The 'White City' lies in a green valley at the foot of three snow-capped volcanoes in the southern Peruvian desert.
Arequipa is Peru's second largest city and was founded in 1540. A delightful city set in a green valley among the high-altitude deserts and volcanoes of southern Peru; the buildings in the centre have been built almost exclusively of the volcanic material 'sillar', a white, porous rock, giving Arequipa its nickname of 'La Ciudad Blanca' - 'The White City'. At an elevation of 2,300m (7,500 feet) above sea level, the altitude can take a few days to get used to.
Arequipa is a tranquil city with important colonial and republican architecture, leading it to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the main attractions within Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Convent, established in 1579. It was built mainly in the Moorish 'mudejar' style, and is well known for its brightly painted walls. There are still some 20 nuns living in the convent, and parts of it are also open to the public.
Arequipa is also used by many people as a departure point for their visit to the Colca Canyon. About 100 miles from Arequipa and accessible by road, the Colca Canyon is the world's deepest canyon and is home to many small traditional villages, as well as being the habitat of the Andean Condor.
One of the main attractions within Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Convent, established in 1579. It was built mainly in the Moorish 'mudejar' style, and is well known for its brightly painted walls. There are still some 20 nuns living in the convent, and parts of it are also open to the public. Covering an entire city block, it is almost a walled city within the city, with many alleyways and patios, and easy to get lost inside without a guide. The convent also has an impressive collection of religious art dating back to the 16th century.
Arequipa is also used by many people as a departure point for their visit to the Colca Canyon. About 100 miles from Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is considered to be one of the world's deepest canyon and home to the Andean Condor. There is no better place to watch these majestic birds than from the Cruz del Condor in the canyon. Snow-cappped mountain peaks on either side frame the magnificent scenery, which is in places green and almost tropical, in others rocky and precipitous. The local Colca people still cultivate terraces along the canyon walls in many places, and many traditional towns and villages can be found all along the length of the canyon. The small, unpretentious town of Chivay is undoubtedly the most important in the area, found on the upper part of the river where the canyon is not so deep.
Insights - Andean Explorer Train
Travel in ultimate style on board the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America's first sleeper train. Journey between the former Inca capital of Cusco to the beautiful 'white city' of Arequipa, via the majestic islands of Lake Titicaca. Enjoy sweeping views of the high plains of the Peruvian altiplano from the open-air observation deck, pisco sour in hand and new friends by your side. Gather round the grand piano in the lounge bar and dine in the sumptuous surrounds of the two dining cars, enjoying dishes created by skilled chefs and made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients. At night, sleep in luxurious cabins inspired by Peruvian fabrics and with your own en-suite shower.
Trips between Cusco and Arequipa are two night itineraries, offering the perfect mix of exploration and relaxation. These stop en-route at Lake Titicaca to visit the Uros floating reed islands and traditional Taquille Island, with its fabulous views of the lake. It is also possible to see the rock art of the first human inhabitants of Peru and explore the Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and the best place in South America to see the powerful condor.
A one night service takes visitors between the famous lake and Cusco.
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