Arequipa: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Last updated: December 21, 2020

During a travel in Peru, you will end up passing through Arequipa, the second city of the country, far behind Lima. Its suburbs were inflated by the rural exodus from the Altiplano. The historical center dating back to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1540 keeps its grid of streets easily walkable. This is where the points of interest and most of the hotels are concentrated.

01. Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is a theater where the cathedral would be the decor. People come here to meet and stroll with friends or family, barely bothered by the myriad of non-insistent vendors. Three sides are flanked by regular arcades on two levels, the traffic gives way to pedestrians under the watchful eye of the police. It’s nice to sit on a bench and people watch.

02. Cathedral

It occupies a whole side of the Plaza de Armas. The position of its towers is misleading, it is not its frontage that it shows, it is its lateral side, so the portal opens to the middle of the nave. It has been destroyed or damaged several times by earthquakes, the most recent in 2001, and always reconstructed. It is built in sillar, a local white volcanic stone.

03. Convent of Santa Catalina

Probably the most intriguing place in Arequipa, the convent covers a large area of two hectares enclosed by high walls. Founded in 1579, it welcomed high society women who retired there with their servants. Up to 450 nuns lived in small houses grouped in streets. Several cloisters, painting galleries, and parlors can be quietly visited (more).

04. Jesuit Church

Modest in size, the church shows from the outside a massive appearance dictated by the risk of earthquakes. The portal façade, on the other hand, is richly carved in the locally developed naive genre. The interior is more finely decorated, especially the altarpiece of the choir, a Baroque extravaganza, entirely engraved and covered with gold leaf.

05. Jesuit Cloisters

Through the door next to the church, a group of two cloisters and a courtyard crossing the entire block are accessed, serving as a passageway for the locals. Originally it was a college, now converted into stores, many selling alpaca objects. The pillars are massive, covered with a carved decoration in the first cloister also adorned with a fountain.

06. Monastery of Santa Teresa

A sort of posterior and more modest replica of Santa Catalina, less visitors too. At the entrance, the revolving niche for bringing objects without personal contact stands out. A cloister transformed into a garden is passed through, and then there is an alleyway lined with rustic cells. Some nuns still live in a separate building and sell their handicrafts.

07. Museo Santuarios Andinos

Installed in an old aristocratic house, the museum is best known for housing the mummy Juanita, unfortunately not always visible. The frozen body of the girl was discovered in 1995 on a glacier. She would have been sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s following the Inca ritual. Other ancient vestiges are also presented, without arousing as much excitement.

08. Casa del Moral

The historic center keeps several mansions, often occupied by financial or cultural institutions. They are recognizable by their heavily carved pediments. The Casa del Moral is the last fully furnished mansion to represent the life of the wealthy class. The 18th century house belonged to a line of mayors of the city.

09. Church of San Francisco

Located at the end of the eponymous street, the San Francisco church offers a beautiful classical facade. One of the oldest religious complexes in Arequipa, a convent extends the church. The massive architecture has withstood the earthquakes, although there are cracks that worry about the future. The decoration is simpler than elsewhere, silver replaces gold.

10. UNSA Cultural Center

The cultural center occupies an former mansion in front of the cathedral and near the university to which it belongs. It consists of a series of courtyards lined with rooms offering temporary exhibitions. A rather heterogeneous set but where everyone should find something. At least it is possible to take a rest in the shade of the palm trees.

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