Getting from Lima to Arequipa: A traveler review

Coined the “white city” because of its buildings made from volcanic sillar stone, Arequipa is an ideal destination for history buffs, foodies, and culture seekers. So, if you’re ready to look for the snow-capped Misti Volcano against a foreground of church steeples and Spanish architecture, read on to learn about how to travel from Lima to Arequipa.

Choosing your transportation method

You can either take a plane or bus when traveling from Lima to Arequipa. If you’re limited on time, flying is a no-brainer—several direct flights run throughout the day. You’ll save about 15 hours in travel time, including arriving at the airport two hours before your flight.

Nevertheless, the scenery on the way to Arequipa is so beautiful that taking the bus is like adding an extra destination to your itinerary. I’ll share my bus experience in more detail shortly. But for now, let’s look at getting to Arequipa by plane.

Flying to Arequipa

The Lima to Arequipa flight time is an easy-breezy one hour. These direct flights run throughout the day, and you can choose to fly with the following airlines:

It’s recommended to arrive at the Lima airport two hours before a domestic flight, especially if you’ll be checking luggage.

When you arrive at the Arequipa airport, you can expect the drive to take 20 – 30 minutes to get into downtown, depending on traffic. Then, all that’s left to do is begin exploring the city and get yourself a cup of queso helado—a tri-milk and cinnamon ice cream that originated in Arequipa.

My experience taking the bus to Arequipa 

I’m notorious for choosing buses over planes when time allows, and my bus ride to Arequipa didn’t disappoint. That’s said, taking the bus from Lima to Arequipa isn’t for everyone. And it’s far from an easy Lima day trip—you’ll be spending a quality 18 hours in your seat!

I chose to travel with Excluciva, a double-decker bus company that offers 180-degree reclining seats. Trust me; you’ll appreciate that flat, bed-like experience for getting some sleep during the journey. But when you’re not sleeping, you’ll have magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, Andes Mountains, and desert. 

If you love looking at maps, you’ll appreciate this: Nearly the entire trip from Lima to Arequipa is along the Pan-American Highway. It’s the same road that starts in Alaska and ends at the tip of Chile and Argentina. Now there are some bragging rights! 

Picking your seat

Choosing the right seat can make or break your bus experience. On the Excluciva bus, the 180-degree seats are located on the second floor. They offer two seats on the driver’s side and one seat on the passenger side. 

I highly recommend sitting on the passenger side, as you’ll get glimpses of the ocean during the journey. Regardless of the side you sit on, though, you’ll have stunning desert and mountain views.

If availability allows, you can make your experience even better by booking one of the three front-row seats. That can be especially helpful if you’re concerned about car sickness, as you’ll be able to see the twists and turns in the road in front of you.

Bus amenities

Exclusiva does an excellent job of making the trip as comfortable as possible for its customers. If you book a 180-degree seat, you’ll have amenities such as:

  • Onboard restroom
  • USB charger
  • Personal TV
  • Seat with a massage feature
  • Blanket*
  • Food and drinks*

*These services aren’t available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure to bring your own food and an extra sweater.

You’re allowed to take one 23 kg check-through bag and one 7 kg hand luggage on the bus. You’ll need to check your bag in advance upon your arrival at the Excluciva bus station in Lima. 

Speaking of the bus station, they offer a cute café on the second floor where you can grab some coffee and dessert before you head out. They also have a vending machine if you want to load up on some last-minute bus snacks.

The battle of bumps and curves

The first approximately five hours of the drive from Lima to Arequipa is a smooth, nearly curve-free journey. However, once you pass through Ica, expect the ride to get bumpier. You’ll be on a paved road the entire time, but it’s not as well maintained. Sometimes the bumps were barely noticeable; one time, they woke me from my sleep.

The drive also has a lot of curves as you get closer to Arequipa. Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend taking the bus if you get car sickness easily. 

The good news is that you likely won’t feel much, if any, altitude sickness. Arequipa has an altitude of 7,600 feet, and much of the drive is near sea level. Nevertheless, drinking plenty of water and eating some cocoa leaf candy helps ward off any potential altitude sickness symptoms.

Other bus companies

The main reason I chose to travel with Excluciva is that their departure time worked well with my schedule. However, several other bus companies run the route between Lima and Arequipa. In order of most economical to most expensive, they include:

If you plan on visiting a destination such as Paracas or Ica before heading to Arequipa and you’re working with a tight budget, there’s another option. You can book Peru Bus Lima to Paracas or Ica. Although Peru Bus doesn’t go to Arequipa, you can then book Excluciva or one of the other companies listed above, which will help reduce the cost since you’ll be closer to Arequipa.

Ready to explore Arequipa?

Whether you choose to take a flight from Lima to Arequipa or head there by bus, it’s worth the trip. Arequipa has a quieter atmosphere than Lima, and you’re nearly guaranteed to have some sunny days.

It’s also a great base for acclimating to the altitude before exploring higher altitude areas like Cusco, the Colca Canyon and Puno. So, spend a weekend in Arequipa, you won’t be sorry you did.

Want to travel across the land and sea?

Get inspired with more stories by travelers, for travelers