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Top Activities to do in Cajamarca

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 12-10-2022

Cajamarca is a charming mountain town, in the North of Peru and is certainly an off-the-beaten-track destination. Many people visit the area along with the Chachapoyas region, home of ancient cultures, waterfalls, and a museum with Peru’s largest collection of mummies. In recent years, Cajamarca has become the home to many major gold mining operations, with mines like Yanacocha, active today.  Most famously, Cajamarca is known as the place where the Inca Empire came to an end when it witnessed the capture of Inca Atahualpa in 1532 by Francisco Pizarro. The town is most lively around the beginning of February during Carnival when party-goers fill the streets. With an unequaled azure-blue sky, wonderful landscapes, and living cultures, here are some of the top activities in Cajamarca.


Working The Landin Cajamarca


The Ransom Chamber (Cuarto del Rescate) 


The only Inca construction still standing in Cajamarca, is where the last Inca ruler Atahualpa, was imprisoned. The small room has three trapezoidal doorways and a few similarly shaped niches in the inner walls, recognizing it as an Inca construction. Visitors are not allowed to enter the room, but from outside it's possible to observe the red line marking the original ceiling of the structure. This was the point to which the room was to be filled with treasure to secure Atahualpa's release. The sophistication of the construction of the Cuarto del Rescate and the way the stones fit together so perfectly that no mortar is needed exceeds the ability of modern western masonry construction.


The Ransom Chamber




The Cumbemayo archaeological complex is located approximately 20 kilometers from the City of Cajamarca and is found at an elevation of 3,500 meters. The Cajamarca people worshipped rain, thunder, lightning, the sun, and the moon. That makes sense since they were an agricultural economy. They also used barter for trade. In Cumbemayo we can witness find a magical stone forest with gigantic stone figures called “friars” because it resembles a group of hooded friars. Also found at the site are petroglyphs, the tunnel, ceremonial altars, and the sacrificial stone. The aqueduct also stands out, an impressive work of hydraulic engineering dating back more than 3,000 years.




El Complejo de Belen


The construction of the sprawling Belen colonial complex, including a church and hospital made entirely from volcanic rock, occurred between 1627 and 1774. The hospital was run by nuns and 31 tiny, cell-like bedrooms line the walls of the T-shaped building. The baroque church next door is one of Cajamarca’s finest and has a stunningly-carved pulpit. Art exhibitions regularly decorate the walls inside the church.


Belen Church


Baños del Inca

The Inca Baths are located approximately 6 km from the city of Cajamarca at 2500 meters elevation.  The amazing aspects of this medicinal spa, are the various pools of therapeutic waters, offering relief for the mind, body, and soul. Since pre-Inca times, these thermal baths were visited by the local elite. Today you can learn all about the history and relax in the healing properties of its waters.


Inca Baths


Otuzco Windows

The Otuzco Windows is actually a ceremonial burial site, where you can see hundreds of windows and individual funerary intrusions that resemble windows that are approximately 8 to 10 meters deep. This ancient cemetery belongs to the Cajamarca Culture, who used to bury their deceased in crevices excavated in the rock, generally known as “windows”. Along the way, we can appreciate the picturesque landscapes of the Cajamarca countryside and the setting of these remarkable windows.



The Cajamarca Cathedral


This ornate building began its construction in the late 17th century and was only recently finished. This church is also called Santa Catalina Church. Although only a church when it was built in 1665, it was elevated to the category of a Cathedral in 1685. The facade is carved from volcanic stone. It is considered one of the best examples of Peruvian Baroque architecture in Peru. Like most of Cajamarca’s churches, the cathedral has no belfry, due to the Spanish Crown introducing a tax on finished churches. This is why many churches in Cajamarca were left unfinished and thereby avoiding the tax. The church's interior lacks the finery and ornamentation of its exterior, somewhat, until you reach the rich baroque altarpiece covered in gold leaf.


Cajamarca Cathedral

The San Francisco Church


Overshadowing the cathedral on Plaza de Armas, this elaborate church with striking stone carvings and decadent altars, is unlike other illustrious Cajamarca churches, because the San Francisco Church, has two belfries. It was constructed in part from stones removed from the House of Snakes Temple on Mirador Santa Apolonia. The first version of the convent on site was completed in 1562, by Franciscan monks. It houses the Museo de Arte Religioso full of 17th-century religious paintings by indigenous artists. The museum includes some catacombs, where in one room you can witness the tombs of monks, and in another, are skeletons recovered from indigenous graves found at the site, lying bare and without ceremony.

San Francisco Church


Archaeology and Ethnicity Museum


This small museum has exhibits of pre-Columbian pottery and stone statues, as well as displays of local costumes and clothing, domestic and agricultural implements, and musical instruments. The most disturbing exhibit is the mummified remains of a baby in a ceramic vase. The museum is housed inside the Antigua Hospital de Mujeres, just a few meters from The Belen Archaeological Complex. The ornate facade has a fascinating statue of a woman with four breasts, carved by local artisans, which supposedly represents a commonly found affliction in one of the nearby communities.


Archaeology and Ethnicity Museum