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Arequipa. A shining white city in southern Peru with a history shaped by earthquakes and volcanoes. When looking back at my travels in South America I will always remember this place as one of the highlights of my trip. With its its beautiful architecture, desert-like climate and laid-back atmosphere, Arequipa had a vibe unlike any other place I visited in Peru. Indeed, strolling through its old town while enjoying the views over its three guarding volcanoes Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chachani was for me an activity that easily rivalled the more classic tourist destinations in Peru. 

The thing that made Arequipa so special for me was above all its architecture. Its breathtaking appearance, which has earned its historic centre status as an UNESCO world heritage site, can be understood as the result of its unique geographical location in a seismic zone as well as a mix of European and indigenous building styles. This is evident in many of its historic buildings such as the Santa Catalina Monastery, the Basilica Cathedral, the Santo Domingo and La Merced churches, which are all built from a special type of volcanic rock, sillar, extracted from nearby quarries in the outskirts of the modern city. I was very fascinated by discovering this, and even more excited to hear that the tourist agencies offered tours to these quarries. Upon hearing this I therefore booked the so-called Ruta de Sillar tour leaving the subsequent day.


The typical Ruta de Sillar tour is a 3-4 hours trip, where you visit two different quarries in the Cerro Colorado district of Arequipa: The Añashuyaco and Culebrillas quarry. In my case, I was picked up at 2pm at my hostel and after half an hour’s drive we reached the Añashuyaco quarry in the city’s outskirts. The quarry was a fascinating place where you had the chance to witness the sillar extraction process first-hand as well as enjoy a range of different sculptures and works chiselled in sillar. My favourite piece of work was a large, roman-style entrance carved in the mountainside, which gave me flashbacks to my visits to Petra in Jordan. 


After an hour at the Añashuyaco quarry we made our way to to the Culebrillas quarry, which unlike the former has not been excavated. Here we got the chance to visit an impressive untouched ravine of sillar whose walls are covered with petroglyphs dating back to the Wari civilization from the 6th-10th century. What a place! Walking through the narrow, otherworldly path winding through the interior of the ravine was a really cool experience that rivals my visits to larger and more touristed canyons such as the Colca Canyon.



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