We awoke bright and early the next morning to enjoy breakfast on the balcony before making our way across the sunlit square to visit the great Basílica Catedral de Arequipa.
The sunshine was incredible and bounced off of the white volcanic stone, making the cathedral gleam.
The building is huge and especially so when you are standing right next to the towering walls. The decoration is beautiful, but not only on the building itself. I just love this gate.
After our quick visit to the cathedral we set off to explore the city within a city.
The Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Convent).
It was founded in 1579 by Maria de Guzman and it is still a working convent to this day. The nuns have more freedom than they would have done back in the 1500s, but they still call this beautiful place ‘home’.
(You can see the streets even have names if you look on the wall on the left hand side.)
Originally the families of the nuns that lived here would have paid a hefty dowry to have them housed here, and they would have bought many belongings and even slaves with them, but as time went on this was changed, the slaves were freed, and more girls were allowed to join the convent regardless of social stature.
I am not a Catholic, but I would definitely say that this is an absolute must visit when you come to Arequipa. Even if you just come to admire the fabulous colonial architecture (mixed with some native design too).
As you enter through the high walls and into the convent itself you feel transported to a small town in somewhere like Spain, Greece or Italy.
The volcanic stone is used throughout, but it is painted different colours through the main walkways. From orange to blue to red, the views change around every turn.
The weather that day made the colours completely come alive.
And the stunning white volcanic stone is everywhere.
You can wander around on your own, but I highly recommend having a guide to show and explain to you all about the different areas, and tell you some of the history. Its costs S/20 but it’s absolutely worth every penny.
Our guide was called Patricia and she was fabulous.
She never rushed us, but she was brief and succinct with her information, allowing us to understand everything we needed to know without being drowned in facts. Our tour ended not long after the gallery of religious paintings and treasures.
After she had shown us around, we were able to explore on our own and take millions of photos.
I had to work super hard to cut these down to a reasonable amount!!
Obviously the living accommodations of the nuns today are not open to visitors, but you can see the quarters of those that have lived here before.
There are many courtyards to explore full of paintings and trees and plants.
There is also an area where the nuns used to do their washing, and it has a fascinating washing system.
Simple yet effective!
Behind here is a secret garden that you cannot enter, but it is just gorgeous to look at. It’s filled with plants, flowers, trees and decorative pots. This place is not just filled with religious iconography and historical pieces, but stunning areas to sit and rest, and rooftops to view the city from.
Obviously the convent has a lot of history, and you can experience where the nuns would have cooked their meals,….
what their belongings would have been, where they slept, and even where they gave confession.
The nuns today make little crafts to sell in the shop and there is also a cafe to relax in on your way through.
After we had explored every nook in the convent we set off to find some lunch. We took a taxi (It’s only a few minutes drive but we wanted to rest our feet!) to the neighbourhood of Yanahuara to the fabulous La Nueva Palomino (I believe there are two locations but you want the one on Leoncio Prado).
La Nueva Palomino is a local Picanteria serving up fantastic traditional Arequipeñan food.
It’s actually huge inside and you can choose to sit outside in the gardens, inside, or up on the covered wooden terrace.
We chose the latter, and ordered some beers and nibbled on canchita whilst perusing the menu.
We decided on ordering one of their giant platters that comes with a little of everything….
Roccoto Relleno (stuffed roccoto chilli), pastel de papa (potato pie which is a little like dauphinoise), corn, local cheese, salad, vegetables, chicharron (fried pork), stewed beef (I think!), more pork, rice and potatoes…..
It was a fabulous way to introduce my parents further to the Arequipeñan cuisine.
After lunch we headed walked up to the Mirador (lookout) to check out the little craft market and to see the landscape of the city itself from a higher viewpoint.
After buying a couple of gifts, we wandered back into town to see the mummy of Juanita. A 12 year old girl who was sacrificed to the Gods by the Incas on a mountaintop nearby. Her mummified remains were discovered in the 1990’s and are now on display in the Museo Santuarios Andinos along with artefacts that were found buried with her and with other remains also discovered here.
You don’t need to take a tour, but you must watch the video preceding the exhibition, which explains how and why she was taken up to that mountaintop (including a re-enactment of what might have happened). It’s extremely useful to understand this before viewing the items and Juanita herself.
No phones or cameras are allowed into the museum, so I couldn’t capture any of the displays, but it’s very small with only a few rooms, and Juanita is at the end at the back displayed in a dimly lit, refrigerated glass box to keep her well preserved.
It’s a very interesting insight into the Inca culture, but you won’t need to spend long here. An hour is way more than enough time.
We wandered back to the hotel to relax and freshen up and then set off to the Museo del Pisco for some well earned drinks!
It’s a really nice bar and their pisco cocktails are made using the local pisco ‘Cepas de Loro’.
They even macerate their piscos with some interesting flavours, like star anis or basil.