Peru’s second city, ravishing Arequipa is graced with dazzling whitewashed facades and a striking volcanic backdrop.
Arequipa dazzles with architectural gems, despite a string of earthquakes that have failed to bring down its resplendent colonial sites. Among the grand mansions and churches peppered across the historic centre, the one that stands head and shoulders above any other is the Santa Catalina convent, a breathtaking blend of ornate cloisters, peaceful courtyards and trickling fountains, with the imposing El Misti Volcano beyond.
Arequipa is a picturesque city framed by not one, but three snow-topped volcanoes that keep watch over attractive colonial streets lined with churches and mansions. The ‘White City’ is known as such for its ivory-hued walls plastered in volcanic sillar, while its name originates from “ari quepay” in Quechua, after Mayta Capac, an Inca emperor, declared “let’s stop here” while on an expedition passing by. Fast-forward several centuries and Arequipa is as captivating as ever, a colonial cityscape with the ever-present El Misti Volcano looming in the background, keeping guard over the White City.
Wandering through Arequipa is a delight. Take in its silvery and sapphire shades set against a backdrop of lush rolling hills, and walk out of its historic centre towards the old city walls, passing pretty districts like San Lázaro, Yanahuara and Cayma. Stop to fuel up on lip-smacking regional specialities in one of the picantería eateries, and you’ll probably overhear a heated political debate or two; the Arequipeños are known for their fiery food and conversation!
Traditional Chupe de Camarones
As with much of Peru, Arequipa is home to its share of fantastic restaurants, with this iconic town being the perfect place to enjoy a bowl of Chupe de Camarones, the country’s national dish.
San Camilo produce market
Dating back to the late 19th century, San Camilo is Arequipa’s oldest farmers market and still holds much of its authentic flair. Chat with local vendors and seek out the fresh, colourful treats of its many stalls to get a flavour for the rural Peruvian way of life.
The enchanting Santa Catalina Convent
This fully-functioning 16th century nunnery is one of the most enchanting and atmospheric buildings in all of Peru. Painted walls and tight corridors lead into open though protected courtyards, secluded chambers and flourishing blossom trees. Santa Catalina is unmissable.