According to legend, Inca ruler Mayta Capac passed through Peru’s southern canyon country in the year 1300. Enchanted by the lush valley surrounded by snow topped volcanic peaks, Mayta Capac announced “Ari, quepay.” Quechan for: “Yes, stay.” A little over 200 years later, the Spaniards re-founded the area as the city of Arequipa.
How Arequipa truly got its name is left to historic speculation, but the point behind the story is valid: Arequipa is worth the stay.
Today, the city of Arequipa is a charming collection of churches and colonial-era buildings. Built from pearly white volcanic stone called sillar, the city seems to blaze with an inner light, sparking under an ever-present southern sun. Even from behind your sunglasses it’s easy to see how “The White City” earned its nickname.
Though Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city, it has the welcoming allure of a small Andean town. A scattering of traditional restaurants called picanterias furthers this image. They also help to maintain Arequipa’s place in the race to be Peru’s culinary capital against big sister city Lima. Lima may be modern and ceviche fresh, but Arequipa has the spice of life. The city prides itself on its spicy, filling, and traditional dishes such as rocoto relleno (peppers stuffed with meat, spices, and an assortment of other goodies) and adobo de cerdo (slow-cooked pork). Taste these treats for mere pocket change at one of the many family-style picanterias.
Delights extend beyond the kitchen. Arequipa houses the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a convent founded in 1579 and still in operation today. This massive complex covers an entire block and contains all the necessities of a small city, allowing the nuns to operate in isolation from the outside world. Many parts are open to the public, and the Monastery maze of colored walls (bright blue, rustic red) and hidden rooms offers a fascinating step back in time.
Back in the city’s spacious plaza, one can see the three volcanoes surrounding the city. These mountains and their smaller neighbors attract thrill seekers from across the globe. From hiking up Misti (the city’s dominate volcano), to biking down Pichu Pichu, to trekking through some of the deepest canyons in the world, the natural attractions of Arequipa’s canyon region are endless. The most popular excursion from Arequipa is a trip to the Colca Canyon, which can be used as a connection point on the way to Lake Titicaca.
Keen to see Arequipa for yourself? Check out our Machu Picchu & Peru tours here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.