Peru’s second city is located in the country’s far south and is a popular and well known travel destination for national and foreign travelers. Arequipa is renowned as an impressive, grand and sophisticated city – a classy and well-heeled counterbalance to chaotic and messy Lima, the capital city.
With a vast amount of monasteries and churches, coupled with a beautiful cathedral, the Colonial centre of Arequipa can boast some quite spectacular architecture. The city is also proud of its varied museums, distinct culinary heritage, lively markets, excellent restaurants and various other points of interest for the visitor.
Arequipa is often referred to as The White City due to the color of the volcanic rock from which many buildings are constructed. The city has a very European feel making it ideal for travelers from other parts of the world who had to make a choice between a trip to Europe or to South America.
There are three volcanoes surrounding Arequipa including Misti which is still considered active although it has erupted just four times over the last 500 years and is a particularly prominent element in the local landscape. It is possible to climb this volcano if one is fairly fit as well as acclimated to the altitude, something best done in Cusco or Lake Titicaca before traveling here. It is recommended that this climb be done with a guide or tour agency.
There are not a lot of tourist attractions located within the city and, what there are, can be visited either on your own or by taking a city tour. The tour will typically include the Cathedral, the Santa Catalina Convent and, often, a visit to a scenic point outside the city where one can get a panoramic view and enjoy some typical food and drink.
With a conquered Satan elaborately carved on top, the wooden pulpit found in the cathedral is the highlight of the tour and found where the priest would stand. Also present is an impressive Belgian organ. Nearby is the beautiful Plaza de Armas, a great place to people watch and pass the type in one of the many cafes.
Having spent 400 years as a nuns home, another must-see spot is the Santa Catalina Convent. Convents in South America tended to be homes for daughters of nobility as opposed to refuges for the deeply religious. With this in mind, there were creature comforts for the sisters to enjoy in a spectacular building. There are still a small number of nuns living at the site.
A trip to see Juanita in the Museo Santuarios Andinos is something that many visitors enjoy, where you can see the mummy which has spent 500 years in ice after being sacrificed for ritual and buried in the Ampato mountain.
Peruvian culture can be enjoyed from Arequipa even after you’ve seen the sites of tourism, and the food is a great place to start. There are many national delicacies on offer in the country, and this is often earmarked as the best place for trying cuy (guinea pig) which you can get deep-fried – or choctado.