It’s hard playing second fiddle to Cuzco and Machu Picchu on Peru’s international tourist circuit, not that this little detail makes the average arequipeño jealous. Other Peruvians joke that you need a different passport to enter Peru’s second-largest city, a metropolis one-tenth of the size of the capital Lima but pugnaciously equal to it in terms of cuisine, historical significance and confident self-awareness. Guarded by not one but three dramatic volcanoes, the city enjoys a resplendent, if seismically precarious setting – earthquakes regularly wrack this region, the last big one causing significant damage in 2001. Fortunately, the city’s architecture, a formidable ensemble of baroque-mestizo buildings grafted out of the local white sillar rock, has so far withstood most of what Mother Earth has thrown at it. In 2000 the city’s central core earned a well-deserved Unesco World Heritage listing and the sight of the gigantic cathedral, with the ethereal image of 5825m El Misti rising behind it, is worth a visit alone. Pretty cityscapes aside, Arequipa has played a fundamental role in Peru’s gastronomic renaissance; classic spicy dishes such as rocoto relleno, chupe de camarones and ocopa best enjoyed in the city’s communal picantería restaurants, all hail from here. Arequipeños are also a proud people fond of intellectual debate, especially about their fervent political beliefs, which find voice through regular demonstrations in the Plaza de Armas. Not surprisingly, the city has produced one of Latin America’s most influential novelists, Mario Vargas Llosa, the literary genius who ran unsuccessfully for the Peruvian presidency in 1990.
Best places to stay in Arequipa
Peru - Arequipa & Canyon Country (Chapter)
Arequipa province is Peru’s big combo ticket. Authentic historical immersion and white-knuckle adventure inhabit the same space here. Imagine one of South America’s finest colonial cities just a short distance from the world’s two deepest canyons and you’ll get a hint of the dramatic contrasts.
Top ten South American reads: a literary trip
Fiction was invented the day Jonas arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale. - Gabriel García Márquez.
Arequipa destination guides
Scan the canopy for wildlife from the comfort of our intimate and exclusive G Lodge Amazon, contemplate mountain vistas or take an optional flight over the Nazca Lines—this epic journey explores the geography, culture and history of Peru, offering you the perfect blend of guided excursions and free time.
Peru & Ecuador Adventure
Discover the heart and soul of Andean South America on this adventure tour that takes you from the cobblestone streets of Quito to the dizzying altitude of La Paz. Discover the extraordinary history of the Inca as you trek through misty cloud forests along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.