Arequipa, Home away from Home

Arequipa's Coat of Arms on the Portal de la Municipalidad

Featuring Misti Volcano, Arequipa’s coat of arms on the main plaza’s southern portal, Portal de la Municipalidad

Arequipa, Peru’s second city and location of its Constitutional Court was home base for a significant part of my trip. Its mild climate, manageable size, affordability, world heritage-listed historic centre, volcano backdrop and South America’s best food made the city a great place to stay. I also met Rocío here.

Arequipa's desert surroundings

Desert terrain outside Arequipa with Chachani and Misti volcanoes visible in the distance

Located in southern Peru, Arequipa lies 2,335 metres high. The city has a cool desert climate, mild and sunny most of the year except, ironically, for summer (December to March) when it is mild and cloudy.

Pre-Columbian agricultural terraces, Arequipa

Pre-Columbian agricultural terraces in the foreground, Arequipa suburbs in the middle an Misti at the back hiding behind clouds

Both pre-Inca and Inca people lived in the Arequipa area prior to the Spanish founding the colonial city in 1540. Pre-Columbian terraces are still visible adjacent the Chili River north of Arequipa’s historic centre.

Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa at dusk

The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa on Plaza de Armas at dusk

The Spanish created Plaza de Armas as Arequipa’s centrepiece, a role that continues today. The surrounding Basilica Cathedral and portals are made with sillar, pale volcanic stone that gives Arequipa its “white city” nickname.

Building facade in sillar, Arequipa

One of many façades in Arequipa’s historic centre sculpted from sillar, stone provided by the surrounding volcanoes

With much to offer, it’s surprising that many tourists use Arequipa solely as a gateway to the Colca Canyon. A positive from this is that Arequipa is far less touristy than Cusco.

Iron Bridge over the River Chile, Arequipa

Arequipa’s Iron Bridge (Puente de Fierro; Puente Bolivar) crossing over the River Chili; the design of this bridge is often falsely attributed to Eiffel

YES Arequipa Hostel's welcoming breakfast

YES Arequipa’s banana pancakes make a delicious breakfast

My Arequipa base was YES Arequipa Hostel. Here Lady, Eber and the staff provided a comfortable and welcoming stay.

Misti from YES Arequipa's rooftop

On YES Arequipa’s rooftop hammock with a view of Misti

Male hummingbird on a power line, Arequipa

A male hummingbird sitting on a power line outside YES Arequipa

An Arequipa oddity was its musical rubbish trucks. On collection day one of the same two or three tunes continuously boomed from each truck, warning people of its impending arrival and giving them time to put out their rubbish.

Arequipa city is the capital of both Arequipa Province and the wider Arequipa Region. The region includes the famous Colca Canyon and the also-amazing but less accessible Cotahuasi Canyon.

Wititi dancing in Yanahuara, Arequipa

Traditional Colca Canyon Wititi dancing at Yanahuara Plaza, Arequipa

Arequipa is easy to get around except for crossing town in peak hour traffic. Taxis are inexpensive with most trips costing only 7 or 8 soles (US$2.50). Suburban buses are even cheaper, around 1 sol per ride. The two bus stations (Terminal Terrestre and Terrapuerto Internacional) lie next to each other and have excellent connections to Lima, Nazca, Ica, Cusco, Puno, Juliaca, Tacna and other cities in southern Peru. Arequipa’s airport primarily serves Lima with many daily connections.

Arequipa Bus Station

Arequipa’s Terminal Terrestre bus station

Some of my favourite Arequipa activities included watching the sun set from the main plaza’s Restaurant at the Top, enjoying the city’s great food and relaxing at Pacific Sauna & Spa in José Luis Bustamante District.

San Francisco Park, Arequipa

A rose in San Francisco Park (Parque San Francisco), a former spot of Rocío’s

Arequipa will always be special to me.

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