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A dainty but strong-willed metropolis, Cajamarca is cradled in a languid valley and stonewalled by brawny mountains in every direction. The most important town in the Northern Highlands, its mushroom field of red-tile-roofed abodes surely confesses a secret desire to cling to its village roots. Fertile farmland carpets the entire valley and Cajamarca’s streets belong as much to the wide-brimmed-hat-wearing campesinos (peasants) bundled in brightly colored scarves as they do to the young city slickers who frequent the town's boutique restaurants and bars.

In the colonial center, majestic churches border the capacious Plaza de Armas. From here, once-decadent baroque mansions spread out along the narrow streets, many housing elegant hotels and fine restaurants. Cajamarca is famous for its cheese, gold (one of the world's largest mines lies nearby), baroque churches – and as the place where Inca emperor Atahualpa faced off against the Spanish colonizers. It's a potent brew.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Cajamarca.