Arequipa Tour – The White City

Although Arequipa was far from Lima and isolated between desert and mountains when the country was young, it was on the route linking the silver mines of Bolivia to the coast. For that reason, the oasis at the foot of the Mistivolcano grew to be the Peruvian town with the largest Spanish population and the strongest European traditions. Today, with buildings of white volcanic stone lending it the name “white city”, it remains Peru’s second most important city.

Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas is one of Peru’s most beautiful. One full side is occupied by the massive cathedral, which was rebuilt twice in the early 19th century after it was destroyed by fire and earthquake. Its clock is the city’s unofficial timepiece. Make sure you see the cathedral’s organ, brought from Belgium and its elaborately carved wooden pulpit, the work of French artist Rigot in 1879. Two-story arcades grace the other three sides of the plaza, with palm trees, old gas lamps and a fountain amidst an English garden.

The city is full of dignified patrician homes built in the 18th century ad which have for the most part withstood its frequent earth tremors. The one-story colonial structures are replete with massive carved wooden doors, grilled French windows and high-ceilinged rooms around spacious patios. The best for visiting are Casa Ricketts, built as a seminary in 1739 and now used as a bank, the 200 year old Casa de la Moneda or former mint, and the Casa Moral – named after the venerable mulberry tree on its patio.

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