Religion and the spiritual commitment of communities can tell you a great deal about the local people and their history when visiting cities/towns around the world. I love to take advantage of the information provided (usually free) at spiritual sites when we enter a new city. Examples include our trip to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and Wat Pho in Bangkok– it is a great way to learn the history that was the foundation of growth for the community. Spiritual South America was a plethora of passionate faith and rich history. Besides going to Catholic mass each week spoken in Spanish, we visited several other sites along the way. From the large statues of Christian figures that stand a top of hills in Santiago, to the sacrificial Inca temples carved out of magnificent rocks throughout Peru, Spiritual South America tells its history well through its beautiful scenery. This list is focused on the towns, cities, and churches that we visited.
Visiting the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral was an easy trip during our stay in Barrio Bellavista. Located in the heart of the city facing the Plaza de Armas with many other attractions nearby, it was a great start to an adventurous day. It was the first of many large cathedrals that we would visit during our stay in South America. The action and energy around the cathedral was fantastic. There are several other great photo opportunities within steps of the building.
Hiking up the Cerro San Cristóbal (Saint Christoper Hill, the patron Saint of travel) provided exercise, reflection, and great views of the city. A 22 meter statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary awaits at the top of the 850 meter walk which overlooks the city of Santiago, Chile. We did this walk twice during the stay.
We attended mass at La Iglesia de la Vera Cruz or The Church of the True Cross in the center of Santiago, Chile (Barrio Lastarria – very cool neighborhood with a bunch of shops and restaurants). It is said to house fragments of the original cross – back of the altar in the photos.
For Ash Wednesday we were in Viña del Mar on the Central Chilean Coast and our Airbnb host joined us in the celebration at Iglesia Las Carmelitas or the Church of the Carmelites – a beautiful gothic style church that has survived several earthquakes over the years. It is always great attending with locals when possible.
Saint Anthony is my personal patron Saint so I tend to take photos of the statues or churches when given the chance. He is often the Saint that is prayed to for lost items but his story is much broader and more extraordinary than that. I’ve dedicated a great deal of time to a school in Indianapolis that carries the name so it is always in my thoughts as we travel. We had a Saint Anthony Church spotting in Viña del Mar.
Another church we attended in Viña del Mar was Our Lady of Agony Church. A large, magnificent building that is near the train station but away from the coast. Definitely a locals-focused church in a town frequented by tourists.
While in Ushuaia, Argentina at the tip of southern South America, we attended mass at this very ‘yellow’ church – Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Merced or Our Lady of Mercy. One of the colder masses that we attended while in Spiritual South America as most people typically carry a fan into mass and not a heavy coat like in Ushuaia 😉
Travel Tip: If you are traveling and like to attend Catholic mass on a regular basis, you might find it difficult to find an English speaking service at your destination. It makes sense to bring your own Readings Book (I downloaded mine on my Kindle to make it easy) – here is the Readings at Mass book I travel with.
We had a short stay in Punta Arenas, Chile while making our way to Puerto Varas and found this cross at the top of a hill overlooking the city.
During our magical time in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (one of our favorite journeys during our 3.5 months in South America) we attended two unique churches – La Iglesia de Toconoa (first in the photos below) and The Church of San Pedro de Atacama (second oldest church in Chile). The character and history you feel just walking through the doors is real.
While continuing to take in the beauty of San Pedro de Atacama, we found the community of Machuca has built its own local tourism attraction around their church and market. See the photos of this unique church on top of the hill. Machuca is a typical stop after travelers visit the El Tatio Geyser Field – Calama, Chile.
While visiting Antofagasta, Chile during our WorkAway experience we found the Capilla Maritima or Maritime Chapel which is a cute little church that is used for weddings. We attended mass at Iglesia San Francisco (a very ‘pink’ church).
Cusco, Peru is full of a spiritual energy you feel as soon as you enter the city. Whether visiting the massive Inca structures that you can see on Day Trips from Cusco or when you visit the Best View of Machu Picchu, Cusco is a highlight in South America and still holds the power of the Inca Empire through its people and rich history. One of our favorite city tours was in Coricancha, Koricancha, Qoricancha, or Qorikancha (several names for the same building) which was an important Inca Temple and its stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent.
There are several cathedrals in the downtown area of Cusco, including the Cusco Cathedral photo included below. Also shown is the local church we attended near our Airbnb home that our host also attends regularly – Iglesia de San Antonio Abad or Saint Anthony Church.
Navigating several connections and many emails, we were lined up with a great local church organization that is working hard to grow its presence and uplift the people of Cusco with a strong focus on the children. We attended their Sunday service and ended up donating books, games, writing materials, and other necessities for the children to continue their growth. The church was called Iglesia de Cristo Iberoamericana and the organization we were connected through is http://www.iamweb.org/.
At the top of one of the hills next to Saqsaywaman (an amazing Inca site not far from the city center of Cusco) is Cristo Blanco, or White Christ, which overlooks the city and has fantastic views.
Our trip to Ayacucho, Peru, where we wanted to be a part of one of the Most Popular Easter Traditions in South America, was an epic trip that we will never forget. Not only because it came about through the help of several people involved in one of the Most Efficient Non-For-Profit Organizations that I have ever seen but because of the time-consuming dedication it must have took to build the various sculptures that moved throughout the city. Whether you visit Ayacucho during Easter or another time of the year, you will love what this city and its 33 churches represent.
While enjoying the coast of Paracas, Peru and the gorgeous beaches it offers, we attended a tiny little church that few locals even knew about. We discovered it on one of our day trips and asked the timing of mass. It was a treat to be apart of the 40-50 local attendees during service.
During our short stay in Miraflores, Peru (a trendy, residential and upscale shopping district of Lima) we attended mass at Parroquia de La Virgen Milagrosa which is in the Miraflores Central Park area. Located in the heartbeat of the neighborhood, there are plenty of spots nearby to grab lunch or dinner after mass.
While traveling to the Galapagos Islands on a Budget, we attended an extremely powerful service at Parroquia Franciscana, Puerto Ayora. It sits near the main port of Santa Cruz, with the make-sense statue of Saint Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of the Animals) in front of the church, as well as a statue of Saint Anthony inside. In a place that has many tourists as its attendees, it was the strong local community that made us feel the passion of the mass.
As we ended our 3.5 months of travels in South America, we were focused on our time working at the bed and breakfast set up via WorkAway in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Less than a mile away, we attended the Church of San Francisco, also known as Church of Our Lady of the Angels, built in 1702 and a key building/meeting point within the largest city of Ecuador. From our location in Las Peñas, we simply walked along the beautiful Malecon 2000 as the church is not far from the boardwalk.
As you can tell, we really enjoyed our time in South America seeing all of these beautiful cathedrals, attending the events, and donating a bit of time and money. Their passion within the communities was relevant every city we visited and our gratitude is summarized well in this letter – Goodbye South America and Thank you.
Traveled February – May 2017