Arequipa is located in the south western part of the country. The capital is the city of Arequipa, located at 2,335 m.a.s.l. (7,600 ft), with a beautiful architecture, based in ashlar stone, an extraordinary landscape and countryside, and a dry climate with mild temperatures.
Founded on August 5, 1540, by Garci Manuel de Carbajal, the city’s name comes from the Quechua phrase “Arequipa i” which means “Yes, stay”. It’s not just by chance however that its name has held true throughout time; in the city streets, in its ‘sillar’ walls and in the attitude of its people you feel a peculiar energy, a strange impulse, inviting you to stay on in the city.
Arequipa is well known for its glistening white buildings made from sillar, a white volcanic rock, which gives the city its nickname ‘La Ciudad Blanca’.
Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and was founded in 1540. The site was chosen for its proximity to the coast, enabling settlers to trade the products of Cusco and the mines of Potosi (Bolivia) with Lima. The local cultivation of wheat, corn and grapes all contributed to the region’s economic growth.
Arequipa is surrounded by 3 volcanoes; El Misti, still active at 5822m, the higher and extinct Chachani 6075m and Pichu Pichu 5571m. The Incas highly respected these volcanoes since the melt water from their snow-capped peaks form the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River, thousands of kilometers away.
The historic centre of Arequipa was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000, in recognition of its architecture and historic integrity.
Arequipa is dry and sunny all year long. During August, the weather gets slightly cold at night and at dawn, but the mornings and afternoons are warmed by bright sunshine. Generally speaking, the weather in Arequipa is mild with temperatures fluctuating between 10 and 24°C. The rainy season lasts from January to March but rainfall is reasonably moderate.
Tourist Places in Arequipa
Aguada Blanca and Salinas
Behind the Misti volcano, as seen from the city, over an extensive plain at 4,000 meters a.s.l. is the Aguada Blanca dam, declared a National Reserve. It is a rather shallow and artificial lake originated by the Blanco river containment. A little to the south, behind the Pichu Pichu peak, is an even larger lagoon called Salinas. These lagoons are a place for resting and nesting for a large population of birds like the colorful flamingos. There is a strong migratory relationship between these birds and the ones from Mejía, 180 km (111.6 miles) from Salinas. one of the most important birds is the “parihuanas” flamingos (Phoeneicopterux Tuber).
Inside this reservation is located Pampa Cañahuas, almost behind the Chachani Volcano, where the tarucas (Hippocamelus Antisiencis) are protected (tarucas are deers of a small size that are in a vulnerable situation). There is also great quantity of vicuñas in wild life.
The vicuña (Vicugna Vicugna) is a mammalian camalidae that inhabits the high mountains of the Andes. It has 95 cm height and 55 kilos weight on the average, long neck and elegant figure. The Vicuña is covered with short frizzy wool (reddish wheat color) of extraordinary quality. It lives up to 15 years and can be tamed. It was in extinction danger due to their merciless hunt. Their wool is the finest textile fiber in the world, very well appreciated in the international market. It is represented in the National Shield of Peru like the symbol of the wealth of the animal kingdom.
Casa del Moral
The “Casa del Moral” is a large ancestral house built around 1730 in Arequipa, Peru. Favored by tourists, it is one of the best and well-preserved samples of baroque-mestizo civil architecture in Peru. The name of the house derives from the emblematic presence of a centennial tree of “moras” (blackberries) in the center of the main patio of the large house.
In the main entrance we can found figures worked in white sillar ashlsr stone of volcanic origin, emphasising the heads of pumas with serpents in its heraldic mouths and several figures (crowns, shields, angels and castles). The ornamental exuberance extends into its interior of Spanish peninsular airs, where the period furniture becomes the pillar of the luxurious decoration, whereas the remarkable carvings that adorn the doors and windows of the main rooms, are an inspired complement.
A singular detail is the maps of America, drawn in the XVI Century, which are exhibited in one of its rooms.
The Casa del Moral has a collection of paintings from the “Escuela Cusqueña” (School of Cusco), a colonial artform. Its library contains more than 3,000 volumes, primarily hispanic literature. The recent restoration of the house was with the help of the Consul of England in Arequipa; this house is currently the property of the Peruvian bank Bancosur.
The Cathedral of Arequipa
La Catedral – The Cathedral, occupies a whole side on the Main Square of Arequipa. It is built in sillar – a white stone of volcanic origin and is of neo Renaissance style, with two streamlined towers and one Gothic vault. In its interior, there is an organ from Loret in Belgium. The carved wood pulpit stands out in its interior made by Boisini-Rigot, of Lille (France), in 1879.
It is one of the most representative monuments of Arequipa and one of the maximum expressions of the neo Classic architecture in Peru. Its construction began in 1621, although it was only finished in 1656. Its original design was seriously affected by a voracious fire in 1844 and several later earthquakes. These events forced a deep restoration of the temple in 1868, done by the architect Lucas Poblete. After the works the temple maintained its beautiful façade with white sillar (slates of volcanic stone), crowned by two streamlined towers of 28 metres of height.
The architectonic set makes an impression by its great dimensions (It occupies an entire length of the Plaza de Armas Main Square) and invites to discover its interior richly ornamented with wood carvings, marble from Carrara and a splendid ashlar masonry.
In June of 2001 a strong earthquake damaged its towers seriously, so much that one of them irremediably collapsed, causing stupor and sadness in the frightened population. The faithful arequipeño people with their indomitable character and iron fighting spirit hurriedly reconstructed their city, including the beautiful bell tower.
The Cathedral of Arequipa is located on the Main Square and opens its doors from Mondays to Saturdays from 7:00 hours to the 11:30 hours and from 17:00 hours to the 19:30 hours; Sundays from 7:00 hours to the 13:00 hours and from 17:00 hours to the 19:00 hours.
Caves of Sumbay Paleolithic Art
Located behind the Misti volcano, 88 km from Arequipa and about 1 h 45 minutes drive following the Cailloma road. Sumbay is a typical high plateau setting at an average 4 127 m.a.s.l. The archaeological importance of Sumbay lives, in its caves which exhibit more than 500 paintings from the Paleolithic era, representing human figures, camelidae and pumas have an antiquity of 6000 to 8000 years.
It is located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa. It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. However, the canyon’s walls are not as vertical as those of the Grand Canyon.
Is located inside of the Colca Valley that is a colorful Andean valley with towns founded in Spanish Colonial times and formerly inhabited by the Collaguas and the Cabanas. The local people still maintain ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces.
Most people who visit Arequipa take a tour out to the Cañon de Colca, one of the worlds deepest canyons formed by an enormous seismic fault between the Coropuna (6425m) and Ampato (6325m) volcanoes. (actually the worlds deepest canyon is the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon)., it’s best to go for at least 2 days, staying the night at the village of Chivay (3633m) the first village on the edge of the canyon.
Remember to bring a swimming costume and towel for a visit to the thermal springs on the outskirts of Chivay. The high point of the tour is an early morning visit to La Cruz del Cóndor (3320m), a 2 hours drive from Chivay. From this natural observatory you can see into the deepest part of the canyon, and witness the majestic flight of the Andean Condor, rising on the morning thermals (at around 9am.).
The Colca Valley
To the north of Arequipa is the higher course of the Colca river valley which deep canyon is renowned among rafters. The section previous to the canyon consists of an encased valley that runs from east to west, beginning in the cold puna and running down to warmer regions, showing its great scenic beauty and cultural attractiveness.
One of the survival skills of the ancient Colca people was the ability to store large amounts of grain for hard times the warehouses, known as ‘colcas’, gave name to the valley. In the ‘cool’ caves of Pumunuta, it is possible to see circular colcas a meter (3.28 feet) in diameter, mad of mud and straw.
Cruz del Condor
Usually, in such a deep valley, the rising winds are surprisingly strong which big condors take advantage of to soar into the sky easily.
Between Maca and Cabanaconde, where winds are even stronger, is the Cruz del Condor, an observation point, perfect for watching the condors while they fly majestically.
Rafting along The Colca Majes River
From December to March, expert and trained rafters can go along the high and middle section of the river, explored by the 1979 Polish expeditions. It includes very difficult and isolated rapids, as the towns are far from the torrent. Although the low section may be ran over in rubber rafts, only expert people, trained in kayac rafting can do it in the canyon sections.
The name of the Colca river changes as it flows down to the Pacific ocean, Past the canyon; its name is Majes. Here, there are more chances for tourists to go in rubber rafts. The chances of finding shelters and access ways are better. Although its navigable section (Andamayo-Aplao river) does not have long rapids, the beauty of landscape and the clean river course allows enjoying the comfortable trip. The area is open year round to visitors.
Company of Jesus
Of impressive conventual aspect, it is the only edifice, which conserves the colonial art from its bases. It consists of two cloisters with portal led corridors made of carved sillar and Jesuitics monograms in the upper part. It is the purest sample of the mestizo Arequipa style.
Which was built by the Jesuits in the XVIIth Century, that was finished in 1698. Its pulpit in carved wood and its old sacristy, well-known as the so called Sixtine Chapel of Arequipa, was the fruit of the work of anonymous indigenous artists, who imprimed in the work their own colour, their own motives and their own spirit.
The temple presents a structure of two levels, typical of the European churches of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries. Other architectonic details of interest are the half point vaults and the half columns that hold up the superior floor. Its interior is a display of luxury and ornamentation, with golden altars of Mestizo Baroque style, a beautiful pulpit from the XVIIth Century and more than 60 paintings of the Cusco School
It is located at the crossing of the Streets General Moran and Alvarez Thomas (facing Main Square) and is open to the public from Mondays to Sundays from 9:00 hours to the 11:00 hours and from 15:00 hours to the 18:00 hours.
Cotahuasi Canyon near the city of Arequipa in Peru is considered deepest of the Americas. Its maximum depth is 3535 meters in the sector of Ninancocha, 335 meters more than the Colca Canyon, but less deep than several canyons in the Himalayas.
The Cotahuasi Canyon is an impressive edge that the river has opened between two enormous mountainous bulks: the Coropuna (6425 m.s.n.m.) and the Solimana (6093 m.s.n.m.). One extends from spurs of the snow-covered Solimana to the confluence with the Ocoña river.
It is formed by the Cotahuasi River, the one that is born in the lagoon of Huanzococha to more than 4750 m.s.n.m. and later it receives the contribution of the Huayllapaña
Cotahuasi Canyon is even deeper than Colca and even more spectacular. Due to its remoteness trekking in this area can be quite demanding Allow at least 7 days to explore the canyon and its picturesque villages.
Located 20 km from the Main Square of the city of Arequipa and about 20 minutes drive. It’s a village on the banks of the Socabaya River, we can be admired. A colonial house from the eighteenth century, known as the Mansión del Fundador.
Sabandía is Located at 9 kilometers from the City, it is famous for its Colonial mill that dates from the XVIIth Century(1785), where formerly the grains were ground that soon were distributed in all the South of Peru. In this place, of beautiful countryside, is the House of the Founder of Arequipa, Manuel Garci de Carbajal. By its rustic airs, its showy pre-hispanic agricultural terraces, its novo Hispanic and ten sided Republican large mansions, and the imposing presence of the volcanos Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu; Sabandía becomes an exquisite corner, with architectonic jewels of great historical importance, it represents the typical architecture of the zone where the use of sillar stone predominates.
Saint Lazarus Neighborhood
It’s 5 blocks from the Main Square of Arequipa. This neighborhood of alleys, narrow passageways, small plazas, and large homes is the most representative of old Arequipa. This place was established by Dominican priests in 1538, who built a sanctuary to evangelize the natives of the area and prepare the land to found a new Spanish city. The small bridge that connects A small chapel (the Church of San Lázaro) in San Lázaro Square, was the first church to be built in Arequipa’s oldest quarter.
The Monastery of Santa Catalina
It was built in 1580 and was enlarged in the 17th century. The over 20,000-square-meter monastery is predominantly of the Mudejar style, and is characterized by the vividly painted walls. There are approximately 20 nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public
The Monastery of Santa Catalina is the most astonishing site in Arequipa. It was opened to the public in 1970 after 400 years as a cloister when the nuns opened their doors to tourism to pay for the installation of electricity and running water, as required by law.
The convent has been beautifully refurbished with period furniture and paintings. Behind the closed doors the nuns, daughters of aristocrats, paid little heed to the vows of poverty and silence. Each had her own servant and dined with porcelain plates, fine tablecloths and silver cutlery.
The convent is a complete miniature walled colonial town in the middle of the city. There are flower filled gardens, spacious patios, granite fountains as well as arches and narrow streets. The tile-roofed buildings are painted in traditional white, brown and blue. About 20 nuns still live in a section of the convent, which once housed up to 500.
Its architectonic style is mainly colonial, but of a mestizo nature. Different from other colonial heritages in this part of Latin America, in Santa Catalina specially, the fusion of Spanish and native elements can be observed to the point of generating it own creativity.
The Recoleta Convent
The Convento La Recoleta Convent, it’s simple cloisters and areas present diverse architectonic styles, from the Romanesque one to the neo Gothic one, a peculiarity that is explained by the different processes of reconstruction made on this Franciscan jewel.
At the present time, its rooms and four cloisters hold the collections of the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Religious Arts Museum; this last with a very nice collection of Colonial paintings of the Cusco and Arequipa Schools. Another point of interest is its library specialised in religious subjects, with more than 20 thousand volumes, among them incunables from the XVth Century. The convent was founded in 1648, but its doors were opened to the public only in 1978.
It is located on the Jirón Recoleta 117 and can be visited from Mondays to Saturdays from 9:00 hours to the 12:00 hours and from 15:00 hours to the 17:00 hours.
Toro Muerto Petroglyphs
It’s 164 km northwest of Arequipa (2 hours and 30 minutes), in the county of Castilla.
Leaving the Colca valley and passing through the Sihuas pampas is one way to get there. To arrive there directly from Arequipa, take the road to Lima and turn off at Corire (District of Uraca) and drive for 6 km / 4 miles.
The site consists of a group of carvings spread out over 5 km2 / 2 miles2. There are engravings of 5.000 huge stones; the majority of them are representations of human beings, animals, and plants, as well as geometric designs that seem to have been carved with sharpened stones. The techniques used varied from striking, scratching, chipping, to hammering, and their age could begin around 1100 A.D.
Valley of the Volcanoes
Located 377 km (234 miles) north of Arequipa Entering the -so called- ‘Valley of the Volcanoes” of Andagua means going back several geological eras to witness some outstanding phenomena that only happen in two places In the world: the Canary Islands and In this Arequipa valley. It is a geologic formation of the Quaternary Age.
The Andagua river valley runs along the foothill of the great Coropuna volcano, the highest in Peru and the tenth highest in South America. Geothermal activity In this area has given birth to about 80 volcanoes, all of them extinct which give this area a moonlike aspect. Later, the Andagua river disappears in a 17 km (10.5 miles) stretch, running under the ground between the Chachas and the Mamacocho lagoons before flowing into the Colca. Andagua can be reached only by highway from the west.
Located to 2 kilometres from the Colonial Centre of Arequipa, Yanahuara is a showy district of narrow streets, large houses of ample orchards and flavourful so called picanterías (restaurants of typical food).
Yanahuara is well-known for its buildings built from sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock. At least 1/4 of the city’s area is taken by “Umacollo” , where various middle-class residential houses of the city are located. Yanahuara includes the popular avenue strip known as the “Avenida Ejercito”, where many banks and modern offices are also located. Its surroundings contain various well-cared churches of the Spanish-colonial era, as well as public parks and the well-known “el mirador e iglesia de Yanahuara”, a popular spot where tourists concur to view the city and its background volcanoes.
Yura Hot Springs
Yura Thermal Baths. Located at 30 km (45 minutes by bus) These are wells of thermal waters, the waters come from inside the Chachani volcano. and are renowed for their therapeutical properties.