Arequipa, Peru’s captivating third largest city
Nestling in a valley in the southern Andes, Arequipa is home to beautiful colonial architecture and a wonderful year-round climate.
Fascinating museums, pre-Colombian traditions and a rich regional cuisine make Arequipa a highlight of any Peru itinerary.
Colonial architecture, cobbled streets, year-round sunshine and a rich, unique local cuisine, make Peru’s third city, Arequipa a highlight of any itinerary to our country. Known as the “white city”, thanks to its whitewashed houses and elaborate churches and palacios made from the local cream-colored sillar rock, the city has a leisurely provincial feel that is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Lima or the rarefied Inca-soaked atmosphere of Cusco. It also has a spectacular setting, with several peaks of around 20,000ft, including the best-known mountain, Misti, towering over the city and visible from across town.
At roughly 7,500ft above sea level, Arequipa has a warm climate but usually without ever getting too hot. All of this makes strolling around downtown Arequipa, in the blocks around the main square, a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon, soaking in the local atmosphere. But Arequipa also has some excellent museums, starting with the Santa Catalina convent. This elaborate complex of 16th and 17th buildings is a city within a city, where the nuns were typically the daughters of some of the city’s richest families, often waited on hand and foot by maids and slaves. Despite the nuns’ vows of chastity and poverty, Santa Catalina became infamous for the hedonistic lifestyle of some of its residents.
Another fascinating museum in Arequipa is the Andean Sanctuaries Museum, where the flagship exhibit is “Juanita”, a mummified Inca teenage girl whose body was recently retrieved from the summit of Ampato Mountain. It is thought she was sacrificed there in an attempt to avert some kind of natural disaster, perhaps drought that was causing a potential famine. The idea of this young girl climbing such a huge, snow-blanketed peak in poncho and sandals, probably knowing her fate once she reached the top, is something that does not fail to inspire both awe and trepidation.
And when you get hungry, there is nothing like visiting a picantería, the local style of restaurants for which Arequipa is famous throughout Peru. Only open for lunch, picanterías serve various hearty dishes including thick soups, chicharron or fried pork, and ocopa, thick slices of steamed potato garnished with a creamy sauce seasoned with chili peppers and huacatay, an Andean herb, all washed down with chicha de jorra, a delightfully sweet, purple-coloured corn beer.
To find out more about how to incorporate these seasonal opportunities as part of your unique, individually tailored Peru itinerary, contact the Peru Empire Company at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +51-1- 700-5100 or, if you are in the US, 347-713- 7030/34.