Caral and Cajamarca: Highlights of the North
Northern Peru is an Aracari must and Nigel Richardson shares his insights on why now’s the time to visit the wondrous Pre-Inca archeological site of Caral as well as the Northern Peru’s colonial gem called Cajamarca. Take a look at what he had to say in the UK’s Daily Telegraph
Journalist Nigel Richardson writes: ”As the 21st century dawned, Caral took centre-stage. In 2000, carbon dating of a bag woven from plant fibres proved that the 163-acre site had been built between 3000 and 2100BC, making it the oldest civilisation on the continent of the Americas and contemporaneous with the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. At a stroke, Caral was rocketed into the archaeological superleague”.
The quaint colonial city of Cajamarca sits in a lush valley dotted with eucalyptus groves and roving cattle. Rivaled only by Cusco in Andean charm, Cajamarca is the cultural and commercial center of the Peruvian highlands. The city is renowned for its rich cheeses and dairy products, and its mild, dry and sunny weather makes it pleasant to visit throughout the year. Nevertheless, this little-known destination is almost untouched by tourists. Cajamarca is a reminder of Peru’s riches and is just one of an almost immeasurable number of opportunities to explore beyond the traditional tourist destinations.
Cajamarca is best known as the place where the Inca Empire began its end. In 1532, Atahualpa, the final sovereign ruler of the Inca Empire, was en route to Cusco to claim his throne after defeating his brother, Huáscar, in battle. When he stopped in Cajamarca, conquistador Francisco Pizarro was waiting with 168 soldiers, who had endured weeks of marching to intercept the Inca ruler. The conquistadors and their native allies captured Atahualpa and massacred several thousands of soldiers and civilians in what came to be known as the Battle of Cajamarca. Atahualpa eventually complied with his captors’ demands for silver and gold, but was nevertheless executed after two months in captivity.
Highlights of the city of Cajamarca include the Plaza de Armas, its majestic Spanish-colonial churches, and the Baños del Inca (Inca baths). In 1986 the Organization of American States designated Cajamarca as a site of Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Americas. The town is most lively around the beginning of February during Carnival, when costumed revelers fill the streets.