Arequipa is also known as La Ciudad Blanca - the White City – due to its magnificent constructions made of white rock. It is the second largest city in Peru and the capital of the province of Arequipa (department of Arequipa). In contrast to other Peruvian cities, Arequipa embodies the colonial mestizo culture of Peru the mixture of the authentic Peruvian and Spanish. UNESCO has declared the city of Arequipa and its colonial architecture a Human Heritage site due to this culturally rich mixture of Spanish and Indigenous roots.
The city was founded in August 1540 and since then has played an important part in Peruvian history. It was the scene of one of the most important battles for Peruvian independence in 1824. Arequipa is also the home of many influential Peruvians such as Victor Belaunde and the Literature Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, who wrote novels such as The Time of the Hero and The Green House. Apart from historical importance, Arequipa also plays a crucial economic role in the country because of its resources: cattle ranches and leather as well as alpaca wool and crafts such as weaving, and of course tourism.
Sillar, the white rock giving the city its nickname comes from the volcanos surrounding the city: the Chachani (6075m), the Misti (5822m) and the Pichu Pichu (5664m). To add to this beautiful architecture, the white city has also been named the city of the eternal spring thanks to its warm sunny climate. Arequipa receives over three hundred sunny days per year!
Within the city of Arequipa there are plenty of attractions, museums such as the Museo Sanuarios Andinos (where you can see the Juanita Mummy) as well as many other impressive colonial and religious buildings. Within walking distance from the city centre you find the calm neighbourhood of Yanahuara. Don´t miss out on a visit to the mirador of Yanahuara, where you can enjoy great views of the Misti Volcano.
With this fantastic city as your base you can head into the countryside to enjoy the stunning scenery. Take a day trip to Puente Bolognesi or go and visit the water mill, el Molino de Sabandina which is over three centuries old. The surrounding valleys provide many opportunities for adventure sports, camping and hiking - without any doubt, the most famous spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts is the Colca Canyon.
You can’t visit Arequipa without going shopping for some unique souvenirs. Arequipa is considered the world capital of alpaca and you will find hundreds of craft shops and stalls selling goods made from the fine and soft alpaca wool (you can even visit “Alpaca World”, just off the main plaza). At the markets, always compare prices before buying and remember to negotiate. If you are looking for something a bit more upmarket, try Patio del Ekeko – it offers a collection of boutique shops and restaurants. Most traditional handicrafts sold in Arequipa, come from the rural Chivay area close to the city: look for the colourful and typical Maquinaza style embroidery.
If you are more of a sweet tooth, try La Iberica Chocolate shops, there are a few around the city. They produce local gourmet chocolate considered one of the best in Peru, and by some, even the world. Have a try and decide for yourself!
When you have finished stuffing your face full of chocolate and are ready to eat a proper meal, you will have an almost endless list to choose from in Arequipa. From cafés to restaurants, big and small and any kind of food from Moroccan to Indian can be found in the city. Don’t forget to try the traditional Arequipa cuisine, which has gained a lot of recognition among foodies. In order to eat like a local, head to a picanteria, a traditional Arequipa eatery, and try some of the amazing food there. Although there are many more you must try: Rocoto Relleno, it is a spicy pepper with the top cut off, that is baked and stuffed with delicious chopped meat, egg, olive and cheese. Ocopa, boiled potato served with a special sauce and eaten with egg and olive or Adobo, pork marinated in chicha, vinegar, hot pepper and spices all cooked in a traditional clay pan.
Arequipa has an airport, located 8km from the city. You can arrive with a number of airlines from Lima, Juliaca and Cusco. A taxi should cost around S/25 from the airport to the city centre. There are also two bus terminals which are close to each other and about 3km from the city centre. From there, a taxi should cost around S/10. Alternatively, there are buses and combis, leaving from the bus station, that will take you to the city centre for about S/0.75.