Nazca was the real turning point for me in terms of cities in Peru. After that things only got better and better. I consider Arequipa to be one of my favourite cities of Peru. The fact that a sight as beautiful as the Santa Catalina Monastery can be found here plays a big part in that.
Santa Catalina Monastery
The Santa Catalina Monastery is hard to miss. It’s located in the city centre of Arequipa.
It’s a cloistered convent surrounded by tall walls to keep people from looking in. The convent covers an area of over 20,000 square meters. Within you’ll find a colourful city equipped with parks, streets (even street names!), houses, fountains, laundry areas, churches (of course), a cemetery and more.
This religious building was constructed in 1579. The person who founded the monastery was a rich widow, Maria de Guzman. According to tradition at the time, the second daughter (or son) of a family would enter a life of service in the church. This particular monastery only accepted women from the upper classes of Spanish families. Each family had to pay a dowry for their daughter’s admission. You can see some of the treasures the monastery has collected in one of the rooms near the gift shop.
At its height, the monastery housed approximately 450 people in a cloistered community. Currently, there are approximately 20 nuns living in the northern corner of the complex, you can’t enter these parts of the monastery.
The walls are constructed from sillar, a white volcanic rock also used in the rest of the city. Even though it’s a perfect canvas for the colourful paint, it’s also easy to destroy. Two big earthquakes have hit the monastery, which demolished big parts of it. You can still see the damage when you visit.
How to visit?
You can enter the monastery from the southeast corner. First you have to pay an entrance fee of 40 Sol (approximately 10 euro). You can leave it at that and explore the monastery by yourself. However, I opted for a tour from one of the ladies sitting by the entrance. This sets you back another 20 Sol (approximately 5 euro), but I think it’s well worth it. It’s a private tour, so it was tailored to her story and my questions. She also gave me plenty of freedom to stop and take many photos of the beautiful buildings, courtyards, and walls.
Without further ado, let’s start with the photo diary part of the post because this sight is guaranteed to tire out your camera and I snapped quite a few photos.
Website: Santa Catalina Monastery
Entrance fee: 40 Sol (excl. optional 20 Sol private tour)
Opening times: The museum is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm; it’s open longer on Tuesday & Wednesday to 7 pm.