Category Archives: Arequipa & Colca Canyon

For the love of mountains

Ever thought of just going to the mountains and avoiding the cities? It’s something we rarely do but the mountains allow us a place where we can connect with nature, disconnect from craziness of the city, put our phones down and enjoy.

The new edition of the travel magazine we put together is all about the mountains. In Peru, the Andes are the biggest ones, with summits that can reach some 6-7000m above sea level.

The pages allow you to enjoy images and information about hiking up volcanoes, hiking to Machu Picchu, trail running, climbing and much more.

Enjoy the full edition here and let me know what you think or if you have questions!


Top 3 dining restaurants in Arequipa

Arequipa, also known as the white city, is located at 2300m above sea level. The center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the city is surrounded by the Chachani, Misti, and Pichu Pichu volcanoes.

After a few times in the city of Arequipa, here are my top 3 dining restaurants in Arequipa. Treat yourself for a little fancy night out at these spots:

Chicha. Another restaurant by the infamous chef Gaston Acurio in Arequipa. The creative pisco drinks are delicious and very well presented. The menu is different from the other Chicha restaurants in Cusco and Lima. The specialty that you will only find at this restaurant is the pig elbow with potatoes and a baked apple.

Zig Zag. A menu that blends gastronomy from the Alps with Andean flavours. A nice choice of wine, various tapas (including cheeses from Europe and the Andes), and original plates. For example, share the asparagus with cheese and lemon or the taboule with quinoa, mango and avocado with a nice bottle of wine.

Sol de Mayo. Located near the yanahuara lookout point, this typical “picantería” from the city of Arequipa. Typical foods include: chupe de camarones (A big shrimp soup), cuy chancado (fried guinea pig), and anything else with shrimp from the Chili river.

The Santa Catalina Monastery

Quick info:

– The Monastery is easy to find: it is located at the heart of Arequipa

– The entrance costs 40 Soles. The money goes to the nuns who still live inside

– It costs about 20 soles for a guide (various languages available English, German, Portuguese, etc.)

– You may visit the Monastery on your own, or pay a guide(separate fee).

– Pay the extra money to get a guide to explain the history and show you around (you may choose not to)

For more information:

The Santa Catalina Monastery was founded by Maria de Guzman, a rich widow, some 40 years after the arrival of the Spanish in 1579. Since its beginning, it is a monastery for women who serve as nuns and they would never come out. Traditionally, the second daughter or son of a Spanish family had to dedicate themselves to religion. The women could start entering the monastery as young as 12 years of age, by obligation. During the first four years, they lived almost in complete isolation, as they were trained to dedicate their time to religion. They had a small room and could only bring 25 objects with them (including clothes). After four years, they could decide to stay or choose to leave, the latter would normally mean a big shame on their family.

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After the reform of 1871, the nuns lived more of a communal life. This way of life was difficult for some of the nuns to accept, after living alone in isolation and dedicating their time to work and oration. The nuns were obliged to cook and eat together, as well as sleep in beds in a big room. They made bread, jam and sweets (that they would sell) and could go outside the monastery walls on certain occasions.

The monastery ofSanta Catalinais the most important architectural construction in the city ofArequipa, and was left barely destroyed even after 14 earth quakes, the last one occurring in 2001. It was open to the public only in 1970, after its restoration from the earthquakes of 1958 and 1960. This transformed the city ofArequipaofficially turning it into an international tourist center and attraction. To this day, you can only see maybe 30% of the 20 000 square meter construction. Inside, it is almost like a city, the nuns would have houses with the size depending on how much money their families have, with furniture, art, streets, plazas and even one or more servants! To this day, there are about 25 nuns living there, the youngest being 23 years old.

Usually the women that entered at a young age never really had the time to fall in love. Our guide told us a story about this one girl who entered the monastery at 16 years old after being heartbroken when her lover married a richer woman. She stayed several years, dedicated to religion, but eventually she started planning her escape. With the help from her servant and her friend who was a guard at the door, she actually succeeded. The guard and the servant sneaked in a dead body in order to fake her death. They say that eventually she came back to the monastery claiming some money she said they owed her or something and no one believe it was her, alive, because they had found a body when she supposedly died.


Colca Canyon 3-day trek

So Clare (Aussie friend) and I headed off on a tour to the Colca Canyon.

Day 1:
We got picked up at about 3h30am because we had a 3h drive before arriving to our first destination for breakfast. We stopped in this little place where we had cheese, olives, bread and tea. Then, we went to the condor lookout. This lookout is in the National Park and it is the best place in the country to see the condors. They are also protected by the park and there are now more than 100 condors in the area. Condors also do not have more than one baby per year, and after that the parents and the baby never separate for 4 years. The “king of the mountain”, lives in a habitat at 3000m of altitude, and can reach 60-70 years old. One fact that Pablo, our guide, told us, which is really crazy, is that condors die by suicide! When they reach the age, they fly high up and free fall into the ground or into something. The condors we saw were flying right over our heads; they came so close it was really impressive! They put up quite a show that’s for sure. Afterwards we got dropped off and started our walk. After about 3-4hs, we arrived in a little place called San Juan de Chuccho for lunch, as well as to spend the night.

Day 2:
After our pancakes (ahahaha lucky us!) we headed off and walked through some of the small communities. Many of them have maybe 15-20 families living there because most of the kids go to secondary school in the city, others have left to find work, and so there are not many people left. Along the way we were shown various plants as well. The adobe plant, which looks like a very big aloe plant, is used in Mexicoto make tequila. Here however, they use it to make cord, or baskets because it is really strong. Another plant he showed us is used to make lipstick and blush. Although we saw one clinic in one of the little towns, the people believe and use plants more than anything to heel any kind of problem.

We also tried the corn drink they have here called chicha, which is like a corn beer, it is fermented and mixed with some spices. The one we had was only in its juice form. I didn’t really like it.

After about 2h-3hs, we arrived in an oasis! The canyon here has the colca river that crosses it, and so there is a little “paradise” of an oasis with flowers, palm trees, houses, swimming pools etc (for tourists now, but before it was where they grew fruits). The vegetation that grows in the canyon because of the river is one of the main differences with the Gran Canyon, USA. As well, there are communities that live here, which in the latter there are none. We spent the afternoon and the night at the oasis and all went to bed early. The next day was going to be the harder one.

Day 3:
We got up at 4 in the morning to hike up the canyon. So far, the hiking had been pretty easy, with not too many uphill parts, or just short ones. This was, according to our guide, a solid 3h-3h30 uphill hike. We left this early to avoid the sun, and also because the rest of the day was going to be spent in other  places. So, I put myself the objective of getting up there under 3hs, which I did in 1h55mins! I was really happy. Half way up I met a couple of locals and chatted with them a bit. The man points to me we are going out there, which was where we had stayed the first night. So I asked him, what time will you get there at, he asked me the time, it was6am. And he says to me around8am. WHHHAAATTT! Then I asked him how much time it was to the top from where we were. He says to me, for us, 30 minutes. So I was thinking okay maybe it will take me 45mins-1h or something. As I am going up, I realize it is the steepest part of the trek so far and just kept thinking to myself: what beasts they go up this in 30 minutes! It took me 5o. ahahhaa.

We ended up having breakfast, we did not go to the thermal baths because we were running late and most of us did not wan

t to. Then we went to the highest point, at about 4900m to see the volcanoes. Along the way we saw many vicunas, alpacas and lamas. The vicuna is the most expensive material, it is what you make cashmere with. The alpaca is also a very good and expensive material that is very common here. The lama wool is the cheapest and not the best but it still keeps you warm! Once over 3000m, this is the main economical income for the farmers.

The agriculture here consists mainly of things like barley, wheat, quinoa (3 different varieties), corn (12 different varieties) and potatoes (30 different varieties!!!!)

After lunch, it was time to head back to Arequipa, back to my rowdy hostel full of gringos and partiers, which means the sleep after all this was horrible. Ahaha. Oh well. That’s dorms for you!