Arequipa // Discovering the White City

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.

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The sunshine was incredible and bounced off of the white volcanic stone, making the cathedral gleam.

basilica Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

The building is huge and especially so when you are standing right next to the towering walls.

Front entrance, basilica, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

The decoration is beautiful, but not only on the building itself. I just love this gate.

Gates of the basilica Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

After our quick visit to the cathedral we set off to explore the city within a city.

Silencio, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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’.

streets within the monastery, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

(You can see the streets even have names if you look on the wall on the left hand side.)

paintings, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

courtyard space w/ mountain view, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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).

first courtyard , Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

red walls, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

blue walls, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

The weather that day made the colours completely come alive.

white walls, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

And the stunning white volcanic stone is everywhere.

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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.

paintings on the walls, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

Our guide was called Patricia and she was fabulous.

Patricia, Santa Catalina // A Slice of Peru

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.

religious treasures, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

 

Our tour ended not long after the gallery of religious paintings and treasures.

courtyard space, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

After she had shown us around, we were able to explore on our own and take millions of photos.

flowers, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

I had to work super hard to cut these down to a reasonable amount!!

pathway, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

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There are many courtyards to explore full of paintings and trees and plants.

washing, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

There is also an area where the nuns used to do their washing, and it has a fascinating washing system.

washing system, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

Simple yet effective!

Garden, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

fountain with birds and viewpoint, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

 

kitchen area, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

Obviously the convent has a lot of history, and you can experience where the nuns would have cooked their meals,….

beautiful cupboard, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

what their belongings would have been,….

bedroom, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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.

nooks, Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

 

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 // A Slice of Peru

La Nueva Palomino is a local Picanteria serving up fantastic traditional Arequipeñan food.

Nueva Palomino restaurant // A Slice of Peru

It’s actually huge inside and you can choose to sit outside in the gardens, inside, or up on the covered wooden terrace.

beer and canchita, La Nueva Palomino // A Slice of Peru

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….

Piqueo, La Nueva Palomino // A Slice of Peru

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…..

La Nueva Palomino // A Slice of Peru

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.

yanahuana lookout // A Slice of Peru

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.

main square, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

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!

cocktail, Museo del Pisco, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

It’s a really nice bar and their pisco cocktails are made using the local pisco ‘Cepas de Loro’.

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They even macerate their piscos with some interesting flavours, like star anis or basil.

pisco sours, Museo del Pisco, Arequipa // A Slice of Peru

Salud!

 

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