Arequipa is a city in the southern coast of Peru surrounded by 3 volcanoes at an altitude of 2,380 meters. It is a short flight away from Lima, the capital. The architecture here is heavily influenced by the Spanish and there are no Inca artifacts in the city. We stayed at the Casa Andina Private Collection Arequipa Hotel conveniently located next to Convento de Santa Catalina and a few blocks away from Plaza de Armas in the center of town. It is a beautiful colonial city to stay for a couple days and acclimatize before heading higher up to Colca Canyon or Lake Titicaca.
There are several highlights in the city including the Convento de Santa Catalina, the churches surrounding Plaza de Armas, and the Museo Santuarious Andinos where the Juanita Mummy is on display. Juanita was a 12-year-old Inca girl sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s. Unfortunately, Juanita was under restoration during our visit.
Convento de Santa Catalina is a city within a city. Wandering the little streets inside the Convento de Santa Catalina brings you back in time. There are 3 main cloisters here. The Novice Cloister is where novice nuns live for 4 years, after which they choose between taking their vows or leaving the convent. There is a silence arch where passing underneath it, the novice nuns were required to keep their vow of solemn silence. Novice nuns who enter into the religious service move to the Orange Tree Cloister which has a mortuary, Profundis Room, where dead nuns were mourned and artists painted the portraits of the deceased within 24 hours. Then passing by houses where nuns lived, communal washing area, kitchen, and market square, we arrive at the Great Cloister which used to be a communal dormitory. How austere or lavishly the nuns lived all depended on how wealthy their families were. Most of the prominent families in the past sent their eldest daughters to the convent.
Plaza de Armas is the main square here in Arequipa. On one end is the large Basilica Cathedral. On the other corner is the La Compania Church. Do go upstairs to the balcony across from the Basilica Cathedral and eat or just have a coffee at one of the restaurants and watch the world go by in the square below.
From Arequipa, we move onto Colca Canyon. Stay tuned!
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