2.750 m/9,000 ft above sea level.
Cajamarca is located in the north of Peru, straddling the Western and Eastern chains of the Andes, and thus embracing both mountain and jungle portions of territory. It borders to the north with Ecuador, to the south with La Libertad, to the east with Amazonas, and to the west with Piura and Lambayeque.
Cajamarca is densely populated with about 1.3 million people inhabiting its 36,418 km². The capital is the city of Cajamarca, is located at 2,719 m.a.s.l. on a beautiful and fertile valley of all shades of green. The weather is mild, dry and sunny. Other important cities are Celendín, Jaen, Chota, Cajabamba, Contumaza, and Cutervo.
A Brief History
The origin of the city of Cajamarca goes back 3,000 years. The first settlers were the Huacaloma, Layzon, Cumbe Mayo, and Otuzco peoples. With the Caxamarca civilization, it reached its greatest development between the years 500 to 1000 AD.
Around 1450, Capac Yupanqui, brother of the ruling Inca Pachacutec, conquered this land and included it in the Tahuantinsuyo. In November 1532, Cajamarca was the stage for a crucial act in the history of the world. A band of Spaniards under the command of conqueror Francisco Pizarro took Inca Atahualpa as prisoner. This incident brought forth the meeting of two worlds, the origin of the ‘mestizaje’ or mixing of bloods, and a new era in the history of Peru.
Since September 14, 1986, the Organization of American States has listed Cajamarca as part of the Historic and Cultural Heritage of the Americas.
Main Attractions in Cajamarca
One of the largest in Peru, it was the stage for the meeting of the two civilizations and it stands now at exactly the same place where Inca Atahualpa was executed.
Built in the 17th century, the Cathedral’s façade is a refined example of Baroque art with Plateresque reminiscences that include arcades, arabesque work, cornices, and vaulted niches. The main altar is totally covered in gold leaf.
San Francisco Church
Part of the convent of the same name, it houses valuable pieces of art, including icons, imagery and religious paintings. It also houses a museum of Colonial religious art.
Built in the 18th century, this Colonial historic monument is a superb example of the Spanish American Baroque and a symbol of the cultural identity of Cajamarca.
La Recoleta Church
Built in the 17 th century and located in the popular quarter of San Sebastián, its sober façade is carved in stone and decorated by triple arch espadañas.
The Ransom Room
Unique to Cajamarca, this monument symbolizes the meeting of two worlds and is the only local vestige left of Inca architecture. This is the room that captive Inca Atahualpa offered to fill with gold (plus another two with silver) if freed by the Spanish conquistadors.
Santa Apolonia Hill
Natural belvedere that dominates the whole valley, providing an unbeatable panorama of the city.
Thermal baths located 6 km from the capital where water temperatures reach 79°C/174°F. The modern facilities and the healing properties of the waters rank among the most important of their kind in the Hemisphere.
Windows of Otuzco
A vast Inca necropolis located 8 km from the city characterized by the carved crypts in rocky cliffs resembling a huge funerary mosaic of small windows or “ventanillas.” Most are simple niches, but some are multiple forming corridors.
Beautiful post in the Cajamarca countryside and site of El Rescate stock farm, known for cows who, at the call of their name, approach to be milked.
This is a small town of typical peasant atmosphere and known for its weavings made natural dyes of varied colors.
A rural development center supported by the National University of de Cajamarca. It includes a pottery workshop where modern techniques are combined with local ancestral skills.
An impressive archeological complex at the foothills of El Cumbe Mountain, it ranks among the greatest examples of pre-Hispanic hydraulic engineering.
Pre-Inca archeological site of great interest. Like the Ventanillas de Otuzco, it has beautiful windows carved in rock, though better preserved and more numerous.
The people of Porcon live in extended families at around 2,900 meters above sea level. As in the rest of the Province of Cajamarca, they mix cattle and sheep rearing with the cultivation of Andean crops such as potatoes, chocho and oca, as well as mustard, wheat and barley among others. Their fields are small because of the difficult terrain and many employ traditional techniques to protect them from the cold, as the temperature falls to freezing point on winter nights. Porcon is a community that venerates its Quechua-speaking origins but absorbed Catholic ceremonies into its identity. Unlike other Easter Week celebrations in Peru, the one in this fun-loving village located half an hour by road from the city of Cajamarca does not dwell on the death of Christ. On the main day of the festival -Palm Sunday- four different ceremonies are held: the crowning of the crosses, the greeting of the Lord at the majordomo’s house (the person in charge of organizing the festivities), the various responses sung in Quechua and Latin, and finally the procession to the plantation chapel.
The Crosses are decorated with round and oval shaped mirrors symbolizing the souls of the dead, as well as figures representing the Virgin Mary, the Heart of Jesus and a wealth of symmetrically placed patron saints forming a huge rhomboid.