2,300 meters above sea level, Arequipa,
or "Jewel of the South" as it is called for its beauty, "The White
City" for its beautiful buildings in the local sillar stone, and
"The City of the Volcanoes" for the snow-capped dormant
volcanoes that lie just behind the city, is quite
simply, a place to fall in love with.
The city invites visitors to come and enjoy its great warm climate
and still see snow wherever you look up at the snow-capped peaks of El Misti
Chachani and Pichupichu which form a dramatic backdrop to
Arequipa, recognized as a World
Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2000.
Arequipa's climate fits into the holiday plans of anyone. With year
round warm and dry weather, where it almost
never rains, it barely even gets cloudy, and the air stays mountain-fresh
the city should be on the itinerary of most visitors to Peru. In winter
time, from June to August the
snow melts from the surrounding mountains and the countryside
around Arequipa is lush and green and the Rio Chili is
sparkling and clear.
Arequipa has much to offer. It's amazing baroque cathedral is the tallest building for
miles around. The centre of the city consists of narrow
cobbled medieval streets lined with
colonial houses constructed from the local white sillar
volcanic stone. The Plaza de Armas (main square) is a must
see for anyone and will surely stay in your memory for a long time.
with shady two story colonnades on three sides and the
cathedral on the other, an elegant fountain in the middle
and is filled with palm trees and flowers.
When wandering around the city of Arequipa you will surely find it's
other name, the
"Seville of South America", very appropriate. The cathedral, the former Jesuit
cloisters and church of La Compańia, and the dozens of
other churches dotted around the historic centre, all give
Arequipa a real 'Old Spain' kind of feel with a real touch
of modern life around.
convent of Santa Catalina is probably one of the biggest attraction
for people visiting Arequipa on a holiday in Peru. It's
like a city within a city with its own streets, houses
and churches and was a closed community until the 1970s when
the nuns moved to a smaller complex and the site was opened
to tourists. The convent was home to St. Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo and Pope John Paul II came to Arequipa in 1985 to
perform the beatification ceremony. Today, the convent of
Santa Catalina is perfectly preserved and you have the
opportunity to step through the convent doors and go 400
years back in time as you wander the streets and visit the
houses of a unique part of the world's heritage.
There are plenty of other things to do
in Arequipa, of course, and one thing we always recommend is
the walk up to the old district of Yanahuara. There
you will find a lovely little plaza, with a fantastic church
on one side and Moorish-style arches on another, through
which you have a superb view of El Misti.
The city is also home to several
museums, notably the Anthropological Museum of the
University of Santa Maria which is the proud resting-place of Juanita the Mummy! Juanita was
discovered in 1996 on the volcano of Ampato, very near to
Arequipa, and is one of the most important archaeological
finds in South America. Because she was in such good
condition, scientists were able to learn a great deal from
her about pre-Columbian diets, textiles and customs. Further
studies have revealed that she died as part of an Incan
sacrifice ritual, her body preserved by freezing
temperatures. The museum also has many other interesting
exhibits and is well worth a visit.
The surrounding countryside of Arequipa has
some great walking, and some lovely towns such as Yura and
Jesús, which are situated near natural springs which produce
water with famous healing properties. Although most people
prefer to head off to the nearby
Colca Canyon for their walking, it's also possible to
trek to the summit of El Misti, with its stunning views over
Arequipa, and there have been several recent climbing
expeditions to reach the summit of Arequipa's watchful