Ice Cream with a view: Exploring Yanahuara, Peru

Yanahuara is quiet neighborhood a short walk from the historic district in Arequipa. Up the gentle hill and under the arch is a special square that feels so far from the city. Try your luck at catching a glimpse of El Misti, but remember you can learn a lot from a name.

The view is stunning regardless of the cloud cover. Stroll further to admire the ornate architecture of the church.

The biggest draw for me was a chance to taste queso helado, or, cheese ice cream. Funny thing about it is, sometimes a name can completely mislead you! There is no cheese in this ice cream, I can assure you because I watched the lady make it!

It doesn’t taste cheesy either, just perfectly refreshing, bursting with vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.

By the time we were finished with our ice cream, we were treated to the clouds lifting off the summit.

A peek at the snowy peak of El Misti. If you are looking for a great meal before you head up or after coming down from the square, there is a fantastic Picatneria sitting right at the base of the hill.

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Eat at a Picanteria, Arequipa Peru

Lunch at a picanteria is a true Arequipan tradition. They’re only open during the day and have a set menu including a daily soup and an entrée. Picantería La Dorita sits at the base of the hill on your way to the Yanahuara neighborhood, stop in for a bite.

Unassuming on the outside, filled with life within. A relaxed atmosphere and delicious food draws locals and few tourists in the know alike.

There are no English menus here, so hope your Spanish is up to par, feel adventurous, or whip out Google Translates. Start with a glass of chicha and kernels, you can never have enough corn derivatives.

There were two soups to choose from and an array of entrees, Jeff picked the soup and picked the entrée – there was plenty enough food for splitting. The soup was filled with huge hunks of soft yucca and stewed meat. It was very satisfying. The entrée was a pastel de papa, a different kind of potato cake that was exquisite! A crispy top with so many creamy layers, savory, yet a hint of something sweet maybe nutmeg, and a spicy green sauce to pull it all together.

This would have been the place to get cuy (guinea pig) if I could have pushed myself to do so, but even without it my meal was memorable and delicious enough!

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Mercado San Camilo, Arequipa Peru

Wander from the historic center of Arequipa for a bit of daily local life. Behind the bright blue walls is a two level market with endless rows, seemingly bigger on the inside!

The metallic smell of blood from a freshly butchered carcass, a slippery red stained floor. Bowls of chicken heads, feet, strings of intestines. I’ve been to many markets around the world, but the Mercado San Camilo is definitely one I’ll never forget – a real merry-go-round for the senses.

You can get anything you need here and a lot of things you don’t. There is a really wide selection of fruit with some nice exotic choices.

A colorful selection of potatoes (remember Peru has thousands of variations!),

Gorgeous cheese,

And some of the best olives you’ve ever eaten.

For a quick tasty snack be sure to grab papas rellenas (fried stuffed potatoes) from the vendor outside.

Go forth and gobble up the fine food and culture of Peru.

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Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa Peru

A photographers dream. A city within a city. A slice of history. Santa Catalina Monastery is another world you would never know exists, hiding in plain sight beside the bustling streets of Arequipa. The ticket price was so steep I almost passed it up, but we had the time and I’m glad I splurged. The strange fact of this place is that it felt like a resort rather than a nunnery, the history sheds light on the truth. The monastery was built in 1579 and at this time only noble women from Spanish families were accepted. They had to pay a dowry of 2,400 silver coins and would bring their comforts of home. They got to live in a world of burnt orange, bright blue, creamy white, flower filled, ornate seclusion.

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Very different from what things are like today, but an interesting contrast to see. History aside, the place is simply gorgeous and wonderful to get lost in. It’s huge with maze like streets all named after different Spanish cities. Be sure to find stairs and walk up to get a glimpse of El Misti the rooftops of Arequipa.

There are still a handful of nuns that live within the walls today in an area not open to the public.

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Juanita the Inca Ice Maiden, Arequipa Peru

A young girl who made an epic journey, her story was frozen in time until a volcanic explosion uncovered her naturally mummified body 500 years later. Juanita is the one history lesson you must learn while in Arequipa. The story unfolds at the Museo Santuarios Andinos, it is told though video, artifacts, a tour (excellent and in English), and finally the unveiling of the ice maiden herself.

There are no pictures allowed inside the museum, but this made me pay attention more so I almost appreciate it. So who is this girl? A beautiful child hand picked at birth in Cusco to please the gods of Mount Ampato around the year 1440. An honor for her parents, but what did Juanita feel? She would be treated like a god until it was time for her to be offered to them, when she was approximately 12-15 years of age.

Then it was time to leave Cusco and make the voyage, over 150 miles long through the jungle and desert, up a 20,000+ mountain – in her finest clothes. The sandals are preserved, her feet were ruined from the tremendously difficult hike. I think to my own experience mountain hiking, pained feet from stomping on stone – even with the best hiking boots. I could weep for the child, though perhaps she thought it to be a privilege. One thing her remains cannot tell is what she was thinking.

She was accompanied by priests who carried heavy jugs of beer, coca leaves, and offerings, some died along the way. I don’t know if I can stress how demanding climbing up this mountain is, people even with the best modern gear have not made it to the summit over 20,000 ft. After her grueling climb she was given coca leaves and beer, she sat on a blanket. A priest bludgeoned her to death with the crack of a bat like object to the back of her head.

Fast forward to 1995, a nearby volcano Sabancaya erupted and caused the snowcapped Ampato to melt. American anthropologist Johan Reinhard made the strenuous hike up and discovered Juanita and multiple other children who were sacrificed. Thirteen mummies were discovered in total. Juanita was so well preserved her fine Cusco textile clothing was still in tact, her skin, hair, perfect teeth, even the meal of vegetables in her stomach, lend a magnified eye into the past.

Photo Credit: Google Images

After learning her story finally seeing tiny Juanita in the flesh was heartbreaking and amazing at the same time. There she was, a story suspended in time, her sacrifice part of the history of Peru.

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History and Architecture of Arequipa, Peru

High in the desert filled with mountains sits Arequipa, different from any other city in Peru. It’s name comes from the indigenous people who inhabited the land before the Spanish conquest. Ari means peak and Quipa means behind, this is the city that lies behind El Misti – a massive 19,000+ ft volcano where six Inca mummies were uncovered (more on that later, wait for the post labeled: Juanita). The area was destroyed by an earthquake and resettled by the Spanish in 1540, which is where the modern story begins. Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, dubbed the white city due to its colonial buildings made of ashlar – light volcanic colored rock. Colonial homes from the 17th century still exist, originally they would be one story high and one to two meters thick to resist earthquake damage.

As you walk around the city the old buildings are numerous and charming.

A fine place to start exploring the architecture and history is the Plaza de Armas Arequipa.

Its main draw is the stunning Arequipa Cathedral, but the fountain, trees, and gardens are a playground for birds. Watch out for hummingbirds! And people watching is great here too, a big mix of locals and tourists. Explore every corning of this gorgeous space.

Bordering the square is another radiant building and possibly my favorite, Iglesia de la Compañía – Church of the Company.

Finding architectural treasures like these buildings isn’t hard around the city, it’s part of the pleasure of simply strolling around – and a reason that the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just looking at hybridized culture – the European structure with the indigenous influence is incredible.

Another space to visit is the Santa Catalina Monastery – a true city within a city that requires a whole other post. On a more contemporary note, though still retro, I loved the number of old Volkswagen bugs in the city.So many layers of time and culture in one space, Arequipa is one of a kind.

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Visiting Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa is a stunning colonial city, the second most populous in Peru, and it is surrounded by towering volcanoes. It is the jump off point to visit the Colca Canyon, said to be the deepest in the world. I knew I wanted to see the city, but I was nervous to take another flight. Not scared of flying even a tiny bit, just of losing valuable time in the country if I was to get delayed or the flight canceled. However, I went for it and everything worked out JUST fine! The flight was on time and the ride was gorgeous.

So why visit Arequipa? Here are some of the highlights of my trip to the city and surrounding areas:

+Enjoy the history and architecture of a colonial Spanish city

+Check out the really interesting museums including the mystery of the frozen mummy Juanita and the colorful Santa Catalina Monastery

+Get up close and personal with Alpaca at Mundo Alpaca, a great place to stock up on local quality products

+Grab a bite at the authentic Mercado San Camilo

+Eat local at a traditional Picanteria

+Visit the neighborhood of Yanahuara for queso de helago (ice cream!) and a view of El Misti

+Visit the natural wonder that is the Colca Canyon and see the Andean condor!More detailed accounts to come over the following weeks, stay tuned!

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