We discover the wonders of northern Peru´s famous and historic highland region. This itinerary includes visits in and around Cajamarca: the historic colonial mansions, churches and museums of the old city; the Ransom room, where the Inca emperor Atahualpa is said to have been kept captive by Francisco Pizarro; the ancient tomb site known as the Ventanillas de Otuzco; the Andean highland countryside; the breathtaking rock formations and massive pre-Inca aqueduct of Cumbemayo. All our overnight stays are booked at the Laguna Seca hotel, which is both the best accommodation in the region and an abundant natural hot spring, where Atahualpa took his last bath before his fall into Spanish captivity. Here we include access and a massage at La Laguna Seca Spa.
Cajamarca: A beautiful hot springs hotel, and a charming highland city.
Around Cajamarca: Farms, Tombs, and the Andean highland countryside.
Cajamarca: an active morning excursion to Cumbemayo, a relaxing afternoon in Cajamarca.
Cajamarca: return to Lima, or onward to the north.
We arrive in Cajamarca early, and transfer to La Laguna Seca Hotel and Spa, where we eat a light breakfast and then take an easy tour of the grounds of this hotel as we acclimatize to the altitude of 2,700m/8,900ft. The rest of the morning is for relaxation. After lunch we drive into the city center, and up to the hilltop now known as Colina Santa Apolonia. This was a sacred mountain to the Cajamarca people who held sway in this valley for nearly two thousand years, until the Incas conquered them, and ancient rock carvings can still be seen on its summit. Today we look out over the modern city of some 250,000 inhabitants, spread out over a valley at 2,700m/8,850ft, surrounded by low mountains. After viewing the lay of the land we descend the steps into the old city center, which lies directly below us.
Spanish colonial houses line the streets here, and the churches, such as San Francisco and Belén, wear facades of intricate, fantastical baroque-mestizo stonework, although all trace of the Inca halls from which Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors launched history's most fateful and treacherous ambush have disappeared. Nevertheless, we visit one Inca stone building that still stands, its smoothly rounded stone walls and perfectly fitted stones testifying to its noble Inca origins. Local folklore holds that this was the room which the Inca Atahualpa offered to fill once with gold and twice with silver, in exchange for his freedom. This forlorn monument is a suitable spot to hear the story of Atahualpa's fabulous ransom and its tragic denouement.
We visit the Museum in the old colonial hospital of the Church of Belen, to get in touch with and see some fine artifacts from an older culture -- known to us as the Cajamarca -- who occupied this valley for some 2,000 years before finally succumbing to the Inca expansion.
After breakfast at the hotel we drive to a bucolic pastoral setting in the nearby mountains, where we take a short and easy hike, encountering local people with their flocks of sheep, and learning about the customs of the region. Next we move on to an archaeological experience, with a visit to the nearby rock formation at Otuzco, where over thousands of years the pre-Inca Cajamarca peoples left hundreds of elaborate niches, or "windows", hewn into bedrock, in which they buried their dead. Our last stop on this active morning outing will be a local farm, the Fundo de los Alpes, where we meet local farmhands and witness the making of a variety of cheeses, manjar blanco (a sweet, milk-based delicacy), and other delights from Cajamarca, one of the main dairy farming regions of Peru.
After lunch at the hotel (whose cost is not included) we spend the afternoon at the Laguna Seca hotel. These historic thermal baths where Atahualpa bathed and relaxed right before his fateful encounter with the Spaniards, are located in a spacious garden environment in a quiet suburb of Cajamarca, and are very extensive. They provide abundant hot water -- enough for a private hot tub in every room. Our stay here includes a massage at the Spa, whose facilities also offer a range of other services: reflexology, mud therapy, chiropractic therapy, facials and other treatments.
A short morning drive across the pleasant mountain landscape of Cajamarca to Cumbemayo, where ancient Peruvians created a massive and brilliantly engineered aqueduct, 9 Km./6miles long, designed to bring water from one side of the Continental divide to the other. Hewn out of the bedrock of a mountain ridge, and fitted with right-angled zig-zags to slow down the rushing water, it is surrounded by towering, lichen-encrusted towers of rock. The combination of natural beauty and intriguing archaeology makes for a stunning half-day outing.
The afternoon is free for leisurely enjoyment of the hotel grounds and facilities, or for exploring and shopping in the city of Cajamarca.
We transfer to the airport for our return flight to Peru´s capital, or continue to our next destination in northern Peru.