Arequipa, the white city

Couvent de Santa Teresa, Arequipa

At an altitude of 2,300m, Arequipa is the second largest city of Peru. Less known than Cuzco, it is really worth it to go there ! The entire city is built with “sillar”, a white volcanic stone. In the past they were painted with bright colors. But now the municipality wants to preserve its image of white city (the stone is particular of the region) and thus it is totally forbidden to paint it!

"sillar" d'Arequipa

Volcanoes belch rocks and lava but in this region, mummies too! Corpses of Inca girls have been founded on top of volcanoes where the ice have melt after irruptions. One of them, Juanita, had walked a lot from Cuzco (400 km) before being sacrificed to the mountains. She has been discovered in am incredible state, with her ceremonial clothes. In fact she is not really a mummy, she has only been kept by the coldness.

Sur la place d'armes, Arequipa, Pérou

It is maybe this volcanic rock that makes this city so welcoming and charming. The “plaza de Armas”, the main place surrounded by the catedral, is one of the best example. Many people come here and have a rest. Sitting on the banks, they eat ice creams sold by ambulant vendors or simply talk to their neighbour. That has nothing to do with big cities stress!

Arequipa, trafic de taxis sur la place d'armes

However you could feel a bit stressed if you attempt to cross the street. In their car, people are crazy and do not want to hear about pedestrians! And the incredible cabs trafic does not improve it. There are more than 24,000 taxis in Arequipa while there are only 16,000 in Paris, a much bigger city! Moreover many of those taxis are pirates, some of them are working with thieves. To recognize the good one it is quite easy : they sould be yellow, have an antenna and its number well written on the doors.

Fresque au couvent Santa Teresa, Arequipa

The city is particularly known to have the biggest convent of the world : the convent Santa Catalina spread over 20 hectares! Other more little convent are hidden in the town. We visited the one of Santa Teresa. We have been impressed by its little museum but also by the wonderful mural frescos of one of the rooms.

We loved this city! And we think you should go there if you go to Peru!

2 comments for “Arequipa, the white city”

  1. Merci pour le gros plan de cette superbe roche volcanique ! Peut être une rhyolite : très blanche donc très riche en silice, pas de cristaux visibles donc refroidissement instantané, cavités visibles dues aux bulles de gaz à l’émission donc explosive.
    Vos photos (sauf celle des taxis !) rendent bien compte de la sérénité de cette ville. On aimerait s’y poser sur la place ou dans le jardin d’un couvent… avec une loupe pour regarder ces roches !

  2. Bien d’accord sur votre appréciation d’Arequipa. Je revois clairement une grande balade dans le monastère de Santa Catalina, unique en son genre, une ville dans la ville. On circule dans des ruelles étroites entre des maisons ocres, passant par des courettes, pénétrant dans des cloitres et les cellules réservées à de jeunes novices de la haute société espagnole….C’est très curieux.

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