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Cajamarca

Why visit Cajamarca

This lovely town has maintained its traditions in the face of the recent mining expansion in the region. This is where the Spanish defeated the Inca, so you have a wonderful mix of the two cultures in the historical architecture and sites, blended with vestiges of the Caxamarca who had themselves been defeated by the Inca. Cajamarca is a really pleasant place to spend a couple of days, and there are some excellent archaeological sites within comfortable striking distance, along with thermal springs, beautiful countryside and some fantastic hiking trails. Reasons to visit Cajamarca include:

  • Indulge in some people watching in the Plaza de Armas - straw-hatted locals in brightly-coloured woollen shawls pass by along with smartly-suited city workers - then head off into the narrow, cobbled streets in search of a cafe or restaurant or to buy local handicrafts.
  • Learn about Inca history - Cajamarca was a site of great religious and military importance. Visit the Cuarto del Rescate (Ransom Room). This is believed to be where the Inca emperor Atahualpa kept the gold he planned to use to try to buy his freedom from the Spanish.
  • Admire the spectacular baroque architecture, including the splendid Cathedral, the Iglesia de San Francisco and the church at the Complejo Belén.
  • Visit the 600 year-old burial sites at Ventanillas de Otuzco. These Cajamarca tombs look like windows and were built into the cliff side but destroyed by the conquering Spanish.
  • Don’t miss the pre-Incan aqueducts at Cumbemayo - believed to have been built by the Caxamarca around 1500BC. Look out also for petroglyphs here, and the 20m-tall ‘Frailones’, human-like rock formations, and head to the ruined religious centre of Kuntur Wasi ('Condor House’) to see excavations where the oldest forged gold in the Americas has been discovered, and the museum that houses those discoveries.
  • Relax in the thermal springs at the Baños del Inca - it is believed the Inca bathed here.
  • Enjoy hiking through the beautiful countryside, stopping at villages for local produce such as manjar blanco (caramel) and the regional cheeses.
  • The carnival! Cajarmaca has been called ‘the capital of the Peruvian Carnival’, and for the whole month of February the city comes alive in spectacular fashion, with the key celebrations taking place on the few days around Ash Wednesday.

When to go to Cajamarca

This is a year-round destination but the most popular months to visit are April to October - unless you want to attend the carnival, in which case go in February.

How to do it

There are regular flights from Lima to Cajamarca (1.25 hours).

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facts and information

Time: GMT-5hrs

Flight time:

Both KLM and Iberia have flights to Lima via Europe, leaving the UK early in the morning to arrive in Lima in the evening. The flight time is about 14 hours. It is also possible to fly to Lima via America.

Language: Spanish and Quechua are the official languages.

Visas:

Not required for British travellers (up to 90 days). EC nationals can ask us for further advice.

Health:

There are no compulsory vaccinations, except yellow fever if visiting the rainforest. Malaria prophylactics are also recommended in the rainforest.

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