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Arequipa and the Ice Princess

Posted by on May 21, 2012

We arrived in Arequipa around 6pm and headed to our camping hotel. I too was confused by that term but as I found out, it is quite common for hotels in a city to lend out their back garden for campers and tour groups like ours. This meant a well maintained garden with good ablution blocks. We were also a mere five minute walk from the central Plaza de Armas which was a major plus. Having chatted to Alvaro our tour leader, it was obvious that there was not all that much to do around here. Essentially, we were waiting for people to return from the Colca Canyon excursion which I opted out of doing as having seen the Grand Canyon I figured this wouldn’t be more special. The main motivation for most people going was to see the Condor but I saw plenty of them in Torres del Paine. Lets get to the main attraction here. The Arequipa Inca ice princess.

Juanita the Ice Princess

Juanita the Ice Princess

After our five minute city walk with Alvaro pointing out the areas of interest, it was quite obvious that we should check out the main attraction in Arequipa. The Inca ice princess museum. The entrance was 20 soles which included a 30 minute video presentation and 30 minute guide around the museum by an English speaking guide. The tips for the guide were not included. Before I get onto the actual museum tour, a basic Inca history lesson. Many people and historians say that the Incas never performed human sacrifices and that only the brutal Aztecs or Mayans did that. False. Human sacrifice was definitely not as common as with the other civilizations but if “the gods” got angry enough, the Incas would try to appease said gods with a human sacrifice. This is exactly what happened with the ice princess. El Misti is an active volcano and by erupting at some point, the Incas took this as a sign that Apachamama or the god of the earth was angry with them and they needed to appease her with a human sacrifice. Now that we know this, the rest of the museum tour will make more sense.

So we started off with a 30 minute video which consisted of following an archaeologist around the excavation of various graves on Pichu Pichu which is to the right of El Misti. The volume was too loud for their speakers to it crackled a bit but otherwise it was fine. Three graves were found on Pichu Pichu but only the ice Princess was at the summit which signifies great importance. The video contained good re-enactments of what it believed the Incas would have done for the ritual. Considering they were sacrificing a pure child from nobility (the ice princess was 14 years old), they made the process as humane as possible by ensuring the child was thoroughly drunk and drugged before clobbering her on the head and splitting her skull. Anyway, after the video ended, we were lead into the rest of the museum by an English guided.

The rest of the museum was rather boring. We could hardly see anything as the lights were so dull and dim to “protect” the artifacts. Some clay pots, metal figurines and cloth  was on offer. All we really wanted to see was the Ice Princess but obviously our tour guide dragged out the tour to show us she deserved her tips (we would have tipped regardless). Finally, into the Ice Princess room and there was was chilling out (literally) in a box. Set at -20 degrees Celsius, she was protected by three different boxes. One to prevent bullets, one for keeping in the cold and one for something else. She was very well preserved considering she is over 400 years old. Skin, nails, hair and muscles all in tacked. All thats damaged is her face which has been bleached by the sun after she fell out of her ice tomb and ended up in the sun for two weeks before being found by some explorers. Anyway, I’m sure you get the idea from the featured image to this blog post.

And that is that. Arequipa is rather boring for a tourist considering it is the second biggest city in Peru. From here, we off for one nights camping on the beach before arriving in Nasca which is famous for the Nasca Lines. So for now, adios.

2 Responses to Arequipa and the Ice Princess

  1. Estelle

    eeww One scary looking Princess!


    “Maybe it was because they took the princess of ice off the mountain,” said Paulino. Here, in a land where faith and the earth go together like seeds and the soil, or souls and the grave, no one messes with those the mountains have claimed as their own.

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