After an amazing stay at Nasca
, I had an overnight journey of 10 hrs to Arequipa city. This town was mainly in my itinerary as this was the city from where all the tours to the Colca Canyon started. Hence I had decided to spend two days exploring the city and exploring the various tour agencies to decided what would be the best option to go with.
I arrived at Arequipa early morning around 7.30 am and took a cab till my hostel. By now I knew that it was best to take a taxi from outside the bus terminal, as the fare was way cheaper that way.The hostel I had booked(based on my reliable sources online) was Bothy Hostel.I arrived at around 8 am and in a while was checked into my dorm. The hostel was on the quieter side and not many guests were currently staying, thus I got the whole dorm to myself. This was a boon which I realized once I returned from my Colca Canyon trek, as peace and quiet and rest was all that I needed at that point.
After freshening up a bit, I decided to go for a walk around the city and explore whatever I could. Plus I had heard about these two must visit places- Monastery of Santa Catalina and the Juanita Museum
which I had decided to cover. First stop was the Monastery as it was right next to my hostel. The entry ticket was 40 soles, which though was expensive but after having completed the tour, I say it was totally worth it. The monastery is built over a huge area and is a little city in itself. Years back a rich lady decided to donate all her money to have this area built up for women who wanted to sacrifice all the pleasures of life and live a simple, quiet life serving God. Over the years many nuns have spent their lives here and the monastery shows the cells where they stayed which depicted the simple life they led.There was also a prayer room, visitors room,a dining room where all had their meals together etc. This monastery still has a dozen odd nuns who stay in it, but their living space is separate and during the visit of the monastery one will not be able to see or meet any nuns(well that is the point of seclusion right.Duhh.
There is an option of taking a guided tour by paying 20 soles or you can explore the place yourself as well,since the map they provide with the entrance ticket is quite exhaustive and detailed.Plus each room has a placard in different language, explaining the significance of the room. I spent close to 2 hours in this amazing place and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Next stop was the Juanita museum. This museum is famous because this is where the frozen mummy of Juanita is kept. Juanita is the name given by the archaeologists to the body of a young Inca girl found in a well preserved state(because it was frozen in ice for all these years
). It is believed that Juanita was sacrificed to the gods in return of being blessed with rain.
There are different theories of why and how she was sacrificed but this one is the most famous.When the body was found thousands of years later, it was in almost perfect shape with even the skin intact. This body was in a foetal position and was carefully transported all the way to Cusco where numerous tests were run on the body. It was a mystery to the archaeologists as this was the best preserved body found till date in the whole world.Juanita travels to different cities but for most part of the year is in this museum of Arequipa.
The entry ticket was 20 soles and there was a guide who showed you around and in the end you could pay the guide whatever you felt like. First part of the tour included them showing us a movie about the discovery of Juanita for about 20 minutes, after which the guide took us around to show the various artefacts found during the many years of excavation. The best part was to see Juanita’s well preserved body in a glass case(the case was actually a gift from Japan
I then decided to have an early dinner and go to bed early as I still was tired after the previous nights bus journey.
Next morning I rose early and had my breakfast at the beautiful terrace of my hostel. The terrace had a wonderful view of the snow caped volcanoes and it was nice, bright and sunny.Made calls back home and spent almost an hour just lounging around on the terrace. After that I went to buy my tour ticket for the trek for tomorrow after having made up my mind on which agency I would go with.
After having bought the ticket, I rushed to find Plaza San Francisco
as that’s where the Free Walking Tour
(the same company with which I had done a city tour of Lima
) was to start at 12 pm.I spotted the green T shirt as soon as I walked to the park of the plaza and waited for 10
minutes before the group got together.There were 5 of us and the guide Carlos.One was a British couple(who were die hard cricket fans and happened to have watched a lot of matches in India
) and the other couple were doctors from North America.
Carlos was a great orator and took us around the small, hidden lanes of Arequipa and explained to us in great detail, the culture of Arequipa.We visited popular streets, churches, went to the point from where all three volcanoes could be seen at the same time, tasted yummy potato dishes at a popular restaurant called Hatunpa etc.
One of the best part of the walking tour as our visit to the Mundo Alpaca.We got to see so many cute, big eyed Alpaca’s and Llama and took like a zillion pictures of them.
Our last stop for the evening was at the Chocolate a factory called Chaqchao. As they say, keep the best for the last.Carlos explained how the chocolate was manufactured from ‘Cacao’ and made us taste few pieces as well as we had the Choco tea.
The tour ended with Carlos asking us a question about naming two of the three volcanoes in Arequipa.As usual, your truly answered correctly and won a free cup of hot chocolate.Oh my god, it was unbelievably good.In the cold,having a hot chocolate with whipped cream and Choco chips is like heaven.Could not have asked for more.
With that came the end of my time in Arequipa. The tour agency was going to come pick me up from my hostel early morning at 3.30 am
and hence I slept early to get few hours of sleep.
Arequipa is the perfect little town with a great mix of history, culture and ethnicity. Loved every moment I spent in this town and will always connect Arequipa with great memories.
That’s all for now. Keep reading for my exciting and my very adventurous trip to the Colca Canyon.