Gleaming serenely under its 'eternal spring' sunshine, Arequipa's white stone buildings earned it the title of 'La Ciudad Blanca' (the White City). Guarded by three majestic snow-capped volcanoes (Misti 5,822m, Chachani 6,075m and Picchu Picchu, 5,664m), it is Peru's second city after Lima, although just one-tenth its size, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Arequipa's historical centre is a beautiful ensemble of baroque and mestizo colonial buildings, often with intricate carvings in their stone walls: the pale 'sillar' stone of the region being just soft enough to allow such elaborate detail. Fine mansions, quiet convents, narrow streets and grand plazas fronted by fine churches, give Arequipa an air of faded grandeur-sometimes lively, sometimes wistful and romantic. No surprise that Arequipa is a town of writers and poets.
When times were good it was thanks to wool from the flocks of lamas, alpacas and vicunas on mountainsides above the city, which Arequipa exported to the world.
As with all important Peruvian cities, there is a very grand main square. Shaded by palm trees, cooled by fountains, provided with paths to stroll on and benches to chat on, the Plaza de Armas is a theatre for Arequipeño-watching.
The majestic Basilica Cathedral dominates the whole of one side of the plaza, with Misti volcano looming behind it.
Time spent in Arequipa is rewarded by the sights there are to see, and also by the chance to experience modern everyday life, Peruvian style.