, this is a place to come to be WOWed by nature over and above everything else. Travel + Leisure Magazine even named it as the #2 on its annual list of the top 50 best places to travel to. Whilst there is a small gay scene to explore (more on this below), we suggest saving up your partying groove in gay Lima.
In this gay guide to Arequipa, we set out the best gay hotels to check out, along with the queer-friendly spaces, events, our favourite places to eat and best things to do.
Hike the Inca Trail on a gay tour
Lace-up those hiking boots and prepare for your own Andean expedition, because you're invited to join our friends at Out Adventures on their annual all-gay Inca Trail hike. By joining their sweaty scamper you'll be automatically guaranteed an Inca Trail pass, a local LGBTQ-welcoming host and a veto-ed team of guides and porters. The tour also includes time in Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Is Arequipa safe for gay travelers?
Overall we found Arequipa to be safe for gay travelers. Tourism is a major source of income for the local economy, so businesses are used to dealing with foreigners and are accustomed to dealing with LGBTQ travelers.
That being said, remember Peru is still very conservative with a strong affinity to the Catholic Church. We took this on board and were careful not to flaunt our love in people's faces. At the same time, we never felt unsafe anywhere in Arequipa. In the worst-case scenario, people just asked us if we're brothers. All the hotels we stayed at were gay friendly and welcomed us – no one batted an eyelid that two men wanted to share a double bed.
We, therefore, think gay travelers in Arequipa will feel very safe. We just advise caution when it comes to PDAs, particularly when heading to more remote parts of town.
Visit the Colca Canyon from Arequipa
The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world and a must-visit while you're in Arequipa. We recommend joining a tour to the canyon to see the views for yourself and take part in some exciting rafting or trekking excursions – the cherry on the cake is spotting the elusive Andean Condor.
Gay friendly hotels in Arequipa
Most will want to base themselves right in the centre, close to Plaza de Armas. However, we found if you go a little bit further out, it becomes more neighbourhood-like, peaceful and well worth the distance. From our first-hand experience, these are the gay friendly hotels that we tried and loved in Arequipa who welcomed us as a gay couple:
Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa
Why we love it
- Luxurious hotel
- Stunning pool/Jacuzzi area
- Amazing food
- Gay-friendly staff
Formerly the Hotel Libertador, Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa is one of the best hotels we stayed in anywhere in Peru. Sophisticated yet super gay-friendly, this hotel left us feeling like real VIP guests throughout our stay.
It's a 15-minute walk from the city centre, so you're close enough to explore easily but far enough away to enjoy the quiet and really get a good night's sleep.
We particularly loved the restaurant at Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa. By now it’s no secret that Peruvian food is some of the best on the planet and the opportunity to enjoy it at breakfast, lunch and dinner here was a real treat. From the array of local olives at the breakfast buffet to the freshly-squeezed juices we sipped on throughout the day, the offerings at the Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa were almost ridiculously tasty.
Some of our best memories from this Arequipa hotel are simply lounging around the outdoor pool and heated jacuzzi, taking a dip between enjoying fresh cocktails and snacks from the bar. This is the kind of pool area we dream of on our travels, ideal to unwind after a long journey or a day of sightseeing around the White City.
Our room at Wyndham Costa del Sol Arequipa was just as classy as the rest of the experience. The decor was modern yet refined, with little touches of quality like local sculptures and art adding to the luxurious feel. We particularly loved the beds at this hotel, which have to go down as the coziest and comfiest of any we enjoyed during our stay in Peru. Truth is, some mornings we just didn’t want to get up, so we called room service to enjoy some breakfast in bed.
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Why we love it
- Tastefully appointed boutique hotel
- Awesome rooftop terrace
- Cozy communal sitting area
Casa Arequipa is a charming, gay-owned boutique hotel close to the center of Arequipa. During our stay here, we couldn’t get enough of the stylish, old-world vibe and felt like we were starring in our very own telenovela.
The beauty is definitely in the detail at Casa Arequipa, with gorgeous touches like beds made from Peruvian dark wood and luxurious cotton sheets.
This place has just 11 rooms so we really felt special staying here, especially with the attentive, unique design of each room. The communal areas of Casa Arequipa are just as charming as the private rooms. We adored the cozy vibe of the sitting area and library, which has its own fireplace that makes nighttime reading or chatting just that extra bit more memorable!
One of the best things about our stay at Casa Arequipa was the rooftop terrace. Every morning, we would sit and enjoy our delicious breakfast of local delights whilst taking in the stunning vistas of the city and to the Andes beyond. It’s probably the longest we have ever managed to keep quiet!
As a gay-owned hotel, Casa Arequipa was probably the single most welcoming place we stayed in Arequipa. Our hosts were incredibly friendly and professional, whilst the rest of the staff couldn’t seem to have cared less if we shared a romantic moment on the terrace over breakfast or dinner. When it comes to boutique hotels in Arequipa, Casa Arequipa is second to none and we can’t recommend this place highly enough for gay boys traveling in the region.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
Why we love it
- Super-friendly hosts
- Amazing homemade breakfast
- Roof terrace
- Great value place to stay
Hostal Cleofé is a family-run bed and breakfast just a ten-minute walk to Plaza de Armas and the center of Arequipa. Affordable, homely and extremely welcoming, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here.
The hotel is located in a pleasantly calm neighborhood of Arequipa that provided us some welcome downtime after spending a while in the heart of the city.
Without a doubt, the best part of Hostal Cleofé is the host family, with the matriarch of the family greeted us with a huge warm smile on arrival. It made our stay at Hostal Cleofé feel more like a weekend with our own Latino grandma. We also loved that neither the lady of the house nor anybody else seemed to give two hoots that we were sharing a double bed.
Continuing the homely atmosphere, the breakfast at Hostal Cleofé was all homemade. This was the kind of food that feeds your soul, freshly prepared and perfect for fuelling a day of adventure in Arequipa and beyond. We also loved that breakfast is enjoyed on the roof terrace, where we found ourselves spending much longer than planned simply lounging around and taking in the chilled ambience.
The rooms at Hostal Cleofé are clean, cozy and bright. We shared a huge double bed that was one of the comfiest we have found in Arequipa. The communal areas were also great and we found Hostal Cleofé to feel more like a home than a guesthouse, with a huge dining area/living room that would fill up with guests swapping stories of an evening.
Gay bars in Arequipa
As we said at the start, you'll wanna get all your gay partying done in Lima because the gay scene of Arequipa is very small. Whilst there are no official gay bars in Arequipa, the city has a handful of queer-friendly places that are popular hangouts with LGBTQ locals, which we set out below:
This trendy downtown hangout is popular with Arequipa’s LGBTQ community throughout the week. It is particularly reliable mid-week when all other places are closed. Deja Vu served some of the best pisco sours we tried in Arequipa, all made by some rather dishy waiters who provide more than enough eye-candy for the evening. The little roof terrace here is a great place to mingle with young, liberal locals and soak up the vibrant atmosphere.
Open: Daily from 12 pm to 3 am
Location: Calle San Francisco 319 – B, 054 Arequipa
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Plying their trade in all things nocturnal since 1998, Casona Forum is known as one of Arequipa’s best bars. Although not strictly a gay bar, the city’s LGBTQ community attend in full force! We found the vibe here to be pretty liberal and loved all the awesome Peruvian contemporary tunes they play. Casona's also a pretty sweet spot to come for tasty cocktails along with a few cheeky nibbles. The busiest nights are on weekends, particularly after 10 pm.
Open: Daily from 7 pm to 5 am
Location: Calle San Francisco 317, 051 Arequipa
Popular with LGBTQ locals and tourists, Crepisimo may not strictly be a gay hangout but sometimes it sure can feel like it. A classy place serving delicious crepes and other cafe food, our resident Frenchman was, of course, delighted with this spot! We loved coming here during the afternoon to enjoy a freshly made crepe out on the terrace playing cards, mingling with locals and other travelers visiting Arequipa. Also, the legit best coffee in town – officially confirmed by us!!
Open: Daily from 12 pm to 7 pm
Location: Calle Santa Catalina 208 – Cercado Arequipa
Gay clubs in Arequipa
We came to Arequipa knowing that this is more a destination for nature, so imagine our surprise when we discovered the city has two gay clubs! Do note that things frequently change, with places quickly opening/closing, so be sure to check if it's open before heading there. Although we always keep this guide as updated as we possibly can!
Arequipa’s most famous gay club is Imperio Freetown. The city’s wildest, most fabulous place to party, this is the place to come at weekends for no-holds-barred gay fun in Arequipa. The music is amazing, the drinks great value and the locals are more than accommodating to foreigners – if you know what we mean… We had a truly memorable evening at Imperio Freetown, Arequipa’s gay club par excellence.
Open: Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to 4 am
Location: Calle Jerusalén 201i, Arequipa 04001, Peru
Another amazing option for a big gay night out in Arequipa, Divos VIP Club is a vibrant nightclub with a super exciting vibe at weekends. We encountered some of Arequipa’s most handsome locals at this amazing gay club, sipping cocktails and chatting with other hot young things. There was a real sense of community during our visit to Divos VIP Club, with nobody here even the slightest bit afraid to flaunt their fabulousness to its full extent!
Open: Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to 6 am
Location: Av. Dolores 121 B, Jose Luis Bustamante y Rivero, Peru
Gay saunas in Arequipa
As with the city’s gay club scene, the gay sauna circuit in Arequipa is small but perfectly formed. There are two gay saunas in Arequipa to check out:
Sauna Boomerang is a small but modern sauna offering a Jacuzzi and plunge pool close to the city center. Frequented mainly by locals, Sauna Boomerang it is particularly busy on weekday evenings and weekends. Owner and manager Anibal is renowned as a welcoming host who loves nothing more than to engage in a good conversation with his guests.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm
Location: Amazonas 423, Alto Selva Alegre 04001, Peru
Banos Sauna Eros Spa
Just outside of Arequipa center, this is a gay sauna spot that’s beloved by the local community. Eros attracts a mix of ages with a range of special offers, particularly for students. It also prides itself on being sparklingly clean! Inside it features a sauna, steam room, maze and plunge pool.
Open: Daily from 3 pm to 10 pm
Location: Calle Colón, José Luis Bustamante y Rivero 04008, Peru
Gay events in Arequipa
Arequipa is a small and pretty conservative city so not massive gay events here to factor in. But like the gay scene, we were pleasantly surprised to discover they host an annual Pride!
Every June, the Marcha del Orgullo (Pride March) is when the local LGBTQ community comes out in force to celebrate their shared identity in the Plaza de Armas. For the latest info about the next event, check out their Facebook page.
Where to eat in Arequipa
Peruvian food is widely considered by those in the know to be among the finest of any cuisine on the planet – be sure to try some of our favorite Peruvian dishes! Arequipa, in particular, is considered by locals to be the heart of the nation’s beloved Andean kitchen due to its location in this sprawling, mysterious mountain range.
With a slew of unique ingredients and a tendency toward fusion, the food in Arequipa is to die for! We had countless amazing meals in Peru’s second city, which we summarise right here:
This classy restaurant in the center of Arequipa might just win the title of our best meal in the city. Offering a brand of Peruvian fusion cooking that we can only describe as delicious, Zig Zag gets extra points for its elegant interior and amazing service. Some of our favorite dishes at this awesome restaurant included the three quinoa gnocchi and the fish platter, which provided us with a true taste of the Andes region.
Just ten minutes from the Plaza de Armas, Restaurante Tipika was another of our most memorable meals in Arequipa. Although thoroughly modern and chic in its decor, there is something undeniably retro about this restaurant, and it’s all the better for it! We dug into delicious plates of shrimp soup and traditional cheese salad at Restaurante Tipika. Indeed, the clue is in the name because most of the food served here will give you an insight into the typical meals of Arequipa and the wider region. Que rico!
A thoroughly modern place in central Arequipa serving polished plates of food to moneyed locals, we enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at Sambambaia’s. Once we had finished trying to pronounce the place’s name, we couldn’t stop raving over the amazing quality of our food, which included treats such as pepper steak and homemade traditional ceviche. The decor at this restaurant was a perfect balance of traditional Peruvian and shiny, modern eatery. This made our meal at Sambambaia’s all the more relaxing and the slight premium on prices worth every penny.
Things to do in Arequipa
As Peru’s second city and capital of the Andes, Arequipa is packed with exciting things to do for LGBTQ travelers. From walking tours to learning local cookery, the White City presents no shortage of opportunities for active visitors.
Some of our favorite memories from Arequipa include learning about the city’s colonial past, visiting the nearby sights of natural beauty, and more. Here we have listed some of the best experiences and things to do in Arequipa.
Free Walking Tour of Arequipa
We had an amazing time on this free walking tour of Arequipa’s historical center. Lasting for three hours, this completely free tour gave us an incredible insight into the city’s past and present. Some of the destinations we visited on this tour included the vibrant San Camilo Market, an organic chocolate store and even an Alpaca and Llama Zoo! Our guide on this Arequipa walking tour was funny, informative and willing to answer any and every question we asked them.
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A center for outdoor pursuits like rafting and trekking, Colca Canyon is an area of unreal natural beauty close to Arequipa city. This is one of the deepest canyons in the world and the views from above are nothing short of spectacular! The canyon is also home to the giant Andean condor, one of the most stunning birds on the planet. A visit to Colca Canyon is a must for any nature lovers in Arequipa. The canyon is around three hours from the city center by car.
Santa Catalina Monastery
To this day, Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery is home to nuns of the Dominican Second Order. This central Arequipa destination dates back hundreds of years and is worth a visit if you’re into history, architecture or both. During our visit to the monastery, we found a real sense of peace in the quiet courtyards and passageways that zig-zag throughout the complex. As far as unique sites in Arequipa are concerned, a visit to this tranquil religious spot is high on the list.
Most visitors to Arequipa leave with one overarching memory – the food! For us, this was one of the highlights of our trip to the White City and this cooking class provided us with an awesome opportunity to learn the secrets of Peruvian cooking. Incorporating a visit to the local market as well as a course in mixing your own pisco sours, this Peruvian cooking class was one of the most fun things we did in Arequipa. Hosted by the wonderful Diana and Patricio, we felt incredibly welcome during this vibrant course.
A gorgeous salt lake just two hours east of Arequipa, Salinas y Aguada Blanca is a site of stunning natural beauty that is not to be missed. We visited during the rainy season, when the lake is at its most glorious with waterbirds of every type dotting its surface. In the distance, the Andean mountains add to the drama of the landscape and made this one of the most memorable day trips we took during our stay in Peru.
Swim in the Sogay Waterfall
Yup, that's right, there's a waterfall near Arequipa that's SO GAY it's literally named Sogay! Of course, we had to check it out and while it doesn't seem particularly gay (we didn't hear any ABBA or Cher music at least) it is a very pretty waterfall that's worth visiting. The town and waterfall of Sogay are just an hour away from Arequipa, so you can visit on a half-day trip. The town is also built from the white sillar which is ubiquitous across Arequipa. If it's not too cold you can even swim in the Sogay Waterfall, now there's an item to top your Bucket List!
Plan your trip to Arequipa
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Arequipa. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: You can fly into Arequipa from Lima or Cusco, which is definitely the easiest way to arrive unless you're exploring Peru by car. If you've flown into the Rodríguez Ballón airport then you can get into the city centre by bus, taxi or (our personal choice) a private airport transfer. The bus stop is a bit out of the airport and we much prefer pre-booking a transfer than needing to haggle or worry about there not being taxis. With a private transfer, you can just relax in comfort until you get to your accommodation.
Visa requirements: Travellers from most EU countries, the USA, UK, Canada and Australia don't need a visa to stay in Peru for up to 90 days as a tourist. You will, however, need to show that you have a return/onward travel ticket if you arrive by plane and a passport with at least 6 months validity from the day you arrive. Check your personal visa requirements for travel to Peru before you organise your trip to Arequipa.
Getting around: Most attractions in Arequipa are near the city centre which is easy to get around on foot. To explore further afield we recommend joining a tour or driving if you've hired your own car. Don't attempt to drive within the city though, as it can be a bit chaotic!
Travel insurance: We always recommend booking travel insurance for any trip so that you're covered in the event of cancelled flights, theft, injury and any other factors beyond your control. We've been using World Nomads Travel Insurance for years and cannot recommend them highly enough. Their coverage is comprehensive and making a claim if needed is super easy.
Safety and Security: No matter where you travel to, you are always at risk of encountering danger or needing immediate help. We like to use the CloseCircle “virtual bodyguard” app when we travel as they can provide support or security alerts wherever you are. Their service covers everything from advice to evacuation in the case of weather emergencies or other unforeseen events. Read more about why we love CloseCircle in our article on how travellers can stay safe.
Vaccinations: All travellers to Arequipa should make sure they're up to date with routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and chickenpox. Most travellers should also be vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Some travellers may also need vaccinations for hepatitis B, yellow fever, malaria and rabies, depending on what and where you'll be doing. Check the CDC website for the most up to date info for Peru and also speak to your local doctor or travel nurse before you make your travel plans.
Currency: The currency used in Peru is called the Sol and it's written as S/. $1 is around S/3.4, €1 is around S/3.66 and £1 is around S/4.19.
Tipping culture: Tipping is generally not expected in Peru, although in places like hotels you may receive slightly better service if you leave a few pesos out for the staff. In restaurants, around 10% is the norm for good service and will most likely be automatically added as a service charge to your bill. In a local restaurant, the custom is to tip around 1 or 2 Sols if service has not been included in the bill.
Accommodation: For more Arequipa accommodation options we recommend checking out Booking.com as they have so many choices at the best prices. Many properties offer free cancellation, which is very useful if you like to be flexible in your plans (as we do) and their online customer support is available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: For more things to see and do in Arequipa have a look at GetYourGuide. They always have lots of fun tours and activities to choose from. Their online customer support is also excellent and available 24/7, plus it's easy to use their online booking system.
When to visit: The best time to visit Arequipa is during the dry winter season, between June and August or the shoulder months of May or September. July and August is the most popular time, so therefore also the most expensive. November to April is the summer season, but also the wet season with heavy rains and high temperatures.
Gay map of Arequipa
The gay scene in Arequipa is not as big as the gay nightlife of Lima but it has a few gay hangouts. The city is easy to navigate with most of the restaurants and bars located around the central Plaza de Armas:
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For more inspiration:
- Check out our gay Cusco and the Sacred Valley travel guide
- Get inspired with our Inca Trail to Machu Picchu review with Journeyou
- And find out why you shouldn't do the Inca Trail in January
- Learn more about Peru with our 10 interesting facts about Peru you didn't know
- Use our Peru gay friendly travel itinerary
- Check out these unique gay friendly hotels in Peru
- We give you the lowdown about whether Lake Titicaca is worth visiting
- Read our interview with Aaron from Lima about what gay life in Peru is like