Peru’s white city Arequipa

By Erin Hancock


Arequipa is a natural stop when traveling by ground between Lima and Cusco in Peru. It’s a gorgeous, historical city with close access to the Colca Canyon (a popular hiking, rafting and touring destination).


Arequipa is lovingly called the “white city” (la ciudad blanca) which some claim is because of the material used to build many of the buildings (ashlar, volcanic stone) while others claim it is because of the white Spanish who were concentrated in the area during colonial times.

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The city is surrounded by three volcanoes which tend to sneak into the backdrop of any photos caught outside in the area.

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Don’t miss the Downtown Arequipa Walking Tour that meets daily in the main square by the iPeru office. You’ll see a smattering of the city’s nicest areas, learn about the history, and see lots of places to return back to during your stay.

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Corn and papas (potatoes) are ever-present in Peruvian food. There are over 4000 varieties of potatoes in Peru. Now there’s a national taste-test I’d like to witness. The large clay vessel in the right image above was traditionally used to make chicha de jora, a fermented (alcoholic) drink made of purple corn. The story is, when guests came over for a party, the woman of the house would toss the car keys into the chicha vessel which meant the group had to drink the whole thing before being able to retrieve the keys and heading home. Now that’s a big commitment! Throughout Peru, people enjoy chicha morada, the non fermented version of the purple corn drink.

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The market is downtown not far from the Place de Armas (main square) and is a great stop for any of your needs.

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Make a furry friend and feel the difference between llama, alpaca, baby alpaca (the first shave of an adult alpaca – deceiving name, right?) and vicuna wool at Mundo Alpaca. Watch for spitting! We made it out unscathed.


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Also see how the wool in transformed into gorgeous colours using natural dyes. The textiles of Peru and throughout the Andes are remarkable.


When steeping into the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, note the unique depiction of the “Last Supper”. We learned during the walking tour that when the Spanish colonized the city, they incorporated some of the traditional customs of the Inca. For example, a circular table meant those sitting around it ate as equals.

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Don’t be chicken (foot), visit Arequipa!



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