OYOP: Arequipa, Peru
We spent two days in Arequipa, Peru. As some of you know, most of our actual travel costs are minimized because we are using airline miles for all of our flights. Because of this, we have been able to eliminate travel time and costs by flying within South America. To get to Arequipa, we took a flight from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco then from Cusco to Arequipa. We will soon be initiated into the traveler’s world of long bus rides since there are not flights available everywhere and not all flights have miles booking availability, but so far, this is how we have traveled the longer distances to see different parts of Peru.
Upon arriving in Arequipa, we were once again in a completely different climate. In two days, we went from hot and incredibly humid in the Amzon jungle then through Cusco, where the altitude is high and it was very cold and rainy, then to Arequipa, where it is sunny, warm, and dry. We hear the climate here in Arequipa is pretty nice year-round.
The view from Arequipa is snow-capped mountains and three volcanoes in the distance. It is surrounded by a desert-like climate, and you can tell by the subtle sandiness of the air that even can cover the views in the distance and look like a fog. It is the second biggest city in Peru, and since we skipped visiting the capital of Lima with about 10 million people living there, it is the biggest city we have visited in Peru.
Arequipa is beautiful, modern, and clean. The streets and sidewalks are wide, and the streets are more grid-like and easier to get around than in Cusco, where you are more likely to be walking up or down steps, or crouching on tiny sidewalks down narrow alleyways as cars rush by and honk if people are walking through. Many of the buildings are made of white sillar stone that has a very European feel, since they were built by the Spanish.
We spent the first day in Arequipa, the Saturday after Christmas, just walking around the city. We saw hundreds of people out enjoying the weather in the main Plaza de Armas, or shopping, or enjoying their soft serve ice cream. Seriously, I have never seen so many people with ice cream. But at 1.50 soles per cone (less than 50 cents in US dollars), it’s easy to see why it is popular, and we definitely joined in the fun. We also tried the popular queso helado, another type of ice cream that tastes like vanilla bean and is served with cinnamon on top.
We have seen very few travelers here compared to the other places we have visited so far, but I expect when we go the few hours ride to Colca Canyon, that will be where all of the tourists are.
We visited the market here, with rows of vendors selling fruits and vegetables, cheese, meat, and textiles. We also took a walk around the cathedral, which has free tourist entry here.
We visited our first museum in Peru as well here. We don’t typically visit museums, but I was very interested in this one, the Museo Santuarios Andios, a museum about the “Ice Maiden of the Andes”, or Juanita, a 12-13 year old girl who was sacrificed at the top of a mountain by the Inkans. The Inkans sacrificed young children to the gods to try to make appease them in return for a prosperous agricultural season. The children were chosen based on beauty, intelligence, and purity, and their families were thought to be given a straight path to heaven if their child was chosen to be sacrificed.
Juanita was found frozen after 500 years of being on top of the mountain. You can still see the skin on her face and arms, although discolored, and her remains are in very good condition. You can still see the colorful blankets she is lying on and the woven clothing she was wrapped in. It was all very interesting to see and learn about. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed, so Juanita’s image will just have to stay etched in my brain instead of shared here.
We spent time here also planning our trip to Colca Canyon, a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon! We will have our first 6 hour bus ride to get there. We will spend a few days there and probably another day or two after in Arequipa.