The sleepy town of Celendin in the Department of Cajamarca is considered one of the most beautiful towns in the Peruvian Andes. It lies about two hours east of the city of Cajamarca by bus, on the road to Chachapoyas, and is a good place to break this stunning road trip.
Visitors find simple hotels and the startlingly-blue, 19th Century Church of the Holy Virgin of Carmen, on the main plaza.
A recent addition to the town's religious highlights is the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks the town. It dwarfs the older church behind it. This can easily be reached on foot, walking three blocks westwards from the Plaza de Armas, followed by a short climb up a switchback path, to give great views of Celendin and the surrounding countryside.
There are not a huge number of tourist attractions in and around Celendin. The Saturday market is famed for its exceptional straw hats and there is an impressive waterfall, El Cornelio, in the Huasmin district, some two hours away.
The attraction of Celendin is in its laidback atmosphere, agreeable climate and lush Andean scenery.
While the route to Celendin from Cajamarca is very pretty, on a good, paved road, the onward journey, from Celendin to Chachapoyas, is out-of-this-world, offering a cross-section of Peru in just eight hours.
The road, much of which is single-lane and only paved in 2013, climbs from 2,625m (8,613ft) at Celendin to a pass at about 3,200m (10,500ft), dropping precipitously to the Marañon River (a major tributary of the Amazon) at 850m (2,789ft). The climate here is positively tropical, and the small town of Balsas has a very Amazonian feel. It is also a fertile region for growing fruit and vegetables.
Leaving Balsas, the road labours upwards again to the Barro Negro (Black Mud) pass at 3,678m (12,068ft), dropping once more to Leymebamba at 2,200m (7,218ft), and finally following the banks of the Utcubamba River to the turn-off to Chachapoyas, located at 2,335m (7,661ft).
How to Visit: If you like the sound of this classic road trip, but do not fancy a long-distance bus ride - on bumpy roads, with loud videos dubbed in Spanish! - why not let Peru North arrange private transport for you, allowing you to travel in comfort and make plenty of stops along the way? Just get in touch and ask us how.
Birders, meanwhile, spend a night in Celendin in the course of the 21-day Northern Birding Route.