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Arequipa is one of the 24 departamentos of Peru. It lies in the southern part of Peru and borders the departamentos of Ica, Ayacucho, Apurimac, Cuzco, Puno and Moquegua. Arequipa is divided into 8 provincias of which the largest in population (830,000) is the capital of the departamento, also called Arequipa. The other seven, with their approximate 2002 population are: Camana (51,000), Caraveli (30,300), Castilla (41,000), Caylloma (50,400), Condesuyos (22,500), Islay (56,800) and La Union (18,700).

There are numerous points of interest in the departamento outside of the province of Arequipa. The three coastal provinces, Caraveli, Camana and Islay all have popular beaches. Various ports can also be found along the coastline, the two most important being Mollendo and Matarani, both in the province of Islay.

The Colca canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is in the province of Caylloma and the Cotahuasi canyon is in the province of La Union. Colca Valley provides incredible close-up views of majestic Andean condors soaring in their natural habitat. Cotahuasi, at 3,535 meters is presently thought to be the deepest canyon in the world. Both canyons offer spectacular scenery and villages as yet unaffected by the modern world.

In the province of Castilla, by the town of Corire is Toro Muerto where one can see more than 3,000 petroglyphs. Further to the north, near the town of Andaguas, lies the Valley of Volcanoes where almost 100 cones of various sizes dominate the lava-hardened landscape.

The city of Arequipa

Arequipa Cathedral, on the Plaza de Armas

Arequipa, the capital of the departamento, is the most important city of southern Peru. It stands at the foot of the snow-capped volcano El Misti. Arequipa has many fine colonial-era Spanish buildings built of sillar, a pearly white volcanic rock used extensively in the construction of the city, from which it gets its nickname La Ciudad Blanca ("the white city"). The city is located at an altitude of 2,380 meters in the Peruvian Andes.

Archaeological findings indicate the fertile valley in which Arequipa is situated has been occupied back to 5000 – 6000 BC. In the 15th century, the region, then occupied by Aymara Indians, was conquered by the Incas and served as an important supplier of agrarian products to the Inca Empire. The modern city of Arequipa was founded on August 15, 1540, by Garci Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The city's name comes from the Quechua phrase "Arequipai" which means "Yes, stay".

Arequipa remained relatively isolated during colonial and early republican times, but that changed in 1870 when a railroad to the coastal port of Tacna was inaugurated, opening trade via the Pacific Ocean.

Arequipa served as a bastion of nationalism during Peru's struggle for independence in the early 19th century. Later, it served as a rallying point during the War of the Pacific (1879 – 1883) with Chile.

UNESCO has declared the historical center of Arequipa a World Heritage Site.

On June 23, 2001, Arequipa was badly damaged by an earthquake of 7.9 on the Richter scale.

In June 2002, Arequipa was completely paralyzed for a week by strikes and riots in protest of the privatization of two regional electricity-generating plants. The demonstrations were seen as a manifestation of increasing anti-globalization sentiments in South America.

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Famous Arequipeños: