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Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Monasterio de Santa Catalina Review
A city unto itself, this 5-acre complex of mud-brick, Iberian-style buildings surrounded by vibrant fortress-like walls and separated by neat, open plazas and colorful gardens, is a working convent and one of Peru's most famed cultural treasures. Founded in 1579 and closed to the public for the first 400 years, Santa Catalina was an exclusive retreat for the daughters of Arequipa's wealthiest colonial patrons. Visitors can catch a peek at life in this historic monastery. Narrow streets run past the Courtyard of Silence, where teenage nuns lived during their first year, and the Cloister of Oranges, where nuns decorated their rooms with lace sheets, silk curtains, and antique furnishings. Though about 400 nuns once lived here, fewer than 30 do today. Admission includes a one-hour guided tour (tip S/10-S/20) in English. Afterward, head to the cafeteria for the nuns' famous torta de naranja (orange cake), pastries, and tea. There are night tours on Tuesday and Thursday, but check the times before you go, as they sometimes change.
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