Arequipa is Peru's second largest city and was founded in 1540. The site was chosen for its proximity to the coast, enabling settlers to trade the products of Cusco and the mines of Potosi (Bolivia) with Lima. The local cultivation of wheat, corn and grapes all contributed to the region’s economic growth. The city is surrounded by three volcanoes; El Misti, still active at 5822m, the higher and extinct Chachani 6075m and PichuPichu 5571m. The Incas highly respected these volcanoes since the melt water from their snow-capped peaks form the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River, thousands of kilometers away.
Arequipa, known as the White City for its beautiful white walls of sillar, a volcanic stone. The downtown of the city, placed on the World Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO, features Mixed Baroque churches and mansions from the Colonial Period like the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a Spanish city in miniature with stone streets, beautiful patios, and plazas. Sabandía, Tiabaya, and Tingo, located among the large fields, are must see places, and the irresistible Arequipa cuisine is the perfect complement to the visit.
Just 3 hours and 45 minutes from the capital is the Colca River valley and canyon, one of the most extraordinary destinations in the country. Throughout the region, you can see colorful pre-Incan agricultural terraces still used today for growing quinoa, corn, barley, and wheat. During the pre-Hispanic era, the Collaguas and the Cabanas inhabited the department; today, the inhabitants have learned to conserve their Colonial churches in Yanque, Lari, and Madrigal, and they continue to wear their traditional clothing.