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Arequipa is the capital of the Arequipa Region in southern Perumarker. With a population of 904,931 (2009 – it is the second most populous city of the country. Arequipa lies in the Andes mountains, at an altitude of 2,380 meters (7,800 feet) above sea level; the snow-capped volcano El Mistimarker overlooks the city. The city has many colonial-era Spanish buildings built of sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock, from which it gets the nickname La Ciudad Blanca ("The White City"). The historic centre of Arequipa was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2000, in recognition of its architecture and historic integrity.


It is often said that the city's name comes from the Quechua phrase "Ari, quepay" which means "yes, stay" which is said to have been the response of the fourth Sapa Inca — Mayta Cápac — upon seeing the site of the great city, which was later destroyed in an earthquake but reestablished by the Spanish in 1540. Nowadays it is assumed that the name derives from Aymara "ari" (peak) + "kipa" (locative) and means something like "near the mountain" in reference to the nearby El Mistimarker volcano, which towers 5,822 meters above sea level.


Arequipa is dry and sunny all year long. During August, the weather gets slightly cold at night and at dawn, but the mornings and afternoons are warmed by bright sunshine. Generally speaking, the weather in Arequipa is mild with temperatures fluctuating between 10 and 24°C. The rainy season lasts from January to March, but rainfall is moderate.


Archaeological findings indicate the fertile valley where Arequipa is situated has been occupied back to 5000–6000 BCE. In the 15th century, the region, then occupied by Aymara Indians, was conquered by the Inca and served as an important supplier of agrarian products to the Inca Empire. The modern city of Arequipa was founded on 15 August, 1540, by Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Arequipas' first mayor was D. Juan de la Torre y Díaz Chacón, one of the most important conquistadores and founders of Peru.

One year later, King Charles V of Spainmarker gave it the rank of "city" and the coat of arms that it still bears. Spanish influence left many relics and colonial architecture, which reminds the visitor of the city's colonial past.

This led Arequipa to develop a large mestizo population as its demographics changed and grew over the centuries. Since the late 1940s, however, there has been a huge and increasing immigration from the Peruvian sierra, thus changing the demographic and cultural character of the city.

Arequipa remained relatively isolated during colonial and early republican times, but that changed in 1870 when a southern railroad to the coastal port of Mollendo was inaugurated, opening trade to the Pacific Oceanmarker. The building and expansion of more roads in the 1930s also led to a direct connection with the Pan-American Highway, strengthening Arequipa's links to the rest of the Americas. Since then, the city has remained the center of commerce between Lima and all of southern Peru.

Arequipa served as a bastion of nationalism during Peru's struggle for independence from Spain in the early 19th century. Later, it served as a rallying point during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883) with Chilemarker.

Villages from pre-Incan times are still in use today by many farmers. Some of these farmers are from the districts of Chilina, Socabaya, Paucarpata, Characato, and Sabandia.

Arequipa has experienced many earthquakes. It was almost destroyed by one in 1868 (more of 10,000 killed), and on June 23, 2001 (at least 24 killed in the city), Arequipa was badly damaged by an earthquake of 7.9 on the Richter scale.

In June 2002, Arequipa was completely paralyzed for a week by strikes and riots in protest of the privatization of two regional electricity-generating plants.


The city has had many universities. The most recognized are the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, the local state university (founded 1828), the Universidad Católica de Santa María (founded in 1961), the Universidad Católica de San Pablo, and the Universidad Alas Peruanas. These are private institutions.


One of Peru's largest stadiums, Estadio Monumental de la UNSAmarker, is in Arequipa and hosted some of the Copa América 2004 soccer games, attracting many tourists as well as locals. Also one of the best known football teams of Peru: Melgar de Arequipa.


Jose Luis Bustamante y Rivero district.

Arequipa lies in the so-called South Tour Corridor of Peru, which includes the cities of Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, Cusco, as well as the Inca Trail. It's also called "the city where the volcanoes rest" because it's surrounded by three impressive volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and PichuPichu. Volcanoes are visible from almost every place from the city . Unlike the other cities in the corridor, Arequipa is a well-conserved sample of the Spaniard and "mestizo" culture, but not native Indian culture, providing an important cultural landmark for those who visit it.

The mix of natural attractions (volcanoes, rural path, hot spring fountains) and historical well-preserved monuments and houses is the seal of this 470-year-old city. Its people, well known as strong characters and hard workers all over the country, are also something difficult to forget to the visitor. They are called "Characatos" and the name refers a culture in result of the mix of Spaniards (founders of the city) and skilled locals who developed a unique way to survive and live in this beautiful territory.

Historic centre

Cathedral of Arequipa.

The Historic centre of Arequipa, keeps most of the important buildings from the Spaniard era. They are all built in volcanic sillar rock, and the whole complex represents an integration of European and native building techniques and characteristics, expressed in the admirable work of colonial masters and Criollo and Indian masons. This combination of influences is illustrated by the city's robust walls, archways and vaults, courtyards and open spaces, and the intricate Baroque decoration of its facades.

There are several walking routes available to enjoy the centre. Most of them start in the Plaza (main square) and cover five or six blocks. Most maps include the important buildings along the centre streets. The newly created pedestrian mall at Mercaderes Street, historic Arequipa's main shopping street, is another important walking route. Lining Mercaderes Street are buildings of numerous architectural styles, ranging from traditional colonial, art deco, to contemporary.

Some other well-preserved touristic areas within the historic core are the pedestrian-friendly San Lazaro neighborhood (east from the Main Square) and the Yanahuara district, located north and connected to the centre by two historic stone bridges.

Santa Catalina monastery

Cloister of Iglesia de la Compañía.

Santa Catalina Monastery was founded on the October 2, 1580, and has an extension of 20,000 square metres that was constructed in the second half of the 16th century. The Convent, where there are still nuns living in cloisters, is a small walled city with narrow streets, passages, staircases, and small squares.

The Convent remained closed to the public until 1970. The Convent has now recovered its original colorful view: the walls from the city were not only white, as most people believed. Ochre, indigo, and orange illuminate the austere architectural style.

Jesuits Architectural Complex

"Compañia de Jesus".

Jesuits Architectural Complex is one of several buildings that demonstrate the perfect mix of cultures in this city. It consists of two cloisters with portal-led corridors made of carved sillar and Jesuit monograms in the upper part, and a beautiful church next to them. It is one of the most impressive exaamples of the mestizo Arequipa style.

It was built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. The church's carved façade, finished in 1698, highlights the other buildings surrounding the Main Square. Its pulpit is carved wood, and its old sacristy, well-known as the so called Sistine Chapel of Arequipa, was the fruit of the work of anonymous indigenous artists, who imprimed in the work their own colour, their own motives, and their own spirit.

The temple presents a structure of two levels, typical of the European churches of the 16th and 17th centuries. Other architectural details of interest are the half-point vaults and the half columns that hold up the superior floor. Its interior is a display of luxury, with golden altars of Mestizo Baroque style, a beautiful pulpit from the 17th century and more than 60 paintings of the so called "Cusco School."

Back from this complex and crossing Ayacucho street, a system of narrowed streets leads to San Lazaro neighbourhood, one of the most antique neighbourhoods of the city and the place where mestizos working for the Spaniards living in the centre, used to live. The area is well preserved and provides an excellent tourist experience. It reminds some of Andalucia or any Spaniard-Arab city.

The Tambos

Following Puente Bolognesi street and starting from the Main Square, a well-kept complex of buildings called "Tambos" have been recovered and arranged. They are populated buildings, used in the colonial era as hostels. Their current occupants have a deal with the city authority that permits visitors to enter to these living museums and imagine the everyday life of locals 400 years ago. Several Tambos are available; the most important are "La Cabezona" and "Tambo de Bronce".

After visiting the Tambos, one can follow the street and cross the oldest bridge of the city and, in those days, the main entrance.

The rural route or "La Campina"

Part of the attraction of the city is its connection to its rural area. Green cropping fields surround the city. Many of the most traditional towns are in this area. Sachaca, Sabandia, Paucarpata are some of them. Several bus tours are available and last from two to four hours.

The rural area hides some of the most well preserved buildings of the colonial era of the city. The Founders House, Goyoneche Castle, and Sabandia Mill are among the best preserved.

Yumina is the area with the longest and most ancient terraces in Peru:
  • Carmen Alto and Cayma with its picturesque valley between the volcanoes.
  • Arancota with its typical local restaurants.
  • Paucarpata with its tradition of guinea pig preparation.


Arequipa is served by the Rodríguez Ballón International Airportmarker, the second busiest airport in Peru. It features international flights mainly to Chile and Argentina, and soon in Bolivia and Miami. It also serves domestic flights. It is located at the Cerro Colorado District12 kilometers from downtown.

Sister cities

Notable people from Arequipa

See also


  1. Chambers, Sarah C. From Subjects to Citizens: Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru 1780–1854. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 1999.
  2. Esperanza Yarza de De la Torre. Volcanes de Iberoamerica. Madrid: Anaya, 1988.
  3. City and County of Honolulu: Sister Cities, Honolulu, 2008. Accessed 2009-02-08.

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