Cumbemayo (derived from the Quechua kumpi mayo, meaning ‘well-made water channel’) is an astounding feat of pre-Inca engineering. These perfectly smooth aqueducts were carved around 2000 years ago and zigzag at right angles for 9km, for a purpose that is as yet unclear, since Cajamarca has an abundant water supply. Other rock formations are carved to look like altars and thrones. Nearby caves contain petroglyphs, including some that resemble woolly mammoths. The site is located about 20km southwest of Cajamarca.

The surrounding countryside is high, windswept and slightly eerie. Superstitious stories are told about the area’s eroded rock formations, which look like groups of shrouded mountain climbers.

Public transport to Cumbemayo is sporadic and getting there on your own takes some planning. Combis (minibuses) serving the village of Chetilla pass by the entrance to the site and leave Av Perú between Jirón Ica and Jirón Loreta in Cajamarca at 4:30am, 6am, noon and 1:30pm. The last combi back to Cajamarca passes Cumbemayo around 1:40pm.

The site can be reached on foot via a signed road from behind Cerro Santa Apolonia in Cajamarca. The hike follows sections of the Qhapac Ñan (Inca paths) and takes about four hours. Most people visit as part of a guided tour (S20, 4½ hours) that runs every morning out of Cajamarca.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby attractions

1. Cerro Santa Apolonia

4.23 MILES

This garden-covered viewpoint, overlooking the city from the southwest, is a prominent Cajamarca landmark. It is easily reached by climbing the stairs at…

2. Museo de Arqueológico & Etnográfíco

4.38 MILES

This small museum has exhibits of pre-Columbian pottery and stone statues, as well as displays on local costumes and clothing, domestic and agricultural…

3. El Complejo de Belén


Construction of this sprawling colonial complex, comprising a church and hospital made entirely from volcanic rock, occurred between 1627 and 1774. The…

4. Catedral de Cajamarca

4.42 MILES

This squat but ornate building was begun in the late 17th century and only recently finished. Like most of Cajamarca’s churches, the cathedral has no…

5. El Cuarto del Rescate

4.47 MILES

The Ransom Chamber, the only Inca building still standing in Cajamarca, is where Inca ruler Atahualpa was imprisoned. The small room has three trapezoidal…

6. Iglesia de San Francisco

4.49 MILES

Outgunning the cathedral on Plaza de Armas is this elaborate church with striking stone carvings and decadent altars. Unlike other illustrious Cajamarca…

7. Ventanillas de Otuzco

9.07 MILES

This pre-Inca necropolis has scores of funerary niches built into the hillside, hence the name ventanillas (windows). Set in alluring countryside, 8km…

8. Ventanillas de Combayo

10.23 MILES

Combayo is the largest and most impressive collection of funerary niches in the region, although its location 30km northeast of Cajamarca means it's less…