How long is the hike to Choquequirao?
Now, this trek is not for the fainthearted, but it’s almost unsurpassed in Peru
We’ve all had dreams of the Inca Trail and walking a path so steeped in history and beauty. But the reality is you have to book months in advance and the experience offers very little in the way of real adventure.
If the idea of authentic exploration excites you, consider the Choquequirao Peru trek, the best alternative to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
A view across the archeological site of Choquequirao, often referred to as the "other Machu Picchu" in Peru
Views across Choquequirao, often referred to as the “other Machu Picchu” in Peru
High on the Quriwayrachina mountain range of Peru lies the Choquequirao archaeological site, and the only way in or out is on foot. Now, this trek is not for the fainthearted, but it’s almost unsurpassed in Peru.
With sweeping views of the Andes and opportunities to observe local plant and wild life, including the sacred Andean condor, this trek is a must for any serious hiker.
With the country’s popularity growing among international tourists, it is becoming difficult to find an authentic, uncrowded adventure in Peru. The Choquequirao trek is just this.
The Choquequirao route takes you through the steep Apurimac Canyon; as you descend down into this plunging valley, and hike back out the steep other side, you will pass through several microclimates that vary with the altitude.
Sunset across the Apurimac Valley in Peru.
Sunset across the Apurimac Valley in Peru.
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Surrounded by lush rainforest and snow-capped peaks, the Choquequirao route has new views at every turn and it should come as no surprise that this mountain-top city is being lauded as the “new Machu Picchu” and is widely considered one of the finest treks in South America.
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What is Choquequirao?
Choquequirao, meaning Cradle of Gold, is an Incan city that was built in the same era as Machu Picchu. Thought to be built by Pachacuti, the Incan Emperor who envisioned Machu Picchu, the city was extended by his son, Tupaq Inka Yupanki.
It’s roughly the same size as Machu Picchu and contains a few different architectural styles. Despite covering six square kilometres, only about a third of it has been reclaimed from the jungle.
Choquequirao was built on a flattened hilltop that was levelled centuries ago and ringed with stones to stop it sliding down the mountain. Though much of the city is inaccessible due to the encroaching jungle, a temple and several other buildings around the main square have been cleared, as well as several terraces.
Well preserved Inca walls at the Choquequirao ruins, accessible by a challenging trek
Well-preserved Inca walls at the Choquequirao ruins
My favourite part of the site is these terraces. On the west side of the summit, huge stepped terraces have the shapes of llamas built into them with carefully carved white rocks.
These are accessible through a clambering jungle path that opens out to breathtaking views. On the east side, below the main site, are the iconic animal shaped terraces, thought to mirror the shape of a guinea pig.
With no people around, and no definitive answers about what everything means or was for, enjoy feeling like a true adventurer exploring a city time forgot.
Why you should go to Choquequirao as soon as possible
Currently, the only way to get to the Choquequirao ruins is the four-day trek but the local Peruvian government is planning to build a Choquequirao cable car through the Apurimac Valley. In February 2018 a company was awarded the project, but the start date of construction hasn’t been announced yet.
Many people wonder what’s the main difference between hiking to Choquequirao and Machu Picchu. In two words: visitor numbers.
The Choquequirao ruins receive less than a dozen visitors a day – that’s only 5,800 a year compared to Machu Picchu’s 1.2 million. Unfortunately, once the cable car is functioning, the government is expecting over 200,000 visitors a year.