Cajamarca is one of those hidden treasures of Peru that not many foreigners know about. Located well to the north of Lima, this magical city has many attractions to offer to its visitors: an unforgettable landscape, archeological sites made by a pre-inca civilisation surrounded by natural beauty and great colonial architecture. If you head up to the north of Lima to see Mancora or vice-versa, we recommend that you make a stop in Cajamarca for a few days.
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Attractions in cajamarca
Before the Incas, many ancient civilisations developed in different regions of Peru. One of those cultures were the Cajamarca culture. The archeological complex of Cumbe Mayo houses one of the most impressive works of hydraulic engineering built by the Cajamarca culture: the 20 km aqueduct.
This aqueduct was built to bring water to the Cajamarca valley and above the long channel, there is a beautiful forest of volcanic rock. Over the many years, the rain and wind has created strange rock formations. There is a narrow, dark but short channel that visitors can walk, where it is going to put to the test your adventurous spirit. Also, there are a number of petroglyphs that visitors can observe along the channel.
To visit Cumbe Mayo, we suggest to do it with a guide. There are affordable tours in the main square for 25 soles per person that includes 1.5 hours walking around the complex, a guide and transportation. We recommend to bring comfortable shoes, a jacket(its at altitude and it can get cold) and if you visit this attraction in the rainy season, you should bring a raincoat or umbrella. A taxi will cost you 25-30 soles.
- Opening hours: 9am – 5pm
- Entrance fee: 4.50 soles
Baños del Inca
Located 16 minutes drive from Cajamarca city, Banos del Inca offers its visitors a beautiful space for relaxation. It is believed that the Inca ruler Atahualpa used to enjoy this natural hot spring after each war, relaxing his body and muscles. Nowadays, there is a fabulous courtyard although you not allowed to swim in there because the water temperature can rise up to 79 Celsius, and that is why you see steam rising from the hot springs.
At the entrance you get to choose the type of pool you would like to swim. We paid for a private room for 45 minutes for the two of us and it was amazing! In the private room you can measure the water temperature. It is not recommended to stay longer that 1 hour in the pool because you may feel dehydrated.
Although many people will recommend to go very early in the morning because it says that the water will be warmer. We preferred to go late in the afternoon and wait for the sunset, which makes the place to look spectacular.
- Opening Hours: 6am – 7pm
- Cost: depending of the service it can go from as little as 3 soles for a common pool to 20-25 soles for a private room.
- How to get there: You can take a taxi which it is going to cost 8 soles approximately or take a colectivo from calle Amazonas or main square(Plaza de armas). The colectivos will have a sign in at the front saying “Banos del Inca”. Just tell the person who is in charge of collecting the money leave you off at the entrance. Cost:1.70soles.
- What to bring: swimsuit and towel
Ventanillas de Otuzco
20 minutes from Cajamarca city, you can reach Ventanillas de Otuzco. This complex can be visited in less than an hour. These little windows are in fact burial places built by the Cajamarca culture. There are 337 burial sites in a rectangular/square shape approximately.
Many years before the regional government took the administration of this necropolis, this sacred place was sacked by looters, many mummies and funerary offerings disappeared. Despite this unfortunate fact, it did not loose its significance and importance.
It is believed that the Cajamarca culture left the body of a person inside the niches in a fetal position surrounded by food and ceramics.
- Admission: 5 soles per adult, 1 sol per child.
- How to get there: you can take a taxi, cost is 20 soles. Or you can take a colectivo, that leaves every 15 minutes in Los Gladiolos street near the main street market.
- We recommend to bring: your own snacks and water.
The Majestic Sanctuary of Virgen de Polloc
Located 30 minutes from Cajamarca City, it is the hidden treasure of Cajamarca. The sanctuary is absolutely gorgeous. The beauty resides in the outside and inside of the temple.
The Fr. Alessandro Facchini is the man responsible of the temple, but the artisans behind this extraordinary master piece are the artisans of Don Bosco.
The temple inside and the exterior is made of millions of colourful mosaics…
The Ransom room
The importance of this room is from the historical point of view, a room where the future of the Inca empire came to an end. When Pizarro arrived in Peru not everything was good in the country. There was a civil war for power between the Inca ruler Atahualpa and his brother Huascar who was killed by Atahualpa before Pizarro reached Cajamarca.
Pizarro kidnapped the Inca ruler and kept him as a prisoner. Atahualpa offered to fill the room with gold up to the height of the Atahualpa’s stretched arm in exchange of his release. However, Pizarro once he secured the gold, he executed the inca ruler.
Nowadays, visitors can see the room where he was kept and a red line inside the room will indicate(supposedly) until which point the room was fill with gold. It is located 50 only metres from the Main Square. You will not noticed the building unless you look for it.
- Address: Jirón Amalia Puga Nº 750
- Admission: 5 soles and this ticket also includes entrance to the archeological museum, museo etnográfico y museo medico.
- Opening hours: Tues-Weds 9 am -1 pm and 3 pm – 8 pm. Thurs-Fri-Sat 9am-8pm, Sunday 9am-1pm. Not open Mondays.
Built in the 17th century, the Cathedral is located on the main square and it is a good example of refined baroque and colonial architecture.
Santa Apolonia view point
The church of Santa Apolonia is located at the top of this hill. Walking 15 minutes from Plaza de armas, this hike will bring you to a panoramic view of the city.
It is believed that the inca seat was located here, although now the only remains of the seat is a rock, the view from up there is breathtaking.
If you would like to buy fruit, toothpaste or even a toy for you kids Cajamarca market is the place that you can find all sort of things including clothes for an affordable price. It is safe to walk around, the best time to go is in the morning and early afternoon, just be sure to be careful with pick pocketing.
There are other attractions that we skipped but you may be interested to visit:
- La hacienda la Colpa- where you can buy nice dairy products and observe animals and walk in the farm. (15 minutes from Cajamarca vity) – entrance fee is 2 soles. You can take a coletivo that goes to Distrio de Jesus. It takes 20 minutes to get there.
- Porcón Farm (1 hour from cajamarca city) – visitors can stay at this place or go for a the day and observe animals and nature.
How to get there
By Plane – It takes 1 hour and 20 minutes by plane from Lima Airport. There are daily flights offered by the following airlines: Lan and LCP Peru.
By bus- It takes 13 hours by bus which is the less expensive way to travel. The is the most common form of transport and the least expensive route is Lima-Trujillo-Cajamarca using the Panamericana Norte Highway. We recommend Cruz del sur.
There are a half-dozen or so good hotels in Cajamarca. We stayed at Hostal Gladiolos. It’s not fancy but it’s clean, quiet, spacious and the staff couldn’t be more helpful ( Address: Jiron los Gladiolos 222).
For a full meal the we recommend Salas restaurant located near the main square. They have nice breakfasts, a variety of dishes and very good service.
If you like ice cream, you check out Heladeria Holanda.
Are you thinking to explore the north of Peru? We suggest reading these other articles: