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CAJAMARCA - PERU

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Serene valleys, smooth sloped mountains, an ample and luminous countryside: Cajamarca, historical, symbolic, close to the heart, place of the face to face encounter between the last Inca Sovereign and the Conqueror of the Inca Tawantinsuyo (Four Corners) Empire. Inca Atahualpa and Francisco Pizarro - the meeting of the The Andean and the Western World; perhaps the moment of birth of that country that would be called Peru, a racially mixed, pluricultural nation, simply different.

Present day Cajamarca, evocative Cajamarca, because in its Plaza de Armas or Main Square, then of Andean characteristics, today of Hispanic airs, the Son of the Sun - untouchable and powerful - was captured by a group of bearded men, with strange arms and overwhelming armours, that rode on enormous beasts, so different from the llamas and alpacas that grased in the high land pampas. To walk through the historical centre of an old city. When observing its churches and large mansions, when crossing its streets and squares, one can imagine hearing, once more, the whispers of yesteryear, and then, it is the 16th of November, 1532 again and Francisco Pizarro takes as a prisoner the Sovereign of the greatest South American Empire ever, before the stupor of a multitude that does not react, that does not defend the fallen sovereign, that does not face those men come from "another world".

From the Plaza de Armas - Main Square to the Cuarto de Rescate - the Ransom Room, the only Inca structure which still remains in the City itself. It was the prison of the captive leader, the enclosure that the powerful Inca emperor had filled with silver (twice) and gold (once) before the promise of the Spaniards to leave him in freedom. But they did not keep their promise, it was not advisable, it could interfere with their plans of conquest.

Atahualpa, the until then victorious man, who arrived at the City carried on a throne of gold after resting several days in the so called Baños del Inca - Baths of the Inca - warm hot springs which continue to relax tired bodies was sentenced to the garrote and, in the same square of his capture, in the same urban space, which today is crossed daily by hundreds of people, he was executed by strangling. It was the decline of the Son of the Sun. The end of the Tawantinsuyo Empire.

A few days after his death, on the 29th of August, 1533, the small Spanish followers left for the conquest of the huge empire. Since then, the town that had been an important Inca administrative centre, inevitably became part of history, because in Villa San Antonio de Cajamarca - so named by the Spaniards in 1566 - took place the encounter - for good or bad - of two civilisations.

Today Cajamarca (2720 m.a.s.l.) is the Capital of the Region by the same name and the most important city of the Northern Andes Mountain Range in Peru. It is located at 856 kilometres from the Capital Lima and proudly shows off its benign climate and generous fields. Declared a Cultural Historical Patrimony by the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) in 1986, the city shows with pride its baroque churches and temples, architectonic monuments that demonstrate its Colonial past and they grant an air of distinction to its streets and plazas, an atmosphere of placid tranquillity that seems to surround the traveller, especially from the viewpoint of Santa Apolonia.

Get a view of Cajamarca - both the City and the surrounding landscape - from a watchtower that may have been a place of cult to the dead or an Inca outlook point. The ascent to Santa Apolonia is a must for the visitors. From its height can be observed the urban layout in its real magnitude and, also, the wonderful countryside is observed that surrounds and absorbs it.

Well-known as the "land of milk" by its varied and exquisite milk products (milk, cheese and the typical manjar blanco boiled milk sweet), the City invites you to visit its country side and to discover its cow sheds and cultivated fields, and, at the same time, its rich pre-Hispanic legacy.

The pre-Columbian imprint can be admired in the Ventanillas de Otuzco - Windows of Otuzco - singular niches carved into high rocky crags - also in the Combayo Necropolis - very close to the centre of the City - and in the Aqueducts of Cumbemayo, notable stone channels considered as "jewels of hydraulic engineering" or in the Complex of Kuntur Wasi, Ceremonial Centre dating from the year 1100 B.C.

Traditional towns like Celendín, Chota and Cajabamba, Natural Reserves like the National Park of Cutervo and the National Sanctuary Tabaconas-Namballe and novel programmes of existential tourism in the Granja Porcón Farm and in the Encañada communities and the Laguna Sulloscocha Lagoon, complement the tourist offer, filling the days of rest with activities and joy.

Cajamarca invites you to use all your senses in exploring it. Sight, touch, taste and... also dancing as during the Carnival in February, the greatest and most colourful of the country. A matchless explosion of joy, with parades, song groups and boisterous patrols that put a stop to sadness and impose the reign of joy, the overflowing, playful joy free from worries. So is Cajamarca, a land of historical encounters, great countryside and a fervent festive spirit.

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