Once a Spanish colonial stronghold, the city of Arequipa lies in Peru’s Southern Coastal Area, surrounded by high volcanoes whose peaks keep their snow all year. That might be one reason for its nickname, but most natives agree it is the white stone, or “sillar”, quarried from the volcanoes and used in many of Arequipa’s distinguished older buildings, that resulted in the term. Whether by day, under the typical warm sunshine, or under the lights at night, this “ciudad blanca” literally glows. The sight is so stunning, in fact, that UNESCO has named Arequipa one of its worldwide Human Heritage Sites.

Arequipa bustled in centuries past, as immigrants seeking glory and opportunity flocked to the new continent. The area became home to affluent “creoles,” native-born Peruvians of Spanish descent. They erected the magnificent Convento de Santa Catalina, commissioned a bridge by Eiffel, ground their flour at the Sabandia Mill and shopped at the San Camilo Market, both still in use today.

Unlike Machu Picchu and Cuzco to the north, Arequipa hasn’t yet succumbed to the hoopla of mass tourism. Visitors are just beginning to discover this historic and thoroughly walkable city crammed with colonial beauty and charm.

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