Arequipa, the 'White City,' is also a modern city that offers everything necessary to have an unforgettable trip. Its districts and towns show great contrast between Spanish heritage and Indian influence that has mysterious and majestic monuments, unique in the world, and an exceptional geography, with wonderful green landscapes, luminous valleys and impressive geological areas, that along with the artistic and cultural traditions of the settlers of the different districts in Arequipa, enable us to enjoy beautiful architecture, exciting excursions and delicious gastronomy.
Now it's time to help you visualize the districts and villages that you will have the opportunity to visit upon your arrival to this splendid region of the southern Peru.
Yanahuara A traditional district located about two kilometers from downtown. It is an old, established village - which today is part of the city - of Indians from the valley of the nearby Chili River. It has colorful narrow and aged side streets, houses with family orchards and a church of baroque facade from the year 1750 in the main plaza. But the most outstanding feature here are the arcs of sillar of the famous Mirador of Yanahuara, from which the entire city can be appreciated; the arcs made of the whitish volcanic rock sillar, sport engravings with the philosophy of life and inspiration of the arequipeans.
Sachaca Located five kilometers from downtown, it has some of the oldest homes in Arequipa, and is located between green and beautiful countryside. What makes this inspiring district famous are its "picanterías," which are typical restaurants where the best regional dishes are served, always accompanied by Creole music and impressive views. In addition, we find the Goyeneche Palace, a fortress of neoclassic style with heavy walls and a mote.
Cayma Located three kilometers from downtown and past Yanahuara, this district, on the right shore of the Chili river, is called "The Balcony of Arequipa," since from his heights one can see the entire city. Its main plaza has a church whose interior houses the image of the Virgin of the Candlemas, donated by King Carlos V.
Carmen Alto District with many pre-Columbian features, and in whose fields it is possible to camp. It is also the site of battles during the Arequipa civil war and has a modest museum that illustrates those historical battles.
Characato Town 14 kilometers from the city. The Merced church and an old manor house from 1795 are located in the main plaza. Characato also features an observatory and a geomagnetic and seismic station as well as another that tracks satellites.
Socabaya The most interesting aspect of this town located 10 kilometers from the city is its wonderful landscape, which has been a source of inspiration for arequipean poets and painters. Visitors can hike and camp the in the natural caves of Las Peñas.
Chilina Only a 10-minute drive from the city, this district is for many most beautiful and romantic of the arequipean countryside. Out of its fields rise two volcanoes and the most splendid dawns. It also has the perfect fields for camping trips and hiking to observe the precious wildlife and plant life of the region.
Tiabaya This district nine kilometers from downtown offers its countryside with delicious traditional pear trees and picanterías (traditional restaurants).
Yura Synonymous with medicinal-mineral or thermal waters is located 30 kilometers from the city. In its swimming pools, for multiple and individual use, visitors can get therapy for a variety of ailments. In addition it has diverse recreational centers for camping or sports and a hotel properly equipped for tourists.
Socosani Seven kilometers from Yura, we find another assembly of thermal waters. The water here is bottled for drinking and is very appreciated throughout the country. In addition it has impressive waterfalls and immense fields for camping. It is flanked by hills suitable for hikes and rock climbing.
These are the most outstanding districts of Arequipa and mostly those that are close to downtown and can be reached easily. The downtown is also is considered a district, 'El Cercado' (The Surrounded One,) where the historical center of the city is located as well as several colonial churches and manor homes. There is also a great diversity of stores and cultural centers that feature art from this wonderful region.
History of Arequipa
Arequipa, capital city of the state of the same name, proudly preserves today many relics and monuments that remind us of its colonial past, when it was the city with the highest proportion of Spanish population in the whole Viceroyship of Peru. This still shows in the city's traditional colonial architecture, best evidenced in the manorial houses, monasteries, and convents such as the famous Saint Catherine Convent, dated 1579.
Arequipa territories have been inhabited since between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago (Paleolithic Era) and much archaeological evidence such as rupestrian paintings and stones with carved drawings have been found. The best-known sites are the petroglyphics at Toro Muerto in the Valley of Majes, and the ones discovered inside the caves of Sumbay (Yura Province, 4,127 meters over sea level).
Later on, Arequipa was the homeland of Collagua, Cabana and Aruni civilizations, which were incorporated into the Inca Empire toward the middle of the 16th century. During the Inca occupation of Arequipa, this territory hosted highly developed agriculture, demonstrated by the still-visible remains of irrigation systems and farming terraces built in the mountains.
The Spanish conquest and consequent creation of the actual Arequipa city, on August 15, 1540, meant a sudden change for the lifestyles of all local civilizations. Despite the natural scarcity of water resources, agriculture remained the principal economic activity in these fertile valleys. Some European crops were successfully acclimatized to this land and within a few years, a flourishing production of wine, liquors and olive oil had been established.
Arequipa is located in a volcanic area of the southern Peruvian Andes. The lack of construction materials in this region, led people to the usage of "sillar," a light-colored rock that comes from petrified volcanic ash of the Chachani volcano. The whitish color of sillar accounts for the Arequipa nickname "White City." Arequipa's peculiar sillar architecture limited damage during earthquakes, although some have destroyed Arequipa. That is why traditional buildings have only one story and sillar walls about one-meter thick.
During the 19th century, Arequipa was one of the cities that adhered more enthusiastically to the independence parties, and once the Republic was proclaimed Arequipa became a symbol. The prideful, daring and rebellious temperament of Arequipans made them supporters and visible leaders of revolutions. That is why Arequipa is known as the "Land of Leaders."
The arrival of the Southern Railroad in 1870 marked the end of a long period of isolation. The trains connected Arequipa with other coastal cities and began new trade routes, since the railways extended to Mollendo port. Arequipa today is the economical heart of Peru's southern region and one of its most important milk producers. Commerce and agriculture are the predominant industries, and thus the city is developing a peculiar urban appearance.
The fast urban growth has been accomplished mostly by refurbishing old houses and manors into hotels, banks and restaurants. For example, the Compania de Jesus monastery cloisters now house a shopping center. The Banco Central de Reserva del Peru and Banco Continental refurbished the Goyeneche and Ricketts manorial houses, which are now their branch offices. The Banco Industrial did the same with del Moral House, and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín updated the Irriberry and Arrospide houses to hold the Centro Cultural Chávez de la Rosa.
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