When visiting Cajamarca I wasn’t sure what to expect. After hiking to Santa Apolonia, the best viewpoint of Cajamarca, we started to wander around the town center a bit. We decided to take a look inside a tour company’s office and saw so many things to do. One of those things was visiting the archaeological site of Cumbe Mayo just outside of Cajamarca.
After doing some research later, this seemed to be the most popular activity and I could see why. Unique rock formations and some of the oldest history in Peru.
In this guide, I will go over what you can expect from the Cumbe mayo tour outside of Cajamarca and if it’s possible to do it solo.
What is Cumbe Mayo (Cajamarca)
Cumbe Mayo is a famous archaeological area located 20km outside of Cajamarca. This area was founded around 1500 B.C. and is home to many petroglyphs on the walls.
Along with this are many aqueducts and a grotto that you’re able to walk through all within these rock formations. It was a spectacular sight to see.
How to Get to Cumbe Mayo From Cajamarca
When we visited the tourist office we were shocked at how cheap it was to go on some of these tours. We paid 20 soles (~$5) for a ride to Cumbe Mayo and with a guide. Unfortunately, the guide only spoke Spanish (so maybe we should study more). This was alright as the rock formations and petroglyphs were enough to keep us entertained.
The bus ride is around 1 hour each way with a stop along the way when you head there in the morning.
It is also possible to make this a hike from Cajamarca straight to Cumbe Mayo. If you’re interested in that then you can check out the trail on Alltrails.
The cost to enter the park was 8 soles (~2) which isn’t much at all.
My Experience Visiting Cumbe Mayo in Cajamarca
I’m always looking for the cheapest ways to experience something. This often means a better adventure in my opinion. When I saw the price for the tour I had to sign up. I’m not a fan of many tours but the ride alone there and back was enough for me to go.
We left at 9:30 am and about halfway we stopped at an overlook where there were some people selling some souvenirs and other items. They also had Coca gum for sale.
Cumbe Mayo sits at 3,500 meters and for some in Peru that might not be high but it can affect anyone. One girl on our trip got really bad altitude sickness, so be aware of that and maybe buy some of the coca gum.
After getting off the bus from Cajamarca you instantly see the famous rock formations of Cumbe Mayo. These are like nothing I’ve seen before. They look like some sort of different species of rock.
If someone told me they were put here from somewhere else then I’d believe them.
A few minutes after seeing this formation from the entrance, you will then be taken up close to your first rock formation. Here you will have the chance to walk through them.
This part of the tour was the most interesting part for me. The fact that we still have evidence of writings on the wall from civilizations that lived in 1500 B.C. is astonishing.
It is also believed that sacrifices were done in this one area where the petroglyphs were. These petroglyphs were found all around Cumbe Mayo and seemed to be kept in pretty good condition.
I would easily come back to Cajamarca and Cumbe Mayo just to see these petroglyphs.
Canal Cumbe Mayo
When I think of aqueducts I always go back to the Roman Empire. I always thought these were some of the first in the world. I was wrong.
There are aqueducts throughout Cumbe Mayo that are thought to bring water down to the town of Cajamarca. It is 8 km long and is a magnificent piece of architecture.
It is also believed that this could be the oldest structure in all of South America. If this is true, I will be forever grateful that I was able to have this opportunity.
Final Thoughts on Cumbe Mayo
Like I said previously, I’m not that into tours. There are too many people and often over-priced. That being said I highly suggest visiting Cumbe Mayo if you come to Cajamarca. The fact of how the structures and history are here is more than enough of a reason. Be careful with the elevation but it was a very nice walk. It wasn’t very strenuous at all. If you have a car it might be better to drive the hour yourself so you can go at your own pace. Other than that I loved it!
Thank you for reading my guide about Cumbe Mayo in Cajamarca! I hope this gave you some insight into one of the oldest archaeological sites in the world.