Arequipa is Peru’s second most populated and visited city, which is located in the Andes of Southern Peru at 2,380 meters above sea level. The city is nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) mistakenly because of the many buildings that have been built with a white volcanic stone called sillar. It is actually named the White City, due to the local people giving the name when the Spanish conquerors came to Arequipa. Arequipa has an impressive amount of history and has been inhabited since as far back as 7600 B.C. The city was officially founded by a Spanish conqueror in 1540 by the name of Garci Manuel de Carbajal and he named it Villa Hermosa de Arequipa.
Arequipa is surrounded by 3 magnificent volcanoes, all of which are higher in altitude than the famous Machu Picchu. Misti is 5,820 meters above sea level, Chachani is 6,075 meters above sea level and PichuPichu is 5,425 meters above sea level. Climbing tours of Misti and Chachani are available daily. The Misti climb is an intermediate one and Chachani is an advanced climb generally completed over 2 days. Altitude sickness can be an issue with either climbs, so make sure that you have acclimatized for a couple of days when you land in Arequipa before you attempt them. Coca tea (also known as mate de coca) is said to help prevent altitude sickness and is made from raw coca leaves that also contains alkaloids, which when extracted are used as the base to make cocaine. However, the teas do not contain a high amount of alkaloids, so you don’t have to worry about being affected by this. You can also do some downhill volcano bike riding, which although sounds dangerous, is very safe and the tour guides provide all the necessary safety equipment.
The weather in Arequipa is sunny all year round, with an average of 300 days of sun. The winter months of June to October are actually warmer than the summer.
Things to do in Arequipa
– Visit the Plaza de Armas (Main Square), which is surrounded by stunning colonial buildings and the center was declared as a Human Heritage by UNESCO in 2000 due to its architecture and history.
– Visit some of the many Catholic Churches including the some of the main ones; Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa, La Compania, Santa Catalina Monastery and the Church of Santo Domingo.
– Try some Peruvian Cuisine in San Camilo Market, which is Arequipa’s most thriving market located a few blocks from the main square. Try out a traditional dish from Arequipa called Rocoto Relleno, which is a stuffed hot pepper typically stuffed with beef, pork, onion, garlic, cream, butter and melted cheese on top. You should also try a delicious Alpaca steak, which will leave your taste buds yearning for more.
– Go to the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see the Juanita Mummy.
– Visit the Conventos (Convents); Convento de Santa Catalina and Convento de Santa Teresa, both making you feel like you are going back in time.
– Go White Water Rafting. Arequipa has some of the best rivers and rapids in the world, so you should take advantage.
– Buy some Alpaca Wool from one of the many handicraft shops in the city. Arequipa is the world’s capital for Alpaca production and here is generally cheaper than other cities in Peru.
Arequipa is the main stop off point for one of the other major tourist destinations in Peru; the Colca Canyon. This enormous canyon is located 160 kilometers from Arequipa and reaches a depth of 3,140 meters, which makes it twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Las Vegas.
The Colca Canyon is an area of outstanding beauty and a reminder of how amazing the Earth is. Many tourists come here to see the Andean Condor. These impressive birds are one of the largest birds in the world that can fly, which has a wingspan of up to 3.2meters (10.5 feet) and it is the bird with the largest area of wingspan in the world.
The canyon also offers people the chance to do some great adventure sports such as, trekking, mountain biking and white water rafting. Like the Inca Trail, the treks offer some of the best trekking territory in the world and some of which can be done over 5 days.
Visiting Arequipa and the Colca Canyon should be high on your itinerary for your trip to Peru and an experience that will last in your memories.