Cajamarca is in the northern highlands of Peru at approximately 2,750 metres above sea level. It is a peaceful town, located in a valley and surrounded by hills. Not only is it the best producer of cheese and milk in Peru, but it also has great historical significance in Peru’s history. Cajamarca is the city where the last Inca Emperor was captured in the Battle of Cajamarca by the Spanish conquistadors. There are tours to visit the house where he was held captive, the opportunity to visit many archaeological sites that surround the city, and of course, you’ll see the beautiful colonial architecture in Cajamarca. With its cobbled streets and old buildings, you'll see that Cajamarca has retained its traditional culture. Look out for the town square, church, and cathedral. Below is our Cajamarca travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
BAÑOS DEL INCA (THE INCA’S BATHS) – Located 5km outside the city is a natural hot spring where the Incas bathed. Legend has it that Atahualpa (the Inca Emperor) was relaxing in these baths when the Spanish Conquistadores invaded. The original bath can be viewed but not entered; this bath is outdoors with a beautiful mountain view.
The water is geothermally heated – it can reach temperatures of up to 70 degrees Celsius - and has therapeutic properties. Easily accessible by public transport, this is a great place to come and relax. Massages are available, and you’ll also find private indoor tubs, as well as showers. The village where the baths are located is small – here you’ll find a few shops and restaurants – with the baths being the main attraction here. Tip: bring a towel as the ones for sale here aren’t cheap.
CUARTO DEL RESCATE (RANSOM ROOM) – Visit the room where Atahualpa, the last Inca Emperor, was held captive. Atahualpa made a ransom for his life, filling the room with silver and gold. After two months, he was trialled and executed, and the gold and silver were split between the Spanish. Here, you’ll be able to see the mark on the wall, indicating how high the Spaniards wanted Atahualpa to fill the room with treasure, in exchange for his release. Although entry to the room is prohibited, it’s important evidence of a key moment in history. You can also see some paintings showing the famous moments of Atahualpa’s imprisonment.
VENTANILLAS DE OTUZCO – A pre-Inca necropolis located 8km from the city of Cajamarca. This is an ancient burial site, over 600 years old. The tombs are built into the cliffs and look like small windows. It is quite a small site, so you only need an hour here, and it’s a short bus or taxi ride from the city centre. Entry costs around 5 soles, and it’s worth reading up about this place before visiting if you decide to go independently, as there isn’t much information available onsite. Otherwise, go with a tour group or hire your own local guide.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Baños del Inca.
Cuarto del Rescate.
Traditional dishes in Cajamarca often consist of cream sauces due to the high dairy production in the area. There are many restaurants around the main centre that serve affordable and tasty dishes, including cuy (guinea pig). During the evening, there are many food stalls that sell traditional street food.
Try Paprika Restaurante Cajamarca (Jr Cruz de Piedra 707) for typical Peruvian food, as well as international dishes. Here you can enjoy a great view of the main square.
Most night clubs and bars are located around the main square. There are many different options to choose from, such as Latin, pop or rock. Cajamarca is sure to have a bar or nightclub for you. Try Usha Usha (Jr Amalia Puga 142), which has a nice, laid-back atmosphere, with live music - the perfect place to have a few drinks after a day spent exploring the city.
The best time to visit Cajamarca would be during dry season. There is very minimal rain during the months of May to September. January to April is slightly cooler than the rest of the year, but generally temperatures stay between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
There are flights that leave daily from Lima to Cajamarca and only take 1 hour and 30 minutes. The most time consuming but cost effective way to get to Cajamarca is by bus. Buses leave daily from Lima to Trujillo and take approximately 9 hours, after you will need to take a second bus from Trujillo to Cajamarca (approximately another 7 hours).
There are many affordable hostels and hotels around the city, such as close to the town square and cathedral. However, there are also upscale spas and resorts available outside the city. Check out Hotel Cajamarca (Jr. 2 de Mayo 311), set in a colonial house, by the main square.
Take a day to acclimatize as the city is situated in the high Andes, drink lots of bottled water and take plenty of rest on the first day. Do not do any rigorous activities.