Only a 4-hour bus ride from the city of Cusco, you can find the fantastic Inca ruins of Choquequirao, another “lost city of the Inca’s”. Choquequirao is more extensive than Machu Picchu but almost “undiscovered” (like any other remote part of the Andes here in Peru). While the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is so famous that it is tough to get Inca Trail Tickets, there is also the Choquequirao Trek, an unexplored and off-the-beaten-trek alternative Inca Trail to a different site. Unlike Machu Picchu, Choquequirao (or Choqueqirow) was not thoroughly explored and excavated until the 1970s. Choquequirao Trek: hike to the so-called Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu.
How is it possible that Machu Picchu has 1,4 million visitors yearly and Choquequirao only 5,5 thousand? The answer lies in the remoteness of this archaeological site. But, of course, this is what makes it so unique too. During the Choquequirao Trek, you will get a more intense feeling of achievement; and, at the same time, an immense appreciation of Peruvian nature. How is it possible the Incas have built this magnificent city here, at this incredible location in the saddle of a high Andean ridge, 3000, above sea level and 1,500 meters above the roaring waters of the Apurimac River? The Sacred or the Lost Sister City of Machu Picchu – as Choquequirao is often called – is only accessible through an (at least) 4-day hike through the beautiful mountains and valley passing over the wild Apurimac river.Since there are no daily departures and the trails are relatively easy to follow, if you are an experienced hiker, you could consider doing the hike without an official tour operator or even a guide. However, be careful. If you compare the prices carefully, the difference in cost might not even be that big. You must rent the necessary equipment for the hike, transport, prepare well and learn about the route, carry your own stuff etc.
Below you find a trip report of the Choquequirao Trek of a group of independent travellers, who took off to, and we left, on our way to the conquer to ruins of Choquequirao. We would do the Choquequirao: trek to so-called Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu!Choquequirao Trek: hike to the so-called Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu
Only a 4-hour bus ride from the city of Cusco, you can find the fantastic Inca ruins of Choquequirao, another “lost city of the Inca’s.” Choquequirao is more extensive than Machu Picchu but almost “undiscovered” (like any other remote part of the Andes here in Peru). While the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is so famous that it is tough to get Inca Trail Tickets, there is also the Choquequirao Trek, an unexplored and off-the-beaten-trek alternative Inca Trail to a different site. Unlike Machu Picchu, Choquequirao (or Choqueqirow) was not thoroughly explored and excavated until the 1970s.
On day one, you take the bus to Desvio de Cachora at 6.00 am to arrive three hours later. From there you have to rent a taxi Mirador Capuliyoc, passing Cachora. Here the road ends, and the trek begins.
Most hikers start the trail in, Cachora, where you can rent mules to carry your stuff. However, we decided to bring our tents and backpacks ourselves and get a head start by starting in Mirador, saving ourselves from trekking 13km along the road. So, after a quick breakfast upon arrival in Mirador (rice with fries, an egg, and a tomato slice), we started making our way down around 1 pm.Nature in this part of Peru – and elsewhere – is awe-inspiring. The trail takes us through various ecological zones, from Andean farming valleys, descending through a hot and arid canyon environment with kapok trees, cacti, and agaves, and then climbing again to a region of the lush cloud forest. Next to us are the snowcaps of the Vilcabamba mountain range.
While we overlook the whole Apurimac valley, we can already see Choquequirao far in the distance, at the very end of the valley! How different look the slopes of the mountain on each side of the river. On our side, it is now dry – just sand and rocks – with a red, yellow sand color; the opposite side, however, the side of Choquequirao, is entirely green, with trees and waterfalls. Tomorrow we will be walking there.
Cross the Apurimac River
The first campsite is Chiquisca, and from there, you continue all the way down to Playa Rosalina. Here we cross the Apurimac river via a modern footbridge, 1500 meters above sea level. For many, this is a more difficult part of the trek. The Choquequirao trek is at a relatively low altitude (compared to, for instance, the Salkantay Trek), but the 1,500-meter descent into the valley is followed by a 1,800-meter climb!After a few necessary stops to rest and appreciate the night view, we keep climbing In the night. With only a few lights in the mountains, be careful with, among others, tarantulas. Tarantulas only come out at night and stand completely still the moment you come close (perfect for photos). The region of the Choquequirao is known for being the home of the most enormous spider in the world: the Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula.
Waterfalls and lush cloud forest
After an early breakfast around 6 am (spaghetti with coffee), we pack and start hiking (some with many blister). Day 2 is a tough climb, with 13km of steep uphill between us and the ruins of Choquequirao.
After 25 minutes of hiking, we reach Santa Rosa, Alta. For the next three and a half hours, we hiked up. We appreciated the beautiful scenery with countless small waterfalls where we could cool down (once the sun comes out, it can become quite hot here).In the tiny settlement of Marampata (2900 meters above sea level with approximately 25 houses), we meet a lovely lady that will make us some lunch. Although Morampata has a basic campground where many hikers stay before they continue to see the Inca Citadel on day 3, we decided to continue straightway.
The hike gets more accessible because we are now on a more gradual path toward Choquequirao. After one and a half hours, we passed the checkpoint where we paid the entrance of 60 Soles. We quickly dumped our stuff at the Choquequirao camp. After that, we faced the last half an hour before reaching the Choquequirao site itself.
Cradle of Gold
Choquequirao is impressive; it’s all you have read and heard about it and more. All the climbing and hiking aches were quickly forgotten when we wandered around this beautiful site. Instead, I admired the mountains and the surroundings. Here we were, at the most stunning spot in Peru, on top of the world, with hardly any other tourists around!Choquequirao is an impressive piece of Inca architecture with terraces, plazas, chambers, imposing walls with niches, and so on. Choquequirao means ‘cradle of gold’ in Quechua. Some people believe it was the last refuge of the Inca when the empire fell apart. But it can also have been an administrative hub and ceremonial center, linking Cuzco with the Peruvian Amazon.
Currently, there are only two ways to get out of Choquequirao again. One is to make the return trek to Cachora and road back to Cuzco; the other way out is or continue trekking to Machu Picchu and return by train to Cuzco.
Amazing Starry Night
It’s important to know there is no food available at the Choquequirao campsite. Around 5:00, we were ready to make our way down. While walking, the mist started to appear out of the earth, crawling over the floor, making way for each step. It circled the tops of a few mountains, reminding me of the rings of Jupiter. We had breakfast in Marampata and lunch in Santa Rosa Baja. Then, via Playa Rosalina, we finally reached Chiquisca for our last night of camping.The night started to fall. We had dinner and bought a few beers to celebrate. In the whole area, there was no light, and the clouds that had been there for the past nights had gone, which allowed us to see the entire sky for the first time. I had never seen such a starry night before, full of colors. It was a full moon, and we didn’t even need a lantern to walk around at night. This was a great end to a gorgeous hike I would recommend to any travelers in Peru: Choquequirao Trek: hike to the so-called Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu
|The 64 km Choquequirao (or Choquequirow) trek can certainly not be called a moderate trek. Unlike the Inca Trail, it is possible to do the Choquequirao Trek without a guide. However, as the Choquequirao trek is recognized as one of Peru’s most challenging hikes, please check if you consider yourself fit enough. You must carry your own tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, first–aid kit, cooking equipment, and so on. On the other hand, the trail is relatively easy to follow.|
Here at Dos Manos, we are happy to set you up for an organized Choquequirao trek that includes the companion of a guide, camping equipment, mules, food, transportation, etc.
For more information, please contact one of the Dos Manos trip advisors.