Cajamarca Tourist Attractions
Cajamarca is an important and prosperous city in the Northern Highlands, with a long and interesting history. Pizzaro was successful in capturing the Inca ruler Atahualpa near Cajamarca and held him for ransom. Atahualpa agreed to give Pizarro large quantities of gold and silver in return for his own release. Pizarro agreed to this but ended up executing the Inca ruler once the ransom was acquired.Although Cajamarca was once an Inca city, the area was also home to a number of pre-Inca civilizations. When the Spanish arrived they used the stones from the old Inca city to built their new city. It has some striking similarities to Cusco, but does not have the same huge number of tourists.Today Cajamarca, the Capital of the Department of the same name, is prospering from gold mines that have been established in the area. It is one of the major cities in northern Peru, and one of the most pleasant. Cajamarca has a couple of small museums and a nice Plaza de Armas for relaxing.
Complejo Belén (El Conjunto Monumental Belén)
Some of the best colonial architecture in Cajamarca is found at the El Conjunto Monumental Belén. This complex of colonial buildings, built in the 17th and 18th Centuries by the Bethlemite religious order, was intended as a hospital for local Indians. Today it houses a medicinal museum and an archeological museum.While these buildings resemble churches they were actually hospitals with chapels. The Iglesia Belén was never completely finished but has an extremely impressive baroque façade. The former men's hospital was operational until the mid 1960s. Looking in this building it is hard to imagine something so archaic was used in such modern times. The women's hospital across the street has a unique façade, with a carved, four breasted women.The Museo Archeological y Etnografia houses a small collection of ceramics and textiles, some dating back to 1500 BC.
Opening hours: 9am-1pm, 3pm-6pm
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
El Cuarto de Rescate
El Cuarto de Rescate is the Ransom Chamber, where the Inca ruler Atahualpa was held prisoner by the Spanish. The room was to be filled once with gold and twice with silver as ransom, in exchange for his release. In actual fact, this is likely just the room that held Atahualpa, while the ransom was stored elsewhere. Atahualpa did provide the necessary gold and silver but was executed by Pizarro anyway.El Cuarto de Rescate is the only Inca building still standing in Cajamarca. It has the unique Inca features of trapezoidal doorways and niches in the walls. The stones here are volcanic and have not weathered as well as those found in areas like Cusco.
Granja Porcón is a working farm and woodland area not far from Cajamarca. A visit to a ranch is a good way to see local farming practices and this is generally regarded as the best in the area. There is also a small animal sanctuary on the property, with a variety of local animals.The most important part of the Ganja Porcón is the 10,000 hectare forest area. The trees here are not indigenous to the region but were planted for their value in the paper and furniture industries. Nonetheless, this is an effort in the direction of reforestation.Day trips to the Granja Porcón usually involve a walk through the forest and a visit to the animal sanctuary. It is also possible to stay here at the hostel in newly built cabins with fireplaces. There is an onsite restaurant as well.
Cumbemayo (Cumbe Mayo)
Cumbemayo, about 20km / 12mi southwest of Cajamarca, is a pre-Inca site with water channels. These canals are about 2,000 years old but their purpose is still a matter of some debate. There is plenty of water in the area so it is more likely that these aqueducts served some sort of religious purposes. Zigzagging angles incorporated into the canal were designed to slow down fast moving water and lessen the effects of erosion. The channel runs for more than 9km / 5.5mi.From the parking lot at Cumbemayo is a marked trail, which leads past rock formations to nearby caves with petroglyphs.
Los Baños del Inca
Los Baños del Inca are mineral hot springs located about 6km / 3.5mi east of Cajamarca. The hot water is channeled into a variety of pools. The Hotel Laguna Seca has its own private hot pools, which are well kept. There is also a less luxurious public complex, Complejo Touristíco Baños del Inca, which is usually very busy and packed with locals on weekends.Los Baños del Inca is also famous for its role in the capture of Atahualpa. He is said to have been camped at the springs, or according to some stories, bathing here with a number of women, at the time Pizarro arrived.
Ventanillas de Otuzco and Ventanillas de Combayo
The Ventanillas de Otuzco and Ventanillas de Combayo are pre-Inca necropolises built into a hillside. Hundreds of niches, called "ventanillas" (windows) were built here by the Cajamarca people around 800 AD. Much of the these sites were plundered and destroyed by the Incas when they moved into the area. The Ventanillas de Cambayo are better preserved and more interesting than those at Otuzco.Tours to Otuzco usually involve a side trip a nearby flower farm and cheese factory, but this site is close enough that it is easy to visit without an organized group. Otuzco is about 8km / 5mi northeast of Cajamarca and Combayo is about 30km / 18mi.
Cerro Santo Apolonia
Cerro Santo Apolonia is a high lookout with a wonderful view over Cajamarca. Stairs from the end of Dos de Mayo lead up to the overlook. At the top are some Inca and Chavín rock carvings. A carved altar suggests that Cerro Santo Apolonia was used as some sort of shrine or place of workshop.The Spanish also found this place to be a good place for worship, and built the Iglesia Santa Apolonia here in the 16th Century. The church was later destroyed during the War of the Pacific by the Chileans.