Exploring the Colonial Charms of Arequipa, Peru

Located in the southern part of Peru, Arequipa is the country’s second largest city with 1 million inhabitants. It’s a bustling metropolis with a large and vibrant Spanish colonial quarter at its heart. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to this beautiful architecture and the city’s efforts at preserving these links to the past. The historic buildings are made of a white-colored local volcanic rock called sillar, giving the city its nickname: the White City.

Arequipa has a lot going for it and as a result it’s becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers. Many head to the nearby Colca Canyon, one of the world’s deepest, to see endangered condors; others go to experience authentic indigenous culture and the natural splendor of Lake Titicaca.

But Arequipa also has plenty of conveniences and advantages that attract retirees and other expats.

The weather is beautiful, just about perfect. Count on 300 sunny days a year and a year-round temperate climate—in the 70s during the day, cooling off into the low 60s at night. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors, whether strolling down a city street or enjoying a coffee on your terrace.

The cost of living is low. Three-bedroom apartments in the most desirable neighborhoods near the historic quarter start at $400 for rentals. Utility costs are also reasonable: electricity costs $50 to $60 per month, water is $10 per month, and internet/cable TV is $70. For meals, plan on paying $2 to $3 for a local meal, $10 for something in a high-end or international restaurant.

There are plenty of modern conveniences. Large grocery stores carry imported and gourmet foods, and there are shopping malls where you can get any product you need.

All that and the scenery and architecture is breathtaking. The mountains and volcanoes that surround the city provide a dramatic backdrop to the grand cathedrals, churches, and homes in the colonial area.

Arequipa is just an hour flight from Lima, but world’s apart. Arequipa and Lima actually have a long-time rivalry, with many Arequipa residents considering themselves arequipeño first and Peruvian second. But in any case, the people are very friendly and welcoming of foreigners. And, thanks to the influence of tourism, many speak English.

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