GUIDE TO CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK

Above the roaring Apurimac River on the far west end of Cusco region, the Incas built a city, that to this day, various sectors remain yet uncovered. Choquequirao is the name given to this magnificent archeological place, meaning the cradle of gold, and settled half the mountain slope in the Vilcabamba mountain range. Locally, it is also called the sister of Machu Picchu. To get to Choquequirao, one has to have enough physical endurance yet more if you are planning to complete the Choquequirao trek independently. Now, read the guide and go for the adventure

Table of Contents

HELPFUL INFO

Based on Choquequirao trek 4-day hike:

  • Top elevation: 10 000 ft. / 3 050 m.
  • Trailhead elevation: 9 500 ft. / 2 900 m.
  • Distance: 39 mi. / 64 km.
  • Difficulty: high (Grade 5).
  • Permits: S/. 60 / $ 15
  • Horse rentals: Payment insoles (cash), 45 per muleteer a day and 40 per mule a day.
  • Ampay bus from Cusco to Ramal: 25 soles. 
  • Taxi from Ramal to Cachora: 30 – 50 soles
  • Taxi from Ramal to Capuliyuc: 60 – 70 soles

Things to Know

  • There are no hostels at the Santa Rosa campsite. There are only campsites área to pitch your tent
  • Wifi service is available at Chikiska and Maparampata hostels. It is 10 soles an hour.
  • You can find Hostal in Capuliyuc, Chikisca, and Maranpata Campsites.
  • You should book in advance your accommodations in Cachora if you are thinking to stay there. Many hostels are closed because of Covid-19.

Choquequirao ruins

It seems the Inca first flatted the area to build the basement of the main square at Choquequirao. Then, they dug the soil and assembled all the rest of the terraces and structures leaning the mountainside. Thereafter the set of buildings found in Choquequirao feature a very different architectural style and techniques, more rudimentary and simpler. What is particularly interesting and a must-see is the herd of Llamas designed in such a way with particular white stones in a terrace wall.

choquequirao trek

Where Is Choquequirao In Peru?

Choquequirao is on the right bank of the Apurimac river, way high in the Vilcabamba mountain range at 10 000 ft. in the La Convencion province, about 98 miles west of Cusco.

How To Get To Choquequirao?

Hop on the buses going to Abancay Province from Terminal Terrestre of Cusco, Ask the driver to get off at the turn to Cachora(Ramal de Cachora)

From there either hike, descend to Cachora town (1,5-2 hours) or take a shared taxi. Note! Local taxi drivers sometimes overcharge tourists, shared taxis up or down to Cachora( 7 soles). If you are taking a guided tour from Cusco, they will get you straight to Capuliyuc. The farthest the cars get is Capuliyoq hamlet, which is 6 Km from Cachora district Abancay  – Apurimac.

The only way to get to Choquequirao, so far, is by hiking. From a 4-day hike to a 5-day trek.

Choquequirao Permits

Permits are up the entrance in Capuliyoq hamlet and punched at the park station before approaching Choquequirao. No pre-reservations are needed because it doesn´t get crowded as Machu Picchu. Each Choquequirao permit cost is about 60 soles per adult, 30 soles for University students, and 25 soles per child.

Best time to visit Choquequirao

The best months for hiking Choquequirao start from about May to November because these months promise better weather conditions, same as clearer views of the way and all the panorama. Also, within this time of the year, the rainfall precipitation is low; therefore, the trail is much safer to walk and avoid mudslides or rockslides in one of the deepest canyons of the world.

Choquequirao 5 day or Choquequirao 4 day hike

The main difference between taking a 5-day hike and a 4-day hike is that hiking over 5 days, you do this at a much more leisurely pace and can camp at the base of Choquequirao for what is called sunset and sunrise. Whereas taking it in a 4-day hike, you will definitely have to re-evaluate your physical endurance and start real early the second day to see the Choquequirao before dusk. If going with a responsible tour agency, they will provide you with an emergency mule for the difficult sections.

Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu

There is a path that connects Choquequirao with Machu Picchu through other valleys and mountain passes, but of course, it takes longer,  the minimum amount of time spent if continuing to Machu Picchu will be 9 days. If you want to spice up your trip in Peru and have time, then do the Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu sanctuary.  

You may be thinking about trekking backward, from Machu Picchu to Choquequirao, therefore, ending at Cachora; It is not a usual trek to do, and bear in mind the steep ascent of 1 500 m from Chikisca camp up to Capuliyoq hamlet on the last day hike after a week hiking. 

Important!! 

Expect the park personnel to make you pay the permits.

choquequirao

Choquequirao trek altitude

The highest spot you get is at the Choquequirao site, located at 3050 m / 10 000 ft. The trek is more of physical endurance and mental attitude rather than other things like altitude sickness. And carry with you your mosquito repellants because they are very pesky at times.

Weather In Choquequirao 

Choquequirao is located in the forested fringes of the Amazon basin, and weather varies quickly. Moving clouds rise from down the valley and shrouds Choquequirao; however,  heavy rain downpours occur in the rainy season, so rain or bad weather out of the rainy months will pass fast.

The temperature ranges more or less from 50 °F / 10° C  to 68 ° F / 20° C, and at higher elevations, it drops as low as 5 °C / 41 °F in the early hours.

Choquequirao Lodges And Camping Sites

There are two ways of spending the night when going to Choquequirao: 

#01 To pitch up the tents at the camping sites and pay about 05 soles per tent. These places are shared with other tourists traveling with tour operators and share cold water showers and restrooms. Not all of the sites have running tap water.

#02 Look for lodges or guest houses at Capuliyoq site, chikisca and in Maranpata. You can contact them directly. These are the only places with lodge services, although there might be available a couple of rooms down in the Chikisqa site.

Choquequirao Llamas

During the Cadastre and Delimitation of the  Choquequirao Archaeological Park In 2004, one of the most remarkable findings in Peruvian archeology took place. The white rock Alpaca images were spotted incrusted on the terrace wall as the team cleared the bush and vegetation. There are 24 llamas as if walking to the main Choquequirao square, and it is a pretty spectacular thing to see all those llamas in white quartzite incrusted at each terrace wall, not grouped llamas but in each step and making a line. 

Archeologist Zenovio Valencia who has investigated the area quoted the following: 

“There is no doubt that it is a unique work of Cusco engineers and artists that represents the creative apogee of the Inca culture”.

The terrain and trail surface 

So, What is the Choquequirao trail like? The trail is not paved, it has stepped portions, some rocky parts, and a hard dirt path, not slippery or muddy (unless it rains for hours). Carry with you a solid pair of boots rather than trail runners. The main challenges on the hike are the steep ups and downs, also taking back out the same way you entered the first day.

Important!!

Hiking poles are a must to complete this hike, don’t ever forget to depart without them, will be worth it in the end.

Choquequirao Cable Car

Choquequirao cable car is a long-desired project for the tourism industry in Cusco, dating back to 2011. But unfortunately, to the present day, not even a cubic metric of soil has been removed at what is supposed to be the cable car stations. If it finally begins, as it seems to be in 2022, once inaugurated, Peru’s first aerial tramway will be one of the longest and deepest cable cars in the world, running above 4 500 feet high above the actual Apurimac river. For the building of the Choquequierao cable car, US$ 260 million is being assigned as an investment.

Meanwhile, only a handful of tourists hike the Choquequirao trail, after all, it is one of the best ways to rich Choquequirao, in its natural essence before the cable cars and before the swarm of people surely will visit in the future.

When Was Choquequirao Discovered?

Ever since the last inhabitants abandoned the Choquequirao site, no Spanish soldiers nor priests could find it; they didn´t even hear about it. Then, years later, and naturally, the thick vegetation began to cover the once well-preserved plaza and buildings, it became a sort of lost city, but the native people living in Cachora colonial village knew that on the other side of the canyon, there were year´s past ruins. Under the Spanish domination, it didn’t interest the recovery of Choquequirao; on the contrary,  the few outsiders such as Spanish explorer and mineral prospector Juan Arias Díaz and others who reached Choquequirao looted the site. In 1909, Professor Hiram Bingham from the University of yale visited the site, with the help of a church from Abancay city. They reported the archeological lootings and pottery shards, and there, they announced for the magazines and journals for the outside world. There, the Choquequirao site became notorious, at least for the archeology community. The significant excavations proceeded later in 1970, 2004, and still today, there is much more to uncover in Choquequirao.

Choquequirao trek with kids

Taking kids to Choquequirao is a great challenge because it is hard mentally as physically and will depend on their experience level and attitude. Even more, if you are planning Choquequirao-Yanama-Machu Picchu with young children, then please reconsider making an assessment, unless they can ride horseback, but overall the hike is a heavy version for them. The key is acclimatization before starting the trek and a lightweight package.

Trekking choquequirao solo

Unlike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, independent travelers can hike to Choquequirao without a guide. The path itself is well-signaled, so hardly ever a person can get lost in the rugged and treacherous slopes of Apurimac valley. But think that you should make an honest assessment of your fitness, physical endurance, and weather before going it alone.

chodquequirao with drone

Do I need to hire a mule and where do I get it?

If you are going independently, yes, it would be recommended to hire a mule and muleteer for carrying food and camping gear. It will depend on how you feel walking with a 50 or 55 lt backpack, then you decide either to take one or not. Try packing the least heavy with essential items you will need, and as for food, you can find some ready prepared meal at certain campsites such as Chikisca or Santa Rosa Baja.

Where do I sleep and camping facilities?

There are both free and paid camping sites where you can set up your tents and wait for the next day. Usually, these places are shared with other tourists traveling with tour operators, and the cost for a tent at caping is about 5 soles. The campground at the base of Choquequirao is for free, which is included with the entrance fee; All of the rest are private. 

As for camping grounds, there you can find cold water showers, tap water (not all of them), a toilet, and in case the campground gets muddy, or you make a last-minute decision, look for a guest house at Maranpata or Capuliyoq. Not all the campsites offer showers, though.

Are there stores on the way?

There are little stores for essential items for hiking and drinks such as water, sugary drinks, sodas, Gatorade. And kitchens (restaurants) where locals prepare food at the hamlet campgrounds.

Can I find guides in Cachora?

Yes, get to Cachora the day before starting the hike and ask around the hotel and restaurants; they will suggest someone as a last-minute guide. And if you think you will need a muleteer, the old people are able to do the job as tourism is their primary source of income, so you can arrange the budget for the rest of the hike and meet at a pre-arranged spot the following morning. Guides and travel agencies are not guaranteed, it is not like you find agencies in Cusco one after the other, and although the gear rental in Cachora is feasible, it is better to hire them from Cusco.