Peru's White City
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Arequipa is called the White City of Peru. The reason is that all buildings are made of sillar, which is a volcanic stone that is strikingly white. They have been used to construct buildings, including many historic buildings. The city was largely built by the Spaniards, which is clearly visible. Although it is still typically South American. The centre of Arequipa has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2000. These are the sights and best excursions in Arequipa.
The city is located in the southeast of Peru at an altitude of 2,335 meters. The city has a turbulent history. Around the year 1500, the city was almost destroyed by a volcanic eruption, resulting in a major earthquake. It was the Spaniards who built the city, which is clearly visible in the architecture. Arequipa functioned as a city again from August 15, 1540. Incidentally, this is still a popular holiday, with numerous festivities being organized. Think of various night markets and lots of music.
The city is flanked by imposing volcanoes of more than 4,000 meters from the Andes Mountains. You see these everywhere when you walk through the city. It is the Misti (5,820 meters), which is the most famous volcano in Peru. El Misti towers over the city. This volcano has snow on its top for large parts of the year. The other mountains visible are Chachani (6,075) and Pichu Pichu (5,669).
The most impressive is the Plaza de Armas, or the central square of Arequipa. In addition to palm trees, you will find numerous shops, hotels and bars, but also the imposing cathedral. People sell candy, lottery tickets, sunglasses and toys. Elderly people chat while children play. Cars are prohibited, so there is a relaxed atmosphere.
You can't miss the Cathedral of Arequipa. The striking white building is the symbol of the Plaza de Armas. It has been partially or completely destroyed no fewer than 12 times. This is mainly due to natural disasters such as earthquakes, but also due to fires. The first tragedy was the earthquake in 1583 and the last in 2001 with an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, causing the left tower to collapse completely. This tower was rebuilt in 2002.
There is also a museum that you can visit for a small entrance fee. From the museum, you can also climb the tower for a view of the city and the square. To be honest I like the roof terraces on the edge of the square better.
Around Plaza de Armas you will see many terraces on the second floor, but also some roof terraces. These are popular throughout the day, but especially at sunset, it is a wonderful place. The best in my opinion is the terrace of Arequipa Suits Plaza Hotel which is the only one on the fourth floor. The terrace is located right next to the cathedral and can be reached via a few small steps. You can have a reasonably pricey drink there, but also take good pictures of the last light of the day.
Asdress: Plaza de Armes
The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is unique. This monastery is a city within a city, with countless corridors, rooms, courtyards, chapels and work areas. And what stands out; is the colours red and blue that you see everywhere. This nunnery was built in 1580 and has been enlarged over the centuries. At the time, this was the largest monastery in the world, but the doors remained closed. Except for the 450 nuns who lived there. Visitors have been allowed since 1970. A visit is very worthwhile. You can ask for a guided tour, which I highly recommended. Only then will history come to life.
Address: Santa Catalina 301
The Museo Santuarios Andinos is intriguing. And definitely worth a visit. In 1995, a 500-year-old mummy of the Incas was found on the nearby volcano Ampato. The girl aged 10 to 12 was sacrificed by the Incas. All this time it was under an immense ice cap, which had started to melt due to an eruption of the Sabancaya volcano. The girl was found during an expedition by archaeologist Johan Reinhardt.
Until then, such a well-preserved mummy had never been found in South America. The muscles, organs and blood appear to be completely intact. She was baptized Juanita. In the Museo Santuarios Andinos you can see the mummy and learn a lot about her life. You have to pay an entrance fee, although the guide is free. You can decide for yourself how much you give the guide after the tour.
Asdress: C. la Merced 110
The Iglesia de la Compañía is one of the many churches in the city. But this church with a monastery is a perfect example of Andean baroque. Inside the temple, you can see carved wooden altarpieces covered with gold leaf. In the sacristy is the chapel of San Ignacio, with murals depicting tropical flora and fauna. The monasteries were built in the 18th century. It is worth visiting this lesser-known monastery.
Address: Gral. Móran 114
Yanahaura is a nice neighbourhood in Arequipa. It has narrow streets, a small square with a beautiful church and a famous viewpoint. Although most travellers want to visit the Mirador, this is a viewpoint with a view of the Misti volcano as well. It is a perfect place for pictures with the volcano and with some luck flowers. Especially at sunset, it is popular for a visit.
Address: Miguel Grau, Yanahuara
The Mercado San Camilo is the central market of Arequipa. People from the region sell their fresh fruit and other food or products. You can taste countless fruit juices and also have a complete meal or, for example, try Chicha (corn beer). It is perfect for an hour of sniffing scents and marvelling at the many flavours. The building was designed by the French architect Gustave Eiffel. Yes, that's the same one who invented the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The market is a 10-minute walk from Plaza de Armas.
Address: C. Piérola 407
The Ruta del Sillar is a gorge on the outskirts of Arequipa. Sillar is being extracted, the volcanic hard stone with which Arequipa was built. The stones used to be transported to the city by donkey. It must have been a hellish job to build a city like Arequipa. In this gorge you see men working large blocks into building blocks for houses and buildings. You can also see artists who make all kinds of figures from stone. Such as statues, but also animals such as the Andean condor and more. To visit Ruta del Sillar you can take the bus, but a taxi for a number of Soles is much easier.
Those who go to Peru can indulge themselves in Peruvian cuisine. In Arequipa, you can get countless meals for lunch and dinner. I have tried below dishes and restaurants, and I can recommend them.
Chupe de Camarones is a traditional thick shrimp soup that originates from Arequipa. With large shrimps, potatoes, rice, corn, cheese and herbs. This is especially popular for lunch, although I noticed it is a hearty meal. But very tasty.
Something different is Queso Helado, which originates from Arequipa. It has nothing to do with cheese, as the name suggests. It's vanilla-flavoured ice cream topped with cinnamon. The name comes from the way it is sold. You see it in round barrels and when the lid comes off the ice cream looks like a piece of cheese. It's wonderfully refreshing.
In the centre you will find many Picanterías. These are traditional lunch restaurants in Peru, mainly in and around the cities of Arequipa and Cusco. You can eat well and cheaply. I always look to see if I see Peruvians eating there. That's a good sign for me.
I tried cuy, or guinea pig. Yes, it's a pet. This animal has been eaten for centuries in Peru. Although there are differences. In Arequipa, it is prepared in a deep fryer, while in Cusco, for example, the rodent is roasted. I personally like the latter better. But in Arequipa, there are plenty of restaurants that have cuy on the menu. Whether you want to eat it is up to you.
You will find many Chifa restaurants throughout Peru; this is a delicious mix of Peruvian and Chinese food. I tried it in Arequipa and was pleasantly surprised. The portions are often large, cheap and delicious.
The city of Arequipa is a wonderful place to stay. There are several hotels in various price ranges and luxury. You will find hostels, hotels and bed & breakfasts.
Find the best accommodations in Arequipa
My recommendation: Plaza Central
The climate in Arequipa is pleasant. The sun shines often, it rarely rains, while the temperature during the day is usually around 20 to 25 ° C. In January, February and March it is cooler and it rains occasionally. It is also a good place to acclimatize to the altitude. Most tourists stay several nights in the city, so you have time to see everything.
Many travellers pass through Arequipa on their way to Colca Canyon and the high-altitude Lake Titicaca. You can travel from Lima by bus, the best are buses from Ormeno. Please note, this is a long trip, about 17 hours. From Lima to Pisco station, the buses run first to Ica and via Nasca to Arequipa. This means that you can make various stops along the way. You can also fly from Lima to Arequipa. The flight takes just over an hour. From Cusco, it is also an hour by plane. This way of travelling is therefore useful if you have little time.
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