Arequipa, the White City or ‘la Cuidad Blanca’.
Founded on 15 August 1540 by Manuel Garcia de Carbajal, Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and it is located at 2325 metres (8792 feet) above sea level. How did Arequipa get its name you may ask!? One story is that the Inca general Mayta Capac stopped in the valley and being so moved by its beauty said ‘Are quepay’ – ‘stay here’. Another story is that the Aymara Indians living in the valley called it ‘Ariquipa’ – the place behind the pointed mountain, meaning Misti.
Arequipa, Plaza de Armas clock tower. It isn’t possible, nor advisable, to visit Arequipa without whiling away at least a couple of hours soaking up the beautiful Plaza de Armas in the centre of the city. Its central clock tower, pictured here at night, palms and pigeons and the hustle bustle of cafes and restaurants within the old colonial archways are a lovely relaxing setting. On a good clear day, of which Arequipa famously has a lot, you can see the Mount Misti towering over this beautiful Plaza in the distance.
Here we have down town Arequipa, within easy wanderings on foot from the centre. You can see how Arequipa got its nick name ‘the white city’ built largely from the white volcanic stone, sillar, from the 3 surrounding volcanoes, of which Misti is one. Many old colonial houses have now been made into banks and shopping malls, admire a wholly ‘arequipeño’ architecturural style, a pleasure to walk around.
Not far from the Plaza, this is Santa Catalina. A restored convent established in 1579 and now open to the public. It is totally surrounded by imposing high walls; somewhat of a city within a city. The nuns of the Dominican second order, who lived in the convent led a completed secluded life. There are currently around 20 nuns still in residence, confined to a small section, with the remaining space open to the public to explore. Characterised by vividly painted walls, an enchanting and fascinating part of living history to witness. A peaceful sanctum.