White City in Peru: Arequipa

Arequipa is a white city in Peru | Arequipa

Arequipa, Peru

There is no evidence of the Inca civilization in Arequipa and one does not come here to see the glittering past of Peru as in the Sacred Valley around Cusco. Arequipa is a completely colonial city made of volcanic white stone. And it’s worth admitting that, for some reason, the Spanish obeyed the Inca rule of building by imitating nature and blending the structures into the surrounding landscape. And what did they achieve?

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Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city at the foot of the dormant El Misti volcano in the semi-desert climate of southern Peru, second in size after the capital Lima. It was founded in 1540 by an emissary of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Today Arequipa is populated by about 1.3 million people. In Peru the city of Arequipa is called the Southern Cultural Capital, similar to the way St. Petersburg is called the Northern and Cultural Capital of Russia.

Traditionally Arequipa is situated at an altitude of 2335 meters above sea level, on the way from Lima to Puno (it is more convenient to acclimatize in Peru by gradually increasing the altitude) and then to Cusco. Or vice versa. There are buses between all these cities. We came from Chile during our round-the-world trip in 2014, continuing our acquaintance with Peru, and the first city in the south of the country was Arequipa. We had planned to spend a few days here, and after some rest from the road, we set out to get to know it better.

Arequipa on the map

Arequipa what to see

What to see in Arequipa – the main attractions

In Arequipa, the famous Monastery of Santa Catalina is a must-see. And of course, from Arequipa start tours to the Colca Canyon. But we went there on our own and saw one of the deepest canyons in the world and soaring over it condors! And after contemplating the unseen beauty, of course, we wanted to see other condors painted on the ground. And for that we had to go to Nasca!

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Arequipa sights on the tourist map

Map of Arequipa

Arequipa neighborhood map

Map of Arequipa

Plaza de Armas

As it should be, the Plaza de Armas is greeted with beckons to restaurants and tour agencies. However, there is one decent place here called IPeru, an institution that will tell you and tell you all about the city and provide you with maps (not just of Arequipa, but of other cities as well, if you say you’re not stopping in your exploration of the country). The workers speak not only Spanish but also English.

The Cathedral ( Cathedral de Arequipa ) is open to the public from 7.00 to 19.00, with a charge for 10 to 16 (10 soles) and free in the morning and evening. Like the whole town, the Cathedral is built of the same volcanic stone with which the area is rich because of its dangerous proximity. Volcanoes have destroyed the city more than once, but they were the material used to build it. So Arequipa’s low houses also whitewash among the mountain-desert landscape, as do the beautiful volcanoes.

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Inside the Arequipa Cathedral

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It is strange to see a Byzantine cross in a Catholic cathedral

Viewpoint Januar in Arequipa

Arequipa stands surrounded by a ring of volcanoes. They are white on the horizon and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city – somewhere better, somewhere worse. They have invented miradoras for tourists to enjoy the majestic view. We visited one of them, Yanahuara.

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The park nearby seemed very nice and pretty. Much to our surprise, we somehow managed to come to Janahuara at a time when there were hardly any tourists brought in by buses. So we had time for a quiet stroll, watching a local grandfather reading a book while sitting on a bench and basking in the sunshine, knowing the thick palm tree branches were keeping him in the shade. And the straw nativity scene looked very touching (it was still a month away from Christmas, but Arequipa was getting ready!). The volcanoes in the arches were reminiscent of Santa Barbara.

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The viewpoint here is wonderful, but the view from the balcony at our hotel was prettier, and from the newly opened bridge over the Chile River was even prettier. We also happened to be in the middle of a public celebration as everyone had gathered for the bridge opening ceremony and were rejoicing.

On the way we also toured the pretty neighborhoods of San Lazaro and Yanahuara, which was very reminiscent of the old town of Acre (Acre) in Israel.

Our photos of the city of Arequipa

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The new bridge with the volcanoes in the background

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Residents of Arequipa

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View of Arequipa from the roof of our hotel

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View from our balcony

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Colorful Arequipa

But the biggest secret of Arequipa is that the city is not at all white!

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Useful to know
  • Andrew by 26.03.2015 at 00:58

Very nice city. Immediately feels distinctive, although I think this can be said about Peru as a whole. How do you think it is safe to travel through the country for an independent tourist.

  • Ariana by 26.03.2015 at 09:51 am Author

We have traveled all over the country on buses (mostly for locals) and have never once felt in danger. There were times when we were prompted to hide our camera in Lima or the volunteer druja in Nazca decided to personally escort us to a tourist site, figuring we’d rather protect our tourists than leave them alone. The cab driver in Arequipa told us how best to choose a cab. But these are all small things. And all of these cases are written about in our blog. In general, we had an extremely positive impression of Peru. A positive attitude, backed by common sense, is the best advisor. We never expected or thought about trouble, they bypassed us. But we didn’t venture into troubled neighborhoods in the evening either.

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On the whole, the locals are quite peaceful, they even treat foreigners with some deference. Of course, those who work in the tourism industry and speak English, try to squeeze more money out of the tourist, but at the same time, so that the tourist will be satisfied. And if you know the local prices, compare the cost of tours in different agencies and do not mess with the guides (to us, by the way, almost never imposed any “help”), then travel is quite comfortable. We went with zero knowledge of Spanish, but on the spot have the basic phrases and phrases have become understood and were able to engage in simple dialogue with the locals. In hostels we never had problems with that to leave things, but the truth we put the laptop in a suitcase and closed a suitcase on the lock, and all valuable things and documents carried with itself. In general, the police work well, and regulate the traffic, and patrol the streets, but we did not see any blatantly provocative crime, so that robbery or theft. Everything was peaceful and quiet, and even in the buses no one was rummaging through things, as they warn about on the Internet. You need to observe basic safety rules and you won’t have any problems!

  • Pauline Vamonos on May 31, 2015 at 04:15 am.

Guys, where did you stay in Arequipa? Did you like the hotel? And how to choose the right cab driver?

  • Ariana by 31.05.2015 at 08:54 Author

Pauline, if you take the bus to the terminal, the cab drivers should be there on the grounds. And the price will be ten soles. These are official cabs. We were also told that real cabs should always have a radio antenna and the company name and phone number written on board. And the main advice is to catch a cab that you just got out of something. We stayed at a small hotel, but we wouldn’t recommend it to you because it’s quite cold and the rooms are very small. You and the kids won’t have much fun there.

  • Ariana by 31.05.2015 at 08:41 Author
Zagreb, Croatia

Pauline, if you take the bus to the terminal, the cab drivers should be there on the grounds. And the price will be 10 soles. These are the official cabs. We were also told that real cabs should always have a radio antenna, company name and phone number written on board. And the main advice is to catch a cab that you just got out of something. We stayed at a small hotel, but we wouldn’t recommend it to you because it’s quite cold and the rooms are very small. You and the kids would not have much fun.

  • Pauline Vamonos by 28.08.2015 at 21:09

What do you guys think of Arequipa? We’ve been there on our way to/from Chile a few times, but so that to walk around somehow no longer had the strength. Now I’m thinking about going there for a couple of days. Is it worth it?

  • Ariana by 28.08.2015 at 22:36 Author

Pauline, Arequipa is nice, if you close your eyes to the usual dirtiness of Peru. But overall it’s cleaner than other cities. We enjoyed just walking around there without a purpose. We happened to catch the opening of the bridge, just walking around. And from the sights we went to the super popular monastery Santa Catalina. But we liked it there – colorful and cozy. And most importantly, it’s cool on hot days. Here’s a link to Santa Catalina, see if you like it or not. http://paikea.ru/peru-arequipa-santa-catalina/ In Arequipa, we lived in style – we got hooked on the local pastries and cakes, gained a few pounds, but it was worth it, and we shook them off As a change of scenery – quite a nice trip. It’s kind of the cultural capital of the country. They are there on their own, do not like the capital and Chile at the same time Even from there, you can go to the canyon Colca and go to the track (if your husband wants to) and look at the condors (very promoted event!). Only trouble is, the condors don’t know and they don’t come every time. http://paikea.ru/peru-cabanoconde-colca-canyon/

  • Pauline Vamonos to 28.08.2015 at 23:06
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Nastya, thank you so much for the answer! My husband doesn’t want to go anywhere at all, so this is me looking for myself :)). I’ve already decided I don’t want to go to the canyon, and I’m thinking about the city…. It’s scary that it will be a typical Peruvian town – dirty, noisy, and from the sights a plaza.

  • Ariana to 08/29/2015 at 10:05 am Author

That’s pretty much it. But the impression is brightened by the volcanoes, which can be seen right from the city limits, the inhabitants dressed in European style and the feeling of their “Peter” in Peru (without the sights as in St. Petersburg). In fact – a couple of days there wandering about nothing and wanting nothing is perfect.

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