Like Machu Picchu, the spectacular Inca ruins of Choquequirao dominate yet blend respectfully into the vertical Andean world of immense canyons and towering snowpeaks. Straddling a mountain saddle at 3,033 m/9,950 ft., the Inca city comprises an extensive complex of palaces, ceremonial plazas, ranks of agricultural terraces and residential buildings.
The ruins occupy a saddle 1,605 m./ 5,264 ft above the Apurimac River; by comparison, from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park to the Colorado River at the well-known Bright Angel campsite, hikers face a vertical descent of just 1,315 m/4,314 feet.
Ongoing exploration and excavation amid the surrounding forest is revealing many more structures, and so our ideas of the size and importance of this Inca city are gradually being revised, year by year. Nineteenth-century explorers were aware of the site, and many were drawn to visit it, crossing the roaring Apurimac River suspended from a frail cable. We cross the river via a modern footbridge built in 1992 to replace the previous precarious cable system.
The trailhead at Capuliyoq, 178 km/111 miles from Cuzco, is an impressive destination in itself: you enjoy a spectacular view north toward the precipitous glaciated peaks of the Vilcabamba Range. The route in is a challenging hike. You descend 1,420 meters (5,000 ft) to the banks of the Apurimac River, a world of house-sized water-worn granite boulders dominated by the steady roar of the river. Following a night in camp, you climb – 6 hours, 9.7 km/6 miles and 1,500 vertical meters up to the campsite located just below the ruins at 3,033 m/9,950 ft. Though the trail is well-maintained, and the grade is moderate, by the time you reach Choquequirao on the afternoon of the second day you have more than earned your visit to this site.
The physically demanding route limits the number of visitors – qualitatively, your exploration of Choquequirao is very different from a visit to the more accessible Machu Picchu. We spend a full day exploring the ruins in depth and at leisure.
On the morning of the final day, we trek 15 km to the trailhead and our waiting van. We make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. Then we return on the main highway, passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour trip to Cuzco.
Your trail duffel and the heavy camp gear is carried by packhorses and porters; you walk carrying only a day-pack. Cooks prepare wholesome meals from fresh ingredients and handle all the kitchen chores. You sleep warm and protected in high quality tents. Join the most reliable outfitter in the Andes for a trek you'll never forget.
Day 1 Cuzco, Tarawasi, Chiquisqa
We pick you up at your Cuzco hotel and transfer by van west across the high Anta plain, following the route of the royal Inca Road which led from the capital toward the northern quarter of the empire. After descending into the warmth of the Apurimac Valley, we pass Tarawasi, a former way-station on the royal highway marked by some splendidly-crafted stone terraces. Note: Stops at archeological sites en route to the trailhead will be made if time is available. After crossing the Cunyaq Bridge over the Apurimac River, we climb out of the cactus forests and back into a greener terrain of eucalyptus trees and prosperous farms around the town of Curahuasi. As we continue to gain elevation, the fields of corn are replaced by wheat and quinoa. We leave the main highway 151 km from Cuzco, descend into the village of Cachora and continue north a short distance to the trailhead at 2,905m/9,550 ft. While the wranglers load our gear onto packhorses, we enjoy the astonishing views – the scale of the landscape is immense. We hike about 17 km/10.6mi, to campsite at Chiquisca, 400 m/1,300 feet above the river. We recommend that you bring hiking poles to ease the walking on this long, steady descent. 15 km/9 miles (L,D)
Day 2 Apurimac River to Choquequirao
We start early today to avoid the worst of the heat which fills the canyon each morning. We descend, cross the river on the oroya, and commence climbing out of the gorge. As we gain elevation we pass a few small farms wherever there is reliable water on this semi-arid mountainside. We reach camp (2,865 m/9,400 ft.) in mid-afternoon – early enough for those with energy left in their legs to make the 30-minute climb from the campsite up to the Choquequirao ruins. Most trekkers will happily leave this visit to the following day, as they relax in our camp high above the Apurimac canyon, in the heart of the Andes. Note: some enterprising local farmers offer horses for riding on this long climb up from the river. A typical morning rental cost is US$10. 13 km/8.1 miles (B,L,D)
Day 3 Choquequirao Ruins, full day to explore
We enter the site through a sequence of enormous, precisely-constructed agricultural terraces. Higher up, we emerge onto a broad ceremonial plaza, flanked by fine two-storey structures with tall, trapezoidal niches. On one wall a row of embedded stone rings has led some explorers to suggest that wild pumas were tethered here. An usnu, or sacred platform, occupies a separate ridgetop, reminiscent of the Intiwatana at Machu Picchu. One of the most mysterious architectural elements of the complex is a series of 15 terraces constructed below the main complex, in which 22 figures of llamas are constructed in stone relief. The decorative technique is known from Chachapoyas in the north of Peru but is unlike anything in the classic Inca sites of Cuzco and its hinterland. The pleasures and mysteries of the extensive site reveal themselves gradually to us as we spend a full day here. (B,L,D)
Day 4 Return to Chiquisca
We depart our camp, retracing our route down to the river, then up the switchbacking trail, winding between huge boulders and through a cactus forest to Chiquisca. (B,L,D)
Day 5 Sayhuite / Return to Cuzco
We depart in the morning, trekking the final 15 km to the trailhead and our waiting van. We make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately-carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. We return on the main highway, once again passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour journey to Cuzco (B,L are included today).We depart in the morning, and make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately-carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. We return on the main highway, once again passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour journey to Cuzco, with arrival typically in late afternoon. (B,L are included; dinner is on your own).
Included: indicated meals, transport by private van, porterage of up to 12 kg personal gear, communal camp gear including tables and camp chairs, dining tent, spacious sleeping tents, Thermarest sleeping pad, water filter and other amenities. One night hotel accommodation is included.
Excluded: Site fees; personal trekking gear and sleeping bag; tips to guide and trek staff; city services before and after trek program
Custom Departures May to October
5 Days / 4 Nights
2017 Rates, per person:
$1,057 (10-14 passengers)
$1,154 (4-9 passengers)
$1,367 (3 passengers)
$1,547 (2 passengers)
Rates for larger groups on request
Requested single tent: $132
Sleeping bag rental: $48
Pre-Trek Acclimation So that your body has sufficient time to acclimate prior to starting the trek, we strongly recommend that you arrive in Cuzco or similar elevation a minimum of two days prior to the trek. This is a 30-km/19-mile trek with elevation ranging from 3,050 to 1,550m feet. Once we receive your final payment, we will send a Con¬firmation of Service voucher with your prepaid travel details.
Services in Peru are provided by Inca Tours & Travel Adventures (ITTA). At 10.30AM on the day prior to the trek, there is an im¬portant orientation meeting with your guide and other participants in the ITTA operations office in Cuzco. We review trek arrangements, trail gear and packing strategies, health and dietary matters, tipping and other cash needs, and trail documentation requirements. We also distribute your trail duffel and sleeping pad. If you’ve rented a sleeping bag from us, we give it to you now so you can pack your duffel, ready for the departure early next morning.
ITTA office is at Avenida Pardo 705, tel. (51-84) 225-701, 235-583. Passengers who have not contacted the office by 10.30AM on the day prior to trek departure to reconfirm their arrangements will be considered no-shows and deleted from the roster. In these situations your tour prepayment is non-refundable. If your travel plans change at the last minute, due to airline delays, misconnections or any other reason, you must advise our Cuzco office (51-84)225-701, (51-84) 600-500; after-hours operations staff are at (084) 98465-1404) to see if alternate arrangements can be made for you.
Optional Extras Hotels in Lima or Cuzco are available from $64 per night for a double and $48 in single including taxes and continental breakfast. Airport transfers in Lima and Cuzco may be arranged upon request. We are pleased to assist you with additional tour ar¬rangements prior to and following your tour. If you seek an economic hostel, there are kiosks at the airports where you can arrange accommodation on arrival. Additional Expenses Currency other than US$ and € is difficult to exchange in Peru. Bring travelers' checks and/or cash. Major credit cards are also accepted in hotels and larger restaurants. Most credit card companies charge 2-3% surcharge over the purchase price – we recommend you check the policy with your credit card company prior to your trip.
You can find ATM machines in Cuzco but not in towns. Food and beverages in mainstream restaurants and hotels are comparable in cost to what you'll pay at home. 19% government value-added tax plus service charges of up to 10% are added to your bill. You’ll pay airport departure taxes of approximately US$5 for domestic flights in Peru, and US$30.25 for international departures.
Tipping your trek staff is optional but customary. Take along between $25-$50 in local currency for this purpose. Wranglers carry our gear for two days in to Choquequirao; on the return leg porters carry the loads out to the road. On the final trek morning, trekkers distribute pooled funds among guide(s), kitchen crew and porters. Suggested distribution: to the Chief Guide $3.50 per day, Asst guide $1.50 per day, Cook $1.50 per day, Asst cook $1.00 per day. Allocate $10 total for wranglers and porters.
PLEASE NOTE: We reserve the right to make minor changes where necessary for the safety and comfort of tour participants. Please reconfirm the current tour rate and park fee when you make your reservation. Additional expenses caused by circumstances beyond the control of the operator will be the responsibility of the tour participant.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP Cuzco has well-defined seasons. From June to August, while Andean winter days are typically sunny and warm, the temperature can drop to below freezing (27°F/-3°C) at night in our high camps. Rain seldom falls during winter. From January to March, the Andean summer months offer daytime temperatures to 85°F/30°C, milder nights (typically to 45°F/8°C) and plenty of rain. Despite some rain, December and April are among our favorite months for trekking, since the mountains are lush with summer flowers and you enjoy plenty of sunshine. Departures during Andean spring (September through December) and autumn (April and May) offer weather patterns intermediate between these seasonal extremes.
Elevation on this route is lower than many other Andean trek routes, and you should be prepared for tropical heat in the Apurimac canyon. Biting insects are common in the valley bottom.
Clothing Expect a wide range of temperature and precipitation on your program. In high mountain environments, you must be prepared for inclement weather at any time. Even at mid-day, if clouds obscure the sun, the apparent temperature cools dramatically. By packing a system of thin, independent layers of clothing, you can easily add or remove layers to remain comfortable as conditions change throughout the day. Most trekkers leave camp in the morning wearing a cold-weather layer over T-shirt and shorts. At the first rest stop, after you have warmed up a bit, remove a layer and continue in hot-weather clothing until the temperature cools off later in the day. At all times, carry rain-gear in your day-pack. Basic clothing list: underwear, socks, light hiking boots, sneakers for around camp, loose-fitting long pants or wind-pants, shorts, T-shirts, long-sleeved shirt, Polarfleece jacket, full rain gear, sun hat, bathing suit, gloves and ski-type hat.
Essential: Day pack, winter-weight sleeping bag, 1-litre water bottle (Nalgene or similar), flashlight, sunglasses, sunscreen, toilet kit, insect repellent.
Optional: pocket knife, sewing kit, iodine-type water purification pills, camera and film, binoculars, paperback book, snacks and/or energy bars.
Your outfitter provides: a heavy-duty, 4,100-cubic-inch trail duffel, Thermarest sleeping pad, tents and communal camping gear. The guide carries a hand-pump water filter; all drinking water is filtered and treated with iodine. Packhorses carry up to 10 kg (22 lb.) of your personal gear. If your packed duffel exceeds 10 kg. In weight (including sleeping bag and pad) at the trailhead, you will have to transfer excess weight from your duffel to your daypack.
Vaccinations While no vaccinations are mandatory for entering Peru, and no official is likely to demand to see proof of your vaccination against any disease, some protection is prudent. Consult your physician or local travelers' clinic for the latest recom¬mendations. For general travel, the most common recommended vaccinations or boosters are against tetanus, typhoid/diphtheria, Hepatitis A, and polio. The World Health Organization does not recommend vaccination against cholera. If you're visiting the Amazon before or after your trek, ask about yellow fever and chloroquine-resistant malaria. Some countries (notably Brazil) require travelers to show proof of a valid Yellow fever vaccination when arriving from Peru.
Important Notice for Vegetarians, Passengers with Allergies and Other Restricted Diets In the cities, you will find sufficient vegetarian choices in most restaurants. We serve a variety of freshly-prepared foods in our camps. While our trek meals are designed for omnivores, our creative and hard-working cooks are able to satisfy most restricted-diet passengers. Please let us know your dietary restrictions when you join our departure. Strict vegetarians will have to bring many food supplements from home, as specialty items are unavailable in South America. If you have food allergies you must detail these on your trip application when you register for your trek. Review these with our guide and operations staff during the trek orientation meeting. While our cooks concentrate on providing the main meal, they can heat and serve food supplied by the passengers that the passengers deem safe. If you have a restricted diet, please ask for our memo detailing our approach to food service on the trek.
Know What You Are Buying There are many trek outfitters in Cuzco, offering trekking packages in a considerable range in quality, reliability, and price. As one of the pioneers of commercial adventure travel in Peru, we are very proud of our record of environmental and social leadership. We set the standard of quality among full-service outfitters. Inca Tours & Travel Adventures SRL has been awarded Best Adventure Travel Agency by the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism for 6 years since 1997. The award recognizes the high standards that our guides, cooks, porters and other employees consistently attain. When purchasing your Trek services from overseas agents, be certain you are buying the services operated by Inca Tours & Travel Adventures. Accept no substitutes! Environmental Policy Andean Treks applies a policy of 100% carry in/carry out. We were the first outfitter to introduce a system whereby all the camp waste is hauled out. Our system includes portable chemical (biodegradable) toilets, with no holes in the ground and no solid waste left behind.
- 5-day program, 4 nights camping, with one night in hotel
- Custom trek, on request, May-Oct
- Enjoy a full day exploring the vast, spectacular Choquequirao ruins
- Visit seldom-seen Inca ruins, amid astounding Andean vistas
- Hike with Cuzco's best guides
- Enjoy our renown full-service camps, amazing meals and tents set up for you
- Excellent alternate route to the Inca Trail