miércoles, 14 de febrero de 2018

Meeting the White City of Arequipa

Located in one of the most privileged places in Peru is the second important city of the country, Arequipa, called the White City because it is almost entirely built in a kind of white volcanic stone called 'sillar'.

Arequipa is the capital of the homonymous district, has approximately one million inhabitants and is located at 2328 meters above sea level (masl), so it is considered the perfect intermediate point between the Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, and Cusco.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa
Photo Edgar Asencios
In addition, is the perfect place wich combine cultural tourism, trekking through the world's deepest canyons: Cotahuasi and Colca Canyon, enjoy the nearby beaches, coves and nearby Volcano Valley.

But without a doubt it is also the perfect place for -after doing all the activities in its nearby valleys- taste the delicious local gastronomy or enjoying the leisure time in its varied venues before sleeping in one of its hotels.

There are a couple of theories about the etymological origin of the name Arequipa; the first one refers to the arrival of the fourth Inca Mayta Capac and his entourage to the place, when the emperor observed the grandeur of the place said: 'ari qhipay' which translates as 'yes, stay'.

The other version affirms that the word would come from the Aymara language "ari", which means summit, and "quipa", to put behind, in clear allusion to the space it occupies on the slopes of the Misti volcano.

The city was founded on August 15,1540 under the name "Villa Hermosa de Nuestra Señora de la Asunta", although a year later King Carlos V of Spain ordered that it be called "Ciudad de Arequipa". Since then the citizens has been known for his loyalty to the Spanish Crown, receiving the titles of "Muy Noble”, "Muy Leal" and "Fidelísima" ("Very Noble” and Very Loyal" and "Most Loyal").

Arequipa's regionalism is known throughout Peru, so much so that its inhabitants still boast of a Diplomatic Passport that had legal value in the war with Chile, but can be acquired today as a souvenir for tourists.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

The historic centre of Arequipa was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. In its 332 hectares it has buildings where the colonial and republican religious architecture stands out, with indigenous particularities, representatives of the so-called Arequipeña School, whose influence reached the Bolivian city of Potosí.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

In addition to being a starting point for a large number of outdoor activities, the White City has a large number of tourist attractions.

Cathedral of Arequipa and Museum

In the Plaza de Armas we will find one of the first and main religious sites of Arequipa, the Cathedral, which was built in white ashlar and has a beautiful neoclassical style.

This enclosure has suffered several catastrophes since its original construction in 1656, suffering a fire in 1844, and two earthquakes: the first in 1868 and a more recent one in 2001, which collapsed one of its towers. However, after several reconstructions, it retains its original appearance.

The interior is sober, spacious and luminous, being one of the 100 basilicas in the world with the right to display the Vatican flag. The altar and the 12 columns - symbolic references to the 12 apostles - are made of Italian marble; their Byzantine-style lamp comes from Spain; the pulpit was carved in Lille and brought from France; and its impressive 15-meter-high organ (the largest in South America) arrived in 1870 from Belgium. SCHEDULE: free entry. Mon-Sat 07.00 to 10.00 hours and 17.00 to 19.00 hours. Museum: Mon-Sat 10.00 to 16.20 hours. www.museocatedralarequipa.org.pe/

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

Monastery of Santa Catalina

This enigmatic and fascinating monastery is almost a walled fortress of 20 thousand km², with recesses, passageways, religious art, cloisters, which infuse a halo of mystery into the enclosure. Founded in 1580 by María de Guzmán, who selected the cloistered nuns from the richest Spanish families and charged a considerable dowry for their internment.

For your visit you can go on your own or pay for an experienced guide for about S/40. The best way to do this, if we go on our own, is to begin by crossing the archway of the patio El Silencio, called in this way because after crossing it, the novices had to accept a rigorous vow of silence; later on, they had to reach the cloister of Los Naranjos, in reference to the orange trees of the courtyard next door, which represent renewal and eternal life.

From there we will go to the Deep Room, a burning chapel where you can see portraits of the deceased nuns. Leaving the cloister you reach Córdova Street, surrounded by the rooms of the nuns and, after going down Toledo Street you reach the café and laundry.

After Burgos Street you can get to Plaza Zocodober (Arabic 'barter'), so called because in that space the religious exchanged soap, crafts or other food. On the left hand side we observe Sister Anne's cell, which died in 1686 and was known for her predictions and for supposed miracles she performed in life.

The Major cloister is flanked by the chapel and the art gallery, which in the past served as a collective bedroom. Nowadays, most of the spaces we have mentioned for events and parties can be rented, while the approximately 30 nuns who continue their life dedicated to contemplation live in the most secluded area of the enclosure. SCHELUDE: Mon-dom 9.00 to 17.00; Mar-mie 9.00 to
20.00. General entrance S/ 40. Foreign students S/. 20. www.santacatalina.org.pe/

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

Santury Museum

Just half a block from the Plaza de Armas, is located this museum wich is known for exhibiting the famous mummy Juanita, called the "ice princess" by having been found in the snow-capped Ampato (6310 masl) in 1995, by the hand of mountaineer and Arequipa teacher Miguel Zárate.

The body of this Inca girl between 12 and 14 years old was given in sacrifice to this mountain more than 500 years ago to prevent the snowfall erupted or caused some kind of detachment. In the museum you can see other mummies of children dedicated to apus (or gods of the mountains), because since the middle of the last century more than twenty such sacrifices have been discovered in the Andes.

Juanita's mummy is not on display from January to April. The tours last one hour in exchange for a tip to the local guides. SCHEDULE: Mon-Sat 9.00 to 18.00 hours. Sun 0900 to 1500 hours. General Entrance S/ 20.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

Church and Company complex

In the southeast corner of the Plaza de Armas is one of the oldest churches in Arequipa. Built by the Jesuits, stand out by its beautifully ornamented frontage and the churrigueresque altar, entirely covered with gold leaf.

Next to the altar is the chapel of Saint Ignatius, with murals representing a jungle with various warrior and divine figures. In its interior we will also find more than 60 canvasses of the Cusqueña School, with artists such as Bernardo Bitti and Diego de la Puente. SCHEDULE: Free admission (except chapel); Mon-Sun 9:10 to 13.00 and 15:10 to 18.00 hours. Sat 11.30 to 13.00 and 15.10 to 18.00 hrs, Sun 9.10 to 13.00 hrs.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

Recoleta Monastery

Not far from the Plaza de Armas, crossing the Chili river, you will find this Franciscan monastery founded in 1648 and rebuilt over the centuries. Its library contains around 20,000 copies, among which stands out a real jewel of 1494 . It also has a collection of objects from the Amazon -such as stuffed animals- or other pre-Columbian gadgets and from the Cusco School. SCHEDULE: Free entry. Leave tip to the guides. Mon-Sat 9.00 to 12.00 and 15.00 to 17.00. Fri-Fri 9.00 to 12.00 and 15.00 to 20.00 hours.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

Church and Convent of Santo Domingo

The lateral doorway of this church dates back to 1634, ending 33 years later and giving rise to the Arequipa mestizo style. It is made up of a body and an eardrum, showing to the sides simple pilasters and borders. The entrance is formed by a semicircular arch decorated with rosettes and cherubs.

Major cloister dates from 1734 and the Cristo Crucificado of the Major Altar is one of the most beautiful images of its interior, which remained intact after the earthquake of August 13,1896 that left the church destroyed. SCHEDULE: Free admission. Mon-Fri 7.00 to 10.30 and 18.00 to 20.00 hours. Sat 0700 to 0800 and 1800 to 2000 hours. Sun 6 am to 1 pm.

What to see in Arequipa, Arequipa White City, Main Sights Arequipa

In order not to extend too much with this post we will name some other minor buildings that you can visit if you have time to stroll around the historic center of Arequipa.

Among the colonial houses built in ashlar we can mention Casa del Moral, which currently belongs to the Banco de Crédito del Perú (BCP) and dates from 1730 or the House of Tristan del Pozo, built in 1738 and has served as a school, episcopal palace or private residence. Today it also belongs to a bank and has a beautiful fountain with jaguar heads in its inner courtyard.

In addition, it is worth mentioning the Iriberry manor house, a colonial construction from the 18th century that is currently the headquarters of the San Agustin National University, or the Mansion of the Founder, whose name comes from Garci Manuel de Carbajal, founder of Arequipa, which conserves paintings and original objects of the time.

Ways out of Arequipa

If we want to continue the trip to Lima or Cusco, Rodríguez Ballón International Airport (about 8 km from the city) has daily flights. There are also flights to Arica, Chile with Sky Airline.

There are buses that leave from the land terminals of Andrés Avelino Cáceres Avenue (about 3 Km from the Historic Center) to Lima with Cruz del Sur and Ormeño companies, which offer afternoon departures and make stops in several destinations on the South Coast: Camaná (3 h); Nazca and Ica (10-12 h); and Pisco. Almost all the companies also make night trips to Cusco by S/50 to S/135, depending on the comfort and offers.

In order to get to Lake Titicaca there are several buses that leave every half hour to Juliaca and Puno for about S/ 50 (6 hours). Several of these vehicles follow the route to Desaguadero, on the border with Bolivia. Direct services are also offered to Bolivia, although it is necessary to wait for the opening of the border post.

For international journeys there are weekly buses from Terrapuerto terminal to Santiago de Chile (2.5 days), and Buenos Aires (3 days) with the company Ormeño.

In next post we will go out to stroll around the outskirts of Arequipa and we will meet some attractions like the Mirador de Yanahura, the caves of Sumbay or the famous Misti Volcano.

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
February 2018

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