Travel: Do Not Disturb


Chic 16th century base in the White City


CIRQA is a member of Relais & Châteaux.

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Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, is a bustling, historic spot. Known as the White City, it’s centred around the main square, the Plaza de Armas, with hectic markets and quaint lantern-lit streets, hip microbreweries and restaurants. CIRQA, by Andean Travel, is an 11-bedroom parador in the centre of town.

The Hotel

Set into the walls of a UNESCO heritage site, the hotel’s building is the same age as Arequipa, both founded in 1540. An old monastery, the structure is made of white volcanic rock, and although it retains its heritage, it’s extremely modern too; a mix that’s extremely hard to achieve authentically.

CIRQA is an homage to the spirit of paradores, and the hospitable way that monks would historically receive weary travellers. Rooms are booked to include either half or full board.

The Vibe

Open the property’s huge iron doors, and step out of the busy streets and into the calm. With only 11 rooms, it’s a tranquil spot that’s also popular with cosmopolitan locals for lunch, dinner, and sundowners. There is a sleek thread of sophistication running through the veins of this place; furniture is a mix of old and new, with outdoor fire pits at night, and a mini plunge pool at the centre of the courtyard for day dips.

The Rooms

They’ve done a great job making the most of these rooms. Structures vary, but all are situated in the original monastery and have original features like restored, high vaulted ceilings and stone walls; only some have windows, so be sure to ask if you want one. There are chandeliers and standalone tubs, elevated modern black platforms built for the bathrooms, and linen bedding. Backlit warm uplighting, fluffy rugs, and plush velvet chairs do a lot to help soften the volcanic rock. Snacks and water are provided (gratis), there are organic toiletries, USB plugs, and soft robes.

Restaurants/ Bars

Start on their rooftop bar, El Techo de CIRQA, which was modelled after an old Arequipan road stop, and definitely has similarities to the tents at its sister property, PUQIO. Inspired by picanterías, come here for atmospheric sunset drinks with views of the neighbouring volcanos and neighbourhood. The bar is only open to guests and those with reservations.

For dinner, move downstairs to Salón, which has monastic-inspired communal tables, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the courtyard, and serves a contemporary menu with Arequipan ingredients.


There’s a small room for treatments.


The location. You are right in the heart of the historic centre, two minutes from the plaza, 10 minutes from San Carlo market and 15 from the windy street of hip, San Lorenzo.

Anything Else

If you’re here, you’ll probably be coming from or going to the Colca Valley; ask them to sort your transportation as they have incredibly professional, personable drivers. Many people use Arequipa as a stop between trips, so it’s a good place to speak to fellow travellers for tips.

People say there’s great coffee in town, so look out for it – and there’s a pisco museum, too. If history’s your thing, many people come to see Juanita, the child who was sacrificed in 1540 and found after a volcano erupted in 1999. She’s remarkably well-preserved due to the freezing temperatures on the mountaintop; check the MUSA page for opening times. Also, you’re still high in Arequipa, so do bear that in mind when choosing which part of your trip you choose to stay here.

Originally published on
26th February 2024


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