Arequipa is to Peru as Boston is to the US. No, that’s not quite right. Maybe Arequipa is to Peru as Puglia is to Italy. Or maybe a bit of a mix between the two… Better put, Arequipa is an incomparable destination in its own right. Comfortable elevation, California-like weather, rich Incan legacy, UNESCO-protected architecture, incredible cuisine, exhilarating adventure… Arequipa feels like a palatial metropolis lost in time, with a heartbeat that can be felt in every shop, plaza and picanteria.
First time visitors to the city need three days to revel in the one-of-a-kind architecture that has earned the old town UNESCO World Heritage designation and the local nickname, “the White City”. The entire historic old town is constructed from hand-cut blocks of sillar, a white volcanic stone abundant just beyond the city limits. The trade of sillar craftsman is a proud legacy that has been handed down from father to son since the era of the Incas, and continues to persevere in the outskirts of the city. A highlight of cultural exploration is a day spent following the Sillar Route, from the vast quarries to the humble workshops of the craftsmen themselves, learning the process and meeting the personalities that give the White City its namesake charm.
When in Arequipa, every meal is savoured. To truly appreciate the gastronomy, however, an entire afternoon should be devoted to exploring the millenary cuisine. For those with a hands-on attitude, head to the local market or join an exclusive workshop preparing an Arequipenean meal using traditional techniques. For those who prefer the finished product, and plenty of it, join a tantalizing tasting trip through a few of the favourite
"A picanteria is the local word for a traditional eatery, serving up Arequipenean classics – no fuss, no glitz, just the delicious dishes renowned throughout Peru as the best in the country."
In the traditional class system that still makes up Arequipenean society, the picanterias are the one meeting place for rich and poor to sit at the same tables, discuss passions and politics, exchange ideas. In the picanterias, everyone is equal.
If staying three nights in Arequipa, one has decisions to make on Day 3. Indulge in the sights of the ancient old town, or head out of the city chasing adventure. The monasteries and museums, royal residences and art certainly hold their appeal. As does rafting the river in the Chilina valley, bicycling through the countryside villages, or strolling around the high plateau. Is it too late to extend your stay another night in Arequipa?