Cajamarca conjures up images of fertile fields stretching along the roadside and climbing up the hillsides and across the highland plains and ravines.
The city of Cajamarca, considered the Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Americas, was transformed by the Inca empire into an important administrative, military and religious center. On November 16, 1532, Cajamarca witnessed a key date in the history of the Americas, when a band of Spanish soldiers led by Conqueror Francisco Pizarro took captive the Inca ruler, Atahualpa. The spanish chroniclers claimed he filled a chamber (the Ransom Room) once over with gold and twice with silver as far as he could stretch his hand. Today a line runs round the room showing where the treasure stacked up.
The city reflects Spanish influence in its architecture, such as the cathedral, the churches of San Francisco, Belen and La Recoleta, and the two storey houses with twin-eaved roofs. The Baños del Inca, the natural hot springs which the Inca ruler was fond of lies to the east of the city.
The district also features the Ventanillas de Otuzco, a complex of burial caves carved out in pre-Inca times. The province of San Pablo is home to two major archaeological complexes: Cumbemayo, a set of ceremonial altars and Inca aqueducts, and Kuntur Wasi, a ceremonial complex of several squares and platforms held up by huge stone walls.
North of the city is Granja Porcon, a dairy farm where travelers can take part in farming chores. The farm is famous for its herd of cows which are still called by name at milking time.
Carnival time in February is among the most famous of the festivals in Cajamarca. The townspeople are easy-going, amiable folk, and involves entire neighborhoods and institutions until the end of the festival, when the participants symbolically bury Ño Carnavalón, the king of the carnival. The celebrations go on for around a month, but there are eight main days, when participants are often doused with water.
:: VENTANILLAS DE OTUZCO
Cajamarca, sums up its architecture in the encounter between two cultures: Inca and Spain. Archaeological remains in the area, however, tell of more ancient times, dating back to the Caxamarca culture (up to 1450 AD), with aqueducts and enigmatic cave paintings going back even further.
Just 8 kms (5 miles) from the city, in the district of Los Baños del Inca, The Ventanillas de Otuzco stand out amidst the countryside. The site is a pre-inca cemetery which pre-dates the Caxamarca culture, probably influenced by the Wari empire. Hundreds of galleries and individuals niches resembling windows were hewn into the volcanic stone. The niches are 8-10 meters deep, (26-33 feet) 50-60 cm (1.64 feet) high and are rectangular or quadrangular shaped. The niches probably were originally sealed with gravestones carved with figures in haut-relief judging by fragments founds nearby.
Legend has it that the Incas cleared out the niches and used them as grain storerooms (“collca” in Quechua), redirecting their entrances toward the wind to keep them cool.
The niches lead into a network of dark and mysterious galleries which appear to have no end, giving rise to myths of secrets tunnels that linked Cajamarca and Cusco.
• Picante de papa con cuy frito. Guinea pig slew whit peanut and hot chilli pepper sauce.
• Chicharrón con mote. Pork fritters served with steamed corn.
• Humitas. Sweet cornmash dessert stuffed with cinnamonand raisins.
• Caldo verde. Potato soup with locally-grown aromatic herbs.