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The Ultimate Guide to the Choquequirao Trek in Peru

Nestled in the rugged Andes Mountains of Peru, the Choquequirao Trek offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure for those seeking a less crowded alternative to the more famous Machu Picchu. This trek leads intrepid travelers to the ancient Inca site of Choquequirao, often referred to as the “sister” of Machu Picchu. Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of the Apurimac Valley, diverse landscapes, and rich archaeological wonders on this challenging trek.

Key Takeaways

  • The name “Choquequirao” holds historical significance as it translates to “Cradle of Gold” in English
  • Choquequirao’s archaeological significance is profound, serving as a testament to the Inca civilization’s architectural prowess and cultural heritage
  • Choquequirao is not for the faint of heart. The trek demands a good level of physical fitness, as you’ll be navigating challenging terrains and steep ascents

Fast Facts about the Choquequirao Trek

Choquequirao cusco Perú

Nestled deep in the Peruvian Andes, Choquequirao is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by avid trekkers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

Where is the Choquequirao Trek?

Situated in the remote Vilcabamba mountain range of the Andes, the Choquequirao Trek takes trekkers through the pristine landscapes of the Apurimac Valley. The trek culminates at the ancient Inca site of Choquequirao, perched at an impressive elevation of 3,110 meters above sea level.

What Does Choquequirao Mean in English?

The name “Choquequirao” holds historical significance as it translates to “Cradle of Gold” in English. This moniker alludes to the site’s presumed role as a significant religious and ceremonial center for the Incas, possibly laden with hidden treasures.

How to Go

Embarking on the Choquequirao Trek typically begins with a journey from Cuzco to Cachora, the starting point of the trek. Accessible by a private car, Cachora sets the stage for an immersive and challenging trek into the heart of the Andes.

How Popular is the Choquequirao Trek?

While not as widely known as its iconic counterpart, Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is steadily gaining popularity among adventure enthusiasts seeking a more secluded and authentic experience. The trek’s allure lies in its less-traveled paths and the promise of uncovering a hidden Inca gem.

Best Time to Go

The optimal time for the Choquequirao Trek is during the dry season, spanning from April to October. This period offers favorable weather conditions with minimal rainfall, ensuring clearer skies and facilitating a more enjoyable and safer trekking experience.


The Choquequirao Trek exposes trekkers to diverse climates, ranging from the warmth of the valleys to the cooler plateaus at higher altitudes. Packing layers is essential to navigate these temperature variations effectively, especially as the journey ascends into the rugged mountain terrain.

How to Book

Ensuring a seamless and enriching experience on the Choquequirao Trek involves careful selection of trekking agencies in Cuzco. Reputable agencies offer experienced guides, well-maintained equipment, and a commitment to responsible tourism. Booking in advance is advisable to secure a spot on this increasingly popular trek.

Cultural Insights

Apart from its natural and historical wonders, the Choquequirao Trek provides an opportunity to engage with local cultures along the way. Trekkers may encounter indigenous communities, gaining insights into their traditional lifestyles and contributing to the preservation of Andean heritage.

Flora and Fauna

The trek’s diverse ecosystems showcase a rich array of flora and fauna. From Andean condors soaring overhead to unique orchids and hummingbirds, the Choquequirao Trek offers nature enthusiasts a chance to appreciate the Andes’ biodiversity.

Exploring the Flora Along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Archaeological Context

Choquequirao’s archaeological significance is profound, serving as a testament to the Inca civilization’s architectural prowess and cultural heritage. Exploring the site unveils terraces, plazas, and ceremonial structures, providing a window into the ancient Inca way of life.

Responsible Trekking

As the Choquequirao Trek gains popularity, responsible trekking practices become imperative. Trekkers are encouraged to minimize their environmental impact, respect local communities, and adhere to leave-no-trace principles to preserve the pristine beauty of the Andean landscapes.

Difficulty of the Choquequirao Trek

hikers on the inca trail - bamba travel

Embarking on the Choquequirao trek is not for the faint of heart; it is a challenging and rewarding adventure that demands physical endurance, mental resilience, and a profound appreciation for the untamed beauty of the Peruvian Andes. Often referred to as the “sister” of Machu Picchu, Choquequirao remains a hidden gem, accessible only by traversing rugged terrains, steep ascents, and remote paths that wind through dense forests and high-altitude plateaus. 

The journey to this ancient Incan citadel is a test of one’s hiking prowess, as trekkers navigate challenging trails, river crossings, and unpredictable weather conditions. With each step, the Choquequirao trek offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with nature, delve into history, and conquer the formidable obstacles that guard this archaeological treasure.

Challenging Terrain

The Choquequirao Trek is renowned for presenting trekkers with challenging terrains that demand physical endurance and mental fortitude. The trail encompasses steep ascents and descents, rocky paths, and rugged mountainous landscapes. Trekkers should be prepared for uneven surfaces, river crossings, and navigating through dense vegetation, adding an extra layer of adventure to the journey.

Altitude Considerations

With Choquequirao perched at an elevation of 3,110 meters above sea level, altitude becomes a significant factor. Acclimatization in Cuzco before the trek is not only advisable but crucial to mitigate the potential effects of altitude sickness. Trekkers are encouraged to allow their bodies time to adjust, stay hydrated, and listen to their guides’ advice to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Weather Variability

The Andean weather, known for its unpredictability, adds another layer of complexity to the trek. From warm valleys to cooler plateaus, trekkers should be prepared for temperature fluctuations. Additionally, rain is not uncommon, especially during the shoulder seasons. Adequate gear, including waterproof clothing, becomes essential to navigate these varying weather conditions comfortably.

Long Daily Hikes

Each day of the Choquequirao Trek involves substantial walking distances, often spanning several hours. Trekkers should be prepared for long and strenuous days, particularly during the ascents and descents. Physical fitness is paramount, as the trail demands endurance and resilience. Prior trekking experience is beneficial but not mandatory, as the trek is achievable with the right mindset and preparation.

Remote Nature of the Trek

Unlike more popular trails, the Choquequirao Trek takes trekkers through remote and less-traveled paths. This remoteness adds an adventurous element but also requires a higher degree of self-sufficiency. Trekkers should be mentally prepared for limited amenities and services, carrying essentials like water, snacks, and first aid supplies.

High-Altitude Camping

Camping during the trek occurs at altitudes that can dip to cooler temperatures. Trekkers will need to adapt to the challenges of high-altitude camping, including potentially chilly nights. Carrying appropriate sleeping bags and clothing for low temperatures is vital for a comfortable night’s rest.

Expert Guidance

While experienced trekkers might consider self-guided adventures, the inclusion of a knowledgeable guide is highly recommended for those less familiar with the challenges of high-altitude trekking. Guides not only ensure the safety of the group but also provide valuable insights into the region’s flora, fauna, and history, enriching the overall trekking experience.

Mental Preparedness

The Choquequirao Trek is as much a mental challenge as it is physical. The awe-inspiring landscapes and ancient ruins provide motivation, but trekkers should be mentally prepared for the demanding nature of the trail. Positive mindset, determination, and a sense of adventure will contribute significantly to overcoming the difficulties encountered along the way.

Fitness Recommendations

Pre-trek physical conditioning, including cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and endurance-building activities, is advisable to enhance overall fitness. Additionally, practicing hiking with a backpack and gradually increasing the intensity will better prepare trekkers for the demands of the Choquequirao Trek.

How to Prepare for Your Choquequirao Trek

resting on the inca trail - bamba travel

Choquequirao is not for the faint of heart. The trek demands a good level of physical fitness, as you’ll be navigating challenging terrains and steep ascents.

Physical Fitness

Engage in a regular exercise routine at least a few months before your trek, incorporating cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and endurance exercises. This will help prepare your body for the demands of the trek and reduce the risk of altitude sickness.

Altitude Acclimatization

The Choquequirao trek takes you to altitudes above 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), and altitude sickness is a real concern. Acclimatize properly by spending a few days in Cusco or other high-altitude locations before starting the trek. This allows your body to adjust gradually and minimizes the risk of altitude-related health issues.

Packing Essentials

Packing wisely is crucial for a successful trek. Consider the unpredictable weather, ranging from scorching sun to chilly nights. Essential items include a sturdy backpack, comfortable hiking boots, moisture-wicking clothing, a waterproof jacket, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a water bottle. Don’t forget a quality camera to capture the stunning landscapes and archaeological wonders.

Campsite Comfort

As the trek involves camping, ensure you have the necessary gear for a comfortable night’s sleep. A durable tent, a warm sleeping bag, and a compact sleeping pad are essential. Many trekking companies provide these items, but it’s wise to check in advance and bring your own if needed.

Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are vital for maintaining energy levels during the trek. Pack lightweight, high-energy snacks such as nuts, trail mix, and energy bars. Hydrate consistently with purified water to prevent dehydration at higher altitudes.

Guided Tours and Permits

While it’s possible to trek Choquequirao independently, hiring a local guide enhances the experience and provides valuable insights into the history and culture of the region. Ensure you obtain the necessary permits, and consider booking your trek with a reputable tour operator to ensure a well-organized and safe journey.

Respect for the Environment and Culture

Lastly, maintain a deep respect for the natural environment and local culture. Follow Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated paths, and be mindful of the historical significance of Choquequirao. Engage with local communities respectfully and embrace the opportunity to learn from their rich heritage.

Comparison to Other Popular Peru Hikes

lares trek to macchu picchu

In the realm of hiking trails, the comparison between Choquequirao and other renowned treks unfolds a narrative of diverse terrains, cultural richness, and the allure of uncovering the mysteries of ancient civilizations. As we delve into this exploration, the contrasts and similarities between Choquequirao and its counterparts come to light, offering a fascinating perspective on the choices available to those seeking an unforgettable trekking experience in the heart of the Andes.

Comparing Choquequirao with the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is undoubtedly the most famous trek in Peru, attracting travelers with its historical significance and stunning vistas. However, its popularity comes at a cost – limited permits, crowded trails, and the need to book months in advance. In contrast, Choquequirao offers a quieter alternative, allowing trekkers to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and historical wonders without the crowds.

While both treks lead to ancient Incan ruins, Choquequirao provides a more secluded and authentic experience. The trek to Choquequirao takes about 4 to 5 days, providing ample time to explore the site without feeling rushed. The Inca Trail, on the other hand, can be completed in 3 to 4 days, making it a faster-paced journey.

Salkantay: A Journey Through Diverse Landscapes

The Salkantay Trek offers trekkers a diverse and awe-inspiring journey through some of Peru’s most dramatic landscapes. From snow-capped peaks to lush jungles, this trek provides an alternative route to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek is known for its challenging terrain, breathtaking scenery, and the opportunity to witness the diverse ecosystems that characterize the Andean region.

Compared to Choquequirao, the Salkantay Trek attracts a moderate number of trekkers, offering a balance between solitude and shared experiences. The journey typically takes 4 to 5 days, providing ample time to acclimatize to the altitude and absorb the beauty of the surrounding nature.

Lares: Cultural Immersion in the Andean Villages

For those seeking a more culturally immersive experience, the Lares Trek stands out. This lesser-known route takes trekkers through traditional Andean villages, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of local communities. The Lares Trek is characterized by encounters with indigenous people, traditional textiles, and the opportunity to learn about ancient weaving techniques passed down through generations.

Compared to the Inca Trail and Salkantay, the Lares Trek is less crowded, providing a more intimate experience. The trek typically lasts 3 to 4 days, allowing trekkers to enjoy the unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness that defines this route.

Sample Itinerary For Your Trek in Choquequirao

architecture choquequirao

Embark on a journey through the heart of the Andes with the Choquequirao Trek. This four-day adventure promises breathtaking landscapes and an encounter with the ancient Inca marvel, Choquequirao.

Choquequirao Trek 4D/3N

Day 1: Cuzco-Chicquisqa, Peru

Departing Cuzco at 5:00 am, a private car takes you to Cachora. After a visit to Saywite, a 2-hour hike from Capuliyoc unveils stunning views of the Apurimac valley and snow-capped peaks. Overnight at Capuliyoc.

Day 2: Chicquisqa-Choquequirao

An early start leads to Playa Rosalinas and a steep climb to Santa Rosa. After lunch in Marampata, a 2-hour hike brings you to the archaeological site of Choquequirao (3110m). Explore the site and witness condors at sunset.

Day 3: Choquequirao-Santa Rosa

Explore Choquequirao in the morning, then descend along the Apurimac canyon to Santa Rosa for a tropical campsite (5 hours hiking).

Day 4: Santa Rosa-Cuzco, Peru

Early descent to the Apurimac River, followed by a challenging climb rewarded with spectacular views. After lunch in Capuliyoc, continue to the village of Cachora and return to Cuzco by private car (4-hour drive).

Final Word

The Choquequirao Trek is a hidden gem, offering a unique blend of natural beauty and ancient history. For those seeking an authentic and challenging adventure, this trek promises an unforgettable experience. Embrace the spirit of exploration as you traverse the Andes and discover the wonders of Choquequirao, the “Cradle of Gold.”

Check out Bamba Travel’s free itinerary to Choquequirao below: