Other Peruvians joke that you need a different passport to enter Peru’s second-largest city. One-tenth the size of Lima, Arequipa is its pugnacious equal in terms of cuisine, historical significance and confident self-awareness.
Guarded by three dramatic volcanoes, the city's resplendent setting makes an obvious launchpad for trekking, rafting and visiting Cañón de Colca. The Unesco World Heritage–listed city center is dressed in baroque buildings carved from white volcanic sillar stone, giving Arequipa the nickname 'Ciudad Blanca' (White City). Its centerpiece, a majestic cathedral with the ethereal El Misti rising behind it, is worth a visit alone.
Pretty cityscapes aside, Arequipa has played a fundamental role in Peru’s gastronomic renaissance and dining here – in communal picantería eateries or tastebud-provoking fusion restaurants – is a highlight.
The headstrong city has produced one of Latin America’s most influential novelists, Mario Vargas Llosa. Juanita, the ice-preserved, sacrificed Inca mummy, is another Arequipan treasure.