Juanita Mummy Arequipa: The Incan Ice Maiden

Juanita Mummy Arequipa: The Incan Ice Maiden, Aracari Travel

The Juanita mummy is a must while exploring Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city. A statement that has rung true for decades but one that has recently become more widely known, as Juniata was thrust back into the public eye in October of last year when archaeologists revealed a model showing what Peru’s most famous mummy would have looked like.

At the end of 2023, team Aracari visited the Juanita mummy. The experience was so impactful, that it made it onto our list of ten of the best places to see in South America for 2024. But as the site becomes ever more popular how do you get a visit to the Andean Sanctuaries Museum (where Juanita is displayed), just right?

Arequipa: Home of the Juanita Mummy

Juanita Mummy Arequipa: The Incan Ice Maiden, Aracari Travel

Since Aracari’s inception in 1996, the city of Arequipa in southern Peru has held a special place in our hearts. Found in the shadow of the mighty Mista volcano – Arequipa is dubbed “the white city” because of its iconic cityscape. Many of the colonial-style buildings here are made from sillar, a kind of chalky volcanic stone – a unique aesthetic that formed part of the case for Arequipa to become a World Heritage City, a status awarded by UNESCO in 2000. There’s also a budding foodie scene, fantastic bars – and of course, plenty of culture.

Tailormade itineraries such as Travel with Taste: Peru’s Spellbinding South include plenty of time to discover the aforementioned sites of Arequipa, as well as luxury lodgings at our favorite Cirqa Hotel, and a trip to the volcanic landscape of the Colca Canyon.

Who is the Juanita Mummy, Arequipa?

Discovered atop Ampato Mountain in 1995, in the Andes of Southern Peru, Juanita is not a mummy but a frozen 12-year-old Inca girl who was sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s. Considered the best-preserved of all the Inca ‘mummies’ in the Andes, Juanita is an incredible representation of what it meant to be an Incan sacrifice.

It would have been a true privilege of the parents for their child to be selected as a sacrifice. Juanita – like other human sacrifices – would have been led up the cold mountain with priests before being sacrificed, carrying with them the likes of coca leaves, food, and offerings that formed part of this ritual. Juanita herself would have been dressed in her finest, for what was a highly symbolic ritual for the Gods. When she was discovered, she was bundled with burial items that would have accompanied her, including miniature llamas.

The child was wrapped up before the sacrifice, and due to the altitude likely very cold. Ultimately it was a blow to her head that was the cause of death. While this sacrificial ritual may have represented honor, natural human instinct likely kicked in at the last moment and you can see her hand grasping her own arm!

Juanita Mummy Arequipa: The Incan Ice Maiden, Aracari Travel

 The Discovery of Juanita Mummy

Juanita had been buried on the mountaintop, and were it not for a volcanic eruption, she would likely have not been found. The result of volcanic activity caused the snowcap to melt, revealing her burial site and causing Juanita to fall out and effectively roll down the hill in her frozen state.

This is the reason why one side of Juanita is better preserved than the other, as she would have tumbled down ending up on one side. Furthermore, when her burial site was disturbed, she was still frozen. The fact she was discovered relatively quickly (by an anthropologist, whom she is named after) meant she hadn’t defrosted – and thus today at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum in Arequipa visitors have a chance to see such a well-preserved Incan sacrifice.

Located only about a block from the Plaza de Armas is the Andean Sanctuary Museum, home to the ‘mummy’ Juanita. Discovered atop Ampato Mountain in 1995, in the Andes of Southern Peru, Juanita is in fact not a mummy but a frozen 12 year old Inca girl who was sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s.

Where to find the Juanita Mummy of Arequipa?

The Andean Sanctuary Museum is a small intimate museum found nearby to the Santa Teresa Monastery. Established in 1996, the primary aim of the museum was to conserve the archaeological artifacts from the High Sanctuaries of the South Andean project – making it the ideal home for Juanita mummy who has been discovered in the previous museum.

Juanita Mummy Arequipa: The Incan Ice Maiden, Aracari Travel

What makes visiting with Aracari a step above the rest?

At Aracari, our handpicked guides aren’t simply guides but rather leading experts in their field, true savants of their field. Thanks to our nearly three decades of experience in luxury Peru travel, we are connected to some of the world’s leading authorities on all manner of specialist subjects. Only the highest caliber of Specialists are in our exclusive list of contacts, and via us – you can connect to them too. Visiting the Andean Sanctuary Museum as part of a private Peru tour is no different.

Visit Arequipa with Aracari

Many of our luxury Peru itineraries include a visit to the chalky city of Arequipa. From the foodie-focused Travel with Taste: Peru’s spellbinding South, a dynamic two-week private journey that promises the ultimate Peruvian adventure. To Luxury Peru by Rail an 11-day private tour of Peru, crossing the country in true 1920s railway glamour. Designed especially for small groups of up to 10 people, this is the ultimate way to experience luxury travel to South America.

But of course, they are only sample journeys. At Aracari, we are led by you. Our experts curate a bespoke luxury Peru vacation with your travel taste and interests at the heart of it. So, if you’d like to see the Juanita Mummy in Arequipa as part of a wider adventure, why not book a call with our travel designers today?

Contact us to get in touch with an expert travel planner to start planning a cultural adventure in Peru. 

Related Post

TripAdvisor Recognizes Museo Larco As The Best Museum in South America TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards have recently released the 2018 list of the top museums in the world.  Lima’s Museo Larco has been recognized ...
Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa The highlight of a visit to Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Monastery, one of the most impressive colonial religious buildings in Peru. The large conve...
Ana Maria Cogorno and the Asociación Maria Reiche: Nazca Lines Preserv... The Nazca Lines have drawn thousands of visitors since they were first discovered in the 1920´s. Their mystery is part of their allure; it seems no on...
Exploring Colca Canyon in Peru One of our favorite places in Peru has got to be the dramatic natural beauty of Colca Canyon in the south of Peru, near to the city of Arequipa. As on...
The Spanish conquest of the Incas The key to Spanish success during the conquest of the Incas Just 169 soldiers accompanied Francisco Pizarro as he campaigned from northern Peru throu...
The Best of Lima’s Historic Centre Lima, the capital of Peru, was once just a layover for hot-footed tourists on the way to Cuzco and a Machu Picchu luxury trip. Not anymore. You wouldn...