Why Arequipa is Awful for Children

I spent Christmas in Arequipa with the in-laws. Wife was there for two weeks with the children. I set my AQP limit to seven days. If she wants more she has to do it without me, which she does with plenty of family to help.

I limit my time there under the guise of my need to work. An Airbnb pad will not have an office where I can blockade myself off from wife and children. But now I have a new excuse: Arequipa is awful for children.

That’s almost counter-intuitive because one of the things you always hear Arequipeños say is how Arequipa is better for families, and Lima is dangerous. But this is what you see on Day 1 pushing your baby in the stroller.

Narrow streets, narrow sidewalks and these little go-cart taxis known as “custers” flying around.

You’ll inevitably come across a corner like this. You sometimes have to go up the curb in a hurry in order to get out of the way of oncoming traffic, which will come in at speed to teach obnoxious pedestrians a lesson.

This is one example of insufficient sidewalks unfriendly to pedestrians and impossible for the handicapped or baby strollers. A two-feet-wide sidewalk with one step at the corner and two more steps halfway up the block. Not at all uncommon.

Icing on the cake: a vendor set up shop and took half of the already-insufficient space. To get around this newsstand with a stroller, I was forced to go into the street a little. If that motorcycle had parked a few feet back, I would have had to go to the left of the motorcycle, or hold the baby while I fold up the stroller stay on the sidewalk.

In addition to unfriendly infrastructure, there is also a lack of things to do with children. Wife traveled a week before I followed, and despite her regular complaints about Lima, in only a couple days in Arequipa I heard the children are bored. Just like I would be.

Big cities are like playgrounds for adults. But they’re also fun for children. Lima has more family-friendly options than you can realistically visit every year. Here are some of my faves:

Each one of those destinations will have the children entertained for hours, and they’ll cry when it’s time to go home.

In Arequipa there is almost nothing. The more conservative, provincial culture prefers to keep the children indoors. Tingo is a public swimming pool with slides and whatnot, but people on top of people and are youngest is still a baby. So no Tingo for us for a few years.

El Molino de Sabandia is a 17th-century mill with animals. Horseback riding, llamas and alpacas, chickens, guinea pigs, ducks and of course mosquitoes. Even a fighting bull. It’s fun for a couple hours. We go every time we’re in Arequipa. Not because it’s so fun, but for lack of other options. On this visit we went twice.

Plaza de Yanahuara in the heart of Arequipa’s moneyed district is a common stop on the tourist beat. I couldn’t believe how small it was though. Literally half the size of Parque del Bombero, a Lima square we sometimes take the boy to play and run around. Flanked by street traffic on three sides, Plaza Yanahuara is not big enough to run around.

Then this gem above from the Yanahuara mirador. That’s a 20- to 30-foot drop behind this bench, easily accessible for any walking child. Not exactly the place to run around.

Here’s a doorway at the end of the mirador. Imagine your beloved boy or girl sprinting through to see what’s on the other side … SPLAT.

Parque Selva Alegre downtown is one of few urban parks in Arequipa. The east side of the park has no playground or children’s attractions. It has two llamas which are let out every day to graze from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. That’s fun for almost an hour. But of course the city has to make even this park difficult for families.

This is the crosswalk at the Parque Selva Alegre entrance. Note two curbs on each side of the street, and even a bit of grass to navigate. The traffic comes down from the right side at speed with no stop sign.

The west side of Parque Selva Alegre would be a great park for children. It has a pond with fish and paddleboats, inflatable slides, two playgrounds and a few rare animals like parrots and monkeys. It’s closed most days of the week, only open on weekends and public holidays!

And to make things even worse, they built the sidewalk with this inexplicable cobblestone scheme to keep in line with making life hell for people with strollers. That makes a bumpy ride for the baby, not to mention slow. I folded the stroller up and carried the baby in and out.

You wonder how a city can be this abusive to parents of small children. I have your answer.

Many women of southern Peru don’t use strollers. They use backpacks!

Arequipa: we don’t need no wheel ramps!

Last two photos courtesy of Shawn Harquail‘s Creative Commons license.

Are you going to Arequipa soon? Buy my Arequipa Travel Guide: Insider Advice from an Expat in Peru.


  1. We have lived in Lima for 10 years some years ago. After living in Europe, the USA and Chile, we’ve Just landed in Arequipa with no kids, they have grown up and live in different parts of the world. We love both cities. Your coments are very strong
    against this city. One should be more flexible, avoid comparisons and respect people and its culture, especially when you are married to an Arequipeña.


  2. Hi, it is truth that the side walks are terrible, but you are only showing the ugly side not the beautiful places; most people in Arequipa use cars to move from one part to another.
    If you were member of El Club Internacional your opinion would be different or de El Golf.
    Hope you have fun next time!


  3. Estoy de acuerdo Colin, he visto algunos pueblos en Mexico, que parece a Arequipa, los ninos permanecen adentro de la casa todo el dia.


  4. Well, Here are some things you can do in Arequipa with kids: Club Internacional, Club el golf, The malls and the different kids playgrounds there is in each one of them, Characato, the dinosaur park, el molino de Sabandia, the movies, El zoologico de Jesus (is definetely not that big but one can spend the whole morning visiting and you can also bring food for the different animals), tingo, feeding the pigeons en la plaza de armas, El Sambambaias de la Joya and also there are many restaurants that have big areas for kids to play in. I agree with you is super hard with strollers but also you can take taxis everywhere. Hope this helps and next time you go to my city you get to enjoy it more. Tell your wife to plan some outings with her friends and kids, is not that people from Arequipa prefer to stay in, is just that we do lots of activities with families and friends. Also if you go around Christmas you can always take a couple of days and visit the beach towns your kids will love them.


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