Arequipa

Arequipa Travel Blog

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Anna looking for a bargain in the Arequipa street markets

Third time lucky with this one. Heres a tip for the young'uns, always save your blog in notepad (or the like) and copy and paste into travbuddy, it can save a world of pain, especially when you are on the road!!

But onwards and upwards. For me, cities are just plain hard work when you are travelling. Looking after your valuables amongst the hustle and bustle of so many people, dealing with cabbies who try to rip you off any chance they get and finding suitable accommodation (particularly if your guidebook is a couple of years out of date!!) is always a challenge, particularly if you arrive after a long journey and just need to lay down horizontally. Arequipa is one out of the box though, a city that makes travelling a little easier, and I think that Anna and I were both thankful for that.

The beautiful court yard in Santa Catalina

Everything that there is to see and do for a tourist/traveller in Arequipa is literally 5 mins walk from any accommodation worth its salt, and there are plenty of those. There are a variety of great places to eat, some world class historical sites and museums, loads of tourist operators for the surrounding area (including Colca De Canyon) and probably my absolute favourite Plaza de Armas of any place we visited on our entire trip. The city itself is also very beautiful. The grid of narrowish cobbled stone streets criss-crosses its way amongst lovely spanish colonial buildings that are predominantly white in colour, with the odd park and church thrown in for good measure. Overlooking it all is the amazing cone shaped volcano El Misti, which provides an awesome site especially with the stunning sunsets.

The end of another blue sky day

We ended up spending a total of 5 nights in Arequipa, split in the middle by an amazing trip to Colca De Canyon. Our accommodation was an awesome little hostel called El Caminante Class. Offering dorm and private rooms, with shared and private bathrooms, it is a stones throw from the plaza on Santa Catolina. It has free breakfasts, laundry facilities, a terrace roof top from which you can see all across the city and really friendly staff...at only $US7 a night it was an absolute bargain.

Apart from the plethora of culinary delights (which also included some Alpaca!!), the highlights of included:
- Monastario Santa Catalina. Founded in 1580 as a convent for nuns, it is a city within a city. Surrounded by high brick walls, today it covers almost an entire city block and contains narrow twisting streets, through a maze of living quarters, courtyards, plazas and as you can imagine, lots of churchy stuff.

Enjoying the views from the terrace restaurants
It was opened to the public in the 70's but there are still 24 practicing nuns living in a cordoned of part of the monastry. Apparently the buildings all used to be bright white, but so many tourists complained of the glare that they decided to give the exterior of the buildings a new lick of paint predominantly being a spectacular earthy red and sky blue colours. Its $US10 for entry but once you are in, you can stay as long as you like. There are even free tours (which I would highly recommend!) for an obligatory tip of about $US2. It was a very cool place though, definitely a highlight for me, I must have taken over 200 photos!

- Museo Santuarios Andinos. Its not every day that you get to see an almost perfectly preserved 500 year old person but, amongst other amazing artefacts, thats what this museum has on offer.

The streets of Arequipa
For a $US5 entry fee, you are shown a documentary on Juanita 'the ice princess', before being given a 1 hr guided tour that culminates with a viewing of Juanita herself. A 12 yr old girl, 'Juanita' was chosen as a sacrifice to the mountain gods in a bid to prevent more earthquakes. She was made to walk up to the summit of Mt Ambato (6288m) before getting an axe to the head and being layed to rest with other gifts for the gods. How was she preserved? Well at that altitude its below freezing so the ice and snow perfectly preserved her body until an expedition to the summit in 1992 recovered the her and subsequent studies have pieced together her tragic story. If you ask me there is something just a little freaky about viewing a tiny little girl 500 years after she died but remarkable none the less.
Arequipa at night
Even more remarkable is that there have been at least half a dozen more of these 'child sacrifice' finds since.

- The Plaza de Armas. Surrounded by magnicifent three storied terraced buildings on three sides and an immense church on the other, this pigeon filled plaza with a huge water fountain in the middle was my favourite on our travels. No matter what the time of day, 'Arequipans' young and old flock here in there hundreds, creating a carnival kind of atmosphere. Enjoying a milky milo on one of the surrounding terrace cafes as the sun is setting is definitely a great way to soak it all up!! The church is also open of a night time. Amazingly, we were lucky enough to visit in the middle of a wedding. Fair play to them I thought as we took a seat in one of the back pews and settled in for the show.

Pick the lovely little flower
Better still, they played "Here comes the bride", brilliant stuff.

One more thing about Arequipa, it has the most taxis I have ever seen in a city in all my life. Seriously, 9 out of 10 cars were a taxi, and I would be willing to bet that if you flagged down the tenth car and offered them some money for a ride, they would instantly become a taxi as well. Strangely enough, their lawn mower sized engines and the constant squeaking of their horns became somewhat reassuring, it made the city feel alive.

Yes, I quite liked Arequipa. Next up, some big birds!!

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Anna looking for a bargain in the …
Anna looking for a bargain in the…
The beautiful court yard in Santa …
The beautiful court yard in Santa…
The end of another blue sky day
The end of another blue sky day
Enjoying the views from the terrac…
Enjoying the views from the terra…
The streets of Arequipa
The streets of Arequipa
Arequipa at night
Arequipa at night
Pick the lovely little flower
Pick the lovely little flower
The streets of Santa Catalina
The streets of Santa Catalina
I call this Calle Toledo
I call this "Calle Toledo"
The laundry at Santa Catalina
The laundry at Santa Catalina
The imposing El Misti dominates th…
The imposing El Misti dominates t…
Arequipa
photo by: halilee