Photo by Yepo
Choquequirao, or Chokekirao, is comparable in size to Machu Picchu, dramatically located on a promontory nearly 1,700m above the Apurimac River.
It is only accessible by this tough trek, and our mule-supported hike takes in high passes, perfectly preserved Inca Trails and awesome Andean peaks.
Our hiking reward is a spectacular and rarely seen view of Machu Picchu.
The trek is approximately 55 km / 34 miles long with almost 3,000 m/9,850 ft of both ascent and descent.
We traverse high passes of up to 4,600 m/15,092 ft and river crossings as low as 1,450 m/4,757 ft.
You pass from the ice-capped peaks of the high Andes – all sharp ridges, deep gorges and raging rivers – to the lush flora and prolific wildlife of the sub-tropical rainforest.
Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is one of the finest and most satisfying treks and routes near Cusco.
The magnificent Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu passes through two of Peru's finest Inca sites.
Remote Choquequirao ruins attract few visitors, so you can explore freely.
Unique views to Machu Picchu.
Pass through varied eco-systems from high Andes to sub-tropical rainforest.
Fully supported trek, the ultimate back-door route to Machu Picchu.
Excellent guides will bring the Inca civilisation to life for you.
Choquequirao was fabulous, remote , a real sense of achievement having trekked in, the guide was really informative and there was a spiritual feel to it.
P. Conlen, Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu
We leave Cusco early, driving to the village of Capuliyoq, stopping enroute to visit the arqeological sites of Sawite and Tarawasi (optional).
We are greeted by the majestic mountains of the Vilcabamba Range, have an early lunch and start our 1600m descent into the Apurimac canyon.
We cross the river and continue to set up camp for the night.
Distance walked: 18.7km/11.6 miles
Max altitude: 2,993m/9,820ft
Min altitude: 1,473/8,431ft
Starting altitude: 2,898m/9,508ft
Finishing altitude: 1,473m/8,431ft
We continue our trek steeply up, passing the small settlement of Maranpata.
This is a tough day, full of long uphills – we need to start early and it’s a slog at times, but the scenery around us will lift our mood and give us a well-earned sense of satisfaction.
We set up base camp just short of the Choquequirao ruins.
Distance walked: 9.7km/6 miles
Max altitude: 3,046m/9,994ft
Starting altitude: 1,473m/8,431ft
Finishing altitude: 3,046m/9,994ft
We start the day with a tour of the amazing ruins of Choquequirao with plenty of time for exploring this dramatically located site, 1,700m above the roaring Apurimac river. The site is extensive, in area far bigger than Machu Picchu.
The terraces stretch out in all directions, there’s a chain of ritual baths and a central plaza surrounded by fine ceremonial, high status residential architecture. There are still parts of the site being uncovered, work goes on to clear the thick cloud forest.
The purpose of Choquequirao reamins largely unclear.
The site isn’t menioned in the Spanish chronicles and nothing was known of it until the 18th century.
Theories abound, including that the stone-work is that of en-slaved Chachapoyans from the North – they were supposedly more than happy to burn and leave the site on the downfall of the Incas.
Another is that it would have been used a main highway look-out by the last Incas during their thirty year exiled rule in Vilcabamba: this Inca road would have connected Vilcabamba to the Central Highlands whilst by-passing the Spanish in Cusco.
We bid farewell to the site, pick up our belongings then have a short trek to our next camp at Pichaunuyoc, a recently uncovered site, thought to be a water shrone.
Distance walked: 8km/5 miles
Max altitude: 3,280m/10,764ft
Min altitude: 2,438m/7,999ft
Starting altitude: 3,046m/9,994ft
Finishing altitude: 2,438m/7,999ft
Today we start with a descent into the Rio Blanco canyon famous for its nasty biting sand-flies called Pumahuacachi – literally “making the puma cry”.
Then another tough climb of 1,200m/3,937ft up to the small campsite of Maizal at an altitude 3,000m/9,843ft.
This is probably the toughest day of the trip but allowing all day and using the support horses where necessary, it is manageable by fit trekkers. Again we enjoy amazing views of three valleys and the impressive snow covered peaks of the mighty Salkantay and Padrilloc.
Our campsite tonight is one of the most beautiful places on our trip.
Distance walked: 7.3km/4.5 miles
Max altitude: 3,037m/9,964ft
Min altitude: 1,908m/6,260ft
Starting altitude: 2,438m/7,999ft
Finishing altitude: 3,037m/9,964ft
Starting early again we climb to the Abra San Juan pass at 4,050m/13,287ft with spectacular views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range (when not in cloud), passing on route Corihuayrachina and the interesting old silver mines of Mina Victoria thought to have been worked for over a thousand years.
We can spot remnants of old Inca trails. After a second pass at Choqueqatarpo (4,000m/13,123ft) we begin our way down, descending to the charming village of Yanama, surrounded by mountains. Here we bid farewell to our arrieros before driving to the small hamlet and Inca terraces at Lucmabamba – via a scenic tarmac road.
Distance walked: 10.2km/6.3 miles
Max altitude: 4,142m/13,589ft
Min altitude: 3,037m/9,964ft
Starting altitude: 3,037m/9,964ft
Finishing altitude: 3,568m/11,709ft
We have the opportunity to take a last day of hiking through coffee and tropical fruit plantations, then on into some pristine cloud forest.
This is original Inca Trail, and it leads to the Inca site of Llactapata. The site is only just being cleared now, it was discovered only a few years ago.
From Llactapata the views are stunning – straight across deep valleys to Machu Picchu. This is a view of Machu Picchu that few people get to see.
We can picnic here, soaking up the views and the amazing geography of this cloud forest area of deep ravines and soaring ridges. Setting off again we have a steep descent to the Urubamba valley and the train station.
From here we take a zig zag path to the hydroelectric dam on the Urubamba River and on to Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly known as Aguas Calientes).
Here we check into our hotel and enjoy a shower. Then you are free to head out to sample some of the many restaurants and bars.
Distance walked: 18.8km/11.7 miles
Max altitude: 2,777m/9,108ft
Min altitude: 2,042m/6,700ft
Starting altitude: 2,087m/6,850ft
Finishing altitude: 2,042m/6,700ft
First thing in the morning we catch a bus (or the energetic can hike) to Machu Picchu and have it virtually to ourselves for a full guided tour, with time afterwards to climb Huayna Picchu (due to permit restrictions, please let us know when booking if you want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain), walk out to the Inca bridge or else just wander through the ruins soaking up the amazing atmosphere.
We return to Aguas Calientes and board the afternoon train back towards Cusco, via the train station at Poroy. Here our waiting bus drives us back to Cusco and your hotel.
If you have the energy you can then explore Cusco’s excellent nightlife.
IMPORTANT – Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountain permits.
If you wish to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, permits have to be pre/booked and come at an additional cost.
Machu Picchu mountain has to be climbed before 11am, and there are two departure times for Huayna Picchu:
Group 1 (G1): 0700 – 0800
Group 2 (G2): 1000 – 1100
The price is USD25 including the entrance fee to Machu Picchu.
For a short description of the walks, please see below.
Huayna Picchu mountain
A steep one-hour climb (360m above the main Machu Picchu ruins), much of which is up Inca stairs. The climb involves scrambling and requires a good head for heights as there are some drops and a set of steep stairs – with no railing.
The views from above are wonderful and certainly reward those who tackle it. It’s worth visiting the Temple of the Moon on the west side of Huayna Picchu mountain, 400m below the summit. There is some high quality Inca stone work inside a cave, once a sacred place. Climbing Huayna Picchu is popular and permits usually sell out, which means there will be 200 climbers for each time slot given.
Do not attempt this climb if you are concerned about suffering from vertigo.
Machu Picchu mountain
Just south of the site, and overlooking it, is a 650m climb up a well made Inca pathway (approx 1.5 hrs to top, 1 hr down) to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain.
There are some Inca constructions on the top that were probably for religious ceremonies, given the prominent position of the mountain. The hike takes you through lush forest, keeping a look out for interesting birds, flowers and snakes sunbathing on the path.
The views over the site a great and you can view the iconic Huayna Picchu as the backdrop to Machu Picchu, as well as the mountains beyond. It is attracting more and more people as an alternative to Huayna Picchu but is still a lot quieter.
Aguas Calientes River Walk
A very simple and straight forward, yet very enjoyable walk is the walk along the river in Aguas Calientes. Keep your eyes open, as otters and capybara have been spotted here before! Your hotel receptionist can point you in the right direction and once you are the river, you just walk along from there.
And last but not least – don’t forget you can soak your aching muscles at the Aguas Calientes hot springs in town!
Prices From $1,197 / £1,015 per person
Enquire about booking
Transport to and from the trail in private vehicle; all camping and cooking equipment including camping mat, spacious two-person tents, dining, cook and toilet tent. First-aid kit including oxygen; English and Spanish-speaking guides, mules, cook team, entrances to Choquequirao and Machu Picchu Inca sites. Simple hotel in Aguas Calientes. All meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner).
National or International flights, personal belongings, sleeping bag (available for rent), entrances to Huayna Picchu & Machu Picchu mountains, personal expenses, travel insurance and tips. Lima hotels, day rooms, tours and all internal flights are not included but can also be organised and quoted for on request.
Camping with dining tent and toilet tent, plus one night hostel (2*) in Aguas Calientes (upgrades available at extra cost).
All guides are certified, bilingual, English-speaking guides who have worked with us for many years.
Cooks, mule drivers and additional staff are all from the local communities and we have worked with them for a long time.
Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.
You wake early, usually around 07.00. Breakfast is served in a dining tent, and consists of hot drinks, porridge, toast, jams and bread, and your guide will explain the day’s trekking plans.
Lunch is usually around 13.00 and can feature soups, meats, salads and fish, with vegetarian options and hot drinks too.
The campsites are comfortable and around 17.00 hot drinks, popcorn and other snacks are served to help you recover energy.
Dinner is served around 19.30, and will feature pasta, mashed potatoes, meat, fish or vegetarian options, followed by hot drinks and a pudding.
Although this trek starts at (relatively) lower altitude than others we offer, it is a strenuous trek. Climbs are long and steep.
Those with no previous trekking experience can trek this extended Choquequirao trek, but previous experience of hiking is beneficial.
The trip is open to anyone with a positive attitude who wants to walk in a stunning and remote part of Peru’s Andes, but please remember that this is a tough trek. It can get very hot in the Apurimac canyon. There are support mules if needed.
You hike 5-7 hours a day for a week, over rugged mountain trails at elevation and with some long ascents and descents.
Pre-trip preparation should include challenging cardiovascular exercise (including regular hikes on varied terrain) and a healthy, balanced diet.
Well-worn hiking boots and additional acclimatisation nights in Cusco (3-4) before the trek are both highly recommended.
All guests are encouraged to hike at their own pace, taking breaks whenever needed, to ensure a successful and enjoyable trek for all.
Most people go to bed fairly early after a long day trekking, to recover energy for the morning.
Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.
The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.
The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.
Peru is made up of 3 distinct geographical areas: the coast, the mountains and the jungle.
The costa or coastal region is a narrow ribbon of desert 2,250 km long, crossed by fertile river valleys flowing from the Andes. It takes up 11% of the country and holds more than 40% of the population.
The cold Humboldt current gives rise to a blanket of mist – the garua – which hangs above coastal cities like the capital Lima from May to November.
Heading east, you’re soon climbing above the garua and into the Andes. The sierra, or mountainous region, covers some 25% of Peru’s territory and contains 50% of the population. The sierra inhabitants are mainly Indigenous or Mestizo, and many still speak Quechua or Aymara.
The sierra contains dozens of 6,000-metre snow peaks and volcanoes, including Huascaran (6,768m) the highest mountain in the tropics. The deep valley basins contain most of the towns and arable land; the terracing and canal systems of the Incas and pre-Incas are often still used today.
The eastern Andes are heavily forested up to 3,350m and sweep down into the Amazon Basin.
Peru’s selva or jungle makes up almost two thirds of the country’s area, but holds only about 6% of the population: the only towns with significant populations are Iquitos and Pucallpa.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
When planning for the varied climatic conditions encountered, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.
To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:
First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.
Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.
Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.
Below is a more detailed kit list.
Detailed kit list
All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.
In order to get the most out of a trek we classify as ‘hard‘, you should be in great physical condition and used to trekking, camping and heavy carries.
It is not easy to grade the fitness level required for any trek, since it is a subjective matter.
However, for treks classified as hard, expect to trek 7+ hours per day carrying a heavy back-pack (15-20kg), with several long ascents and descents.
Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.
However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.
On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).
To avoid AMS, you should:
Games throwing water, flour as well as dance and music.
Location: Highlands and some coastal areas.
Festival: Fiesta de La Candelaria
Culture, music and dancing
Festival: Fiesta de La Vendimia
Wine harvest festival
Festival: Inti Raymi
Independence day – celebration of Peruvian culture – various activities
Location: Country wide
Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.
Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.
We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.
We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.
With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.
Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.
Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.
Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:
A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.
You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.
Many of our tours travel through remote areas.
We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.
Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.
This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.
Also, shared tours may include travellers from all over the world whose native language is not English.
2023 price, per person, shared tent basis.
Price based on six people per group.
4 people: USD 1,357pp
2 people: USD 2,044pp
Private treks available - please enquire.
Single supplement applies
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Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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