Cajamarca: City of Fate
Cajamarca is a beautiful colonial town in the Northern Andes and has a lovely relaxed and slow pace of life which, along with the gentle climate, draws many Peruvians to holiday here. The natural hot springs are perfect for enjoying the serene setting and the town itself has a host of colonial churches and impressive architecture to visit.
The current way of living here is in huge contrast to Cajamarca’s dramatic past as it was in fact the home to probably the most dramatic event in South America which changed the future of the region, and the world.... In 1532 Francisco Pizarro led the conquistadores into Cajamarca to meet the Inca Atahualpa supposedly for peaceful negotiations, these quickly broke down, a massacre followed and the Inca Atahualpa was seized and imprisoned. He eventually paid his ransom by filling a room once with gold and twice with silver. He was of course promptly executed shortly after!
What to See and Do in Cajamarca
A tour of Cajamarca's compact centre offers the chance to see the "Ransom room" in which the last Inca was imprisoned, and some fine colonial architecture, but most of the big sights are just outside of town.
The Ransom Room
The room in which the Inca Atahualpa was held, this is the only Inca structure left in the town and you can still see the line along the wall just below the roof which indicated the level to which Atahualpa had to fill the room with his ransom of gold and silver. You can easily visit the ransom room yourself - it's just a couple of blocks off the main square - or we can include it on a city tour of Cajamarca so that your guide can give you their own take on history’s events.
Baños del Inca
After the ransom room the main attraction in Cajamarca are the Inca Baths – thermal springs which were said to be the reason the Inca Atahalpa chose to come to Cajamarca, not knowing his fate was soon to change. The springs boast therapeutic qualities and are a lovely place to unwind under the Andean sun. There is also beautiful countryside around and great walking in the Porcon Farm area.
Cumbemayo is argued to be the biggest Stone Age construction in the Americas and belonged to the Caxamarca culture who dominated the area for the 1000years before the Incas came along. The site includes the ‘sanctuary’ (a large outcrop in the shape of a head with important petroglyps), and a mile long pre-Inca aqueduct still in good working order with a series of altars running alongside it. The ‘Stony Forest’ of the Frailones, a huge set of rocks which have weathered to look like monks, is also close by.
Ventanillas de Otuzco
The Otuzco windows are becoming better known throughout the world and are about 5 miles outside of Cajamarca. This is a pre-Inca Caxamarca culture burial site where mummies were placed in hundreds of small funeral niches carved out high up in the rock face of a cliff. They look like little windows which is how the site got its name: 'Ventanillas' means 'little windows' in Spanish.
Eating Out in Cajamarca
Cajamarca has a very good range of restaurants for a town its size and most people are pleasantly surprised by the choice. As you would expect the local dairy industry produce excellent cheeses and beef and the locally-caught trout is also particularly good. In town El Cajamarques (770 Amazonas) offers a fine dining experience in a lovely setting, with a real focus on fresh local ingredients. For a good quality value option the Gourmet Colonial restaurant, next door to the Portal del Marques, two blocks west of the square on Comercio has a more modern take on things and their chicken kebabs are quite simply superb! Querubino, on Amalia Puga, has good Italian food and offers a wide range of dishes for vegetarians – all the old favourites are there but they also have daily specials. For something a little lighter, we would particularly recommend Las Tullpas, just off the square on Dos de Mayo, which has a good selection of soups and sandwiches, as well as good juices and desserts. The Tuna Cafe, just down from the Ransom Room along Amalia Puga is also a good place to drop in for a snack and is a nice spot for a quiet drink in the evening.
If you are staying at the Laguna Seca spa hotel, just outside of town, then we definitely recommend eating at the hotel’s restaurant, El Fogon. It’s even worth getting a taxi to from town if you’re not staying there (about 15 soles) as the food is excellent with a thoughtfully put together menu and good value set menu options.
Getting To and From Cajamarca
There are several daily flights to Cajamarca from Lima, with LATAM and LCPeru and this is by far the quickest way to get to and from the capital. If you would rather go overland there are also daily luxury buses to and from Lima which take about 16hrs - we’d recommend doing this overnight as the coaches really are comfortable enough to sleep on. You can also reach Cajamarca by high end coaches from Trujillo in about 6-8 hours.
If you're also visiting Kuelap then the road from Cajamarca to the city of Chachapoyas is now completely paved and is a much quicker and more reliable journey than previously - allow around 6 hours for the route via Celendin.
As it is a reasonably small place you can cover most of the sites in Cajamarca by foot. If you are heading out to the thermal baths, or if you are staying out of town in the Baños del Inca area then taxis from here to the centre are cheap and plentiful and should cost around 10 soles.
Tailor-made Tours in Cajamarca
All our holidays in Peru are 100% tailormade, so if you'd like to customise any of the tours you see above, or just plan a trip completely from scratch then get in touch and let us know - we'll be delighted to help you plan your perfect holiday in Cajamarca!
Did you know?
Cajamarca’s history actually stretches much further back than the Incas, with some of the most important pre-Inca ruins in the country just outside the town, but nowadays the town is famed for its milk and cheese products, and the surrounding lush green fields full of Friesians can give you a little reminder of home in-between exploring all the archaeology.