Arequipa is an essential stop in the Peru tourist trail. Arequipa sits in a seemingly dangerous location, propped up between three towering volcanoes, and has a whitewashed, almost Mediterranean façade left behind by the all-conquering Spaniards many years ago. In fact, many see the city itself as a living museum. UNESCO certainly agrees, having recently made it a world heritage site. Many of the older buildings have been transformed into museums or restored into their original condition.
The greatest attractions of the city lie in the architecture, which is stunningly ornate. You can walk for hours in delicate squares, past palm trees and fountains before landing in a little visited corner. Then stop for hours of detail-focused photography. In the Museum Santuarios Andinos you’ll find ‘Juanita’, a generic name given to a selection of mummified remains dragged from the nearby volcanoes, the remnants of an ancient sacrificial ceremony.
The nearby volcanoes stretch over 6,000 meters, and make for the ideal excursion, providing you can deal with the altitude. Professional accompaniment is highly recommended purely due to the height, though the climb is not excessively strenuous, given the already lofty starting point. White water rafting and downhill mountain biking also take advantage of the impressive local scenery. Arequipa’s other draw revolves around its strong reputation for friendly Spanish schools.
Alpacas – wooly camels – have become internationally famous for their wool, and are at their most populous here. While the soft, pricey wool makes a great souvenir, you can also try Alpaca steak. River shrimps are another enticing quirk in the local cuisine, which is renowned across the country and only adds to the allure.
There are few places that can match Arequipa for pure volume or quality of attractions, which is perhaps why the city’s coming up so fast behind Cuzco as the real ‘must see’ spot in Peru. It’s picturesque both inside and around the stunning outskirts, full of attractions and invariably interesting. What more could you ask for?