High on an Andean plateau in the south of Perú sits Arequipa--a Baroque gem of a city whose historic center is built almost entirely of white volcanic stone. "When the moon separated from the Earth, it forgot to take Arequipa," say some locals...
Wandering in the colonial center, then, it was such a surprise to enter through a gateway and find this blue courtyard--a luminous oasis.
Surrounded by 19- and 20-thousand-ft. high volcanoes, often covered in snow, Arequipa is a city both of vast vistas and intimate treasures. At 8000 ft, but near the equator, it's also known as "la ciudad de la primavera eterna"--'the city of eternal spring.'
You can get to Perú's second largest city, from Lima, by road--a sixteen-hour long bus ride at night. Much easier: an inexpensive 45-minute flight, available several times a day.
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When the moon separated the earth, it forgot to take Arequipa
Colonial Arequipa took my breath away and I didn't want to leave. Unlike Cuzco's touristy atmosphere, I found Arequipa to be much less needy. I wasn't expecting the second-largest city in Peru to feel this inviting and to be as dazzling. Oh Arequipa, with your perfectly shaped volcanoes and world's deepest canyon, I vow to return to you.