Santa Catalina 106 - Arequipa, Peru
We had used this company for our tour at the arequipa colca canyon tour 2 days 1 night.
The tour guide was responsible, humorous & knowledgeable.
The Peruvian traditional dance performance with dinner they arranged was fun & at decent price. Buffets arranged by them were good too.
We had the tour arranged thru our hostel at 60 soles per person not including meals & the entrance tickets. You may get a better price if you go directly to the agency since everything in Peru seems to be negotiable.
Favorite thing: Many of the hotels and hostels in Arequipa are located in beautiful old buildings made of white volcanic rock, and many have beautiful views of the volcano. These hotels & hostels are really charming, and it's really worth choosing one of these over a typical "modern" building, even if it has internet access and laundry on the spot.. Oh, and just because it's in a old building it doesn't mean it's more expensive. Some are rock-bottom cheap.
Favorite thing: For me, the highlights of Arequipa are the Spanish colonial architecture in the city center, the Santa Catalina Monastery and the fact that it is a good base for visiting the Colca Canyon. The white sillar stone used all over the city gives it an airy, light feel in the hot sun and high altitudes. The monastery is a little slice of peace and serenity and a photographer's delight with it's quirky little corners and quarters and quiet little courtyards. The Colca Canyon which is only a few hours away, is supposedly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA and makes for a great one or two day trip from Arequipa.
Okay first and foremost, no drug is benign and you should always consult your doctor to see whether you can take a med or not, but for me Diamox helped me tremendously on my trip in Peru. Diamox (aka acetazolamide) is a drug that physicians use mainly for patients with increased pressure in their brains or as a diuretic. In terms of altitude, it works to help your body acclimatize to the altitude quicker than normal. Often times people who come from an area at or below sea level who visit Peru suffer from headaches because of the change in altitude. You can even possibly get altitude sickness.
The dose that I used and what is recommended by the International Society for Mountain Medicine is 250mg every 12 hours starting 24 hours before an ascent and you stop it by the 2nd or 3rd day at your highest ascent. Diamox does not prevent altitude sickness! If you have any of the symptoms of altitude sickness like extreme headache not relieved with tylenol or motrin, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, or a change in your mental status, then definitely get some oxygen and descend as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, Diamox did have some unpleasant side effects. Because it is a diuretic, you urinate often and with my already small bladder, this completely sucked. Also if you are allergic to sulfa meds you can't take it. Also, you can get a pins and needles feeling in your feet and your fingers which was so annoying for my husband that he had to stop taking it. All of these side effects go away once you stop the med. There were reports of some having a change in their vision while taking the med. If this happens to you, stop the med immediately!
The International Society of Mountain Medicine has an awesome website with info about Diamox and altitude sickness. Here is a link Altitude Sickness
Favorite thing: If you have plans to go to the Colca Valley or Sacred Valley, Arequipa is a great place to get acclimated to the altiutude. With an altitude of 2400 meters, Arequipa is a pretty good base from which to start your upwards travels, especially if you're flying into Lima and planning on going to Cuzco as a Lima-Cuzco flight can be a recipe for altitude sickness.
Arequipa is known as “the white city” since many of their ancient buildings and street walls are made with ashlar (“sillar” in Spanish), a white volcanic rock that seemed to be more resistant than other materials of the time like adobe (a mix of sand and clay with water). The best examples of ashlar architecture can be found at the belvedere in Yanahuara.
Fondest memory: Looking beautiful Arequipa from the belvedere with my ex colleagues. It is a bittersweet memory, though, since this was my last trip for the research center I was working for.
The most particular thing about Arequipa is that it is surrended by three volcanos: the Misti (the most impressive one, with 5,822 meters above sea level), the Chachani (6,075 m.a.s.l.) and the Pichu Pichu (5,664 m.a.s.l).
The presence of this volcanoes have been determining for the life of Arequipa. Their white lavastone, named ashlar (or "sillar" in Spanish) have been used for building houses, churches and others since S. XVII, and most of them still exist.
Furthermore, the water from the interior of some of these volcanoes are used for thermal baths with curative properties (e.g., the thermal baths of Yura, at the foot of Chachani).
And, last but not least, the previous volcanic activity of this volcanoes changed the life of the city while producing most of the toughest earthquakes that Arequipa has suffered throughout history. Now, the Chachani and Pichu Pichu are off, and the Misti is through some slow activity
Fondest memory: Observing the "smokes" of the Misti Volcano during my whole stay.
If you are in Arequipa, take some time to watch the countryside ("la campiña" in Spanish) from the Sachaca belvedere. You can also visit the little towns of Yura (with termal baths at the foot of the Chachani volcano) and Sabandía (with a windmill from the XVIII century), located in this area.
All tours include a visit to this towns or a trip to the countryside, but if not going with a tour, please take a taxi and ask the cab to take you there (the ride is cheap).
Fondest memory: Getting running so fast at the top of Sachaca belvedere, one of the highest points in Arequipa.... and inmediately having to admire the campiña ON MY KNEES because I suddenly got became height-ill! My head was spinning so badly that I had to wait about half an hour to get down! That's why the pics are a little moved, he he :)
Moral: don't go fast in such high places :)
I went to Arequipa in a business trip and I had just one day to make tourism, that's why I missed so many places like:
- Santa Catalina Convent, which is a symbol of Arequipa. It was founded in 1579, but it was not till 1970 that it was open to public. Admired for its paintings, and interior design that remain intact from the XVI century.
- Church of La Merced (in the corner of La Merced and Tristan streets, in downtown, with a baroque architectonic style)
- Church of La Recoleta: built in 1648, it houses a huge library and a nature museum that contains the pieces and discoveries of Franciscan missionaries in the jungle, during the XVI-XVIII century period.
- Outside Arequipa: Colca and Cotahuasi canyons to do some kayaking and other outdoor activities, as well as Petrogliphs of Toro Muerto (volcanic stone with representations of animals and plants, near Colca).
Fondest memory: Indeed, there was a frozen yellow concoction at the end of her spoon so we quickly ordered two and dug our tongues into one of the tastiest frozen deserts I have ever had. It was even better than the one at the restaurant that now seemed a hybrid of the drink we had earlier in the day and this near ice cream one we now enjoyed. It seemed the one we had earlier was more of a beverage as leche is milk in Spanish. The more solid one was oddly named queso after cheese, perhaps, as it was solid though there was no discernible cheese flavor! It was a great feeling to unravel this mystery finally and I was determined to have it again before I left town the next day. As is always the case, things never go as planned. I never got back to this place until nightfall and it was already closed. I couldn’t find it anywhere and was so disappointed. I woke up early the next day and we went on a wild goose chase looking for the object of my desire only to find none of them open. I guess it was a bit early and not many Arequipos are looking for a frozen desert for breakfast! Doreen noticed a fancy confectioner just off the main square was open for breakfast. Though I normally disdain such touristy operations and I doubted they would have it, Doreen persevered and said it was our last chance. She asked and the waiter said yes, though with a sheepish grin meant that no one ever asked for it that early in the day. The copper bowl wasn’t in operation yet, but he pulled some of the frozen gold left over from the previous day from his freezer. It took him a while to dig out two dishes of it. It wasn’t as creamy as the fresh one from the day before, but it was still great, and I relished the chance to have it one more time. I thanked Doreen a million times on our way to the airport. The best part was I had created a monster. She wanted it almost as badly as I did and had turned out to be an even better “food hunter” than me.
. The waiter returned and said the chef would do something quickly for us. We made our orders and were dismayed when the waiter returned and said we needed to pick something simpler. We did so quickly without argue, as it was late and happy to get anything at this point. The meal was superb and very big so really good value. The service was the best I have ever had in South America too. The waiter, perhaps feeling bad for out not getting our first choice, brought out a free desert at the end, explaining it was a real local treat and leftover from the wedding reception earlier. It was an odd looking frozen concoction, with a milky yellow custard type liquid over thin sheets of ice and was absolutely delicious. We were upset with ourselves for not paying closer attention when he told us what it was, as we were determined to have it again before we left.
We returned a few days later from a three-day trip to the nearby Colca Canyon, still with that delectable desert on our minds. We walked around town taking photos and Doreen suddenly saw a sign that said, “leche helado,” and said she thought that was it. Of course, we went in and ordered one to find out. We sampled a few other local specialties as we waited for what seemed like ever for our mystery item to come out. We were a bit perplexed when the yellow liquid arrived in a glass, sans ice. It was the same flavor but not frozen. We left half satisfied and as we did, I noticed a huge copper wok-like bowl at the front of the small eatery, but thought little of it. That is until later that same afternoon when, in another part of the city, I saw a young Peruvian girl stirring madly with a large wooden spoon in the exact type of metal bowl. I grabbed Doreen's hand and quickly brought her over to investigate and soon saw the sign that said, “queso helado.” (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
The architecture of Arequipa is among the finest in South America and a walk down any street will provide great rewards but the Santa Catalina Convent will take a full afternoon to explore.
Fondest memory: One of the great joys of travel for me is trying the different foods of that culture. When I look back on all the trips I have done, I am surprised that often what I remember best is a particular meal I have had or some fruit or street snack I came across. But it’s not just the food I remember; it’s the experience surrounding it. Peru offered a variety of foods and Arequipa a particularly interesting city in this regard with many items not offered elsewhere in the country. Another great thing about food for me is it brings me to parts of a city I might otherwise not see. I had read about a restaurant on the outskirts of Arequipa and one fine afternoon decided to walk to this nearby village to watch the sunset. They had a mirador or viewpoint from which you could see the impressive volcanoes that provide a dramatic backdrop to the already stunning city of Arequipa. We arrived in perfect time to not only see this but the charming square of this suburb resplendent with absolutely massive palm trees and a 500-year-old church. It was so magnificent we nearly forgot the reason for coming in the first place: the food. We quickly made our way to the restaurant and I was a bit disappointed to find a big fancy building. We had been to so many great little local places and that was what we expected, but went in just the same, as we were hungry. The food was supposed to be excellent and we had come so far, it would be silly to not splurge a little. It was nearly empty and appeared a wedding reception or birthday had just come to an end. We asked if it was still open and the waiter said to come in and he would see if the chef would prepare something. It was a beautiful place and we had the whole place to ourselves so we sat and looked over the extensive menu. It was a little expensive by Peruvian standards but really not too bad. They had a lot of specialties of the region that I had been looking for so it seemed a great choice of places to eat. (more below in Fondest Memory)
I´m not absolutely sure which peaks we can see here, but there are several around the city. These snowcoverde ones could be "El Misti", "Chachani" and "Pichu Pichu". There are near the Canyon colca some more to see as the Mount Corupuna (6425 m high) and Peru´s second highest mountain, the Ampato with 6310 m altitude. Here at this peak in 1995 "Juanita" was discovered, the sacrificied Inca maiden.
Fondest memory: It´s such an outstanding view from Arequipa up the snowcovered mountains.
I´ve been 1997 in Arequipa last time. After the big earthquake in June 2001 a lot of buildings in Arequipa wher destroyed, fortuantely the colonial style buildings in oldtown survived few damaged, that´s what me told a peruvian friend. This old town of the second largest city in Peru is very beautiful, a lot of buildings are made out of a volcanic white stone named "sillar". This gives the city a very special look and is the reason for the name: "la ciudad blanca" (white city). Very beautiful and so worth to visit in Arequipa are the cathedral, the convent St. Catalina, the amazing plaza de armas and much more.
Fondest memory: From Arequipa you have to go to the cañon colca to see the Condors flying!!!!!!!!
Within Santa Catalina, the rustle of the long habits of the nuns seems to be impregnated into the walls. The alleys that run through the monastery -a city within a city- reveal its past, trapped between the sillar stone blocks and colonial oil paintings, between the high vaults and granite plazas. Located in the center of Arequipa, Santa Catalina is the pride of its townspeople, covering an area of more than 29,426 square meters. It is a masterpiece of colonial architecture, and houses some of the finest examples of Spanish American religious art.
Founded in 1580 under the rule of Viceroy Toledo, the Private Monastery of Nuns of the Order of Santa Catalina of Sena was opened to the world nearly 400 years later, in 1970. Since then, visitors have been able to stroll through the streets and cloisters that during colonial times were the refuge of female nobility who had decided to shut themselves away from the world and dedicate themselves entirely to prayer. Possibly because of their aristocratic background and the wealth of their families, the convent was decorated with valuable works painted by the Quito and Cuzco Schools, including many others signed by grand masters from Italy and Spain, while special attention was paid to the finishings of the buildings.
The main square, whose gates still preserve the magic of their fine finishings and images carved from wood, features a fountain brought from Spain and crafted entirely from granite. The ochre and blue colors of its streets and patios -named after Spanish cities- are decorated with bright flowers such as scarlet geraniums.
Today, it takes around an hour to tour Santa Catalina, an hour to discover centuries of tradition.