Cajamarca

Cajamarca – The Land of Gold

With an ancestral stemming from the term Caxamarca, “Pueblo del Rayo” (Town of Lightening) situated in the Northwestern Peruvian Andes, this is the most important city of the country’s Northern Highlands.

A view of cajamarca by alejandro.cerna
A view of cajamarca by @alejandro.cerna.vargas(IG)

Cajamarca is an invitation to enjoy valuable mestizo architecture with peak roofs and a beautiful mountain landscape. Its magnificent churches and great carved stone facades are a constant reminder of the former Colonial city.

It is also one of the richest Peruvian regions as far as gold is concerned. In fact gold is currently Cajamarca’s main income provider and since pre-Inca times, it has paved the way for the manufacture of exquisite pieces of gold jewelry, such as those found at the archaeological site of Kunturhuasi.

Craftwork Market in Cajamarca
Craftwork Market in Cajamarca by @dospajaroslibres(IG)

Further testimony of the millenary and essentially artisan tradition of the Region are the textiles and the pottery of the ancient Cajamarca Culture; and of course, the delicate and intricate works of the goldsmiths, ceramists and weavers, who still display their art in the city and nearby towns.

A festive and lighthearted city among others in the Peruvian Andes, Cajamarca celebrates Carnival, which colorful syncretism of traditions and folklore represents one of the best reasons to enjoy its hospitality.

Cajamarca History

Cajamarca’s cultural tradition dates back to times before the Incas. Between 1000 B.C. and 200 B.C. the area belonged to a northern cultural region which was home to important ceremonial centers and which remains allow us to appreciate today, among other things, the elaborate gold and silver jewelry accomplished by its people. Later; towards 900 A.C., the Caxamarca Culture came to life in this site, a civilization with a rich pottery tradition.

When Inca Cápac Yupanqui attached this territory to the Tahuantinsuyo, the kingdom of Cuismanco had prospered there, managing to foster cultural unity in the area: the Culle language had spread, as well as a series of divine beings, such as Catequil (lightning), Su (sun), Chuip (star), and Muñ (moon). On this basis, Cajamarca soon became an important Inca administration center, and throughout the empire, its weavers became famous for their excellence.

The Rescue Room Atahualpa
The Rescue Room were Atahualpa was held for ransom by @adrielsierra(IG)

On November 15, 1532, Inca Atahualpa was taken prisoner by a group of Spaniards, to whom he offered one room full of gold and two rooms full of silver as a ransom for his release. A few months later, the Inca was sentenced to die by garrote. This opened up a new chapter in the history of this territory, in which the Town of San Antonio de Cajamarca is consolidated, erected in the 16th century on the remains of the old Inca settlement.

The Inca's boulevard in Cajamarca.
The Inca’s boulevard in Cajamarca. By @bouffelle (IG)

Agricultural and livestock raising activities then prospered, as did the production of textiles in the Colonial workshops, and a magnificent architecture was developed. Since 1772, Cajamarca became very important in the Colonial economy, since the Hualgayoc Mine was discovered, giving rise to the recovery of the mining industry, which was in poor shape. At present, showing its Colonial traces, Cajamarca maintains its farming, handcraft and mining tradition.

Cajamarca Location

North Andean

Altitude Cajamarca

2,719 meters above sea level. (8,920 feet)

Population in Cajamarca

92,400 inhabitants

Distances from Cajamarca

855 km (531.3 miles) from Lima

294 km (182.7 miles) from Trujillo

258 km (160.3 miles) from Chiclayo

 

The Weather in Cajamarca

A picture of Cajamarca from Santa Apolina’s viewpoint by @adr.yep(IG)

The Region of Cajamarca has two well-defined seasons: the rainy season, from December to March, and a rather dry season, between April and November. This time is excellent for visitors as the days are sunny and warm (maximum 21°C) while at night, temperature drops to 5°C.

The city is at 2,720m.a.s.l; therefore, the common altitude-related ailments are not experienced, although it is better to avoid great physical effort when one first arrives. Warm clothes are essential, as well as sun protection items and hats.

How To Arrive To Cajamarca

Cajamarca can be reached by road, traveling some 865 km from Lima , a trip which lasts approximately 15 hours.

One can also go by air from Lima. Commercial flights take 1 hr and 10 min.

Cajamarca Gastronomy

"Cuy Frito" Traditional Plate of Cajamarca by @trillawarique
Guinea pig slew whit peanut and hot chilli pepper sauce, called in spanish “Picante de papa con cuy frito”. Picture by @trillawarique (IG)

 

Chicharrón con mote. Pork fritters served with steamed corn.
Pork fritters served with steamed corn, called “Chicharrón” by @gulaentredos (IG)
Humitas: sweet cornmash stuffed with pork and raisins.
Humitas: sweet cornmash stuffed with pork and raisins. Also sometimes stuffed with cinammon, chicken or beef. By @megaflipper_(IG)

 

Caldo verde. Potato soup with locally-grown aromatic herbs.

Attractions in Cajamarca

Atracctions surrounding areas

Inca Baths – Cajamarca

Baños del inca or Inca's baths
Baños del Inca by @grovervphotos (IG)

At a distance of 6 km eastwards from the City of Cajamarca along a paved road, one arrives at these hot springs, which were enjoyed by Inca Atahualpa when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived. This is a unique place, as it is rather surprising to learn of the variety of minerals contained in its waters.

At the Inca Baths (2,667m.a.s.l.) the so-called Poza del Inca (Individual Inca Bath) has been preserved intact, as well as the stone canals and some fountains dating back to those days.

New pools have been built both for groups and individuals, to which visitors have access.

Residents comment on the medicinal or healing properties of these waters, with a temperature of about 70°C. In effect, they are considered ideal to treat some bone diseases and to relax. It is easy to reach the Inca Baths, as there is public transportation to the site.

Llanacora – Cajamarca

Llacanora is a nice and cozy little town located at a distance of 13 km from the City of Cajamarca, or 30 min away.

This is an excellent place to make contact with the handcraft tradition and the natural wealth of the Region. Llacanora (2,606m.a.s.l.) is not only known because its people make very long cane bugles, but also because it is possible to go on peaceful 20-min walks from there, ending in two beautiful water falls.

La Colpa – Cajamarca

Only 11 km from Cajamarca is the old Hacienda of La Colpa, engaged in cattle breeding. This is where one can witness the unique event known as “The Calling of the Cows”; upon hearing a worker clearly shout out their names, each animal approaches in an orderly fashion to be milked.

The place is quiet and peaceful and has a chapel, the hacienda house, an artificial lagoon and large well kept gardens.

Otuzco – Cajamarca

The windows of Otuzco - Cajamarca
The windows of Otuzco – Cajamarca. Mysterious ruins that were part of a preinca cementery. Pic by @carlos_cardenasbardales(IG)

On Llanguil Hill, only 8 km northeast from the City of Cajamarca, there are living rock excavations, appearing at a distance to be multiple array of windows. The so-called Ventanillas (Niches) of Otuzco (2,850m.a.s.l.) are actually part of an old cemetery of the Cajamarca Culture, which niches are neatly arranged in rows.

Apparently, this was an important place for honoring ancestors, which remains may have been removed from their original tombs to be deposited in this necropolis. Archaeologists have been able to identify two types of niches; the simple type, for the majority, and the multiple types, comprised of a corridor flanked by lateral niches.

Permanent public transportation is available to reach this site. If it is preferred, the trip can be made on a bicycle enjoying the beautiful Cajamarca countryside.

Necropolis of Combayo – Cajamarca

This is a funerary complex similar to that of Otuzco, although better preserved, located in Combayo (3,000m.a.s.l.), 20 km north from Cajamarca. There, on the slopes of San Cristóbal, numerous niches were built belonging to the Cajamarca Culture.

Public transportation does not go as far as the so-called Ventanillas (Niches) of Combayo but individual excursions are conducted, being necessary to take warm clothes as the afternoons are chilly.

Returning to Cajamarca, only 3 km from the city, one can visit the livestock farm of Tres Molinos and taste manjarblanco (liquid fudge sweet), butter and the typical cheeses of Cajamarca. It is also possible there to take a ride on a famous Peruvian Paso Horse. Visiting the gardens filled with ornamental plants and especially hydrangeas is a must.

Porcon Farm – Cajamarca

The fields of Porcon in Cajamarca
Porcon, Cajamarca by @elvizvargas(IG)

The Atahualpa Jerusalem Cooperative or Porcón Farm, as it is also known, is an excellent sample of peasant work, offering visitors the opportunity of participating in different agricultural or livestock tasks.

Actually, in addition to the traditional crops of the former hacienda, the livestock business has been successfully developed, including cattle and camelidae. There are also deer, ocelots, monkeys and eagles. In Porcón, 30 km northeast from

Cajamarca (116 km from Lower Porcón) at 3,400m.a.s.l, an exemplary reforestation process has been carried out, responsible for the recovery of 10,000 ha of forest. Twenty kilometers before reaching Porcón, it is worth stopping in the village of Huambocancha to buy beautiful items carved in volcanic stone.

 

Cajamarca Festivities Calendar

FEBRUARY IN CAJAMARCA

Cajamarca Carnival

This feast precedes Easter. It lasts approximately one month, although it only has eight main days. It is mainly held in the City of Cajamarca, but nearby towns hold simultaneous celebrations. With many colorful dresses, masks ridiculing the authorities of Andean villages, and the folkloric dances, the Carnival is also comprised of pageants and lively marches.

An exceptional sample of the local folklore, the Carnival is presided over by a queen and by Ño Carnavalón, chosen each year by the local residents. It ends with a tree cutting ritual or yunza, which is a dance around a tree decorated with fruits and presents, while attempts are made to bring it down with an axe.

MARCH – APRIL IN CAJAMARCA

Crosses of Lower Porcón Feast

On the eve of Palm Sunday, the crosses prepared and decorated for the occasion by the peasants of Cajamarca, are taken throughout the ravine to converge at the home of the Mayordomo of the feast (the person in charge of its organization).

On Palm Sunday, the crosses are taken out in procession once again, together with Our Lord of the Palm, who travels on a white mule all the way to the chapel in the community of Porcón. Throughout the march, the residents sing in Quechua, Latin and Spanish.

JUNE IN CAJAMARCA

Corpus Christi

This is the most important religious feast in the City of Cajamarca. Following a solemn mass, the Cathedral’s shrine known as La Preciosa is taken on a procession, once a year. In addition to the religious celebration, there are bullfights, fairs and several contests.

Saint John the Baptist – 24th

Chota honors its Patron Saint since June 14, with processions and masses celebrated in the Cathedral, as well as to the very popular bullfight. Noticeable too is the presence of horse riders who take advantage of the occasion to show their skills.

JULY IN CAJAMARCA

 Main Days of Our Lady of Carmen’s Festivities (15th and 16th)

The Province of Celendín shows its devotion to Our Lady of Carmen with masses and processions, but also through pagan activities such as bullfights and trade fairs.

OCTOBER IN CAJAMARCA

Tourism Week in Cajamarca (7th to 12ve)

Social and cultural activities, such as paintings and photographic exhibits, as well as folkdances are held at this time. There are also a variety of contests, cock fights and sporting competitions.