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April 1st, 2013 

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Arequipa, Peru



 Steeped in history, a glittering contrast of white stone buildings and verdant countryside, to visit Arequipa, Peru is to take a step back into the past with all of the comforts of today. Arequipa is a city of contrasts with an average daily temperature in the low 20s (Centigrade) and snow capped mountains surrounding it; an average monthly rainfall of only eight millimeters and the Colca River running through the canyon only hours away; modern universities and mummified remains. In short, Arequipa has something to offer everyone.

 Beneath the history, that can be seen throughout The White City lies an even more intriguing prehistory. Archeologists have uncovered evidence indicating that various tribes, some predating even the Incans who also occupied this land, called this fertile valley home as early as 8000 BC. The Incans used the land in and around Arequipa as their agricultural site, sending the food grown in the region throughout the Incan Empire, and had developed a system of roads and trails spanning Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Conquered by the Spanish in 1540, Arequipa received the official designation of “city” and the coat of arms that it still uses today by the King of Spain in 1541.

 Soaring buildings – homes, churches, palaces, and monuments – are built and intricately carved of brilliantly white stone (ashlar), the by-product of living in the shadow of the Chachani volcano, one of the three volcanoes that surround the area. Though Arequipa obtained its independence from Spain in the early 1800s, evidence of the Spanish culture is clearly visible in her culture and architecture.

 The Santa Catalina Monastery, much like Vatican City in Rome, is a city within The White City. Constructed merely forty years after Arequipa was founded, and expanded upon over the centuries, the Monastery now covers about 20,000 square meters, and once housed as many as 450 nuns and their servants. Still an active convent, the Santa Catalina Monastery houses an impressive art gallery depicting the evolution of Peruvian Catholicism. The Claustro de los Naranjos (three crosses nestled in an orange grove), El Patio Del Silencio (where nuns read their scriptures and pray in silence) and la Plaza Zocodover (where nuns could trade their hand-made goods) all exude the piety and simplicity of this order.


 The Andean Sanctuary Museum of the Catholic University of Santa Maria houses the Dama De Ampato (Lady of Ampato). Named Juanita, this is the best-preserved prehistoric mummy in the world. Juanita was discovered by researchers atop the Ampato volcano in 1995, along with ceramics, gold, silver, and other treasures thought to be gifts for the god of the volcano.

 The Misti Volcano, the only active volcano of the three in the Arequipa region, presents a challenge to mountain climbers and hikers alike. Soaring nearly 6000 meters above The White City, its snow capped peaks mirror the beautiful, white ashlar buildings. Its lush, green sides provide visual contrast. Its majesty provides perspective, knowing that this massive formation has seen Arequipa through all of its incarnations.

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