For many, Arequipa is simply a transitional city between Chile, Bolivia, Machu Picchu, and Lima. However, tourism in Arequipa has grown exponentially in recent years. This is primarily due its proximity to Colca Canyon, but as more and more travelers flock to the majestic white city they can’t help but notice that it is so much more than its awe-inspiring geography.
Arequipa’s central plaza, or plaza de armas, has been argued to be the most beautiful in all of South America. Oriented around one stunning fountain and framed by flawlessly conserved colonial buildings, it is easy to see why. All of downtown is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the plaza is the heart and soul of the city.
This labyrinth of a monastery will take you the majority of the day to explore. Santa Catalina Monastery has been nicknamed “the city within a city.” This is due to its expansive size, and the fact that between its opening in 1579 and 1970 the convent remained completely shut off from the outside world. Highlights include traditional kitchens and living quarters, the central cloister, the picturesque silence yard, and an impressive art gallery boasting roughly 400 restored works of religious art.
If you are crunched for time, Arequipa’s City Bus Tour is the perfect way to see a number of sites in a short period of time. Highlights include the Founder’s Mansion, Mundo Alpaca, and two miradors, or outlooks. Tours are economical and easily booked in the Plaza de Armas.
San Camilo market is doubtlessly my favorite market in Latin America to date. It is here that you can try exotic fruits, get much-needed repairs made to your clothing, and sample olives and local cheeses. Don’t miss the chance to check out holistic remedies, and the jarring dried alpaca fetuses which are used in a number of indigenous customs.
Juanita is a mummified girl who was ritually buried after being sacrificed to the Gods. Her body was discovered in 1995. She is on display in Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries for most of the year, though she does take a break during off season for preservation purposes. Visitors can view Juanita as part of an educational tour.
President and Founder of Full of Wanderlust, you can read more about Tina Stelling’s wanderings, accounts of her travels, and advice for nomadism on a budget. Tina is a newly published author.