Arequipa, Peru

With a population of 865,000 people, Arequipa (photos) is Peru’s second largest city.  Arequipa manages to bridge coastal Peru and Andean Peru, both geographically and sociologically.  It sits at an elevation of 2350 meters (7,750 feet) above sea level giving it a consistently pleasant year round climate.  The city enjoys a dramatic setting, guarded by three volcanoes including the nearly perfectly cone shaped and snow topped El Misti, topping out at 5825 meters.

From Plaza de Armas, El Misti in the background

Arequipa has perhaps the most appealing colonial architecture in Peru.  Many of the structures are constructed from sillar stone, a light colored volcanic stone taken from the output of one of the nearby volcanoes leading many to refer to Arequipa as the “White City”.  The downside of the nearby volcanoes is that they have given the city a history of violent earthquakes, most recently in 2001.

Arch, La Catedral

Arequipa also sets the pace when it comes to food for southern Peru.  One of the signature dishes is the rocoto relleno, a spicy mixture of meat, vegetables, nuts and raisins inside a red pepper with melted cheese on top.  Quite tasty.

Unique architecture, interesting museums, enticing restaurants, pleasing climate and a dramatic natural setting make Arequipa an appealing place to visit.

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