Choquequirao Trek – An amazing alternative to seeing Machu Picchu

Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru

I first saw Choquequirao on Ben Fogle’s Extreme Dreams in 2006.  I had visited Machu Picchu the previous year and had fallen in love with Peru and to know that there was another Inca ruin, visited by very few people in the middle of nowhere, made me determined that the next time I was in Peru I would go.

In 2012, 3 months into my trip to South America I made it to Cusco and looked for the hike to Choquequirao, while researching I had read that a 5 day trip was best but I could only find companies that were doing 4 day trips, so I booked that trip.

On the morning of the trek we were picked up early by one of the guys from the office so that we could get a bus out of Cusco, we got dropped off on the roadside where we got a taxi down to the village of Cachora where we would meet our guide and start our trek.

It’s a beautiful village and the views from the main square were stunning, we popped to the local market to stock up on snacks while we waited for our guide to arrive.

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We waited in our horseman’s house, and got to see a traditional house in a countryside village, very different to the houses in the main cities that I have previously seen.  The guinea pigs are kept in the kitchen and there were so many just running around.  In Peru they eat guinea pigs but as they are expensive they are normally saved for a special occasion.  Also all the hens were running everywhere, it’s not an easy life with an outside toilet and cold shower too.

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Our guide finally arrived and we were shocked to find out that he spoke no english, or very little, my spanish was much better than his english.  I could not believe it as I had specifically had a discussion checking that the guide spoke english due to this happening to me on several day trips.  The couple I was doing the trek with spoke no spanish and so we were insisting that we needed an english speaking guide, that we had been assured in Cusco that the guide spoke english.  Thankfully the guy who had brought us to Cachora spoke english and after speaking to his boss it was agreed that he could take us on our 4 day trek!! Unfortunately he had brought us wearing a suit and so had to change clothes with our guide and trainers which were 2 sizes too big!! Finally we were ready, the horses were loaded and off we went through the village to start the 32km trek to Choquequirao.

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We walked down the path and after a few kilometres came out on an old road, for me this road really annoyed me I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t clear and why I had to walk about 7km on a road, yeah there were a few landslides but why couldn’t they be cleared!! I was particuarly frustrated by this on the way back (ironically 2 years later when I did the 8 day trek from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu this road had been cleared and the people in the van with me were terrified of the drop at the side of the road, and I was like, try walking this instead cos that’s what I did!!).

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The views from that road though were amazing and gave us a glimpse of just what beauty we would be walking in for the next few days. After we reached Mirador Capuliyoc at 2,970 metres we set off down the mountain until we reached the river La Playa Rosalina at 1,550m, as we had set off late the last hour we hiked in the dark!! The hike down was difficult a lot of switchbacks, very steep and it was so hot, also the mosquitos decided that they loved me despite the 50% deet I had soaked myself in!!

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The next morning it was up early so that we could cross the river, the bridge had been swept away the previous winter during a landslide and so the only way across was in a cage that was pulled across by rope, quite a fun experience to start the day!!

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The fun was then over as it was a 5 hour uphill struggle to get to the village of Marmapata at 2,850 metres before continuing on to Choquequirao located at 3,033 metres above sea level.  I didn’t think I would make it, the heat was unbelievable and there was no shade from the sun, I wanted to give up so many times but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

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Finally we arrived at the terraces of Choquequirao and what a site, a dream come true and my group of 3 plus our guide were the only people there, it was one of the most magical times in my life.  We explored the site and then went down to some terraces that have white stone llamas built into them.  It’s an amazing site to see, despite my knees killing me at this point.

Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru

Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco PeruChoquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru

After spending the afternoon there it was time to head back to Marmapata where we would camp for the night.  Unfortunately due to being exhausted a 1 and a half hour walk turned into 3 hours, with me and the guide hiking for an hour in the dark, I completely lost the plot, mentally and physically I had had enough!! I have found we all have breakdown days when doing multi day hike trips and this was the day for me!! Finally I made it back, had dinner and then bed.

The next morning it was up and heading downhill back to the river, the previous night I had declared to the guide there was no way I was walking today but after a nights sleep I was feeling much better and mentally ready.  It was another long day hiking down the mountain, crossing the river and starting our ascent back up the mountain at the other side.  Again the views and seeing what you have achieved and getting there before sunset made me a lot happier.

Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco PeruChoquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru

Day 4 was a lot easier day with a lot of the ascent done, just a few hours hiking back up the mountain before walking along the road (and swearing at the road, for not being cleared of debris) before we got back to the village of Cachora.  From here we got a taxi back to the main road and caught the bus back to Cusco.  I felt so sorry for the locals we sat near as we hadn’t showered or changed our clothes in 4 days!!

Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru Choquequirao Cachora Cusco Peru

Our hike and visit to Choquequirao was finished, it had been an amazing and challenging 4 days but so worth it!! It is a place that I love and it was great to experience it with only 3 other people.

I loved it that much that 2 years later I did an 8 day hike which went firstly to Choquequirao before hiking on to Machu Picchu!!  That was probably the most mentally and physically challenging hike I have ever done but I will save that story for another day!!

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Choquequirao Trek - An alternative to Machu Picchu

Find out about Why I started travelling here, Miami Beach here, Key West here, Everglades here, Bolton Abbey here, Naples here, Koh Tao here, Yangon – Myanmar here, Ischica – Italy here, Koyasan – Japan here, Machu Picchu – Peru here, Memphis here, Faro – The Algarve here, Fiji – South Sea Island here, Egypt – My trip in a hot air balloon here, Doutbful Sound – NZ here,  Death Road – Bolivia here, Iguazu Falls – Argentina here, Northern Lights – here, Hobbiton NZ – here & The Lost City Hike Colombia – here

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30 thoughts on “Choquequirao Trek – An amazing alternative to seeing Machu Picchu

  1. Wow sounds like a real experience! I’ve only just started getting into hiking, so with my rose tinted beginner glasses: this sounds amazing! I’d love to go out and really explore somewhere so secluded and seemingly undiscovered like this!

    • We started hiking just as it got light, we got up early as it takes a while to get everyone and all our things across the river. We generally hiked from dawn to dusk so we saw all the nature 🙂

  2. What an experience! I love getting off the beaten path. You never know what you’ll see – and a kitchen full of guinea pigs running around has to fall in that category for sure!! Adding this to the list of things to see on a Peruvian adventure!

  3. Look at those views!! I’m heading to South America next year and you have no idea how excited you just made me. Another thing for my already endless list haha. I can imagine it was frustrating sometimes but definitely worth it when you’re in a surrounding like that!

  4. Ever since being introduced to trekking in Nepal, I was set on trekking in South America! I’ve been looking into it more and more and oh man you make me wanna just buy a ticket and fly there! This trek looks so rewarding- so jealous!

  5. What an experience! The scenery all throughout the hike looks incredible – such beautiful views and I love that it is minus all the crowds. And the cage ride – OMG I would have been so scared! This sounds like an interesting alternative to Machu Picchu, I must admit I have never heard of it before.

  6. Those views look incredible, and I’m sure the pictures don’t do them justice! Cool post, I always love reading about “alternatives” to the big tourist destinations because I find they are often just as (if not more) beautiful because of how much more untouched they are.

  7. South America is definitely on my “must-visit” list but maybe need to wait for my little man to grow up a bit. Really frustrating to get to a “rocky start”, though. But I hope the views made up for it eventually! 🙂

  8. Amazing experience! But I’m so sorry for the toilet outside and the cold shower – I did it once for 10 days and it was definitively enough . Furthermore, congrats for making such a trip in the mountains, I wouldn’t be able to do so but… photos show it was worth it!

  9. What a memorable experience. I couldn’t imagine doing an eight-day trek from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu! Would you say you’d need a high level of fitness to do it comfortably?

    • The 4 day to choquequirao is difficult, the 8 day trek you have to be quite fit and used to trekking, it is a very difficult hike 🙂

  10. Your hiking posts are such an inspiration! I can totally imagine how they planned to send you on a trip with a Spanish speaking guide only – it always frustrates me how rare are persons who speak proper English. I’m glad you loved it in the end.

  11. Very cool! thanks for sharing something that is not the most popular or well known option, I always like to check out local and hidden treasures!

  12. What an amazing post… you had me at Ben Fogle (never thought I’d be typing that!)

    The views look incredible. You’re a tougher woman than me, I’d have had to have a rest every few hours haha! Looks worth it though.

    I’d have wanted to steal all the guinea pigs! One of my favourite animals. I’m normally quite practical about eating cute animals but couldn’t bear thinking of them being put on the table!

  13. wow. This hike is superb! I did a 2 day hike only to the mountains in the Philippines, and I am not used to hike in the mountains. I feel this experience you had is amazing, and interesting, I wonder how I should be feeling after the end of the trail. It must have been awesome.

  14. What an incredible experience! The photos look amazing. Having done Choquequirao twice now and Machu Picchu, would you rate one site over the other? I think I might need to get my fitness up!

    • I have done Choquequirao twice and Machu Picchu three times!! My favourite is Machu Picchu but I love that Choquequirao, it is so isolated and that you can be the only tourist there (though it is getting more popular), and it’s a great sense of achievement what you had to endure to get there 🙂

  15. Sounds like you have a real roll-a-coster of a journey! I love to hate hiking. I love the idea of it, while I’m yompin up hill I hate it but the rest of the time I love it. The views and sense of accomplishment you get are without a doubt the best part. So glad you were able to complete it and that you went on to do a 8 day one a few years later. Wow, so much respect.

  16. This does look like a great alternative to Machu Picchu! That’s so awesome that you had it pretty much to yourself. That’s something that just won’t happen at Machu Picchu! The trek looks really beautiful.

  17. Your story reminded me when I hiked Salkantay on my way to Machu Picchu and when I almost gave up because of the pain in my knee. I guess that was my breakdown moment. However, I did not give up and forced myself to finish the trek and reach Machu Picchu. Next time I’ll travel to Peru I will make sure to hike to Choquequirao as well, it looks like such a calm and less touristy place.

    • I did the Salkantay in January and loved it, though the weather was terrible!! Choquequirao is more touristy than it was, but nothing like Machu Picchu. Its an amazing place 🙂

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