Our day started early as we had an early transfer to Lima airport for our internal flight to Arequipa. The journey to the airport reinforced the idea that Lima is NOT somewhere I’d want to drive myself around! The traffic and tooting of one’s horn rivalled Delhi! Still, we arrived in one piece and were guided through to departures for our Latan airways flight.
The flight was just an hour in length and was utterly breathtaking as we flew over the Andes. Just amazing.
We descended into Arequipa and caught our first views of the volcanos that are backdrop to the UNESCO city.
Arequipa sits at an altitude of 7000ft and therefore is an ideal base to acclimatise to being in altitude before we go even higher in the coming days.
We were met by a new local guide- Jorge, who introduced us to the city and took us all for another very delicious and traditional lunch. During lunch we were serenaded by a man on pan pipes and guitar. We just loved the whole experience.
After lunch, we dropped our cases at the hotel and then set out in a walking tour of Arequipa. Our hotel is on the main plaza which is simply Stunning.
White buildings made out of volcanic rock, and decorated with magnificent freesias line the streets. The imposing cathedral sits proudly at the top of the square.
The first stop was the church of San Augustin. This magnificent building was built in the 1600s and has survived numerous earthquakes over the years. The secret we were told to a building having a higher chance of surviving seismic activity was the arches and dips in decoration which absorbs the waves of energy.
The chapel has the most beautiful and bright pained decoration from the floor to the ceiling and down depicting many Peruvian scenes and icons. It also is home to a delightful courtyard.
We walked through the square and back to the coach which took us to nearby Yanahuara neighbourhood. Again this area is rich in history and beauty, along with having terrific views over the volcanoes. We also saw a 300 year old olive tree.
We returned by coach back to the centre of town and went on an enjoyable- if slightly long – we’d been on the go for ages at this point! tour of the Monestry of Santa Catalina. This large network of alleys housed up to 500 people- a third of them nuns and the rest their servants! The buildings are traditional style with Mediterranean colours decorating the walls and cloisters.
The cells in which the nuns lived before earthquake damage forced them out in the 60s, were relatively big and many had bread and pizza ovens too.
As we finished up on the tour, the sun set and we were taken back to the hotel. We had a quick change and made our way out once more to experience Arequipa by night. We were adjusting to the altitude so we were taking things slowly and drinking stacks of water and eating bananas for potassium.
Our dinner was at a bar just down from our hotel- and we enjoyed a Peruvian Pizza each which was delicious and also a Peruvian red wine.
We then crashed out back at the hotel as it had been full on – yet brilliant day!
Saturday arrived and after a decent breakfast overlooking the plaza on the hotel restaurant, we had a free day to explore some more of Arequipa. Our first stop was the main cathedral opposite our hotel.
We then made our way to the museum of Andean Sancturies- specifically to see what the locals call the “ice Maiden”.
The visit literally blew our minds. It displays the frozen body – with flesh, hair and everything – of a 12 year old Inca girl, ‘Juanita’, who was sacrificed by the Incas (and her parents) on top of the volcano over 550 years ago. They believed by sacrificing these children to the god of the Earth it would help calm the land.
The children were hand picked from an early age and educated to understand what would happen to them. They were treated with honour and celebrity status.
‘Juanita’ was taken to the top of the mountains next to the volcano, dressed in ceremonial textiles, (all still beautifully preserved), sedated with corn spirit and then killed by a blow to the head. She was on a glacier which had been melted because of the close by seismic activity. She was buried in a grave – the volcano then within a day or two stopped erupting and the girl was frozen. Because of this she is perfectly preserved with hair and fingernails and everything and still in foetal position.
It was immensely creepy to see but unbelievably fascinating.
We couldn’t take pictures inside but if anyone is interested in what we saw click here.
After the shock of our morning visit, we had some shopping time and enjoyed the views from this incredible city.
We went for a splash out lunch at a finer dining restaurant- Zig Zag- and enjoyed Peruvian red wine, and alpaca fillet steak cooked on volcanic rock. Keefy went for the 300g one and me the 200g. With potatoes and ratatouille and the wine- just £37 for the two of us. A complete bargain and one of the best meals of my life!
We then declared a food coma so went for a lay down and recharge at the hotel. We seem to be doing ok so far with the altitude but are keen to take it easy. We’re drinking lots of water, eating bananas and keeping food light in the evening, all as suggested by our local guide and tour manager. We are immensely grateful to be in their good hands as it takes the stress (and I was quite worried about altitude sickness) of the situation off our shoulders.
After a recharge and a little bit of time on our hotel roof enjoying the views (although the pool was too cold to get in) we headed out for an evening explore.
We had a drink whilst watching the sunset on a rooftop bar, went for a Peru Gin and tonic, and found a restaurant to enjoy the local dish of rocoto replenish- stuffed peppers served with potato cake. Our final evening was spent having an early night and a rest! We’ve got some full on days and early starts coming up- plus we’re still recovering from a busy half term of work!
We’ve really enjoyed Arequipa- it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited.
But tomorrow we’re climbing even higher into the highlands and we’ve a sneaky feeling the scenery is going to absolutely blow our minds!
Just when we thought we’d seen everything in Arequipa look what we got treated to as we ate our breakfast!