Someday I would like to conduct a poll asking what is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Cajamarca. To me, is the story of Atahualpa -the true last Inca emperor, becoming a prisoner of the Spanish Conquerors. And to me that is sufficient reason to go and take a look of what Cajamarca holds.
Although it is important to say that, as occur to many other cities of Peru, Cajamarca city is the capital of the department of the same name, and that brings up some level of confusion. Here I will be transgressing that line on purpose because it is well deserved to mention things that are beyond the city.
Maybe the next idea that comes up about this region is its prolific cattle breeding. These tranquil lands produce a big chunk of all the meat and dairy that is consumed by neighboring populations down to Lima. Their cheeses are by far the most acclaimed products. For witnessing this Granja Porcon, Tres Molinos or La Collpa are farms that welcome visitors anytime.
Out in the countryside you will start to see fun-looking hats of almost hilarious dimensions wore by the locals. So you should know that there is an entire town dedicated to produce them which name is Celendin. By the way, the lady in the picture is a social fighter that confronted a big mining company in defense of her family’s land, a common problem that in the last few years mobilized hundreds or thousands of people in Cajamarca.
Another interesting place, closer to Cajamarca than Celendin, is the luthier’s town of Namora. Guitars wherever you see (if you look thru walls) as almost every family house has a workshop indoors.
But let’s go back to the city and its nearby surrounding highlights, because I wouldn’t like you to miss Cumbemayo and Otuzco, places worth seeing that hold very interesting facts among themselves. The former is an extraordinary rock formation that will keep your eyes busy for quite long, but not just that as right there you will find an impressive aqueduct, masterly conceived by the Caxamarca culture three thousand years ago (yes, you read well) and that still works to perfection till now.
Otuzco is also a big rock formation, that was used as cemetery by carving niches in the walls, with the resulting outcome of giving the place an interesting look, as if it is about an apartments building of some kind, but only for dead people.
Now let’s enter the city and its pleasant streets connecting various churches, a circuit that will keep you entertained and that eventually will take you to the ransom room (my personal favorite part), the place where Atahualpa offered the Spaniards an outrageous amount of precious metals for his liberty, that in the end, after being delivered it wasn’t honored.
Moreover and lastly, Cajamarca has its own natural viewpoint, a downtown embed hill peakable by foot that will give you the nicest panoramic reward.
As promised, this city/department of Peru has it all, not in vain is a favorite destination for most tourists, domestic and foreigners alike. It is a place a bit high (2750 m of elevation) so take it easy at the beginning to assure enjoyment.
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Photo credit: Ojo Público