Choquequirao Trek 2019: An amazing alternative to the Inca Trail

by ilive4travel

Published on Nov 3, 2018

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View of Choquequirao

Choquequirao Trek 2019

I first saw the Choquequirao Trek 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.  There are a few alternatives to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Salkantay, Inca Jungle and this is my favourite.

Choquequirao History

Choquequirao Peru is located in southern Peru in the Vilcabamba mountain range, 98km (60 miles) from Cusco.  It’s located 3,050 metres above sea level, covering an area of 1,800 hectares but only about 35% of this has been excavated.

It is believed to have been constructed by Tupaq Inka around 1535 and abandoned only 37 years later in 1572.  It is believed to be one of the entrance points to the Vilcabamba region and an administration centre due to its urban design.  It has ritual places, houses, warehouses and terraces for farming.

It was rediscovered in 1710 by a Spanish explorer Juan Arias Diaz, though excavations on the site did not begin until the 1970’s.

Getting there to trek Choquequirao

Independently

It is possible to do the Choquequirao trek without guide.  You will need to get the bus that goes from Cusco to Abancay and get off at Ramal.  It is around 3 to 4 hours from Cusco.  There are normally taxi’s waiting here to take people down into Cachora, if you want to carry your own things then you can get the taxi to drop you further than the village of Cachora as there is a road that takes you nearer to Choquequirao and means around 8km (5 miles) less walking.

Choquequirao Tour

I personally did Choquequirao tours both times I visited, the first time we walked from Cachora as the road had been shut for years due to landslides, the second time it was open and it meant a shorter hike the first day down to the river.

4 Day Choquequirao hike

Whilst researching I had read that a 5 day trip was best but very few companies offer the 5 day hike.  If you have the option though, this would be best so that you get longer to tour Choquequirao.

Day 1 – Cachora Choquequirao

On the morning of the trek we were picked up early by one of the guys from the tour company after we had packed our bags the night before so that we could get a bus out of Cusco, then 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.

Market in CachoraWe 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 the hens were running everywhere, it’s not an easy life with an outside toilet and cold shower too.

View from Cachora

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!!  (At that time my Spanish was not great!!)  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 in northern Peru.  After a lot of discussions with the boss it was agreed that the guy who brought us to Cachora would take us on our 4 day trek!!  Finally we were ready, the horses were loaded and off we went through the village to start the 32km (20 miles) trek to the Choquequirao ruins.

Choquequirao Sign

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!! When I returned 2 years later to do the 8 day trekking Choquequirao Machu Picchu this road had been cleared and I was so happy!!  The people in the van with me were terrified of the drop at the side of the road, but after spending so much time in Peru you kind of get used to this!!

Vilcabamba Range

The views from the 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 Apurimac river at 1,550m, as we had set off late the last hour we hiked in the dark with our little torches lighting up the path!! 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!!

Mirador Capuliyoc

Day 2 – Choquequirao Trail

The next morning it was up early so that we could cross the river, the bridge had been swept away in 2011 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!!  This bridge was finally rebuilt in 2016 so there is no longer the need to stay in this camp overnight if you still have day light.

Crossing the Apurimac RiverThe 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 to trek 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.  The path has never ending switchbacks but finally you get to the top and once you reach the top and see the amazing views then all that pain is worth it.  The second time I did this hike I was prepared mentally for this day and found it a lot easier.  Though now if you have got the car further along on the first day and are not starting in Cachora then you should be able to do part of the hike up on the first day.

First view of ChoquequiraoFinally we arrived at the terraces of Choquequirao archeological park 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.

View of Choquequirao with my guideInca Aqueducts at Choquequirao Main plaza of ChoquequiraoLlama Terraces at Choquequirao

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 back to the village 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.

Day 3 – Choquequirao Peru Trek

The next morning it was up early and heading back the way we had come and 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 good 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.  I kept looking back at the path we had done and the switchbacks in the mountain and sometimes hardly believing that I had done it.

Day 4 – Choquequirao Cusco

This was the easiest day of the trek with a lot of the ascent done, just a few hours hiking back up the mountain before walking along the road and back to the village of Cachora. Now the road is open you will only need to hike a few hours up to road where you can then get transport back to Cusco or Cachora.  From Cachora 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!!  On my second hike there were a few places with the option of freezing cold showers if you are brave or stupid enough like me!!

View of Apurimac ValleyOur 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.  When you visit Machu Picchu there are thousands of people there and even though Choquequirao is smaller, being so far away from civilisation and visting a site with so few visitors is magical.

I loved it that much that 2 years later I did the 8 day trekking Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek!!  That was probably the most mentally and physically challenging hike I have ever done but I will save that story for another day!!

Another great Inca trail alternatives trek to Machu Picchu is the Salkantay trek which I completed on my 4th visit to Machu Picchu.

Where to stay in Cusco

Cusco is full of hotels and hostels and I have stayed in quite a few in my 4 visits there.  Last time I stayed in Pariwana Hostel Cusco. (click on the link to be taken to this hostel) It is not the cheapest hostel available, you can certainly find cheaper but as I was staying for Christmas and New Year I wanted one of the larger hostels with a party, but not too much party, which is exactly what this hostel is.

For details on the Best Hotels in Cusco – check out my guide here

For details of the Best 5 star Luxury Hotels in Cusco – check out my guide here.

If you want to see what hotels and hostels are available in Cusco click here.

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Choquequirao Trek - An alternative to Machu Picchu

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——-  About me ——-

girl sat on some wooden stairs wearing a black jumper

Clare from Ilive4travel

Hi my name is Clare and welcome to ilive4travel.  I am originally from the UK but spend most of my time in Peru, the country that caught my heart.

I have visited 73 countries and love to share with you everything I have learnt about these countries in my guides.

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33 Comments

  1. Danielle- geekgirlgoes

    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!

    Reply
  2. blondemoments

    awesome! I really like the cage on a rope thing. I bet that this was quiet scary as well. did you get to see much of the nature, because it seems still really dark outside?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  3. Natalie

    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!

    Reply
  4. Leslie @ The Real Uganda

    What a hike! Thanks for being honest about losing your @%#^. Sometimes our bodies reach the end of the rope and just need some sleep! Your photos are gorgeous, by the way.

    Reply
  5. Manon @ The Dutch countryside

    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!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      South America can be frustrating but it is my favourite part of the world 🙂

      Reply
  6. Noemi of Pinay Flying High

    I’ve never done a hike before and I’m not really sure if I’m built to do it, for now though I guess I will live my life vicariously through everyone who hikes. This sounds like a real adventure. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Anya Carion

    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!

    Reply
  8. Soraya

    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.

    Reply
  9. Arielle

    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.

    Reply
  10. Sarah

    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! 🙂

    Reply
  11. Ulli

    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!

    Reply
  12. Delaine Dcosta

    I’ve visited visited South America till date & I’m hoping that I will, some day. I haven’t done a hike as well. Your pictures are tempting me to catch the next flight to Peru!

    Reply
  13. Christina

    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?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  14. Maja | Mexatia

    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.

    Reply
  15. Anju

    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!

    Reply
  16. Caroline

    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!

    Reply
  17. Ferna

    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.

    Reply
  18. Kim-Ling

    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!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  19. Bianca

    What a great experience! I would love to try this. Adding this to my bucket list!!!

    Reply
  20. Tay

    This sounds amazing! Your photographs are breathtaking!

    Reply
  21. Katrina | Aqua & Ink

    Your photos are awesome! This is a trek I’ve always wanted to do. Very honest account which is great to read

    Reply
  22. Claire Summers

    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.

    Reply
  23. Lauren West

    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.

    Reply
  24. Cez of eTramping

    Oh man the mosquitoes sound miserable! The rest of this trip looks fantastic though, thanks for the post!

    Reply
  25. Joanna

    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.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  26. Danik

    This trek looks totally awesome and would love to do this as we are hikers. If the route is less touristy then we are in.

    Reply
  27. Anthony Jury

    Choquequirao Trek… try saying that five times… It looks absolutely delightful and I really can’t wait to get Machu Picchu myself. Great post

    Reply
  28. Agness of aTukTuk

    Machu Picchu is one od the most amazing historical places in the world! Your post is just excellent!

    Reply

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