underrated tourist spot of Peru, burgeoning for its photogenic structures and a place with a lot of history and fun. It is the second-largest city in Peru after Lima. Nuestra Señora de la Asunción del Valle Hermoso (“Our Lady of the Assumption of the Beautiful Valley”) is the former name given to Arequipa. A city whose architecture was developed because of the earthquakes they faced. 

Here are some facts you probably didn’t know about Arequipa City:

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el misti above arequipa_ Petr Meissner _©Flickr

1. Arequipa – White City & land of leaders

Arequipa, surrounded by volcanic mountains, initially had its indigenous people as inhabitants with an agricultural background and functioning as a village, later adapted styles like the baroque, rococo neoclassical, and modern during various timelines of development. Predominantly, the city was built of white volcanic stone called sillar, a locally available soft, lightweight, weatherproof material found near the volcanoes that made the place a unified whole through its material usage. 

Arequipa, the abode of 19th-century republic movements and prominent leaders, was termed as the land of leaders of Peru. A representation of the newly independent Republic of Peru. Arequipa also was known as ‘the city of eternal spring’ for its pleasant climate.

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details on the facade of the Church Arequipa_ alessandro pinto _©Shutterstock

2. UNESCO – World Heritage Site

Arequipa city levelled up by becoming a city that has a UNESCO world heritage site – historic centre of Arequipa, located at the heart of the Arequipa city, for its colonial architecture and Indian masonry found in the vaults, archways, courtyards, and open spaces, and intricate façade of baroque style. It is a city that evolved its architecture due to seismic activities. 

The historic city covers an area of 332 hectares of land, of which the protected area is 166.52 hectares, featuring a combination of native and European styles. Apart from the religious structures, Arequipa city’s historic centre has 500 Casonas, and vernacular houses are preserved for their characteristics. 

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historical centre of the city of arequipa-UNESCO World Heritage Site declared in the year 2000 _©whc.unseco.org

3. Main Square – Plaza de Armas 

The heart of the historic city of Arequipa is a magnificent lush green Plaza de Armas, also known as plaza mayor, bounded by important structures of the city like the cathedral, city hall, and the Iglesia de La Compania on its sides. A common ground used by all ages of people. A hang-out space for the locals, with their signature hot chocolates, the focal point of the plaza mayor has a water fountain with a statue of an elf with a trumpet. 

The view of the Misti and Chanchani volcanoes from the plaza is simply amazing. Recently cars are banned around the plaza because the noise levels were increasing day by day that disturbed the serenity and tranquillity of the plaza.

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plaza de armes central fountain with basilica as backdrop _©misstourist.com

4. Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa

North of the main square plaza of Arequipa city is the 17th-century neoclassical style basilica cathedral with its two tall towers covering the entire length of the plaza. Feeble in resistance, the structure was initially deteriorated by fire in the year 1844 and followed by an earthquake in the year 1868. The present cathedral is mostly rebuilt. It houses valuables of the past, including a 15m tall pipe organ and a church podium shifted from Belgium. 

The cathedral construction began in the year 1621 with the planning of Andrés de Espinoza, succeeded by architect Moscoso and completed under Juan de Aldana in 1656. The second storey was an addition made in the Republican period. The façade is made out of sillar, acting as an immediate white backdrop to the plaza.

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baslica Arequipa _©laurent lhomond

5. ‘La Compañia’ Church

A 17th century complex for residential and religious purposes, built for the Jesuits order of Christianity, designed by Gaspar Baez in 1573, was destroyed by the earthquake from 1584. This church was rebuilt in the year 1650representing the baroque mestizo period. The centre of the church complex houses 66 paintings by Diego de la Puente and Bernardo Bitti from Cuzco artist school. 

The façade of this church follows the churrigueresque style of Spanish churches while its interiors, the intricately carved wooden altar covered with gold leaf.

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entrance facade of la compania church _© notesfromcamelidcountry.net

6. Monasterio de Santa Catalina

A Religious citadel of 450 nuns who lived 400 years ago, founded by a widow named Maria de Guzman, imbibed myriad architectural styles from the 16th to 19th century is of area 20,000 sq. m founded in the year 1579 and expanded in the 16th century. Spaces used by the nuns; their blue- and red-coloured houses, squares, courtyards, dining hall, laundry square, washing hall, and library. It opened its doors for the public in the year 1970; hitherto, the natives of Arequipa city did not know what happened behind the high red walls. 

Currently, 20 nuns live in the citadel but are not allowed to visit them. Getting accepted into this monastery was considered a prestigious thing back then. 

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santa catalina monastery _©  alamy.com

7. Yanahuara – Arequipa

Yanahuara is a tranquil neighbourhood of Arequipa city. The white cobblestone streets of Yanahuara complemented by the red and pink flowers from wall hung flower pots beside the reddish-brown wooden doors. The mirador de Yanahuara consists of a series of arches made out of sillar stone dating back to the 19th century. It is considered the best spot for sightseeing as it gives a great view of the city centre and El Misti volcano. 

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yanahuara mirador _©machupicchutravelagency.com
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colonial streets with wall hung flower pots _©alamy.com

8. Fun Things to do at Arequipa City

Apart from the historically significant places and important religious buildings, there are activities for fun in abundance in and around Arequipa city. Sightseeing, views of volcanic mountains, trekking, and biking on mountains, horseback riding, nightlife, rooftop bars, chocolate workshops, spicy foods from picanterías, Queso helado, local ice cream made of coconut, condensed milk, and egg, trips to Colca canyon 160 km from Arequipa city for hiking which is also special for seeing great condor an endangered bird species. 

River rafting at Chili River is just a 20-minute drive away from the city centre. Arequipa beaches, lagoons, hot springs, national parks, and visit Sabadina village 8 km from Arequipa for some of Peru’s rural architecture.

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colca canyon and great condor _©www.intrepidtravel.com

9. Casa Goyeneche

Casa Goyeneche is also known as palace Goyeneche is a house that stands the test of time from the year 1558. A colonial-style building on La Merced Street whose doors, windows, and ceiling are of baroque style. The structure was damaged in the year 1758 by an earthquake. The Goyeneche family bought the property for their residence. The archbishop of Arequipa city Don José Sebastián de Goyeneche y Barreda, who later became the bishop of lima, resided in this place. 

The palace has a large courtyard and huge balconies with arched facades with appropriate heights for the knights to pass without having to demount. It also has a private library and 2 Goya paintings. 

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goyeneche palace entrance facade _©tripadvisor.in

10. San Camilo Market

The whole of South America, especially Peru, is known for its colourful markets. To experience the vibe of the locals of Arequipa city and to know more about their daily life, their staple foods, fruits, and veggies, San Camilo market is one great option that gives a better incite on it. This historic marketplace was designed by French architect Gustave Eiffel and opened in 1938. 

It’s the main market of farmers. The stalls spread a length of a few blocks and a small cafeteria loaded with stuff like jams, meat cuts, and loaves of bread. 

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San Camilo market _©the live in tourist.blogspot.com


11. Museo Santuarios Andinos

Though there are a plethora of museums in Arequipa city, this museum, Santuarios Andinos, is much visited and spoken about for it preserves the mummy of a 12-year girl Inca girl named Juanita who sacrificed her life in the year 1450’s, revealing the custom of the Inca civilization of child sacrifice to the gods. The museum also houses various other mummified bodies and artefacts like jewellery and textiles buried with the mummies. 

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museum santuarios andinos entrance _©diariocorreo.pe


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Stephy is an intrigued explorer of various paradigms of Architecture, choosing writing as a catharsis to her never ending thoughts.