Colourful Peru

23 May, 2024

Arequipa, known as the “White City” due to its stunning colonial buildings made from white volcanic stone, is a city rich in culture and history. Nestled in the Andes mountains, Arequipa is the second-largest city in Peru and a significant hub of traditional festivities. This article explores the vibrant traditions in Arequipa, focusing on local festivals and celebrations that encapsulate the spirit of this remarkable city.

Arequipa: A City of Rich Cultural Heritage

Arequipa’s cultural heritage is deeply intertwined with its festivals and celebrations. The city’s unique blend of indigenous and Spanish influences has given rise to a variety of vibrant traditions. These events not only provide a glimpse into the city’s past but also foster a sense of community among its residents.

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Major Festivals in Arequipa

Arequipa’s Founding Anniversary

One of the most significant events in Arequipa is the celebration of its founding anniversary on August 15th. This event commemorates the establishment of the city in 1540 by Spanish conquistador Garci Manuel de Carbajal.

The Parade and Ceremonial Acts

The celebrations kick off with a grand parade, featuring colorful floats, traditional dances, and marching bands. The streets of Arequipa come alive with music, and the air is filled with the scent of local delicacies. The parade is followed by various ceremonial acts, including speeches by local dignitaries and the reenactment of historical events.

Gastronomic Festivals

Photo: Tratoría del Monasterio

During the anniversary celebrations, several gastronomic festivals are held, showcasing the best of Arequipan cuisine. Local dishes such as rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy peppers), adobo (marinated pork stew), and the famous Arequipeño queso helado (a unique type of ice cream) are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Virgen de Chapi

Virgen de la Candelaria de Chapi.

Photo: James Posso – PROMPERU

The Virgen de Chapi is another important religious festival in Arequipa, celebrated on May 1st. This pilgrimage attracts thousands of devotees who travel to the Sanctuary of Chapi, located in the district of Polobaya.

The Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Chapi is a testament to the strong faith of the people of Arequipa. Pilgrims often walk long distances, enduring the harsh Andean terrain to reach the sanctuary. The journey is seen as an act of devotion and penance.

Festivities at the Sanctuary

Upon reaching the sanctuary, pilgrims participate in a series of religious ceremonies, including masses and processions. The image of the Virgin Mary is paraded around the sanctuary, accompanied by prayers and hymns. The festival also features traditional dances and music, creating a lively atmosphere.

Señor de los Milagros

Señor de los Milagros is a major religious festival in Peru, celebrated with particular fervor in Arequipa. Taking place in October, this event honors an image of Christ known as the Lord of Miracles.


The highlight of the festival is the grand procession, where a large image of the Lord of Miracles is carried through the streets of Arequipa. Thousands of devotees dressed in purple robes follow the procession, chanting prayers and singing hymns. The streets are adorned with purple and white decorations, symbolizing penance and purity.

Cultural Activities

In addition to the religious ceremonies, the festival includes various cultural activities such as art exhibitions, concerts, and fairs. These events celebrate the artistic and cultural heritage of Arequipa, offering something for everyone to enjoy.

Traditional Dances and Music in Arequipa

Wititi Dance

Trajes típicos del Valle del Colca - Arequipa
Photo: Renzo Tasso

Photo: Renzo Tasso – PROMPERU

The Wititi dance, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, is a traditional dance of the Colca Valley in Arequipa. It is performed during various festivals, including the anniversary celebrations and the feast of the Virgin of Chapi.

The Dance Performance

The Wititi dance is characterized by its vibrant costumes and energetic movements. Dancers wear brightly colored ponchos, intricately embroidered with geometric patterns. The dance represents the agricultural cycles and the relationship between humans and nature. The rhythm of the dance is set by traditional Andean instruments, such as the charango and quena.

Yaraví Music

Yaraví is a traditional form of music that originated in Arequipa. It is a melancholic genre, often compared to the blues, and is typically sung in Quechua or Spanish.

Themes and Performance

The themes of Yaraví songs revolve around love, longing, and loss. The music is usually accompanied by a guitar, and the lyrics are imbued with deep emotion. Yaraví performances are a common feature of Arequipa’s cultural festivals, providing a poignant contrast to the more exuberant celebrations.

Gastronomy: A Taste of Arequipa

Arequipa’s culinary traditions are an integral part of its cultural heritage. The city’s unique cuisine reflects a fusion of indigenous and Spanish influences, resulting in a rich and diverse gastronomic scene.

Traditional Dishes

Rocoto Relleno

Rocoto relleno de la Picantería La Nueva Palomino de Arequipa
Photo: Karina Mendoza - PROMPERU

Photo: Karina Mendoza – PROMPERU

One of the most iconic dishes of Arequipa is rocoto relleno. This spicy dish consists of a rocoto pepper stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, onions, olives, and spices, then baked with a cheese topping. The dish is typically served with pastel de papa, a layered potato casserole.


Adobo is another beloved Arequipan dish, often enjoyed as a hearty breakfast. It is a marinated pork stew, flavored with chicha de jora (fermented corn drink), garlic, and aji panca (Peruvian red pepper). The slow-cooked meat becomes tender and flavorful, making it a perfect comfort food.

Sweets and Desserts

Queso Helado

Queso helado is a unique dessert that is a must-try when visiting Arequipa. Despite its name, it does not contain cheese. It is a type of ice cream made with milk, coconut, and cinnamon, giving it a creamy texture and a distinct flavor.


Buñuelos are sweet fritters, similar to doughnuts, that are popular during festivals. They are made from a simple dough, deep-fried until golden, and then drizzled with syrup or honey. Buñuelos are often enjoyed with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.

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Arequipa’s traditions and celebrations are a vibrant reflection of the city’s rich cultural heritage. From the grand parades of the founding anniversary to the solemn processions of Señor de los Milagros, these events offer a unique insight into the heart and soul of Arequipa. The city’s traditional dances, music, and cuisine further enrich its cultural tapestry, making Arequipa a must-visit destination for anyone interested in experiencing the authentic spirit of Peru. Whether you’re a traveler seeking adventure or a cultural enthusiast, Arequipa’s festivals and celebrations promise an unforgettable experience.

Are you planning your next trip to Peru?

Colourful Peru invites you to experience our region. We are committed to offer you the best options so you can live a Colourful journey. If you want to know more about our suggested journeys, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.



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