The ‘white city’ of Arequipa is more than a stopover en-route to Colca Canyon, it’s an architectural gem and culinary centre with a dramatic backdrop of volcanoes and plenty to explore.
Arequipa has a pleasant setting, surrounded by snow-capped volcanos which shine in the sunlight and an attractive colonial centre with many historic buildings, a pleasant place to wander for a few hours taking in the scenery and shops at a leisurely pace.
Named for its eye-catching white stone buildings, Arequipa is a beautiful city in a stunning location at the base of three volcanoes. The fine main square and many religious buildings are testament to the city’s importance in colonial times, while busy markets, restaurants and cafes give a flavour of life in modern-day Arequipa.
- Cathedral, churches & convents: Once at the heart of city life, these colonial religious buildings are the finest in Arequipa. The huge cathedral has been rebuilt and restored over the centuries after earthquake damage. Santa Catalina convent is especially impressive, a maze of atmospheric cloisters and living quarters. It may be small but La Compania Church in the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas, is beautiful with an elaborately gilded altar.
- Museums & monasteries: Pay a visit to the Ice Maiden, Juanita, at Museo Santuarios Andinos. Discovered in 1995 this mummy is the remains of a 12-year-old Inca girl who was sacrificed to the gods in the mid-15th century, preserved in frozen ice. A short walk from the Plaza de Armas, you reach La Recoleta, a monastery museum. Look around the pre-Inca exhibits before taking a stroll in the peaceful courtyards and gardens.
- Foodie heaven: San Camillo farmer’s market is a fascinating introduction to local fare. Fruit and veg, dairy produce, meat, jams and bread vie for your attention. From here it’s a logical step to visit one of the city’s picanterias, communal restaurants serving tasty traditional food to an eager crowd of locals and visitors. It should be a meal to remember, for its cuisine and camaraderie.