10 day Epic Trip: Choquequirao to Machu Picchu
Days: 10 (including Machu Picchu visit)
Difficulty: Moderate to High, this is a strenuous trek !
This trek is, simply put, one of the finest in the world and one of the best trekking tours in Peru. It is our personal favorite of anywhere we have ever been, and the the stunning mountain scenery, ancient culture, Incan archaeological sites, and overall awesomeness of this trek is everything you have always wanted in an adventure – this is it !
This trek itself totals 8 days from Cachora to arrive at Aguas Calientes and is a real stunner – up and over several steep mountain passes nearing 15,000 feet above sea level, and travels through spectacular, high Andean terrain and also goes past several major Inca sites – starting with Choquequirao, which is often described as a sister site to Machu Picchu.
In the middle of the trek you will visit some recently uncovered Inca sites as well as traditional Andean villages such as Yanama – one of the most idyllic mountain hamlets to be found anywhere. This is a very rugged and remote trekking trip – there are very few services along the way. However if you have always wanted to go on a world class hike or trek in Peru and not see many other people, this is a great way to do it !
Then, at the end of the trip, is of course Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. This trek is the very best way to arrive at Machu Picchu, better we think than taking the train or even the famed “Inca Trail” itself – as you will see very few other trekking groups on this route.
Day 1 of the trip begins by us picking you up in Cusco and bringing you on an amazingly scenic drive to Ollantaytambo. Here, you can rest, unpack, and either walk around town and sight see or there are several hikes very close to town featuring Inca ruins..
Day 2, we will start in Ollantaytambo, Leaving at 9am, we make the five hour scenic drive to Cachora. From this quaint, Clint Eastwood style town we begin this epic trek to Machu Picchu via Choquequirao.
Day 2 is an easy one, walking along a wide path / 4wd drive road and then we begin the plunge down into the Apurimac canyon where we will spend our first night camping. There are very basic services here such as cold water showers and bathrooms.
The third day we descend to the canyon bottom and cross the famous Apurimac river and begin a very difficult (3,000 feet and 3 hours) climb back up the other side. A nice rest halfway up in Santa Rosa Bajo with our friend Juan and some fresh cane or papaya juice, and we will be ready to tackle the rest of the climb, which is steep and relentless. If you have doubts about your physical ability or the high altitude, be sure to ask us in advance about staying alongside with your group, but while riding a horse instead – a great way to climb up a steep trail !
The third evening we will spend camping near the Incan site of Choquequirao. Today was a long day so we will turn in early after a delicious hot meal so we are ready for Day 4, which is our visit to the site of Choquequirao, or Choquechirau as it is also called, sits near the top of a giant mountain overlooking the Apurimac river. This magnificent Inca palace is believed to have been built by the son of Pachacutec, who built Machu Picchu. It certainly shares its majestic, mountain top location. It also has sight lines as far away as Vilcabamba and is still not even 50% uncovered – the thick jungle vegetation is still hiding many Incan surprises. The best part by far, for all of our guests, is the virtually (for now) deserted feel of the site – there are very few other groups that come here, not least because it is a long difficult hike to get here. This is the Inca experience dreamt of, but rarely attained, by most trekkers to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, so pat yourself on the back for picking this trip.
The fourth day we will spend the whole morning wandering around Choquequirao, taking the time most groups do not have. This is a very important Inca site and there are many aspects to it – houses, terraces, temples, platforms, waterfalls, plazas, staircases, waterways and more ! We end our visit to KB’s personal favorite, the Llamas or “llamitas”
Only uncovered from between 2003 to 2005, this stone architectural masterpiece occupies an entire mountainside, and has dozens of 2 meter tall terraces featuring life-sized llamas made up of white stones, set into the vertical faces of the terracing. The whole effect is one that has to be seen to believed, and like all Inca sites is best seen from afar and above. We will make a short hike to a lookout platform where we can get the best view of this impressive piece of Incan work.
We will then pack up and hike up and over the mountain of Choquechirau to end up at our campsite near another Incan site called Pinchinuyoq, which was likely satellite housing for the workers constructing the main site. It features the usual impressive array of corn producing “andenes”, or terraces.
Day 5, the next morning we make a steep climb down to the hot canyon of the White River, followed by an equally steep and warm climb up the other side to the beautiful hillside camping spot of Maizales. Here we will spend our fourth night with a well earned early rest and hearty meal ! There are great views from our campsite of the surrounding mountains and part of Choquechirau itself.
The next day, Day 6, we continue climbing up the steep mountainside, through some very unique and lush vegetation before coming to the pass of Abra San Juan, carved out of sheer rock atop a high mountain with views in every direction. The trail seems like something out of a movie amidst the breathtaking terrain until we arrive at our camp site of Yanama, one of the more peaceful villages in all of the Andes. This is one of KB’s favorite places, and we will likely get roped into a game of soccer or hide-n-seek with the local children.
The next day, Day 7, we make the long but easy climb up to near the legendary mountain pass called Abra Choquetecarpo, one of our favorite places in Peru, to our seventh night’s camping spot. Once again, we have stunning views of the surrounding glaciers and valleys all around us as well as more Incan remains including that of a road coming down from the pass above.. From our campsite we ‘ll have awesome views of the surrounding glaciers and unique rock formations, as well as the ominous looking climb up to Abra Choquetecarpo – but heck, that is for tomorrow ! Tonight we’ll just enjoy the view.
Our seventh day hiking (Day 8 of the trip) we will climb up and over the monster pass of Abra Choquetecarpo, one of the highest in Peru at over 5000 meters ! Walking down an incredibly built and well preserved ancient Inca road, we will walk down to the the stunningly scenic and archaeologically rich Huancancalle, sometimes referred to as Vilcabamba, where we will spend the night in a local hostal with a well-deserved shower and bed.
The next day, Day 9, we will have time to relax, maybe go for a short walk in Huancancalle or else to the famous Colo de Mono canopy zipline, or even to the hot springs of St. Theresa. Unfortunately, we only will have time for one of the three options, as it is 4 hours driving from Huancancalle to the Hydro Electric plant where we hike to Aguas Calientes. It will be decided by time/logistics and with input from you, the guest) before making the easy three hour walk from the HydroElectric plant to Aguas Calientes – the town below Machu Picchu
Day 10 – visit Machu Picchu ! Return on the evening train to Ollantaytambo (or Cusco if you have an early flight out the next day). The trip ends here, and as people will be staying in different places (i.e. Cusco or Ollantaytambo) the hotel is not included but we are happy to make the arrangements for you to stay in either place, just let us know)
Cost: $1995 per person, minimum three people (ask about 2 person price)
Includes: Hotel Day 1, breakfast, lunch and dinner plus snacks for Days 2-9, breakfast on Day 10; Private transport from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to trailhead at Cachora; mule team to carry all your gear; cook to prepare all meals; English speaking guide; all camping gear including tents, sleeping bags and sleeping bads; Also includes return train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. Does not include Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu entrance ticket, or bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu PIcchu itself.. Please notify us ASAP if you wish to climb Huayna Picchu on your trip, as those tickets are very difficult to obtain and often must be done months in advance. There is a $12 per person extra charge for the Huayna Picchu ticket but the bigger issue is getting them. Email us for details !