Arequipa is often referred to as the white city due to the white washed look of its buildings (made from sillar, the Spanish name for the volcanic white rock mined from local quarries). The city is located at about 8,300 feet in southern Peru and is surrounded by tall mountains and the prominent volcano, El Misti. However, it is only a couple of hours from the ocean by vehicle.
The weather is dry, crisp and clear with pleasant days and cool nights most of the year. Temperatures are normally quite pleastant during the day not too hot and not too cold. This type of weather is very relaxing. Arequipa’s weather has been called “eternal spring”. The sun shines over 300 days of the year!
Flights from Lima take about an hour; as planes descend into Alfredo Rodriguez Ballon International Airport, passengers will be treated to views of both Ampato the 6000+ meter peak (the highest mountain in the area) and El Misti.
The actual city is quite sprawling; from the outskirts one will see nothing but miles and miles of brown mud-brick homes. This is high desert and aside from the water used from the Chili River to irrigate local terraced fields, the surrounding parts of town are visually bone dry.
Central Arequipa is definitely a walking town – most of the primary attractions, museums, cathedrals, restaurants & travel agencies are located within several blocks of the main square, Plaza de Armas.
While in Arequipa be sure to try some authentic Peruvian food such as ceviche (raw fish soaked in lemon juice), adobo stew, the somewhat spicy recoto relleno (chili peppers with meat and potatoes), cuy (roasted guinea pig), Pisco Sour (Peru’s alcoholic national drink) and chicha morada – a purple somewhat sweet drink made out of corn juice. Arequipa also has very good “cheese” ice cream which is often sold from street vendors.
Must sees in town include: Santa Catalina Monastery, Santuarios Andinos Museum housing the mummy Juanita and several hours outside of the city, the world’s deepest canyons Colca and Cotahuasi. We have visited Arequipa several times and always leave craving more time in this wonderful city.
Read on for more information about what there is to do and see in and around Arequipa!