Cajamarca is one of the pearls of northern Peru. It is an unmissable city on your travel route through the versatile country of Peru. Cajamarca has a beautiful location in the mountains. The city is located at an altitude of around 2,700 meters and has a fresh climate. It’s a wonderful place to just watch people; with colorful clothes and their beautiful faces. In the city you’ll find the most beautiful churches and a pleasant central square. In addition, there are many great activities to do in the immediate area. What shouldn’t you skip during your visit to Cajamarca?
1. Walk up Santa al Apolonia
The “Santa al Apolonia” hill is located in the center of Cajamarca, close to the central square (Plaza de Armas). First you will have to climb some stairs, but the view is definitely worth it. We recommend that you go early in the morning and walk through the center to the “back” of the hill. If you walk in that direction at around 8 a.m., you will see how the city wakes up quietly and everyone goes to school or work. Once you reach the hill, you have to pay one sol entrance fee and then climb a few stairs. If you have difficulty walking or have little time, a taxi is also an option. The view from the top is breathtaking. On your way back you should walk down the stairs at the front and you will arrive at the central square.
2. Cumbe Mayo
If you are in Cajamarca, there is one thing you shouldn’t miss: Cumbe Mayo! This archaeological site is a 45-minute drive from Cajamarca and the road to it is an experience in itself. From Cajamarca you go straight up via unpaved roads and you see a lot of local life outside the city. Cumbe Mayo is located at an altitude of around 3500 meters and consists of large rock formations. Here the Incas lived around 1500 AD. and the ingenious building arts are still clearly visible. The walk starts through a spectacular (and slightly claustrophobic) cave and then you come across various aqueducts and petroglyphs. The tranquility, the view and the beautiful walk make this a really special trip. During this trip you can’t stop making pictures.
Taxi Cajamarca to Cumbe Mayo:
Ask your accommodation if they can arrange a taxi. We have paid 100 soles (excluding tips) for private transport from Cajamarca to Cumbe Maxo from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. It’s approximately 45 minutes and along the way you’ll pass a beautiful viewpoint over the city of Cajamarca. When we arrived there was no tourist to be found and even the entrance counter was still closed. The friendly security guards helped us on our way with the agreement that we would still pay the entrance fee on return. The walk takes 1.5 to 2 hours and starts with a very narrow tunnel (but for Anne with her claustrophobia just to do). Then simply follow the walking path along the large boulders with spectacular views. It is impressive to see how ingenious the Incas let the water flow down through the aqueduct.
Tip: most tours leave at 9.30 am so we recommend leaving earlier so that you (almost) have the overwhelming nature to yourself. We left at 8 am and when we walked back, the first tours arrived.
Practical info Cumbe Mayo:
Distance Cajamarca to Cumbe Mayo: approximately 45 minutes by taxi
Cost: private taxi 100 soles for 2 people / Cost tour with group 25 soles p.p.
Admission: 8 soles per person including museum
Opening hours: from 9 a.m.
3. The waterfalls of Llacanora (Cataratas de Llacanora):
The trip that we honestly didn’t expect so much from turned out to be a positive surprise, so if you have some time left, we definitely recommend this place! Llacanora is a small village about 10 km from Cajamarca. You can easily get there with local minibuses (approx. 40 minutes for 1.70 soles per person). The “locals” who step in and out and the beautiful (rural) environment is already a nice experience.
Once arrived in the village of Llacanora, the waterfalls are clearly signposted. From the square it is a 1 km walk until you reach the first waterfall. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee here and you can simply follow the path. It’s a quiet area where you can see the farmers working on the land.
The first waterfall is not very high but the color of the water and the idyllic bridge make this a special place. Don’t think that this is all you can see, because if you follow the path up you’ll automatically come to the second waterfall. This one is a lot bigger than the first one. Aren’t you tired yet? Then climb a little further to the left of the waterfall because you can get all the way up. A well-maintained path / staircase has been laid out. The view over the area is really breathtaking. And the great thing is? There are almost no tourists.
Tip: this trip takes around 3 to 4 hours and can therefore be combined with the Banos del Inca (see tip 5) which are on the route.
4. Enjoy the Plaza del Armas and visit the churches
Like every major city in Peru, Cajamarca also has a large central square called the Plaza de Armas. In Cajamarca there are not one but a lot more churches in the immediate area. Sometimes the doors are open and you are welcome to take a look inside. On the square you’ll find several benches where you can sit down and enjoy everything that happens around you.
5. Baños del Inca
The rugged nature of Cajamarca requires many active days. Do you want to relax for a few hours after a long day in the mountains? Then go to the ‘Banos del Inca’ thermal baths. These are only 6 km outside the city and have a special history.
Entrance: 6 soles
Transport: 10-15 minutes with a collectivo and this costs 2-3 soles per person for a single ticket
Sleeping in Cajamarca:
There are various hotels and hostels. The offer is isn’t large, but there is enough space and the prices in Cajamarca are relatively low. We have booked an apartment through AirBnb because we stayed here for a week because of our work. If you want to stay a few nights in the center, the Royal Guesthouse or the Hostal Hantunkay are good options.
Eat & Drink:
Remarkable about Cajamarca is that there are few nice terraces to be found. Good coffee shops are also not (yet) in abundance. Nevertheless, we drank delicious coffee at the Deli Cafe and they also have a good coffee machine at Ronald’s. There are plenty of restaurants where pollerias (chicken restaurants) clearly have the upper hand, but luckily there are more options. La Tuna restaurant is located close to the Plaza del Armas. You can eat delicious here; they have an extensive menu and the prices are average. For example, try the Lomo Saltado for 19 soles. More in Italian? Then walk in at pizzeria El Marenge, a cozy restaurant with a large brick court in the middle.
Digital nomads in Cajamarca:
We had to search for a coffee bar with good coffee and good WiFi. Fortunately there is a Starbucks in almost every major city, including the Real Plaza shopping center in Cajamarca. There are always several digital nomads working here because of the good wifi and nice seats. The Deli cafe in the center of Cajamarca is also a great option. The wifi is slightly less strong, but for not too “heavy” work it is sufficient and they have nice places to sit.
Transportation in Cajamarca:
In Cajamarca you mainly see tuktuks and regular taxis. The distances are relatively small, but make no mistake about the slopes that sometimes make a walk intensive. You can also use the many minibuses (collectivos) to surrounding places. The destinations are clearly indicated on the windshield and take into account a cozy ride because the vans are usually more than full.
Bus Trujillo to Cajamarca:
You can reach Cajamarca from Trujillo in approximately 7.5 hours by bus. There are various companies that drive this route; check Busbud.com for this. We opted for the night bus with Linea and were in rows 1 and 2, which gives you an unobstructed view (Linea buses are fully embroidered on the sides). Another advantage of the first row is that you have no other seat in front of you (which can be far back in the VIP bus). The VIP bus from Linea is comfortable and we paid 50 soles per person.
Bus Cajamarca to Chachapoyas
Online you can only buy bus tickets for this long tour at one bus company (Virgen del Carmen). The journey takes approximately 11 hours and leaves at 6 pm from the bus terminal in Cajamarca.
Read more about Chachapoyas click here
Bus Cajamarca to Celendin
There isn’t much to be found online about this route. According to Busbud you can only travel with Virgen del Carmen, but they do not run at practical times. We found out on the spot and went with the Rojas bus company. We bought the tickets at the counter at Rojas (av Atahualpa 309). It isn’t well indicated on Google Maps but taxi drivers know where to find the Rojas bus terminal. Tickets cost 10 soles per person and the journey takes approximately 2.5 hours
The Rojas bus from Cajamarca to Celendín leaves daily at 5 a.m., 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
About Celendin
This small village is perfect as a stopover during your long drive to Chachapoyas. It is known for its large Sunday market and tourism is still minimal here. One night is sufficient for a stopover in Celendin; so you can explore the village and enjoy the beautiful viewpoint. You can walk up or take a tuktuk for about 5 soles. There are few hotels / hostels online in Celendin, but there are plenty of options on the spot between the bus station and the Plaza del Armas. We slept in the cozy hotel Loyer’s.
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