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Arequipa: Peru’s White City in the Spotlight

Arequipa: Peru's White City in the Spotlight

The beautiful white city of Arequipa, located in Southern Peru, has it all! Eternal spring, a nearby beach, and on top of that fantastic architecture, excellent shopping opportunities, great gastronomy, beautiful surroundings and…. the deepest canyon in the world!

Suppose you are interested in history and love to visit impressive architectural structures. In that case, the City of Arequipa has a lot to offer. But also nature-lovers won’t miss out in the White City! Read more about Why the White City of Peru is Worth a Visit in our article Arequipa: Peru’s White City in the Spotlight.

What to see in Arequipa?

Do you know why Arequipa is called the “White City”?
The city has its nickname from the white volcanic rock, out of which many buildings in the city are made. The giant volcano close to the town is called El Misti.

The Cathedral of Arequipa is considered unique in Peru. It takes up the entire side of the Plaza de Armas. Its construction was started in 1629, but it received its present final form after the reconstruction in 1844. It was destroyed by a fire. A few years later, the Cathedral was again heavily damaged by a strong earthquake in 1868. The Cathedral of Arequipa is one of less than 100 churches worldwide that are allowed to hoist the flag of the Vatican!

Santa Catalina convent Peru

Arequipa was established by the Spanish back in 1540. There is a distinct “European” feel to the city for that very reason. Its architecture boasts a beautiful blend of European and native characteristics represented through the ornate temples and religious convents. The best example of this is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina or Santa Catalina Convent).

The convent of Santa Catalina is one of the most important religious buildings preserved from the colonial era. During this time, many rich Spanish families gave their second daughter for “God and the kingdom of heaven” to the monastery. As a result, up to 150 nuns lived there along with their servants in strict enclosures.

It is probably the most striking and fascinating feature of the historic centre of Arequipa, where you experience Peruvian history that has taken place there four hundred years ago. To truly appreciate the history and understand the different rooms within the monastery, you can use the services of a guide. Most Santa Catalina Tours finish by eating some delicious cookies made by the current nuns!

Santa Catalina convent Arequipa

World Heritage Site
Designated a Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO almost twenty years ago, the historic centre of Arequipa was described by the UN as “an example of ornamented architecture, representing a masterpiece of the creative coalition of European and native characteristics. A colonial town challenged by the conditions of nature, the indigenous influences, the conquest process and evangelism as well as for a spectacular natural scenario.”

The Iglesia de la Compañía can be found at the lower end of the Plaza de Armas. It was built from 1595 to 1698 and is considered a perfect example of the mixture of the baroque and mestizo architectural style. The facade shows many elements of indigenous as well as Spanish-Catholic culture.

Don’t miss out on the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries. The Museum hosts one of the most important archaeological discoveries in South America in recent decades: la ‘momia Juanita’ The Mummy of a young Inca woman was found in September 1995 at the top of the volcano Ampato by members of the American archaeologist Johan Reinhard Expedition. She was given the name Juanita.

Take the Dos Manos Arequipa City Tour if you want to visit all these impressive sites in the White City and know more about the history of Arequipa!

Shopping in Arequipa!

Arequipa is a particular city in Peru. In 1540, the “White City” was founded by the Spanish Lieutenant Garcí Manuel de Carbajal. Today, Arequipa is the second biggest city in Peru and offers many great activities for its visitors!

Looking for Souvenirs? Arequipa is a great place for souvenir hunting and the number one spot in Peru for top-quality (baby) alpaca and other woollen goods. Here you will find the nicest designs and export-quality shawls, sweaters and others.

The Mercado San Camillo near the centre is one of the most famous markets in the city. Here you will find everything you need from groceries from small restaurants to souvenirs! Another artesan market is located at Plazuela de San Francisco. But also in the small and beautiful streets around the Plaza de Armas, as in the Pasaje Catedral and Calle Santa Catalina, you will find really excellent shopping opportunities.

More about souvenir hunting in Cusco: where to buy the best souvenirs?

Want to take a trip into nature?

Did you know Arequipa is considered the world capital alpaca?
You will see hundreds of craft shops and stalls selling goods made from the delicate and soft alpaca wool that is supposed to be of especially high quality here!

Apart from the impressive colonial and religious buildings, you shouldn’t miss out on the beautiful surrounding nature in Arequipa! In walking distance from the Plaza de Armas, you find the relaxing neighbourhood of Yanahuara. Visit the mirador to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Volcano El Misti that gloriously dominates the cityscape.

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!

Would you like to see the landmarks in Arequipa and relax with beautiful views outside of the city? Then the Arequipa Campiña Tour is perfect for you!

Colca Canyon: the deepest canyon in the world

Arequipa views Colca Canyon

The most famous symbol of Arequipa, the Misti, peaks at an altitude of almost 6,000 meters. The altitude makes the climb to the top more about not succumbing to the effects of ‘soroche‘ (altitude sickness) and less about the technical aspects of climbing. For this reason, many people who feel strong at altitude (but are not necessarily killed climbers), try their luck. Ultimately, they are rewarded with maybe Arequipa’s best view!

This is not enough? Close to Arequipa, you will find the Colca Valley and the deepest canyon in the world: Colca Canyon!

At 4,160 meters (13,650 ft.) depth, the Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States! The Colca Valley has its name from the mud and stone granaries carved into the cliffs or caves, called “colas”, where pre-Incan cultures would store crops and seeds. Today the Colca Valley features colourful small villages where the indigenous people maintain their ancestral traditions through festivals, handicrafts and agricultural terraces. You can also observe the mighty Condor here circulating above your head in the simmering heat – this animal used to be one of the three holy animals to the Inca.

Colca Arequipa people typical dresses

This sounds like something you don’t want to miss? Take the 2-day Colca Canyon Tour or dive ultimately into nature and do the 3 – day hike in the beautiful Colca Valley!

Lovely climate
It’s pleasant to walk through the streets Arequipa due to its warm and sunny climate, relative lack of hills and delicious traditional restaurants, or “picanterias”, that line every street. The historic district is also built almost entirely from “sillar”, or ashlar, a white stone formed by the lava of the volcanoes that preside over the city (the aforementioned Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu). This makes Arequipa brighter and provides a magnificent contrast against the perfectly blue sky.

Most Colca Canyon Hikes begin in the sleepy town of Cabanaconde. You wind down rocky switchbacks until you make it down to a bridge overlooking the Colca River. Travelling down into the canyon and enjoying the accompanying increase in temperature as we made our way down, our guide entertained us with local myths and information about flora and fauna within the canyon.

Another famous village in the Colca Canyon is Chivay, the gateway to the Colca Canyon. Chivay is located at 3,600 meters above sea level and has incredible trails. Chivay is the perfect place to get in contact with the Andes’ nature. The people of Chivay are a community attached to its traditions and beliefs; they speak Quechua. Chivay women dress in beautiful long skirts, blouses, and baroque style vests, with patterns of flowers and birds.

Viewpoint “Cruz del Condor”

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the condors in the Colca Canyon in Peru. At the famous viewpoint Cruz del Condor, or “Condor’s Cross”, you can watch condors spreading their wings as they roamed the canyon. It is truly a fascinating sight to see the most giant bird of flight in the world glide through the canyon as it searches for prey.

Arequipa Colca artesania

There is another mirador, Antahuilque. Here are two beautiful lakes, one of which is well-known for having the shape of Peru. And the second one was Hauyya Kpuncu (the door of the wind) which offered spectacular views of the Inca and Pre-Inca terraces growing potatoes and corn.

How do I get to Arequipa?

Arequipa has an airport 8km from the city. You can arrive by a number of airlines from Lima, Juliaca and Cusco. Alternatively, you can take an overnight bus from Cusco (10 hrs), Lima (17h) or from Puno (8 hrs).

Contact Dos Manos to plan your trip to Arequipa
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Arequipa: de witte stad van peru in de spotlight

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