Welcome to Arequipa
Characterised by its many beautiful colonial buildings made from
a locally-mined light-coloured volcanic stone, Arequipa is also
known as the 'White City'. Its elegant historic centre is endowed
with some of the country's finest colonial churches and mansions,
many of which have been turned into museums or galleries.
The second largest city in Peru, Arequipa is one of the
country's most attractive cities, prettily situated among
white-capped volcanic peaks; however a conceited manner of
distinguished self-importance pervades the atmosphere earning the
inhabitants a reputation for snootiness towards the rest of their
fellow countrymen, indignant to claims of greater cultural
importance by other cities. A strong and very tangible rivalry
exists between the capital city of Lima and Arequipa.
The beautiful Plaza de Armas, with its gardens and central
fountain, is the focus of urban life and evening social activities,
framed by impressive colonial arcades and architecture and the
elegant white façade of the huge Cathedral. One of the city's
highlights is the remarkable Santa Catalina Convent, a complex
enclosing a complete city within a city, and one of the country's
most fascinating colonial religious buildings.
Besides the architecture and museums, the countryside around
Arequipa holds many attractions for the visitor, including the
relatively easy climb up the El Misti volcano. The Colca Valley
offers superb landscapes, with agricultural terraces and
snow-covered mountains, villages with narrow streets and ornate
churches, and the dizzying Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand
Canyon and an excellent place to see the giant condors.
Information & Facts
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages, but many
other dialects are spoken. English is spoken only in major tourist
centres and hotels.
The official currency is Nuevo Sol (PEN) divided into 100
céntimos. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all
major international credit cards, including Diners Club and
MasterCard, are accepted in many, but not all, establishments.
Outside Lima facilities may be more limited. Travellers cheques may
also be difficult to exchange in small towns and villages, and
travellers are advised to have cash on hand. US Dollars are the
easiest currency to exchange and plenty of restaurants, hotels and
shops in the main cities accept dollars for payment.
Casas de cambio(exchange bureaux) often give better rates
than hotels and banks and can be found in any town on the tourist
circuit. ATMs are available in the main cities.
Local time is GMT -5.