Scene of one of the most significant events in the history of the Andean world, Cajamarca is revealed before the eyes of the traveller like a city of full of the past and nostalgia, where the imposing features of its Colonial architecture, become cosy countryside or stone redoubts of archaeological interest, in its surprising surroundings.
It was in Cajamarca, Capital of the Region of the same name, where on the 16th of November, 1532 the encounter took place between the Inca Atahualpa and the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro. An event that marked the decline of the Tawantinsuyo (the largest Andean Empire ever) and the birth of the Spanish Colonial rule of South America.
Today, this City of the Northern Andean Mountain Range in Peru is the door that allows the tourist to enjoy the famous Baños del Inca - Baths of the Inca and its relaxing pools of hot spring waters, to observe the symbolic Cuarto del Rescate - Ransom Room that Atahualpa - the captive Inca - filled with gold and silver to obtain his freedom, and, to be dazzled with its Baroque churches, homes of the faith and the hopes of a whole town.
The attractions are not reduced to the urban surroundings only; these are projected to the near countryside with their milk cows and their hacienda land holding mansions, its notable archaeological complexes such as Cumbe Mayo, the Ventanillas or Windows of Otuzco and the House of the Condor or Kuntur Wasi or its protected natural areas, among them the Parque Nacional de Cutervo National Park, the oldest of the country.
That much to see, that much to know. Join us in visiting Cajamarca and when there you must consider the following places:
- The Plaza de Armas or Main Square
, on the 16th of November of 1532 was the scene of the transcendental encounter between the Inca Sovereign Atahualpa and the Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro, a historical event that would finish with the capture of the Andean Sovereign and the beginning of the Spanish Colonialism in the lands of the Andes.
After his capture, the Son of the Sun offered to the Spaniards a fabulous rescue (two rooms full of silver and one of gold), with the hope of recovering his freedom. The sovereign fulfilled his promise; nevertheless, instead of recovering his freedom he was condemned to suffer the capital punishment. He was executed in the same place of his capture, on the 29th of August of 1533.
Raised on the pre-Hispanic layout, the present Square is of Colonial origin, emphasising its showy stone fountain of quarried rock. It is of octogonal form and it dates back to the XVIIIth Century
- The Cathedral (Iglesia Matriz Santa Catalina)
, is one of the most representative religious constructions in Baroque style of Colonial Peru,. This qualification is justified by its imposing volcanic rock facade, decorated with beautiful carvings. Its magnificent lateral towers – not yet finished - are a live expression of Plateresque art, emphasizing its arabesques, delicately carved cornices, vaulted niches and Salomon like columns.
The exuberance of forms and ornaments is repeated in its interior, where the three ships of the temple are separated by stylish arches. In addition, its pulpit and main altar are covered in gold plated finely carved wood.
The history of the temple - elevated to Cathedral in 1682 - goes back to the Real Certificate of the 26th of December of 1665. This decree demanded the construction of a parish for the City of Cajamarca.
On the flank of the Cathedral is the Capilla El Sagrario - Chapel of the Shrine, in which the lesser liturgical celebrations take place.
It is located on the Jirón Cruz de Piedra or Stone Cross Street w/o Number in the Plaza de Armas Main Square and can be visited from Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 hours to the 11:00 hours and from 18:00 hours to the 21:00 hours.
- The Iglesia San Francisco Church
is one of the first religious temples of Colonial Peru. Named initially San Antonio, its origins goes back to the last years of the XVIIth Century, when it was a parish of Indians.
In its construction - promoted by the Jesuits- was used volcanic stone blocks originating from the house of the Cacique Calixto Astopilco Chieftain and the Cerro Santa Apolonia Hill.
The Church has an imposing facade of baroque-plateresque style, quite sober if it is compared to the Cathedral. Its two imposing towers were finished in the middle of the XXth Century, the same happened with its three doors, which show Salomon like cornices, columns and carvings of leaves, decorative flowers and fruits. Its interior has three ships and a beautiful cupola of with stain glass windows. There are also vaulted niches, altarpieces, altars and carvings in wood and bronze. In addition, this temple lodges the Virgen Dolorosa – Virgin of the Pain, Patron Saint of Cajamarca.
It is located in the Jirón Dos de Mayo w/o Number (Plaza de Armas Main Square) and is part of the Convent of San Francisco, architectonic complex of which the following places are a must to visit:
- The Conjunto Monumental Belén Complex
- The Museum of Religious Art lodges an interesting collection of equipment, utensils and objects related to the liturgy and the daily tasks of the Jesuits that inhabited the Convent, in the early times of the Colony.
- The Pinacoteca exhibits an interesting collection of religious pictures of the Cuzco and Quito Painting Schools.
- The Catacombs, are below the main altar of the Church and were discovered in 1952. The skeletal remains of Franciscan monks and indigenous nobles ar found here.
is one of most important Colonial architectonic jewels of the City. It is from the XVIIIth Century and includes Iglesia de Belén - Church of Bethlehem, the former Hospital for Men and the former Hospital for Women.
Built in volcanic stone, the temple makes an impression by its exquisite carved stone entrance. In addition, it shows sculptures, columns and capitals with delicate reliefs. For all these details the Church of Belén is considered one of the clearest exponents of the New World Spanish Baroque.
Its architectonic design is complemented with lateral abutments, arcades and unfinished towers.
Next to the main building, in which was the Hospital for Men, is the Medical Museum; whereas in the Junín Stret you must not forget to visit the Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum. Its rooms were the pavilions of the Hospital for Women - Nuestra Señora de la Piedad - Our Lady of the Mercy.
The complex is on the sixth block of the Jirón Belén.
- The Conjunto Monumental La Recoleta Complex
- The Medical Museum exhibits an interesting collection of the materials and instruments used in the Hospitals for Men and Women of Cajamarca, from the time of the Colony to the XIXth Century.
Its seat is in the old premises of the Hospital for Men, built in 1763. Its rooms have been recovered, respecting the structure and the original design.
- The Museo Arqueológico y Etnográfico - Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum exhibits pieces of ceramics, weavings and murals, in addition to agricultural tools, musical instruments, clothing and dresses, among other vestiges of the pre Hispanic Cajamarquilla Culture.
The museum is located in the old quarters of the Hospital for Women Nuestra Señora de La Merced - Our Lady of the Mercy, an architectonic relic that is emphasised by the two Caryatids with four breasts each, placed in its entrance. These would represent feminine fecundity.
It is located a block from the rest of the Conjunto Monumental Belén Complex.
, integrated by the Church and the ex- convent of the Franciscan Order was built in the second half of the XVIIth Century. Its architectonic design is less charged in comparison with most of the other temples and religious buildings in the City.
The Iglesia La Recoleta Church has a sober facade conceived in stone and of neo Classic Plateresque style, in which triple arched belfries replace the usual characteristic towers. Its interior is austere also and presents a single ship with a beautiful cupola, a high choir and three simple altars.
The old Convent - today occupied by the school of San Ramon, the school of Women of Belén and the kindergarten of Santa Teresita- makes an impression by its beautiful inner arches.
Both architectonic jewels are in the intersection of the Avenidas El Maestro and Los Héroes Avenues.
- The Mirador de Santa Apolonia View Point
is the best place to be delighted with a complete panorama of the City and the countryside of Cajamarca. It is thought that the indigenous name of this natural promontory was Ruma Tiana ("stone seat"), because of a chair, carved in pre-Hispanic times, in one of the rocks of the hill
The investigators think that the place could have been a venerated huaca or holy place, in which cult was rendered to the dead and the Apus (tutelary and protector hills).
In order to arrive at the top of the viewpoint it is necessary "to overcome" a series of lofty stairs. The effort is worth the trouble, because, on a par the great view, there are beautiful gardens of native flowers and the chapel erected in honour of the Virgin of Fátima is appraised.
It is located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas Main Square, being its main access the Jirón Dos de Mayo Street.
- The Cuarto del Rescate or Ransom Room
is the only architectonic enclosure of Inca origin, which subsists in the City and the room that, according to the Spanish chroniclers, was filled with silver (twice) and gold (once) by the order of Atahualpa that offered this wealth in exchange for his freedom and which was accepted by his captors.
The Inca fulfilled his word - he filled this room of 7 metres in length, 6 metres wide and 3 metres high with gold and silver coming from the different Regions of his Empire.In spite of the payment of the ransom, Francisco Pizarro did not honour his commitment and ordered the execution of the Son of the Sun.
The Cuarto del Rescate Ransom Room is located on the Jirón Amalia Puga 750 Street, half a block from the Plaza de Armas Main Square. The travellers will be able to visit it from Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 hours to the 13:00 hours and from 15:00 hours to the 17:00.
- The Baños del Inca - Baths of the Inca
are a beautiful, historical and attractive complex of thermal hot spring swimming pools open to the public. Their waters of more than 72° Centigrade, have curative properties and are excellent to resist bone and skin diseases and those of the nervous system, just to mention a few of the claims.
The origin of the baths goes back to pre-Hispanic times, when they were known as Pultumarca, being the place of rest of the Incas and the main civil employees of the Tawantinsuyo. It is known that this it was the last place whre Atahualpa stayed, before being taken prisoner by the Spaniards.
Today the baths offer to the individual and group visitors, swimming pools, whose thermal waters come, mainly, from the springs called Los Perolitos and Laguna Seca - the Dry Lagoon.
This unquestionable tourist attraction is located at only 6 kilometres from Cajamarca and is open to the public from Mondaysto Sundays from 6:00 hours to the 18:30 hours.
- The Ventanillas de Otuzco Windows
were carved out of the surface of a rocky mountain at 2850 m.a.s.l. by the old Peruvians to construct hundreds of square and circular tombs.
Between the tombs similar to windows (from there their name), simple and multiple tombs have been identified, the same that are located around passages.
Unfortunately, the criminal attitude of the so called huaqueros (grave robbers of archaeological complexes) has prevented the experts to determine the exact antiquity of the Windows of Otuzco, although the pre-Hispanic Caxamarca Culture is associated to them.
Surrounded by green forests of eucalypti the Windows are in the District of Los Baños del Inca - Baths of the Inca, at 8 kilometres to the Northwest of Cajamarca.
- The Necrópolis de Combayo Necropolis
is impressive with niches carved out of the living rock. It is thought that its antiquity is over 3500 years, being considered as one of the most important lithic ramins of the pre Hispanic civilisations of the Region.
It is located on the slopes of a hill near the small Village of Combayo, at 20 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca. In spite of its proximity, there is no permanent service of public transport there. It is recommended to go in a hired private car or taxi.
- The Complejo Arqueológico de Cumbemayo Archaeological Complex
consists of several megalith constructions that occupy an area of 25 thousand square metres. It is thought that these remarkable constructions - that blend in harmoniously with the splendid landscape of the zone were erected around the year 1200 AD by the Caxamarca-Marañón Culture, a human group influenced by the Chavín Culture.
Discovered in 1937, Cumbemayo is at 3400 metres above sea level and at 22 kilometres to the South of the City of Cajamarca.
The complex is divided into three big sectors:
- The Acueducto or Water Channel is a notable pre Inca construction with channels carved in volcanic lava. These have a zigzag form, to reduce the speed of the water that descends from 3600 metres above sea level. Its length is of almost 9 kilometres, its width oscillates between 35 and 50 centimeters and its depth between 30 and 65 centimeters. This notable work is considered as a "jewel of hydraulic engineering".
- The Santuario or Sanctuary is a magnificent cliff rock that resembles a gigantic human head. At the height of where the mouth would be there is a square cave with rock carvings and vaulted niches in the rock walls. The investigators have not been able to determine the meaning of these figures. Las Cuevas or Caves are a set of stone carvings where one can observe anthropomorphous figures.
Another place of interest is The Stone Forest of Los Frailones or Monks
, a set of rocks carved capriciously by the wind. These have the shape of hooded monks, thence the origin of its name.
It is located close to Cumbemayo and it is recommendable to visit it in the first hours of the day, to take advantage of the morning light that creates a really spectacular effect. On the way there are interesting ceremonial altars to be seen.
- The Complejo Arqueológico de Layzón Archaeological Complex
, of pre-Hispanic origin, where rites of adoration to the Andean Gods would have been carried out. It consists of a large structure with half upright stones, walls of more than 6 metres of height and monoliths carved in stone.
Studied by a Japanese mission, this complex is at 9 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca, by the highway that goes to Cumbemayo.
, this cosy farmer town of narrow streets and houses with tiled roofs is known for its wool cloths coloured with natural dyes. Another one of its peculiarities is the celebration of the Feast of the Virgen del Rosario - Virgin of the Rosary, in October. It is located in a strategic position on a slope at 3090 metres above sea level that allows observing the splendid countryside of the zone. Only 7 kilometres (towards the South) separates Pariamarca from the City of Cajamarca
, in this formerly private land holding , turned today into the Cooperativa Agraria de Producción El Rescate Agrarian Production Cooperative there exists a surprising and unusual but well-known custom: "Calling the Cows".
In Colpa, the robust milk cows are called by their names to be milked. It is not a surrealist story or something of the sort, although it gives the impression of being it. The scene is more or less thus, a worker shouts, for example, Rosita and in a matter of seconds Rosita appears, very cool and docile, before the stupor of the people present. Thus all the cattle are summoned.
But that is not everything, in the surroundings of the cooperative there is a beautiful artificial lagoon. One should also visit the centre of the village in the District of Jesus, known by its manufacture of wicker crafts and wool blankets.
It is located at 20 kilometres to the South of the City of Cajamarca
- Kuntur Wasi (House of the Condor)
is a pre-Hispanic ceremonial centre with a set of platforms, superposed plazas, enclosures with walls of great size, monoliths and stelae with a clear Chavín influence. It would have been built around 1100 BC.
The zone was baptised with the name of Kuntur Wasi by the Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, who investigated the complex in 1946, although in a superficial way.
The professor decided to call it the House of the Condor, because he observed several engravings of the bird in the monoliths, which made him think that in this place tribute was paid to the winged giant that reigns in the Andes.
In 1988 a detailed investigation of Kuntur Wasi began one more, which was undertaken by the Archaeological Mission of the University of Tokyo. The team was led by Yoshio Onuki Ph.D. and included several Peruvian professionals, who began to remove and to sift thorough the foundations of the pre-Hispanic complex. During the archaeological tasks burials were found with valuable offerings: crowns, chest piecesl, gold plates, ceramics and trumpets made of conch shells brought from the Ocean.
The works concluded that the gold worked in Kuntur Wasi is the oldest of America. But those were not the only successes of the scientific expedition. Onuki and his investigators identified the phases of construction of the Complex, which, for unknown reasons, was buried with earth and stone in the year 700 BC.
Later, a new ceremonial centre of greater proportions would be built and, in the year 450 BC, would rise on the previous construction a great plaza and a network of underground channels. Kuntur Wasi was destroyed and definitely abandoned in the year 250 BC.
It is located on the Cerro La Copa Hill at 2300 metres above sea level in the District of Chilete (Province of San Pablo), at 93 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca.
- Museo de Sitio Arqueológico Kuntur Wasi, Museum of Archaeological Site Kuntur Wasi, exhibits several replicas of the pieces found in the last excavations, in addition to ceramics, objects made with semiprecious stones, bone and stone remains. The sample is complemented with maps, planes and photograps of the works made by the Japanese investigators. It was inaugurated in 1994.
It is located on the Avenida Los Tayos Avenue, Pueblo Nuevo, San Pablo.
, was founded in 1783 by the bishop Baltasar Martinez de Compañón, with the name of Villa Amalia de Celendín, in honour of the Queen of Spain. Of tempered climate and calm air, the city is the Capital of the Province of the same name and is known for the excellent finish of its woven toquilla straw hats, among other pieces woven in basketwork.
Its main attraction are the hermal hot spring baths Baños Termales of the Valley of Llanguat
(at almost 21 kilometres from the City of Celendin), and the Chulpas de la Chocta Burial Towers
, District of Oxamarca, interesting pre-Hispanic vestiges of a sanctuary, cemetery and a fortress.
Celendín at 1000 metres above sea level. is the first and obligatory stop to explore the fascinating tourist attractions of the neighbouring Amazonas Region (Leymebamba, Kuelap and Chachapoyas). It is located at 109 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca.
, with reason or without, the inhabitants of this City, Capital of the Province of the same name, have become famous for being brave and hot headed. This is expressed in a very popular saying that says: "to the person from Chota, not even the hand".
But beyond those expressions, Chota - in the central part of the Cajamarca Regiohn - is an pleasant and colourful City that is proud of its showy bull ring, considered the second biggest one of Peru after the centennial enclosure for bullfighting of Acho, in Lima.
Already on the outskirts (33 kilometres from the urban centre), the traveller will enjoy the Cascada El Condac Water Fall
, of more than 30 metres of height, surrounded by a beautiful natural land scape. In addition, Chota is the departure point to visit the Parque Nacional Cutervo National Park.
It is located at a150 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca (5 hours by highway).
- Parque Nacional Cutervo National Park
, in its 2500 hectares places of excessive beauty and ecological interest stand out, like the Cueva de los Guacharos Oil Bird Cave
, a natural space that holds in its interior an important population of oil birds (Steatornis caripensis
), a nocturnal bird that feeds on fruits and seeds, and the catfish of the caverns (Astroblepus rosei
), that have their habitat in the underground river that runs inside the Cave.
But there are not only catfishes and oil birds within the Park The fauna of the Park is very varied and includes some species threatened or in danger of extinction, like the jaguar (Panthera onca
), the ocelot (Felis pardales
), the Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus
), to the mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque
) and the Cock of the Rock (Rupícola peruviana
); in addition to 36 species of snails and hundreds of birds, many of which have not been fully studied.
Its flora presents areas of reed swamps, dwarf forests and cloud forests. In this paradise of vegetation, beautiful tiny flowered orchids stand out and diverse varieties of trees like the quina tree (Cinchona sp.
), the cedar (Cedrela sp.
), the lancewood of the laurel family (Nectandra sp.
), the walnut (Juglans sp.
), among others.
Cutervo was the first natural area of Peru in receiving the category of National Park (on the 20th of September of 1961); its present objectives are the protection of the flora, fauna and of the landscape sceneries of the Cordillera de Tarros Mountain Range.
It is located in the Province of Cutervo, at 260 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca.
is a small and pleasant locality at 124 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca (by the route that leads to the City of Trujillo, Region of La Libertad). Its showy houses of adobe mud bricks with red roofing tiles, give the welcome to this backwater of tranquillity that wakes up of its routine calmness, to pay homage to and celebrate the Festivity of La Virgen del Rosario - the Virgin of the Rosary (second week of October). The event includes typical processions, parades and dances.
Agriculture is the main economic activity of Cajabamba located at 2654 metres above sea level, being the Valley of Condebamba it's most productive zone. Here potatoes, wheat, maize, sugar cane and coca leafs are produced.
, warm and exuberant, this city is in a zone of geographic transition between the Andean peaks and the Amazonian green foliage; privileged condition that equips it with magnificent scenes that urge to explore and to admire several natural jewels and an interesting number of varieties of orchids.
But in Jaén not only are there forests, coffee plantations and rice paddies (these last ones constitute its major agricultural production), but, also, vestiges of the past, like Paleozoic fossils, stone monoliths and ceramics of the so called Pakamuros Culture.
It is located at 625 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca (10 hours by highway).
- The Santuario Nacional Tabaconas - Namballe National Sanctuary
, high altitude plains, cloud forests, water falls and a set of lagoons with curative properties, known as the Arrebiatadas at 3200 metres above sea level are the main natural scenes of this small paradise of 29500 hectares, declared a Protected Area on the 20th of May of 1988.
Amongst the species found within the Sanctuary we have the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus
) and the mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque
), both in danger of extinction and part of the 17 species of mammals that live in the zone. Also there are 33 species of birds.
As regarding the flora, stands out the Podocarpus species forest, the only coniferous genus in a natural state in the country. Her you will find the so called romerillo macho and the romerillo hembra. Additionally, in the Sanctuary are appraised bamboos, ferns, orchids, bromeliads, abundant mosses and lichens.
It is located in the Districts of Tabaconas and Namballe, Province of San Ignacio, at 110 kilometres from the City of Jaén (at 652 kilometres from the City of Cajamarca).
- Granja Porcón Farm
is one of the pioneering projects of existential tourism in Cajamarca and, why not say it, of the whole country. This novel alternative allows to enjoy and to approach the rural life, being generated a valuable cultural exchange between the visitors and the hospitable villagers.
In the farm the travellers participate in diverse eco tourism and agricultural activities, like the reforestation of forests, planting and harvest of tubercles and vegetables, the milking of cows and visits to bio gardens and orchards. But the most valuable thing is the experience of sharing the life of farmer families, to be nourished by their knowledge, culture and traditions.
The interesting project is administered by the Cooperativa Agraria Atahualpa Jerusalén Agrarian Cooperative and began with the reforestation of 10 thousand hectares of forests with pines, being able to recover diverse species of flora and fauna and, at the same time, to embellish the surrounding landscapes.
It is located at 30 kilometres from Cajamarca, in the Area of Porcón Alto at 3000 metres above sea level.
- The Comunidad de La Encañada Community
and the Laguna de Sulloscocha Lagoon are two innovating tourist projects that offer the possibility of sharing rural life, working in the fields; thus feeling the magical and protective influence of the Pachamama (Mother Earth).
In La Encañada, in the small Village of Usnio-Chagmapampa at 3200 metres above sea level in the District of La Encañada, you can help out by tilling the land, sowing or harvesting potatoes, wheat or peas, by husking quinua but, mainly, exchange conversations and experiences with the local population. You will share all their meals, sleep in their houses, you will share in their jokes and smiles. You live and learn.
The experience is equally fascinating in the Laguna de Sulloscocha Lagoon at 3000 metres above sea level in the District of Llanacora, where furrows are opened with the so called yunza (pair of oxen or bulls that haul the plough), where you help feed the animals and share preparing bread in an artisan oven and, if the level of waters is very low, you can participate in a day of fishing.
The La Encañada is less than two hours from the City of Cajamarca, on the road to Celendín; whereas Sulloscocha is at only 40 minutes from the Regional Capital.