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Andes of northern Peru
Less touristy than the Cusco region and Altiplano, this part of the Cordillera has however much to offer.
Kashamarka in Quechua, the city where Inca Atahualpa was captured by Francisco Pizarro, is located 872 km (542 mi) north of Lima (16 hours) and 306 km (190 mi) east of Trujillo (7 hours). This city of 270,000 inhabitants, capital of the department of Cajamarca, is 2,720 m (8,922 mi) above sea level and enjoys a dry, mild and sunny climate all year round.
Located in a fertile valley, is an important center of trade of agricultural goods, especialy with dairy products, Cajamarca is known for its cheeses and delicious manjar blanco (resembling blancmange) which is used in many Peruvian desserts. The region is also one of the richest in minerals like copper, mercury and especially gold with nearly half of the national production.
Like Cusco, Cajamarca is steeped in history, a mix of Inca and colonial. Ima Sumac the famous actriz and soprano in the 1950s was born here, she was a direct descendant from Inca Atahualpa.
It is one of the most important and picturesque in the country. Cajamarca is officially the capital of the Peruvian carnival. For several days, alternate parades, dances with colorful costumes comparable to Rio de Janeiro. The particularity of the Cajamarca's carnival are the typical grotesque masks.
It takes place during lent (end of February / beginning of March).
Plaza de Armas
The nice main square has two baroque churches:
Open 7 days a week 8:00 to 11:00 am and 6:00 to 9:00 pm – Free admission.
It is one of the most beautiful churches in the country. The facade of the 17th century is characterized by the absence of towers which gives a compact appearance and the carved wooden altar is completely covered with gold leaf.
The revenge of Cajamarca
Ironically, in the same place where the Inca Atahualpa was betrayed and executed by the Spaniards and to compensate the incredible quantity of gold and silver which gave Pizarro to negotiate his freedom, the Apus (sacred mountains) offered the people a fabulous treasure, Yanacocha, the second largest gold mine in the world that produces 40 tons / 90,000 lb in 2010 (more than 100 T / 220,000 lb in 2005).
The Conga project of Yanacocha, very controversial (actually en stand-by in 2014) by farmers fearing the removal of lagoons despite the replacement provided by the mining company, the project will extract more than 3 billion pounds of copper (1,5 million T) and 12 million ounces of gold (330 T) in 19 years, generating US$4 billion in tax revenues for the Peruvian state, an investment of US$ 5 billion and 6,000 jobs, in addition the economic impact on the region.
San Francisco Monastery
Open Mon/Fri from 9:00 to 12:00 am and from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
Built in the eighteenth century, the facades of the monastery and church with its huge bell, are more impressive than the cathedral.
Cuarto de rescate
Jirón Amalia Puga 750 – Open 7 days a week 8:30 am - 14:30. Admission: S/.5 - US$1.30 - 1.10€
The Ransom Room is one of the few Inca ruins of the city. Here Atahualpa offered Pizarro the room filled once with gold and twice with silver for his freedom.
The amount of the ransom was 6 tons (13,000 lb) of gold and 12 tons (26,000 lb) of silver, corresponding in present value to US$300 million or 240 million euros. Although having complied with the offering, Atahualpa was detainee over 8 months in this cell until his execution.
Conjunto Monumental Belén
Jirón Belén, facing plaza Belén – Open 7 days a week 9:00 am - 1:00 pm and 3:00 - 6:00 pm - Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
This colonial complex built in the 18th century consists of a church and two more buildings. One was the men's hospital, today it is the Museum of Medicine (Museo de la Mediicina) and the other one was the women's hospital transformed in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Conjunto Monumental La Recoleta
Corner av. El Maestro and av. Los Heroes – District of San Sebastián - Open 7 days a week from 8:00 to 12:oo ama and from 4:00 to 8:00 pm.
The facade of the church is sober, but the two towers are quite unique with its three arches. During the Pacific War, an earthquake occurred just at the time that Chileans trying to enter, thus saving the church from looting.
Santa Apolonia hill
At the end of jirón Dos de Mayo, 2 blocks of plaza de armas (main square)
A staircase gives access to this hill which offers a magnificent view over the city.
During the ascent we see little squares, gardens and fountains, the chapel of Santa Apolonia dedicated to the Virgin of Fatima and also the "Sillas del Inca" (Inca chairs) or Rumi Tiana in Quechua, two carved rocks shaped like armchairs.
The pre-Hispanic ruins are located on the outskirts of the city.
Baños del Inca
6 km (4 mi) east of Cajamarca – Open 7 days a week from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm
This baths complex, Inti Puquio in Quechua (Fountains of the Sun), is considered the spa of America. The healing properties of its sources (Perolitos) are recognized to treat rheumatism, skin problems, bone diseases and the nervous system.
It is the main attraction of the region, numerous pools have been built during the reign of the Great Inca Pachacutec and all Inca emperors came here to enjoy them. The Inca Atahualpa was here with his army to the arrival of Pizarro.
Enjoying the benefits of its volcanic waters you can imagine for a moment being in the place of the Inca relaxing before a battle. Today the complex is more extensive and you can take advantage of saunas and natural herbal treatments.
Ventanillas de Otuzco
8 km (5 mi) northeast of Cajamarca
At first glance, one might think of a kind of prehistoric building with many windows that gave the name to the place (Small Windows of Otuzco), aligned at various levels. Hundreds of niches carved into the rock, nearly square of 50 cm (1.6 ft) and maximum 10 meters (33 ft) deep, were used as tombs which are difficult to date, probably from the Cajamarca culture (AD 200 to 1.300).
Later the Incas used these cavities as a granary.
Ventanillas de Combayo
35 km (22 mi) northeast of Cajamarca, past Otuzco
Monument similar to Otuzco, it is in better condition and larger.
20 km (12 mi) southwest of Cajamarca
Pre-Inca site that combines human ingenuity and mastery of nature. The "Stone Forest" is an impressive natural alignment of eroded rocks looking like monks praying.
We can also see caves with carved walls, ceremonial altars and especially a superb aqueduct of 9 km (6 mi) long carved into the volcanic rock with engravings edges, which probably comes from the Caxamarca or Cajamarca period (1000 AD).
This charming colonial town of 50,000 inhabitants and capital of the department of Amazonas, is located 1,207 km (750 mi) from Lima (21 hours), 457 km (284 mi) from Chiclayo (7 hours) and 335 km (208 mi) of Cajamarca (8 hours by a partially paved road) at an altitude of 2,334 m (7,656 ft).
Located in the "ceja de selva" (eyebrow of the jungle), boundary between the Amazon Rainforest and the Andes, Chachapoyas enjoys a temperate climate. The main economic activity of the region is agriculture like cereals, sugar cane, coffee and cassava (manioc).
1 hour north of Chachapoyas is the village of Cocachimba and then a 3 hour hike through lush vegetation, appears a mountain where 22 stunning waterfalls emerge. Gocta is the third tallest waterfall in the world with 771 meters (2,529 ft) after Salto de Angel (972 m / 3,188 ft) in Venezuela and Tugelafalls (948 m / 3,109 ft) in South Africa.
2 hours south of Chachapoyas, is the amazing Fortress of Kuelap situated on a ridge at an altitude of 3,000 m (9,840 ft). This fortified city of Chachapoyas civilization dates from about 1000 AD. It consists of several platforms with over 400 constructions, most of them cylindrical and the site is surrounded by a massive wall of almost 20 meters (66 ft) high.
The most impressive are its access to ascend to the first platform, corridors flanked by high walls of more than 30 meters (100 ft). This narrows sharply as it rises, culminating in a space large enough for one person to enter.
A third access more like an exit to ... the void!
A 2 hour walk from the village of Yerbabuena (70 km / 43 mi south of Chachapoyas), we reached the foot of a cliff. Here, numerous funeral houses of red and white colour were carved into the rock. These amazing collective graves have mostly symbolic sloping roofs, the facades are painted with figures such as llamas, people, felines, geometric shapes and have several incisions in shape of rectangles crosses or a T.
Sarcófagos de Karajía
48 km / 30 mi (2 hours) northwest of Chachapoyas, the Purunmachus resembling statues, are clay sarcophagi 2.50 m (8 ft) tall, with masks and a type of hat.
The 7 coffins containing mummies and installed in niches dug into the rock, seem to care the valley.
In this village 82 km / 51 mi (2 hours) south of Chachapoyas towards Cajamarca, is the best museum in the region. The Museo Centro Mallqui (open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm), shows numerous archaeological pieces and especially the 219 mummies found in perfect condition near Lake of the Condors located 10 hours riding.