Also known as the “white city”, Arequipa was founded in 1540 by Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of Pizarro, as “Villa Hermosa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción”.
During the colonial period Arequipa prospered and was known for its loyalty to the Spanish crown. With the end of the colonial period and the independence from Spain in 1821, Arequipa also gained political importance and became the capital of Peru from 1835 to 1883.
Arequipa’s historic centre, with its magnificent cathedral and the equally impressive Santa Catalina Monastery, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. The way in which European and indigenous elements meet in the sacred and profane buildings of the city is also referred to as the Arequipen school, which is a special form of the so-called Mestizo Baroque. Most of the historical buildings are built of cut stone, which is connected by lime mortar. The fact that the white to pink-coloured volcanic rock (Sillar) from which the bricks were cut is soft, light and weatherproof has allowed many buildings to survive earthquakes without damage.
Arequipas picturesque location against the backdrop of three volcanoes, including the almost 6000m high Misti, conceals the pronounced earthquake risk to which the city is exposed. The cathedral, whose neoclassical façade occupies the northern side of the Plaza de Armas, dates from the middle of the 19th century in its present form. Its two towers collapsed during the last major earthquake in 2001 and had to be rebuilt.
There are two theses on the origin of the name Arequipa: On the one hand it is attributed to the Aymara terms quipa (behind it) and ari (summit), on the other hand to the Quechua expression ari quipay, which translates as “yes, stay!” and is attributed to the Inca Mayta Cápac.
Arequipa is considered the starting point of Peru’s gastronomic renaissance. For years, not only have countless chefs invested their efforts and imagination in this renaissance, but the Ministry of Tourism has also invested a lot of money in form of international advertising campaigns. To this day, the so-called picanterías, provisional dining places that also serve as places of social exchange, are considered the most authentic way to taste traditional dishes.