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Ruta del Sillar, Arequipa

Sillar – in effect, solidified volcanic ash – plays a significant part in the architectural makeup of Arequipa and is one of the reasons the city is recognized as a World Heritage site. You are made aware that most of the buildings in the city center are made of sillar by every tour book, travel app, or human guide – or, if you’ve never been to Arequipa, I have already provided you with the same knowledge in my previous post.

To get a better understanding of what sillar is you need to take a trip to the edge of Arequipa, to a former quarry in the valley of Añashuayco which has been made into a tourist attraction called Ruta del Sillar.

The quarry’s walls reach 30 meters high and are the product of the volcanic activity that took place over a dozen million years. In places, you can see the different strata of rock exposed.

Elsewhere, the chiseled walls provide the backdrop to shapeless piles of rocks.

And in other places, the carvings are made directly into the walls, such as this depiction of the Arequipa cathedral’s main portal.

You also come across stacks of finely cut sillar bricks.

Once so cut, a different term – ashlar – can also be used to describe the material; it refers to the characteristics of the bricks whereas sillar refers to their natural source.

Throughout the quarry, sculptural works by local stonemasons illustrate the qualities of the volcanic rock.

Let’s do a few closeups. The way I decided to process these photos with selective focus created a tilt-shift effect and they may appear as miniatures. You will have to trust me that almost none of them are shorter than five feet in height, and some are outright massive.

A bit kitschy, no doubt. And quite fascinating, in the “where else can you see something like this!?” type of fashion.

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