12-Day Choquequirao Trek to Machupicchu

Peru

Our Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu takes you to two of the most impressive Inca archaeological sites in South America. Machu Picchu, of course, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, a true wonder that everyone has heard about, and the main tourist attraction in Peru. But this trek also takes us to Choquequirao, a stunning site that is equal to Machu Picchu, but receives far fewer visitors. Why don’t you try off season? March, April, September and October are particularly good months, either side of high season, the weather is still decent and there are even fewer people! The Inca archaeological site of Choquequirao is very similar to Machu Picchu, both in structure, intricacy and geographical setting. But unlike the world-famous Machu Picchu, Choquequirao has only started to open up to tourism in recent years. It’s a challenging trek to get to Choquequirao, but the route passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in Peru. And with plans afoot to build a cable car to Choquequirao, making it far more accessible, now is the time to visit this stunning Inca complex, before it becomes one of Peru’s next tourist hotspots. Combining these two incredible sites gives you the chance to see far more than you would if you only took the classic Inca Trail trek or the Choquequirao trek individually. It also offers a true trekking experience that will take you off-grid for days, trekking through remote locations that encompass a wide spectrum of geographical landscapes and a variety of ecosystems. It’s a physical challenge, that’s for sure, but we’ll be with you every step of the way, with our guides, porters and cooks. This is a true adventure, and one you’ll never forget.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Cusco

Arrival to Cusco with a transfer to your hotel; a welcome meeting will be organized by your guide for a quick briefing of the tour. The rest of the day can be spent exploring Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, set in the Andes Mountains. Discover Spanish churches and mansions that sit alongside Inca remains, visit the local market of San Pedro and their array of products from handicrafts to vegetable products, fresh juices and items for traditional Andean ceremonies. In the evening, enjoy the eclectic restaurant options available and try some traditional or fusion dishes. We recommend local restaurants that use local organic products from the region and will be happy to give you some recommendations.

Services Included:

Private Transport: Cusco Airport – Hotel (20 minutes).

Overnight: Jose Antonio Hotel. Accommodation in Standard Room with private bath.

Meals: Not Included

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After breakfast, enjoy a free day to explore Cusco at your ease. The capital city of the Inca Empire is now the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, as well as the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city. You may visit the local archaeological sites of Saqsaywaman, Tambomachay and Qenqo or you can take part in a Peruvian cooking class or chocolate making class, depending on how you want to spend your free day. We can help arrange and suggest all activities available in this incredible imperial City.

Services Included:

Overnight: Jose Antonio Hotel. Accommodation in Standard Room with private bath.

Meals: Breakfast.

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Our adventure starts when we pick you up from your hotel in Cusco. We’ll first drive for about four hours to the village of Cachora, where we begin our trek. We will load our gear onto horses and climb for two and a half hours to the Capuliyoc pass, which sits at 2,750m (9,020 ft) above sea level. We’ll then descend the other side of the pass, heading into the beautiful Apurimac Valley, where we have spectacular views of snow-capped peaks in the distance and the valley spreading out before us. This section will take about 2.5 hours, after which we’ll reach our first campsite at Chiquisca, where we’ll have dinner and spend the night. Our specialized chefs not only produce the most delicious food but also use locally sourced ingredients from the nearby villages so that we are directly contributing to the areas where we trek.

Hiking Time: 5 hours

Hiking Distance: 8 km / 4.9 miles

Lowest Point: 1,836 m. / 6,023 ft.

Highest Point: 2,800 m / 9,184 ft

Services Included:

Transport: Cusco – Cachora (4 hours approx.).

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+9 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Horsemen and mules: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Chiquisca Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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We’ll have an early breakfast on Day 2 before setting off in the cool air of the morning. First, we’ll descend for one hour to Playa Rosalina, where we’ll cross the Apurimac River. Next is a steep climb of about two hours. It's quite tough going, for sure, but you’ll be constantly rewarded with the spectacular views from the trail, as well as the wide variety of flora and fauna you’ll find on this side of the valley. We’ll make our way passing by beautiful bromeliads, orchids and stalks of bamboo, and hopefully see colorful birds such as quetzals, toucans and a variety of hummingbirds.

Eventually we’ll arrive at the community of Santa Rosa where we will stop for a rest in the shade. Pushing on, we’ll continue to climb for another 2.5 hours until we get to Marampata, where we’ll have lunch and a rest. After a final two hours of easy trekking, we’ll arrive at the Choquequirao campsite, at 3,103 m (10,178 ft). Tired but exhilarated, we’ll eat and settle down for the night. If the weather is clear, the sunset from the campsite is truly stunning, and we may even see some condors as they soar through the valley below.

Hiking Time: 8 hours

Hiking Distance: 14 km / 8.7 miles

Lowest Point: 1,550 m / 5,084 ft

Highest Point: 3,103 m / 10,178 ft

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English.

Horsemen and mules: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Choquequirao Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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All our tough trekking will be rewarded on Day 3 when we wake up early to explore the archaeological site of Choquequirao. Your guide will take you around the site, showing you all the most important sections and explaining the history of Choquequirao. You’ll learn about the Inca Empire, its traditions and culture, as well as the close relationship between Choquequirao and Machu Picchu.

Choquequirao has not been explored or studied as comprehensively as Machu Picchu, despite having been discovered earlier than its more famous counterpart. The first non-Inca visitor to Choquequirao was the explorer Juan Arias Díaz in 1710, two centuries before Hiram Bingham’s rediscovery of Machu Picchu. But the site lay abandoned and forgotten until recent years, when archaeologists and tourists began to pay more attention to Choquequirao. Still, even with more attention turned towards it, only about 65% of the archaeological site has been excavated, and many secrets remain to be discovered.

As far as we currently know, Choquequirao is divided into 12 sectors, with Inca agricultural terraces common throughout the complex. Most of the buildings, meanwhile, appear to have been built for ceremonial purposes, as residences of the priests, or for the storage of food. The fact that we don’t know more about Choquequirao only adds to the wonderous marvels of this trek, as your imagination tries to piece together a picture of what life was like at this vast and isolated site, atop a truncated hill top.

You’ll have plenty of time to explore Choquequirao, both with your guide and then on your own. Afterwards, we’ll return to the camp for the night.

Hiking Time: 4 hours

Hiking Distance: 10 km / 6.2 miles

Highest Point: 2,850 m / 9,320 ft

Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English.

Horsemen and mules: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Choquequirao Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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Day 4 begins with a hearty breakfast, after which we will begin the ascent from our campsite up to the Choquequirao pass, at 3,250 m (10,660 ft). As we walk, we’ll enter the cloud forest, where polylepis trees, epiphytes and bromeliads grow. On the other side of the pass, we’ll descend towards the Yuracmayo River, passing some Inca agricultural terraces that once supplied Choquequirao. After a few hours of trekking, we’ll reach the river, which we’ll cross. Heading on, we’ll start trekking uphill again until we reach Maizal, from where we’ll have magnificent views of the Yurahmayo and Yanama gorges as they merge, the river below rushing towards the Apurimac Canyon. We’ll set up camp at this natural viewpoint, looking out to the west. Your cook will prepare a tasty dinner while you enjoy the sunset from this stunning location.

Hiking Time: 5 hours

Hiking Distance: 8 km / 4.9 miles

Lowest Point: 1900m / 6234 ft

Highest Point: 3,250 m / 10,660 ft

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+10 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Entrance Fee: Inca Trail.

Porters: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Maizal Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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After breakfast, we’ll set off on a steeply-climbing trail up towards Mina Victoria, an old silver and copper mine used by the Incas and later by the Spanish colonials. From here we’ll hike along a hill called Qoriwayrachina, an Inca site that was discovered relatively recently, and which few people have visited. Probably connected to the nearby mines, the hills around Qoriwayrachina are covered with stones from more than 200 structures built at this Inca outpost.

After exploring this site, we’ll head up over a pass at about 4,200 m (13,780 ft), the highest point so far reached on our trek. Near here, we’ll have a well-deserved lunch, after which, we’ll begin our descent to the village of Yanama, with views of Mount Pumasillo towering above us and our campsite below. We’ll spend the night at Yanama.

Hiking Time: 8 hours

Hiking Distance: 12 km / 7.4 miles

Lowest Point: 3,530 m / 11,581 ft

Highest Point: 4,200 m / 13,780ft

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+10 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Porters: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Yanama Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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Today will be a solid day of trekking as we make our way out of the Yanama Valley, passing through fields where farmers grow their crops and tend their livestock. We then have a challenging trek up to the Quiswar pass, which sits at around 4,700 m. As we cross over the pass, we’ll have sublime views of the Salkantay and Humantay mountains, especially if it’s a clear day. From here we’ll take a winding trail down to the Totora Valley below, where we’ll camp near a traditional rural village.

Hiking Time: 8 hours

Hiking Distance: 12 km / 7.4 miles

Lowest Point: 3,630 m / 11,909 ft

Highest Point: 4,700m / 15,369feet

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+10 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Porters: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: Totora Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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After the high-altitude trekking of the previous day, Day 7 will feel like a breeze, as we hike along the path of the Salkamayo River. As we go, we’ll pass through an area of increasingly lush vegetation, where we’ll find a paradise of crystalline waterfalls, plentiful passion fruit and coffee plantations. In the afternoon we’ll reach our campsite at the village of La Playa, where you’ll have plenty of free time to relax and take a swim in the river as we set up the camp and prepare another excellent dinner.

Hiking Time: 7 hours

Hiking Distance: 20 km / 12.4 miles

Lowest Point: 2,155 m / 7,068 ft

Highest Point: 2,810m / 9,273feet

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+10 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Porters: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight: La Playa Camp.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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Today will be our final day of trekking, taking us within easy reach of Machu Picchu. After breakfast, we’ll the cross the river and start climbing up through coffee and fruit plantations until we reach El Mirador, a wonderful spot at 2,860 m (9,381 ft) with exceptional views of Machu Picchu.

We’ll then continue on towards the Inca site of Llaqtapata, which was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1912, but only extensively explored and mapped in 2003. Llaqtapata’s location along the Inca Trail suggests that it was once an important resting place and roadside shrine on the journey to Machu Picchu. After exploring the site, we’ll have lunch and enjoy the views of Machu Picchu and Salkantay. Continuing on, we’ll trek downhill for about two hours until we reach the Hidroelectrica (Hydroelectric Station), a well-known landmark along various routes to Machu Picchu. From here we’ll board the train for a short ride to Aguas Calientes, the vibrant town that sits below Machu Picchu. Once we arrive in Aguas Calientes, we’ll take you to your hotel where you can have a well-deserved rest and a hot shower. After dinner in a local restaurant, you’ll probably want a reasonably early night, because tomorrow we wake up early for the tour of our final destination, Machu Picchu!

Hiking Time: 7 hours

Hiking Distance: 12 km / 7.5 miles

Lowest Point: 2,650m /8692 ft

Highest Point: 2,860 m / 9381 ft

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English (+10 Paxs – 1 Assistant Guide).

Train Ticket: Hydroelectric – Aguas Calientes (30 minutes approx.).

Porters: They carry cooking and camping equipment.

Overnight Hatun Inti Boutique. Accommodation in Suite Room with private bath.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

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To best appreciated Machu Picchu, we’ll wake up early in the morning so we can get to the citadel in good time. You’ll have time for breakfast first, and then your guide will pick you up from the hotel at around 5:40 a.m. We’ll then walk to the bus departure point for the short but zigzagging ascent up the road to Machu Picchu.

We’ll then pass through the gates into the Machu Picchu archaeological site. Here you’ll begin your guided walking tour with an experienced and highly knowledgeable guide. Our tour of Machu Picchu will last about two hours, and will take you to all the most famous and most spectacular parts of the extensive archaeological complex. These include the House of the Guardian, the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, the Sacred Plaza and other key locations. And as we walk around, we’ll have spectacular views of the agriculture terraces of Machu Picchu and across to the surrounding mountains and plunging gorges. After the guided tour you’ll have time to explore Machu Picchu as you please, perhaps walking to some less visited parts such as the Inca Bridge.

Once we’ve finished our tour of Machu Picchu, we’ll take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes where you can relax and have lunch (not included) before we board the train back to Poroy and Cusco. On arrival at the station, we’ll be waiting to take you back to your hotel in Cusco, where you’ll finish the entirety of your incredible Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu.

Services Included:

Tour Guide: Spanish/English.

Bus Tickets Consetur: Aguas Caliente – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes (25 minutes approx.).

Entrance Fee: Machu Picchu City.

Train Tickets: Aguas Calientes – Ollantaytambo (2 hours approx.).

Private Transport: Ollantaytambo Train Station – Hotel in Cusco (2 hours approx.).

Overnight: Jose Antonio Hotel. Accommodation in Standard Room with private bath.

Meals: Breakfast.

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After breakfast, enjoy your last day at leisure before your transfer to the airport for your return flight home, via Lima.

Services Included:

Transport: Hotel – Cusco Airport (30 minutes approx.).

Meals: Breakfast.

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