Peru: Arequipa – Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena

A must-see place in Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Monastery in the heart of the old city. This 20,000 sq meter walled and gated compound is truly a city within a city, a real citadel. It was founded in 1580 by a rich widow, dona Maria de Guzman, as a convent for very rich nuns – to be admired here a would-be nun had to pay 2500 silver coins (or around $175,000 in today’s money). At its height, about a 100 nuns lived here with over 300 servants taking care of them. The monastery is quite photogenic with all the pastel blue and red colors, long corridors and archways, rooms fool of weird religious stuff and just a glimpse into the life of nuns, still a functioning convent. It’s actually a UNESCO Site.