Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru. Volcanoes, some covered in snow, rise up behind the houses to an altitude of over 6000 meters. Here, at an altitude of 2300 meters, we can already clearly feel the stronger sunlight and it is not uncommon for us to see rather red-faced tourists. Here, the locals always wear headgear and you can see the sun cream on the faces of the police and security people. The locals protect themselves. If not with cream, then with full clothing. One of the reasons why a tourist is fairly easy to identify is their mostly very light clothing, which only covers a few parts of the body. 

I am actually very surprised when we roll into the city. These buildings are reminiscent of Italy or Spain. A large number of buildings from the Spanish colonial era are incredibly well preserved. Many of them are made of white volcanic stone. The Plaza de Armas is located in the middle of the historic city centre. On the north side of the huge main square is the 17th century Basilica Cathedral. A mixture of tradition, culture and modernity can be found in the city.

Daily life in Arequipa is a mix of old and new. 

Vibrant market scene where locals buy fresh fruit, vegetables and regional specialities such as rocoto relleno and alpaca meat and you will discover an immense number of potato varieties. I am usually saturated with markets. We’ve already visited too many. But this one, the Mercado San Camilo, is worth spending some time at again and, above all, trying out the local specialities.

Arequipa is a mixture of traditional Peruvian culture and the influences of a modern, globalized world. It is a city where the heritage of the past is respected, while at the same time the doors to the future are wide open.

It’s best to leave the guidebook at home and just go with the flow along the streets. Despite a population of over one million, Arequipa doesn’t feel like a big city. The actual centre of the city is easy to get around on foot.

But Arequipa also faces challenges. Like many fast-growing cities, it is struggling with traffic problems and environmental pollution. The population is constantly growing, which is putting pressure on the city’s infrastructure. 

Traffic Problems in Arequipa

Yes, there are probably various concepts and initiatives to tackle the traffic problem in Arequipa. The streets are full, noisy and smell of exhaust fumes. And for some, this is music to their ears: the law of the jungle still applies here. The cars have the upper hand.  Here are some of the most important approaches to do something about the inner-city traffic problem:

– Expansion of local public transport

– Promote sustainable modes of transport: expand cycle paths, set up pedestrian zones

– Increase parking charges to make local transport more attractive

– Educational programs, e.g. regarding the rights of pedestrians and cyclists

And every last friday of the month there is a critical mass. That’s a lot of road safety education 🙂

Historic Centre and two more districts

Of course, most people are drawn to the historic centre, but there are two other districts that are worth a visit. The Yanhuara neighborhood is full of cobbled streets that seem to remind those who walk along them of villages in Spain. The Cayma neighborhood is very popular with the locals with its quiet atmosphere and peaceful squares with local eateries, but we as tourists are also very welcome.

But of course, no visit to Arequipa is complete without a visit to the beautiful historic centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “white city” was built from the rocks of the nearby volcanoes.

The city is a mixture of Spanish influence and yet was built by the indigenous people. 

Oh dear, I don’t write travel guides, but this city has left a very special impression on us and so I didn’t want to miss out on giving you a few little places to visit. Just explore the many nooks and crannies and hidden little bars and shops for yourself. Arequipa is worth it. And last but not least, this city certainly feels so lively thanks to the many students.

Our recommendation: in addition to the Mercado San Camillo market and be sure to include the “Prana vegan club” for at least one meal. You can savour 100% vegetarian Peruvian dishes here, like the Rocoto Relleno. It was a real treat for the palate. And to be a little more touristic, take the Pisco Sour.

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