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SANTA CATALINA CONVENT

This immense monastery -one of the largest and most beautiful in Peru- is a true journey into the past. Edified in 1579 to shelter a reduced group of cloistered nuns coming from the local elite, it continued adding housing for its wealthy residents to its imposing structure, according to the nun’s whim. It functioned as a claustral monastery until 1970. Its narrow and colorful streets and plazas remind visitors of Spanish towns, and because of this are named after cities such as Burgos, Seville and Toledo. Its interior temple preserves diverse and valuable paintings belonging to the Cuzco School. You mustn’t miss visiting this site.

AREQUIPA CUISINE

Arequipa is capital of the prawn, crustaceans worthy of being served to a king, which are abundant in the rivers of the southern coast. Culinary in Arequipa has its origin and present in proverbial picanterias; popular restaurants located in the city’s traditional neighborhoods. Gastronomy is so important in the daily life of its inhabitants that for some, the Misti’s crater should be used as a giant burner to cook the tastiest recipes. Arequipa’s cuisine has so many terms that we would require a complete dictionary to explain them all. Among the most notable dishes you’ll find stuffed peppers (rocoto relleno), pork stew (adobo), prawn chowder (chupe de camarones) and fried ribs (malaya frita). The dessert known as queso helado, made from frozen milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and coconut, also stands out. Ideally, local dishes should be accompanied by an aniseed liquor called anis Najar.

COLCA CANYON

Colca is a land of wonders. Here, the majesty of the surrounding nature is inextricably connected to the hand of man. It’s a territory of smoking volcanoes, condors and vicugnas, where the ancestral culture of its millenary inhabitants-the Cabana and the Collagua-flourishes in every square inch. A true paradise for adventure and nature lovers, waiting to be discovered by those who dare to ascend the southern Andes and enter into Colca’s domain.

The famous Colca Canyon, one of the most profound in the world, possesses an average depth of 3,400 meters (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon). Perhaps the greatest attraction of this area, named by Nobel-winning writer Mario Vargas Llosa as the “Valley of Wonders”, is the spectacular system of agricultural terraces or andenes developed by the Collagua and Cabana in the enormous mountains. This system combines the beauty of the landscape and the utility of giant and efficient cultivation fields, based on geometry, architecture and hydraulic engineering.

Other attractions in the Colca Valley, and certainly not less impressive, are its unique villages (14 in total). They have maintained their original appearance for almost four hundred years, when they were first designed by Francisco Pizarro himself; conqueror of Peru. Their production levels were so high, that at one point these villages managed to concentrate an important part of the region’s economy, depending mainly on agriculture and the exploitation of the silver mines. Living testimonies of the economic peak reached during the Spanish occupation of the valley are the magnificent churches, generally pertaining to the Mestizo-Baroque style, and edified between the XVII and XVIII century. Many of them are exquisite examples of the art produced during this time period.

The Colca is also the best place in the world to observe the majestic Andean Condor, a species emblematic to this geographic area. It’s here in the valley and its deep canyon where this immense scavenger bird finds the ideal conditions to develop fully.

The Colca has always been a magnet for adventurers and nature lovers. In 1934 the prestigious National Geographic Magazine published an extensive article called “The Lost Valley of the Incas”. Thus, Colca began to occupy a privileged spot among the most coveted destinations for explorers. It wasn’t until the beginning of the seventies that the valley opened its doors to tourism. In 1981 a group of Polish canoeists managed to navigate the mighty Colca River for the first time, making this area famous and turning the river into a Mecca for fanatics of white water rafting.

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