The white rock treasure hunt (Arequipa)

Where do all these white silica stone come from? The treasure hunt is on…

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Arequipa is is the capital and largest city of the Arequipa Region and the seat of the Constitutional Court of Peru. It is Peru’s second most populous city with 861,145 inhabitants. In 1821 when Peru declared its independence, it was divided into 11 departments, that in 1980 turned into 24 regions plus the Callao Province (All of the other Peruvian provinces had been given their names by law, while Callao was given it by constitutional mandate. Callao was never part of the Lima Department nor of any other departments). But first we had to get from Huacachina to Arequipa.

The Tuk-Tuk traffic as we drove through Ica wlEmoticon-redheart The white rock treasure hunt (Arequipa)

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We were back on the Pan-American highway heading south

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After Nazca the Pan-American highway (1S) turns towards the coast. From Puerto de Lomas to Camaná we enjoyed the crazy landscape and the twisting road for 320 km. Just after Camaná the 1S splits into two, last year on the motorcycles we stayed on the coast, but today we turned left inland towards Arequipa.

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Welcome to Arequipa – it was late when we arrived, and it got dark while we were in the city traffic

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After sitting in the van the whole day, we went for at walk in Arequipa – the “Plaza de Armas is so beautiful

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Slept in the van in the backyard of a cheap hotel – not the best place to sleep. We could use the bathroom in one of the rooms, but it was located on the 3. floor. The next day we made our own city tour in Arequipa, and we could leave the van at the hotel without paying any extra money = free and safe parking.

1. The Eiffel designed bridge – or was it?

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2. The Eiffel designed San Camilo Market – or was it?

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3. Teatro Municipal de Arequipa with chairs designed by Eiffel – or was it?

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What is really the story behind all the metal structures, and where they designed and built by Eiffel? We decided to look for an answer. The locals here call it the iron bridge, they proudly point to the bridge, as the work of Gustave Eiffel, the 19th-century French engineer who built the Eiffel Tower and designed the iron skeleton inside the Statue of Liberty in New York. EXCEPT THAT IT IS NOT. Neither are a great many other bridges and buildings around Peru and the rest of South America that are popularly attributed to the famous Frenchman. A professor of architecture in Arequipa says “Anything made of metal in South America, people say it is by Eiffel”. So many people here in Arequipa believes, that the San Camilo Market is made by Eiffel, but the market was actually built in the 20th century by a local company, years after Eiffel had left his engineering firm. The bridge are older, but they were put up by the American entrepreneur Henry Meiggs, who built the Southern Railway, among other projects in Peru.

Eiffel did sent a representative in 1871 to South America, by he died two years later in 1873. It is known that Eiffel was chosen for at least two projects in the southern Peru, a church in Tacna, and a customs house and pier in Arica, that today is a part of Chile. In general research have raised questions about Eiffel’s supposed connection to a number of other structures in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela and other countries (Source: We also looked into the Teatro Municipal de Arequipa, and found out, that it is also called Teatro Fenix, the employee at the theater told us, that the metal part of the chairs had been design by Eiffel, but we have not found any evidence, that it is true. Back to our city tour…

4. Plaza de Armas where all the building are built in white silica stones

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5. Iglesia de Yanahuara ( San Juan Bautista)

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Dating back to 1750, Iglesia de Yanahuara ( San Juan Bautista) represents an old silica stone church, which is famous for its stone façade. The ornate church was built in a distinct Andean Baroque style, that uses South American decor patterns on European-type buildings. Arequipa is also known for artisanal ice cream called “Queso Helado”, which is an old Spanish cuisine form the 18th century. Its elaboration with milk gave it an appearance similar to cheeses, and this is the reason why it got the name “queso helado”, but there is no cheese in it. We just had to try it, and got it served with cinnamon on top. We highly recommend the “queso helado”. The church is located in the Yanahuara neighborhood, where you can enjoying your ice creme at the Yanahuara Plaza or at the Yanahuara viewpoint.

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6. Yanahuara viewpoint

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As we walked the streets of Arequipa, we first started notice, that a lot of buildings were built by silica stones, and then we started wondering, where all the silica stones were coming from. It was time to find the source of the silica stones.

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After asking at the tourist information we quickly found out, that we had to locate “the Silica Route”. It was easier said than done, since tourists usually go with a tour agency, there were pretty much no signs anywhere. We did find it after asking and driving around in the area for all most 2 hours. Now you can find it on

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La Ruta del Sillar (The Sillar Route) is a project started by the Centro de Investigación de Educación y Desarrollo (CIED) to increase tourism in the area and spread knowledge about the history of sillar in Arequipa, giving the opportunity for visitors to the region to see Sillar produced at its source.

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One of the workers showed us, how he forms the sillar (a type of volcanic rock) into perfect rectangular blocks. Each block weighing 48 kilos. One man can make about 20 sillar block per day, and get paid 5-6 soles per block. It is a heavy job, and the workers are exposed to the sun all day long during the dry season.

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Arequipa was our last stop here in Peru. The next day we were on our way back to Chile

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Stopped for the night in Tacna, Peru. Our plan was to visit the train museum, but it was closed indefinitely due to renovation

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Instead we went for a walk in town, and tried to spend the last soles (the local currency in Peru), that we had left. Tried the “pastel de choclo” which is delicious, and after that we went for sushi. The sushi was amazing, so fresh and with flavors we didn’t had before. Love sushi.

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It was time to drive across the border from Peru in Chile, everything went well and fast at the border. After a little bit of shopping in Arica, we were driving towards San Pedro de Atacama, but it would take a lot longer to get there than we have planned? So what happened… check out the next post.

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