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Choquequirao Trek: A Challenging Alternative to the Inca Trail

For those looking for an authentic and challenging alternative to the overcrowded Inca Trail, the Choquequirao trek, taking you out to the lesser-known ruins of Choquequirao, could be the perfect option. For trekkers wishing to really test themselves, this can be turned into a longer trek of around nine days that passes Choquequirao and continues right on to Machu Picchu itself. Due to the scenic vistas and challenging trekking trails, this trek is also considered as one of the best treks in Peru.

Overview

Choquequirao trek is an appealing alternative trek to the Inca Trail. The lesser known ruins of Choquequirao features similar architecture and layout to the more famous ruins of Machu Picchu but is far less excavated and restored. The trek also offers the opportunity to see local plant and wildlife including, the iconic Andean condor.

The ruins of Choquequirao become visible in the distance early on the first day as the trail descends into the Apurimac Valley. The second day involves climbing up the far side of the valley, finally reaching the ruins in the afternoon. After a guided tour of the ruins the following morning and the chance to learn about Inca culture and the significance of both Choquequirao and Machu Picchu, trekkers trek back along the same path.

Highlights

  • Visit a frequently visited Inca ruins, Choquequirao
  • Far less crowded and more authentic trekking experience than the classic Inca Trail
  • Chance to see local flora and flora including the Andean condor
  • Variation in sceneries due to ranges in altitudes

 Lowlight

Choquequirao Trek Facts

  • Trek difficulty: ChallengingCertain sections on the way up from the Apurimac Canyon towards Choquequirao are particularly hard. If you opt for the longer trek on to Machu Picchu, the trail reaches higher altitudes and is considered a difficult trek that should only be attempted by the very fit, accompanied by a professional trekking guide.
  • Trek duration: 4 days are standard for the entire trek, it can be extended to 5. The time taken to trek to Machu Picchu via Choquequirao can vary but a standard trekking itinerary takes nine days.
  • Remoteness: Very remote. No vehicle access, few settlements and minimal infrastructure.
  • Maximum altitude and temperatures: The standard four-day trek reaches a maximum altitude of 3,050 m at the Choquequirao camp. The highest point of the nine-day trek to Machu Picchu is the Yanama Pass at 4,668 m. Trekkers can expect to encounter a range of temperatures. In the Apurimac Canyon, daytime temperatures can sometimes reach as high as 40°C but at the highest points of the trek, at night, they can drop below 0°C. On the nine-day trek, at the highest altitudes, temperatures can be significantly below freezing.
  • Accommodation type: Tents at campsites along the way. 
  • Best season: Dry season from April to October. The wet season (November to March) sees the trail muddy and wet, increasing the risk of slipping. The trek can, however, be attempted year-round. 
  • Start / End Locations: Cachora which is situated just off the road between Abancay and Cusco. You can reach Cachora via train or bus.
  • Permits required: No permit is required for the Choquequirao Trek but if you plan to visit Machu Picchu, you should reserve your tickets in advance and you will need your passport to enter the site. It is also highly recommended that you take out travel insurance.

4D / 3N Choquequirao Trek: Standard Itinerary

 

Choquequirao trek is one of the best Peru trek
Day 3 of the trek will bring trekkers to the famous Choquequirao ruins
Choquequirao trek trails are difficult with lots of uphill walking
Certain sections of the Choquequirao trek is quite difficult involving uphill walking

 Day 1: Cusco (3,399 m) – Cachora (2,800 m) – Chiquisca (1,836 m) / Santa Rosa

Leave from Cusco to the start of the trail at Cachora. The trail leads down into the Apurimac Canyon and it is already possible to catch glimpses of the Choquequirao ruins in the distance. Trekkers cross the Apurimac River and begin the ascent on the other side of the valley, making camp at Chiquisca. Some groups press on to the quieter camp at Santa Rosa.

Day 2: Chiquisca / Santa Rosa - Choquequirao ruins (3,050 m)

This is the toughest part of the four-day trek as the path leads up to the Choquequirao ruins. The camp site is near the ruins.

Day 3: Choquequirao ruins - Chiquisca / Santa Rosa

Exploration of the ruins. Trekkers then make their way back down to the Santa Rosa or the Chiquisca campsites where they sleep.

Day 4: Trekkers return back to Cachora for transport back to Cusco.

Choquequirao Trek: Alternative Itineraries

  • 5 Days Choquequirao Trekking Itinerary

It is possible to extend the trip by a day so that the third day is entirely devoted to the exploration of the Choquequirao ruins and the return journey begins on day four. On the way back, it also possible to pass by Huanipaca instead of following the same path as before.

  • 9 Days Choquequirao Trekking Itinerary

For those looking for a real challenge, it is possible to trek out to Choquequirao and then from there, instead of returning the same way back, continuing on to join the Salkantay Trek and walking all the way to Machu Picchu. Various itineraries are available but a nine-day trek could look per the following: 

The same itinerary as outlined in the above 4 Day itinerary, for the first two days. On day three, after a tour of the Choquequirao ruins, trek either to the campsite at Pinchinuyoc or Rio Blanco. From there, over the next few days, the trek passes through Maizal (about 3,000 m), Pajonal (about 4,000 m), Yanama (about 4,100 m), and over the Yanama pass (4,668 m) and then joining the Salkantay Trek to arrive at the ruins of Llaqtapata on day eight. Transport is provided to Agua Calientes where trekkers spend the night. Day nine includes a tour of Machu Picchu and transport back to Cusco by train and bus. This 9 day trekking itinerary is great, but should only be attempted by fit trekkers in the company of a professional trekking guide. 

The Yanama Pass in the Choquequirao trek trail
The Yanama Pass is the highest point of the nine-day trek at 4,668 m

Safety Considerations

During the coldest months, you will require adequate clothing and equipment. This is especially true if you choose the nine-day version since the temperatures at the highest altitudes will be lower. It is not recommended to attempt the long trek from December to March since crossing Rio Blanco during this period can be treacherous.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can be a problem above 2000 - 2500 m and it is recommended to spend two days in Cusco to acclimatise before trekking. Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache and dizziness, and anyone displaying these symptoms should immediately descend to a lower altitude to recover. This is especially important for those attempting the nine-day trek through to Machu Picchu since parts of the trek reach altitudes over 4,500 m.

Physical Fitness

The four-day Choquequirao trek has a moderate difficulty, and requires an average fitness level. You should only attempt the nine-day trek to Machu Picchu if you have a good level of fitness. Up in the mountains, if you struggle to keep up with the group, you will spend the whole time suffering and you won’t enjoy the trek. You can prepare for the trek by eating healthy and trying some easier hikes.

Choquequirao trek will bring you to the famous Choquequirao ruins
The spectacular Choquequirao ruins from afar

Other Challenging Peru Trek Alternatives

While the 4 day Choquequirao trek doesn’t take you to Machu Picchu, it does allow you to visit remote ruins visited by far fewer tourists, in a beautiful region of Peru. If you can’t stand the crowds, the Choquequirao trek might be the perfect Peru trek

4 Comments We welcome your questions or comments to this article. Our travel experts will respond within 48 hours:
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  1. Tom May 29, 2018 Reply

    This is a difficult hike with a full pack. With Mules, it can be done with average fitness but self supported in the heat, don't represent it as a moderate hike. You will get many people into trouble on the trail.

    1. Jane Andersen Bookmundi Staff Jun 5, 2018

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for the insightful comment! Choquequirao trek is definitely a difficult or challenging trek for many hikers and they should be reasonbly fit in order to attempt this trek. We have changed the 'difficulty' of the trek from 'moderate' to 'challenging' in order to correctly reflect what you have pointed out as well.

      Many thanks for your input again. :)

  2. K
    Kurt Heller Jun 15, 2018 Reply

    Water water!!

    The trek up from the Apurimac is an ass kicker.
    After that you should be fit mentally and physically.

    I made it solo hiking meeting a few people along the way nearly to Machu Picchu.

    The passes are high and March was a ton of rain with very few views.

    I would do it all the same....Peru is an amazing place!!

  3. Miguel Aug 10, 2018 Reply

    Choquequirao is the other Machu Picchu, this Inca citadel was lost for years in the Valley of Vilcabamba archaeologists presume that Choquequirao was dedicated to the worship of the gods of the mountain, the river and the elements of nature.

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