Arequipeños (the People from Arequipa) are immensely proud of their local culture, a culture so strong and unique that Peruvians often joke that a different passport is required to enter the region. Now, why is it “Arequipa the white city“? Quite simply because it is almost completely built out of sillar, a type of white volcanic stone and still stands out as an incredible example of colonial architecture. Let’s take a look at some of the cultural aspects you can visit.
First up we have the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (Museo de Santuarios Andinos) located a few minutes from the city center. Among its most significant attractions is the Ice Maiden of Mount Ampato known as Juanita. She was discovered in 1995 by chance really, the nearby volcano erupted and melted off a good portion of the surrounding glaciers. What archaeologists found was quite spectacular as the body was so well preserved by the ice that you could still see skin, organs and even facial features. It is considered to be one of the best-preserved mummies in the world. Be sure to go early as most museums close before 3 pm.
Next up is the Monastery of Saint Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina). It was built around 1600 and has grown larger over the years, eventually becoming its own “city.” It used to be the place where high ranking nobles and even kings would send their daughters, even reaching almost 450 nuns at one point. Nowadays there is a small group of 20 nuns that take care of the Monastery, if you’re lucky you might get a glimpse of them. The interior of the monastery is beautiful, with painted arches and an interesting chapel with baroque frescoes of Inca vegetation, there are lots of flowers and orange trees around.
If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure then you can check out the Misti Volcano. It stands at 5825m and is located 17km northeast of Arequipa the white city, visible almost year-round, but especially during winter (April-December). The strangest thing about the Misti is that ancient people would send their dead (along with their belongings) into the crater. So far six Inca mummies and rare Inca artifacts have been found during excavations at this site. The tour itself takes about 2 days so be sure to go well prepared.
If the Misti is a bit too much then you can take a full day tour of the Colca Canyon. It is located about 160 kilometers northwest of Arequipa. The Canyon is ideal for adventure sports such as hiking, climbing, rafting, mountain biking. However, once you reach its peak you’ll be able to see the incredible Andean Condor, one of the largest birds in the world, flying over the valley. Quite the sight to see, don’t forget your cameras!
Lastly, you must try their local cuisine, considered by many the best in Peru as a whole. Be sure to check out some local picanterias (restaurants) and ask for ocopa (spicy potato dish), soltero de queso (cheese salad), rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), chupe de camarones (shrimp soup) and finally for dessert, queso helado, you won’t regret it.
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