Located in southern Peru, the inland city of Arequipa is the second largest in the country, with a permanent population of well over 800,000. The city occupies a remarkable location, partly bordered by several volcanoes including the snow-capped Misti, the extinct Picchu Pichu and the towering Chachan. We often include Arequipa on a longer more in-depth trip in Peru and it combines well on a road trip from Arequipa to Lake Titicaca via the Colca Canyon.
In contrast to many other tourist hotspots in southern Peru, Arequipa has no Inca ruins. The city was formally founded by the Spanish and had a Spanish-majority population for much of its history, which existed alongside the indigenous people. The city’s historic centre has now been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its abundant collection of preserved, centuries-old colonial-style buildings and sites of significant cultural interest. Highlights include the 17th century Basilica Cathedal and museum in the wonderful Plaza de Armas city centre, and a fascinating and informative visit to the colourfully-painted Santa Catalina con-vent to learn about the 16th century nuns who once lived there. Much of the city’s architecture was fashioned out of ‘sillar’, a white stone procured from the nearby volcanoes and there are plenty of green spaces to enjoy, with over a dozen public parks dotted around.