A favorite Inca stopover along the old Cusco-to-Quito Royal Highway — complete with natural hot springs and fatefully large quantities of gold deposits in its surrounding hills — Cajamarca still hasn’t quite hit its full stride with international tourism the way it has over the centuries with indigenous emperors, Spanish conquistadors, environmentally challenged mining corporations and the odd Chachapoyas-bound trekker.
That’s good news for travelers who find their way to this lofty (over 9,000 feet), resolutely villagey Northern Highlands charmer with its colonial edifices, cobblestone streets, time-warped central plaza, sigh-worthy Andean backdrop and — who would’ve thought — one of the wilder annual parties in South America.
Cajamarca hosts Peru’s most happening annual Carnaval (February 10-14) — featuring several days of parades, live music, cultural events, chicha de jora (corn beer) quaffing and rambunctious water balloon fighting.
During quieter, equally captivating times in Cajamarca, checking into a restored colonial mansion-turned-posada overlooking the town’s central Plaza de Armas — the site of a pivotal 16th-century Spain vs. Inca clash — treats visitors to an Old World Peruvian scene like no other.
Spectacular baroque churches. Inca ruler Atahualpa’s infamous ransom chamber El Cuarto del Rescate. Peru’s richest ice cream — you’re in the country’s dairy capital. That’s all here too.
So now you know ladies! Include Cajamarca on your wishlist too!