Hundreds of years ago a group of Incan warriors on an expedition passed through a fertile valley with a mild climate at the base of the Volcano El Misti. When the subjugated indigenous group traveling with them requested permission to remain in the valley, the head Inca Mayta Capac said, ¨Ari qhipay¨ meaning, ¨Yes, stay.¨ From this phrase originates the name of Arequipa, the white city, and if it weren’t for all of the big plans we have in Peru, we may have wanted to stay as well. Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and is primarily constructed out of white volcanic stone.
After an early morning arrival, we jumped right into the action with a walking tour of all the beautiful sites in Arequipa. We visited the Church of the Company, where we saw beautiful artwork and architecture constructed from Spanish gold, and learned about the interweaving of Indigenous religious symbolism with traditional Catholic symbolism. After walking through the main plaza, we made our way to the cathedral and eventually the gorgeous Santa Catalina Monastery. At the Santa Catalina Monastery we learned about the lifestyle of nuns in this enormous monastery since the time of its construction in 1580. We admired beautiful artwork, architecture, and actual bedrooms from nuns hundreds of years ago. It was kind of surprising for everyone, but the monastery turned out to be one of our favorite places that we`ve experienced. That evening we dined on some comfort food by eating Mexican at a restaurant in the city`s historic district, and after dinner an impromptu sing-along to a Katy Perry song took place.
The next day we made our way by bus to El Yanque. It was a long bus tour during which our guide Luisa pointed out wild Vicuñas, Alpacas, and Llamas from the window of our bus. We stopped at a few beautiful lookout points as we worked our way through the snow capped peaks of the Andes. We also got our first taste of the altitude as we climbed to heights upwards of 15,000 feet. Thankfully, local teas and candies kept us all healthy and comfortable while traveling through such altitudes. After we arrived at the luxurious Killa Wasi hotel, we all got our first taste of Alpaca medallions at dinner. Cameron and Connor, dove right in and never looked back and even Chloe who was originally apprehensive about the idea, ended up enjoying it. That evening we relaxed in hot springs and looked forward to our early morning at the Colca Canyon.