Saturday, September 28, 2013
The second most populated city in Peru, Arequipa's history dates back as far as 5000-6000 BC, as recorded in cave paintings and some 400 archaeological monuments. Conquered by the Incas in the 15th century, the city served as an important supplier of agricultural products to the Inca Empire. In 1537, the first group of Spanish conquerors came to Arequipa, calling it first the 'Villa Hermosa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción" and in 1541 renaming it to the City of Arequipa. Nestled in a valley called the Valley of Arequipa or the Valley of Chili at the base of three volcanoes -- Chachani, Pichu Pichu and Misti, the central part of the city is crossed by the River Chili. To the north and east are the Andes mountain and the three volcanic cones dominates the skyline. Rocked continuously by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes nearly every century since the Spanish arrived, Peru’s second-largest city doesn’t lack for drama and major earthquakes have marked the key changes in the development and changes to the architecture. The natural disaster of 1582 caused a major change in favor of antiseismic construction, introducing the systematic use of sillar, a pink or pearl-colored volcanic stone and ashlar, an off-white petrified volcanic ash, both of which come from the nearby Chachani volcano. Prior to 1582, this material had only been used in the doorways of the main church and in a handful of dwellings. Being soft, lightweight, and weather resistant this provided a solution to the problems caused by earth tremors and emerged as a seismically structural solution. As a result of this, Arequipa is often referred to as the Ciudad Blanca (White City). Its grand colonial buildings, built from the off-white volcanic rock dazzles in the sun and distinctive stonework graces the countless beautiful colonial churches, monasteries and mansions scattered throughout the city. In 2000, UNESCO declared Arequipa and the surrounding area a World Heritage Site which gave a big boost to the tourism industry. Now the historical and monumental buildings with their unique architecture along with many other scenic and cultural sites within easy driving distance, make the city a national and international tourist destination. And we plan on making the most of our time here to visit as much as we can and to get to some of the more regional areas, in general to “play at being tourists”.