Surrounded by stunning snow-capped volcanic peaks and lined with white and pink volcanic “sillar” buildings, the historical city center of Arequipa is a spectacular sight to see. The architecture of the city is distinctly European with a slight native influence, as seen in the cathedrals, archways, courtyards, and elaborate facades throughout the historic center. The city was founded in 1540 by a Spaniard and became one of the Spanish Crown’s most loyal and prosperous cities in the New World.
While many of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Peru protect Incan and ancient ruins, Arequipa’s designation protects the city’s purely Spanish architecture, a beautiful amalgam of Spanish architectural trends through the ages. From its Baroque-inspired origin days in the 16th century to its more contemporary tone in the 19th century, the historical center of Arequipa contains a world of Spanish architectural history within its well-groomed 49 blocks.
The city center’s layout is typical of most Spanish colonial cities with an easy-to-navigate grid structure. Monasteries, chapels, churches, and “casonas” fill each block, beckoning travelers inside through grand arches and large doorways to beautiful courtyards planked by pillars of elaborately carved stone.
The Santa Catalina Convent is one of the most famous of historic Arequipa’s attractions. Occupying 20,000 square meters, the complex once served as a cloister for Dominican nuns from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Visitors can wander its peaceful cloisters and admire the paintings and sculptures throughout. Given the massive complex was constructed over many centuries, the convent is an important example of the changing architectural styles of the Viceroyalty through time.
Equally famous is historic Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas, a well-manicured central palm-fringed plaza and one of the largest and most beautiful of Peru. Arequipa’s most important religious and administrative buildings flank its edges, including the Church of La Compañía, the Cathedral, the Church of La Merced, and the three arched portals that once served as the town hall for the Viceroyalty.
Plagued by earthquakes and frequent seismic activity, the city and its buildings have been reborn many times. However, despite multiple reconstructions and repairs, the original ornamentation and structure were maintained while architectural style shifted with the times and fashions of Spain. Today, Arequipa’s historic center is an eye-catching display of centuries of Spanish architecture in a privileged natural setting.
To visit Arequipa’s historical center on your luxury Peru tour, contact a Kuoda Travel Designer today.