Dubbed the "white city" for its beautiful buildings made of sillar, a pearly volcanic rock, Arequipa nestles against the foot of El Misti volcano and is guarded on either side by spectacular peaks.
Once an important Inca city, modern-day Arequipa has a population of nearly half a million and serves as the commercial center of southern Peru.
Home to the Universidad de San Augustin, the city hosts a vibrant student and cultural scene. With its fine baroque churches and beautiful colonial buildings, many of which now house art galleries and museums, Arequipa is said to have the best-preserved colonial architecture in Peru, apart from Cuzco.
Possibly the most fascinating colonial religious complex in the country, the Santa Catalina Convent is a miniature walled town in the middle of Arequipa. Opened to the public in 1970 after centuries of mystery, the convent housed about 450 nuns who lived there in total seclusion except for their female servants.
The most interesting time to visit Arequipa is during Holy Week which culminates in the burning of an effigy of Judas on Easter Sunday and the reading of his "will" - usually containing detailed criticisms of the city authorities.
Locals claim that the sun always shines on Arequipa. With an annual rainfall of less than six inches, undoubtedly they're right. The city hosts a delightful climate - cool and dry throughout the year.
Set in the southern cordilleras of the Peruvian Andes, amid its smoking volcanoes, deep canyons, and terraced valleys, Arequipa makes a good base from which to explore the Andean villages and backcountry. The spectacular terraced Colca Canyon, said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is a popular excursion from the city.