So you are planning a Peru vacation and are trying to figure out where to go. Surely a trip down to Cusco and nearby Machu Picchu will make your list of possible destinations, and well they should. But perhaps you also have enough time on your hands to explore other parts of the country. If you have the room in your budget to hitch occasional flights, getting around Peru can be both quick and relatively easy, so why not consider a trip to the northern highlands as well. It is here that you will find the beautiful and historic city of Cajamarca. If you have never heard of it before, or never considered it as a possible travel destination, then it may be high time you do so. Cajamarca Peru is quite a special city. Its historical value is second to none, its setting is most ideal, and its people unique. Toss in the fact that there are some pretty amazing archaeological sites nearby, as well as the world’s second largest gold mine, and you have yourself the kind of place that surely deserves recognition. Carnival, which is one of the best Peru festivals, is perhaps best celebrated in Cajamarca.
In relation to the Inca Empire, Cajamarca was a very sacred place. However, even before the Inca came to rule the land, Cajamarca had been the center of the Caxamarca people. The Caxamarca civilization had its roots in the Chavin and Huari cultures, and its zenith of prosperity lasted approximately 500 years, beginning around 500 AD. Before the Chavin and Caxamarca civilizations laid their claims to the area, prior cultures had been operating successfully for thousands of years. Two major attractions near the city that beg a visit are Cumbe Mayo, a pre-Columbian aqueduct which may just be the continent’s oldest man-made structure, and Kuntur Wasi, an important religious center with ruins that date back to around 1000 BC. Cumbe Mayo is just 12 miles outside of town, whereas Kuntur Wasi is approximately 70 miles away. Both make for excellent Cajamarca tours. Cajamarca tours can easily be arranged in town, so fret not.
Cajamarca Peru rests at an elevation of around 8,900 feet in the northwestern province that bears the same name. It is relatively close to the cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo, and its equatorial climate has long made it coveted. As the Inca Empire extended its reign throughout the Andes Mountains, the agreeable climate and area hot springs of Cajamarca helped to make it a favored center of importance. The Inca converted the hot springs near Cajamarca into a lovely complex, and the baths are among the prime Cajamarca attractions to this day. With both simple and more modern bathing pools available, these Inca Baths (Baños del Inca) are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. The Inca established their rule of Cajamarca between 1463 and 1471 under Tupac Inca, who at the time was the head ruler of the Inca Empire. In the end of the 1400"s, and the beginning of the 1500"s, the Inca were undergoing a civil war. Half-brothers Atahualpa and Huáscar fought for control after the death of their ruling father, Huayna Capac. The arrival of Francisco Pizarro and his band of 160 troops in November 1532 would only help to attribute to the downfall of the Inca Empire. The Battle of Cajamarca that ensued is among the most significant occurrences in all the history of the Americas.
The Battle of Cajamarca was a surprise attack orchestrated by Pizarro and his officers on the eve of their arrival. The date of this audacious evening plan was November 15, 1532. By the next morning, Atahualpa, who had succeeded in defeating his half-brother, received an invitation from Pizarro to meet with him in town. Atahualpa and his some 80,000 men did not come hastily, and upon arrival to Cajamarca, they were cautious to follow Pizarro’s wishes. They arrived unarmed, in a gesture of friendship and confidence, but even had they arrived armed, they had never seen guns. Their simpler weapons proved unequal to the Spanish firearms. As the Battle of Cajamarca began, the Spanish cavalry onslaught proved to be both fierce and overwhelming. The Inca had never seen horses either. Once the Inca Empire ruler and his primary officers were under control, the Inca army fell into disarray. Before the actual Battle of Cajamarca began, Pizarro had sent a friar to meet with Atahualpa. The idea was to convert him and his people to Christianity. Atahualpa did not exactly take kindly to this, and his supposed gesture of throwing down the Bible proved to be a primary catalyst for the fight. Once Atahualpa was captured, he was housed in the now famous “Ransom Room”. Charged with some 12 crimes by the Spanish, he was ordered to be executed. To buy his freedom, Atahualpa allegedly filled the ransom room with gold and other rooms with silver. The Spanish ordered that he accept Christianity before they would commute his sentence. Agreeing to do so, likely out of desperation, he was killed anyhow. The Ransom Room stands to this day, but it should be noted that it was only where Atahualpa was imprisoned. The gold was housed elsewhere. The Battle of Cajamarca effectively marked the end of the Inca Empire.
As might be expected, Cajamarca retains plenty of Spanish-style
colonial architecture, but it may be the dress of the
locals that is most intriguing, if not peculiar. Most
Cajamarcans wear big, distinctive straw hats, and if you
are thinking that you can pull off the look back home,
you might think twice. It puts the ten-gallon hat to shame
and would make you stand out like the sorest of sore thumbs.
The aforementioned Cajamarca tours into the outlying country
are highly recommended, and Cajamarca has a nice selection
of hotels and restaurants, many of which are small and
affordably-priced. Arguably one of Peru’s top hotels,
the Hotel Posada del Puruay is to be considered. It is
housed in an 1830 hacienda, and is a great deal for the
price. If you want to celebrate Carnival in Peru, Cajamarca
just might be the best place to do it if you like it wild.
Plan your Cajamarca Peru vacation and see Inca artifacts,
enjoy a great climate, and observe and interact the wonderful
locals. It’s a great place to be.