Often called the 'Cuzco of the North', Cajamarca is considered one of the best tourist destinations in Peru's northern highlands. Culture lovers will enjoy the town's atmosphere, which turns on the fact that Andean traditions are very much alive and that tourist numbers are small. Cajamarca is also where the Inca Empire came to an end during a bloody battle with the Spanish in 1532.
The steps on Santa Apolonia Hill lead up to the famous Inca Seat, from which Incan leaders would address their subjects. Visitors will find several other archaeological sites around the city, including the monoliths and museum of Kuntur Wasi, the pre-Colombian Cumbe Mayo aqueduct, and the pre-Incan necropolis of Ventanillas de Otuzco.
An exceedingly fertile pastoral region surrounds Cajamarca and produces some excellent dairy products. Foodies will enjoy the town's cheese, ice-cream and chocolate. The attractive city centre is full of colonial buildings, all located around the Plaza de Armas. Beautiful churches and stately 17th and 18th-century mansions set up wonderful photo opportunities.
Travellers may also want to see the Incan Baths. The ruins are in the town of Banos del Inca, which is home to a modern spa that uses thermal springs to draw its water. The water contains a surprising number of minerals, and the baths are used as a homeopathic treatment for some bone diseases. Banos del Inca is just east of Cajamarca.
Visitors should note that Cajamarca is a high-altitude destination, and that they should factor in a day of inactivity at the start of their stay, when they acclimatise themselves.