The White City
Street Market 7,800 feet (2380 meter) above sea level in the scenic lap of the El Misti volcano rests Peru's second-largest city. Capital of the southern region of the same name, Arequipa has over 900,000 inhabitants and possesses a rich colonial history. The glistening white volcanic stone buildings of its historic center, declared a UNESCO world heritage site, have earned it the nickname of La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) and, coupled with its numerous other attractions, lure over one million visitors to the city each year. It's also known as the City of the Eternal Blue Sky thanks to its dry, sunny climate with only moderate rainfall January to March and temperatures between 50°F (10 °C) and 77°F (25 °C).
Arequipa was founded on the 15th of August, 1540 by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro's emissary Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, but archaeological evidence shows that the fertile valley was inhabited as early as 6000 BC by Aymara Indians who were later conquered by the Incas. Thanks to its agricultural products and its position along the route of the silver-laden caravans journeying from Potosí, Bolivia, to the port of Quilca, the city became an important trade center and would later be a stronghold of nationalism during Peru's fight for independence in the early 1800s. Nearly leveled in 1868 by an earthquake, Arequipa nevertheless survived and has produced many of the country's most significant intellectual, political and religious figures. Today it is Peru's second most industrialized city and continues to function as a leading center of commerce.
Cathedral and Plaza de Armas Arequipa's impressive colonial architecture, beautiful countryside and delectable cuisine have transformed it into the third most-visited city of Peru. Its ornate colonial churches, religious convents and mansions are a lovely expression of the unique cultural fusion of European and Andean traditions that took place here, and which can best be appreciated in the elaborate Cathedral, the Santa Catalina Convent's miniature walled town, and the sumptuous interior of the Church of the Compañía. Arequipa's rural outskirts are equally charming with their pre-Columbian agricultural terraces, well-preserved colonial buildings, natural hot springs, and mouthwatering picanterías (restaurants serving traditional food). It is also possible to climb El Misti and the two other volcanoes whose peaks dominate the landscape, Chachani and Pichu Pichu, and a visit to the spectacular Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, will take your breath away.