Subduction Causes Orogeny or the Volcanoes of Arequipa. The first title is more of an attention grabber isn’t it? Now get your mind out of the gutter because this isn’t that type of blog. Orogeny is simply mountain building that’s caused by subduction. And that’s something that happens at a very high rate on the western side of South America where the Nazca Plate dives under the South America Plate. It’s the reason for the many active volcanoes and very large earthquakes.
Arequipa lies in the shadow of three volcanoes, El Misti (active), Chachani (dormant), and Pichu Pichu (extinct). Andean legend says when the earth was created that Chachani, a women, loved El Misti and chose to live with him. Pichu Pichu also loved Chachani and cried a lot when Chachani chose El Misti which accounts for the lagoons at the top of Pichu Pichu.
Legends aside, Arequipa, a city of a million people, precariously sits in a beautiful and dangerous location – squarely in the path of ancient lava and ash flows. Many of its building are built from sillar, a white volcanic stone, which turns a spectacular rosy pink in the evening sun. Evening in the city’s main square is a must see.
Like many main squares in South America, a fountain is in the center and a large cathedral borders it. One of the major activities in Arequipa’s main square is feeding the pigeons. Don’t bother with the restaurants on the square. There are better options a few blocks away. We highly recommend Zig Zag Restaurant a few blocks away from the square.
Raeski and I did a lot of walking while in Arequipa. Some of the streets are quite beautiful and don’t be afraid to walk the streets at night. Arequipa is fairly safe. Be sure to take something warm to wear after the sun goes down. Arequipa’s elevation is 7,300 feet (2,225 meters) and the temperatures drop rapidly at that altitude.
There are many lovely photogenic architectural elements in the city. The monastery (see post) is a photographer’s dream. Arequipa is a photo-op waiting to happen at seemingly every street you venture down.
Dominating the central square is the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa. Like all churches built in this era it’s the largest building in the city. Regardless of your thoughts about religions, these old churches are worth a look inside. Artwork, arches and stained glass await those who enter.
While many forego the trip to Arequipa when visiting Peru, we’re glad we didn’t. Otherwise Wooly wouldn’t have captured this butterfly shot.