I’m not usually someone who’s interested in monasteries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no philistine; I don’t mind strolling around a church or cathedral for ten minutes admiring the architecture. I don’t get all dewy-eyed at the model crucifix, but I can still appreciate the skill and effort (and hard labour) it takes to conceive and build such a structure.
South America has loads of churches. Some of them are awe-inspiring like the one in Cusco, which has a great painting of the last supper with a roast guinea pig in the centre of the table. Others are bare brick buildings that have probably been pillaged of all their valuable objects over time. Most are relics of the colonial days when the Spanish and Portuguese came and forced their religion on the indigenous people, so there is usually some kind of torrid history.
In Arequipa, there is a monastery with a very interesting history called Santa Catalina. It takes up a whole block in the centre of the city, and, until the 70s, was completely sealed from the outside world. The nuns inside lived without electricity and running water, in basic stone rooms, making their own bread, drinking rainwater, and generally living like it was the medieval times. It’s now open to the public, and it’s a weird place to walk around. Here’s some pictures:
We stayed: Marlon’s House
We paid: 70 Soles for a double room with cable TV and private bathroom. It was a nice place, but the hot water wasn’t very hot. You can ask at reception for them to turn it up though. Also, prepare to have fun trying to open the front door.