Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, gets its nickname “La Ciudad Blana,” or “The White City,” from its central historic district built almost entirely from a porous, white volcanic stone known as sillar. The UNESCO-listed Historic Centre of Arequipa, founded in 1540 by a group of Spanish conquistadores, is dotted with colonial churches, plazas and mansions that blend European and indigenous architectural styles.
At the heart of the district is Plaza de Armas, considered one of Peru’s most beautiful plazas and the site of the city’s most important buildings, including City Hall, the old Jesuit Iglesia de la Compañía and the neo-renaissance Cathedral. The Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a Dominican convent founded in 1579 and one of Arequipa’s most worthwhile sites, is also located in the historic centre.
The Historic Centre of Arequipa is compact and walkable, and it has enough attractions, shops and restaurants to easily fill up an entire day of sightseeing.