Two Days in Arequipa, Peru
As we began the research for our trip to Peru, Arequipa kept catching our attention. It’s the 2nd largest city in Peru and a big hub for outdoor adventures in Southern Peru. Arequipa is also known as “The White City,” due to all of the while buildings made of sillar.
Scott and I decided to write this post about some of the things we experienced in Arequipa. We spent three days there, but on the third day, we took an overnight excursion to the Colca Canyon.
Where to Stay
We decided to stay at the Los Tambos Hotel, which is a small boutique hotel near the Plaza de Armas. The hotel provided an excellent hot breakfast each morning. We also enjoyed the rooftop patio, which had volcano and city views. It was the perfect spot for morning yoga practice.
Plaza de Armas
A visit to the Plaza de Armas is one of the top things to do in Arequipa. As the most important church in the city, it sits at the forefront of the square. Many families and tourists spend time in the plaza relaxing or meeting up with friends.
The Basilica Cathedral has a crazy history. It was originally built in 1540, then destroyed by an earthquake in 1583. It was rebuilt, but in 1600 parts were destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Restored again in 1604, another earthquake finished it off. In 1656 the cathedral was again rebuilt, and this time, even though there have been more earthquakes and a fire, it has survived.
We feel lucky to have seen the cathedral. Who knows what natural disaster could bring to its future?
Monãsterio Santa Catalina
A few blocks from the plaza is the Monãsterio Santa Catalina, which was built in 1579. We spent the morning there for one day, exploring the grounds and different rooms that were open to the public. It was originally built for only upper class women from Spanish families who could afford to pay the large dowry for admittance.
In the 1800’s the monastery was reformed and all of the rich dowries were sent out, as well as the slaves and servants. Now, only 20 nuns live on a separate section of the property, which is not open to the public.
We took a self-guided tour of the property. There were many courtyards and walkways. Everywhere we looked, the walls were painted in vivid colors.
Scott and I saw the old main kitchen, as well as tiny rooms with only basic necessities the nuns had previously lived in.
Museo Santuarios Andinos
One of the most interesting things we did in Arequipa, was take the guided tour at the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries. It’s not far from the Plaza de Armas and is conveniently located nearby. We heard about the history of the Inca women that were frozen and we were intrigued.
The tour consisted of watching a documentary, which described how the frozen girls were found. In 1995 “Juanita” the first and most well known of the Inca girls was found near the summit of Mt. Ampato. The area had been previously frozen and under snow. After snow melt, scientists recovered Juanita and three other frozen girls. They were believed to be Inca sacrifices.
Their bodies were intact and frozen for over 500 years. The girls aren’t considered mummies because their organs weren’t removed.
Our guide showed us many artifacts which were found with the girls, including; pottery, jewelry, and blankets.
There was one girl on display in a refrigerated box. It was interesting to see how she sat with her knees pulled up to her chest in almost perfect preservation. To see a photo of Juanita click here. We didn’t take any pictures on this tour.
Scott and I found the entire experience to be so interesting and wondered who else could still be buried on the Peruvian mountaintops.
Things to note:
-It is freezing cold on this tour due to all of the refrigeration and preservation, bring a sweater.
-You may not see Juanita as she was being toured through other museums at the time of our visit.
Another option in Arequipa is a cycling tour. This bike tour takes you just outside the city. We were able to see the volcano views, as well as farmland. To read a full review of our cycling experience please click here.
There are many restaurants in the central old district of Arequipa. The Plaza de Armas has quite a few to chose from. One night we sat on the upper level at a restaurant which overlooked the plaza and cathedral. The views of the Basilica Cathedral lit up at night are stunning.
The food ranges from shrimp stuffed Chili Rellenos to delicious pasta entrees. If you are lucky enough to visit on a Sunday morning, the traditional Beef Adobo is served for breakfast all over town. It was a delicious, spicy treat and we were glad to have enjoyed it during our stay.
We really enjoyed our stay in Arequipa and would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful city.