How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #14, April 2019: Arequipa – Plaza del Armas – Basilica Cathedral – Plaza Yanahuara – Convent of Santa Catalina
I was still day dreaming when we arrived in Arequipa, as a piece of my heart was left behind, floating in the foggy morning along the Colca Canyon.
I suddenly noticed the bustle of a big city; many buses, a tumult of people going everywhere, cars, and adds all over the places. It was the industrial area of Arequipa, and the guide told us that this specific area is used mainly by people coming from the highlands, therefore the similar outfits we’ve seen along our 2-days trip.
A modern city, with large streets, Arequipa looked totally different than any other city we visited in Peru.
Located at an average altitude of 2325 m in the Southwest part of the Andean Mountains and the most prominent volcanic cone Misti, Arequipa is the second most populated city after Lima.
The city was founded in 1540, in the name of Francis Pizzaro, the founder of Lima.
This beautiful city is built almost completely out of sillar, a white volcanic stone. This is why Arequipa is called La Ciudad Blanco / the White City. And the reason we found it so different, I guess.
The combination of influences can be seen by the city’s robust walls, arches, vaults, courtyards, along with some of the intricate facades, reason the Historical Centre of the city of Arequipa became UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
An excellent combination of colonial masters and native masons created a unique personality and a distinctive character of this city.
Even though the metal bars are still visible on every window from the ground level (and not only), the lack of crushed glass, electrified wires atop the fences, or the bodyguards guarding expensive cars or houses we’ve seen in Lima, gave us an easy feeling walking on the streets.
Arequipa’s architecture can be easily observed in Saint Catherine’s Convent, as the constructions and additions done from the time of its founding by the Spaniards until the end of 19th century varies from the original archaic style to a combination of architectural styles. Each seismic event during this time had its own contribution for sure.
Mummy Juanita, known are Lady of Ampato was an interesting discovering for us in Arequipa; as well as an interesting one for humanity, back in 1995. Found on Mount Ampato, the mummy became very famous as the body and the garments were well-preserved by the freezing conditions on the mountain top, instead of being artificially mummified. Juanita was killed as a practice of children sacrifice to appease Inca Gods. Selected from young ages, children were considered pure beings and specially trained to be sacrificed to the Gods, and make them favouring the human race, specifically the Incas.
If you feel like seeing a more colourful side of the city, beside the antique shops, galleries, or boutiques, do not miss a market place.
Tip(s) of the day:
* Walking around is always the best way to see the details in a city, but Arequipa can be quite large. Negotiate the tariff with a taxi driver before getting in the car.
*If you’re visiting the Convent of Santa Catalina, you will be pushed to hire a guide – but that is optional. Some of them may hurry you around, or heading you to certain areas only.
*We’ve had to be part of a guide tour in Museo Santuarios Andinos; English, French, or Spanish, and tipping was kind of mandatory at the end, beside the cost of the ticket. We could not have this tour on our own, not an option.
~ visited in April 2019