People love Arequipa. Everyone tells us how great it is, so we decided to check it out ourselves. The town is known for a few things in particular: food, architecture, frozen mummies. Not a bad combination.
The city looks noticeably different from everywhere else we’ve been in Peru, but the looming volcanoes in the distance reminds us we’re still in the Andes. Most of buildings in the city center are made from white volcanic rock from the nearby Volcan Ampato, which makes the town feel very clean. Mix this with cafes serving rich desserts, giant monasteries, colonial churches, and plazas teeming with pigeons and you get something that feels like you’re in Europe.
The majority of the population are direct descendants of Spaniards and their intent is to be different from the rest of Peru. Never mind that they have even attempted to secede from the nation.
Besides just wandering around and enjoying the ambiance, we also went to see Juanita. She’s the teenage girl that was sacrificed to the volcano 500 years ago and discovered completely intact in 1996. The museum didn’t allow photos, but rest assured the end of the tour puts you face to face with a mummy in a glass freezer.
Arequipa also seems to be where we’ve definitively hit the Euro-overlander route. When we pulled up to the Hostel Mercedes (a well-known pit stop right in the middle of town for campers) we ran into some familiar faces, and some new ones too.
It took us a few hours to figure it out, but we ran into this same French couple back in San José Costa Rica. We’ve been driving south at roughly the same pace, and have managed to run into each other once again almost a year later.
We also met a French family doing the southern loop. They shipped their T5 VW from France to Buenos Aires, drove south to Ushuia, then up through Chile to here and then they will loop back to B.A. to ship their car home. A well-trodden one-year plan that seems oddly common among some of the travelers we meet.
At this rate, we may end up trying to learn French as well as Spanish.