Cajamarca and around

Cajamarca is a beautiful colonial town and the most important in the northern highlands. It sits at the edge of a green valley that is ideal for dairy farming. Around the Plaza de Armas are many fine old houses, which are being converted into tasteful hotels, restaurants and galleries to cater for engineers and incomers from the adjacent Yanacocha mining project. The airport has been expanded to cater for the mining personnel, but tourism has yet to catch on to this facility. The mine, now that it is fully operational and looking to expand, has provoked opposition from farmers and created worries over pollution, intruding on the provincial calm of a city once closely tied to its pastoral surroundings. It remains, though, a great place to buy handicrafts, but lest you forget where the money now lies, you can find soapstone carvings of miners with power drills alongside more traditional figures. Outside town are several good haciendas offering bed, board and rural pursuits, while at the Baños del Inca, just up the road, you can unwind as the steam from the thermal waters meets the cool mountain air.

Getting there

The airport is 3 km northeast of town (take the Cerillo road). The bus offices are to the southeast of the centre, on the Baños del Inca road past La Recoleta church; a 20-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas.

Getting around

All the main sights are clustered around the Plaza de Armas. With its many old colonial buildings it is an interesting town to wander around, although the climb up Santa Apolonia hill is quite demanding. The district around Plaza Francia (Amazonas y José Gálvez), the market area and east of Amazonas are not safe at night (prostitution and drugs). Combis run to the main places outside town, like Baños del Inca. Others, like Cumbemayo, are best reached on a tour, and some make good day walks.

Best time to visit

Cajamarca has a pleasant climate year round, with warm days and chilly nights. The wettest months are December to March. Depending on your point of view, Carnival (February or March) is the time to be there, or the time to avoid - it is a riotous, messy affair. Hotels are also booked up at this time. More sedate festivals are Holy Week, especially Palm Sunday at nearby Porcón, and Corpus Christi in May. During October and November there are numerous school trips to this area, so most of the budget hotels are full at this time.

Tourist information

Dirección Regional de Turismo
and
Instituto Nacional de Cultura
, www.inccajamarca.org, www.regioncajamarca.gob.pe
.


Background

Before Cajamarca became an Inca religious centre and favoured haunt of the nobility in 1456, it had been at the heart of a culture known as Caxamarca, which flourished from AD 500 to 1000. The violent events of 1532-1533 are today belied by the city's provincial calm. It was named provincial capital in 1855 and Patrimonio Histórico y Cultural de las Américas by the Organization of American States in 1986. It is now seeking UNESCO World Heritage status. In addition to its historical associations, Cajamarca is best known for its dairy industry, textiles and intricately worked mirrors . Change is coming, though, in the form of the Circuito Turístico Nororiental, which is opening up the Chiclayo-Cajamarca-Chachapoyas tourist route, and in the effect on the town from the Yanacocha gold mine. This has brought many foreign mining engineers and economic benefits, but also serious debates and protests over ecological impact, compensation to
campesinos
and threats to the city's drinking water supply. Only groups are allowed to visit the mine, which has a
public relations office
, www.yanacocha.com.pe
.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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