Days: 5 (possible in 4, ask for details)
Difficulty: Strenuous, due to steep climbs and descents
Highlights: People often comment that they wish they could find a spot on an Inca Trail trek, or that they wish the Inca Trail trek was a little less crowded. They especially wish they had hiked the Inca Trail “before it became commercial and touristy” Well, do we have the trip for you! The trek to Choquechirau, an Incan site known as a “sister site” of Machu Picchu, is one of the best remaining unregulated treks in all of Peru – though probably not for long, authorities have already begun planning to regulate this trek to Choquechirau. Currently, however, no special permits are required, and like many Inca sites it is still in the process of being uncovered. This trek is a personal favorite of KB, and comes highly recommended.
We will pick you up at your hotel in either Cusco or Ollantaytambo to make the drive to Cachora, a small, typical Andean village that is the starting point for this trek. The beginning of the trek is a 12 kilometer trail that is mostly flat and winds around the mountainside with absolutely spectacular views of the Andes mountains to the north. Until recently, it was only possible to make this part of the journey on foot, however like many trails in Peru it has been widened to a rough road that is possible to drive on. Whether we drive it or walk it depends mostly on you, and partly on the time of day and conditions of the road. It is extremely rare to see traffic on this road, so walking it is quite pleasant.
The road ends at Capulliyoq, where the trail begins it’s plunge down to the Apurimac nearly 1000 meters (3000 feet) below. From here we will actually get our first glimpse of Choquechirau itself, high up on the mountain across the river. Looking across, it is hard to believe that there is a trail up the other side and the climb certainly is a bit intimidating. But that is for tomorrow, today we will enjoy the pleasant 600 meter descent down to Chiquisca and our camp site for the evening amongst the avacado trees. There are decent bathroom facilities at this campsite, and while you are washing up, changing clothes and relaxing we will be preparing a delicious meal – there are also soft drinks and beer generally available to purchase here.
We begin early today, before 7am, so as to avoid making the upcoming ferocious climb of several hours under the hot midday sun. After a short walk down for our campsite we will be at the bridge over the river Apurimac (“god who speaks”, in Quechua). It will be starting to get quite warm at this low altitude and we will begin making the climb up the mountain towards Choquechirau. Our first rest stop will be at lower Santa Rosa, where our friend Juan will be waiting to sell us soft drinks, waters, and snacks from his little tropical waystation. We will then continue on up to the shoulder of the same mountain that holds Choquequirau, stopping for a well deserved lunch at Maranura. The views from here of the Apurimac canyon are outstanding, and we will also be able to see the steep mountainside that we descended the day before. You will be impressed with your accomplishment!. From here, the walk finally levels off and we have a pleasant two to three hour walk further on to the campsite at Choquequirao, or we may decide to camp near Maranura if daylight is waning. Along this part of the hike we will get our first real glimpse of Choquequirao and its spectacular, recently uncovered terraces built right on the edge of a sheer cliff – amazing !
Today, (unless you chose the abbreviated 4 day version) we will have the entire day to explore Choquequirau, and a full day is necessary to see everything. It is a very large site and every year sees more parts of it uncovered. Your guide will explain and point out the many, many interesting parts and features of Choquequirau including our favorite, the “Llamitas” (little llamas in Spanish) which were built by the Incas using white stones inset into the 6 foot high terraces to create an incredible vision of llamas ascending up to Choquequirau from the ‘back side’, which was the original entrance. This site, which is our personal favorite place in all of Peru, has only recently been uncovered.
This is an example why previously, this trip was primarily offered as a four day trip. Now, itt is a bit difficult to see the whole site in that time frame. It is definitely possible for those who are more physically fit and willing to have longer days on the trail. The reason for our switching the majority of our Choquequirao treks to five days is that it continues to increase in size, as local archaeologists continue to reveal more wonders from the surrounding jungle.
We will take a few hours going through Choquequirau at a relaxed place, and appreciating that we are one of the few groups to be here. Your guide will explain the theories behind it’s construction and history, and there are several features of this Inca site that are very different from the majority of Inca sites in the Sacred Valley. This is due to the northern Amazonian influence of an ancient tribe known as the “Chachapoyas” whom it is believed the Incas conquered and brought to this area to serve as construction slaves.
Afterward, we will walk the couple hours back to the scenic campsite of Maranura and enjoy a relaxed and peaceful camp for the evening, and our well deserved hot and hearty dinner prepared by our chefs. There are a few local families that live here serving up beverages and snacks from their small houses down below. This includes the common site of small children running around, kicking a deflated soccer ball up the hill side,then laughing their way downhill chasing it before it reaches the river. It is only after having trekked through this very steep terrain that one can truly appreciate the amazing spirit of the Incas and their love for high mountains. It begins to sink on just how big of a feat it was for them to construct Choquequirau, and the wonderful feeling that comes with knowing you just saw something rare and special, will be with us as we turn into our tents for the night.
After breakfast we will walk back down the descent to the Apurimac river, retracing our steps from a few days before and arrive back at Chiquisca. When reaching the river, we will have time for a relaxing lunch and depending on the strength of the current perhaps even a dip into one of the swimming holes, otherwise there are cold showers here which will be very welcome as it is quite warm here. Another large hot meal awaits us before we turn in for the night.
Our last day involves a steep climb from camp up back up to Capulliyoq, again we will set out early so as to beat the days sun as well as try to get back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo at a decent hour. Depending on the groups wishes, we will have our vehicle waiting up near the top or we will instead make the relaxing, twelve kilometer walk back to Cachora. It is a long 4 hour drive back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo, but thats not a problem as most people by now are ready for a break. We will bring you directly to your hotel, where the trip ends
Total distance: 36km from Capulliyoq, 60km from Cachora
Total elevation: Approximately 2300m ascending, 2300m descending
Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space!
This is an overnight camping and trekking trip and includes everything you will need. Sleeping bag, Sleeping pads, tents, and all meals are included ! The trip is 5 days and 4 nights and is all inclusive. Meals included are lunch and hot dinner Day 1, full meals on Days 2,3, and 4; and breakfast and lunch on Day 5. Also ncluded is private vehicle transport up to the trailhead in Cachora from either Ollantaytambo or Cusco, a guide knowledgable about the area and its culture, and also includes either horses or mules to carry all your gear except your small day pack – you get to just walk and enjoy the scenery! Our price is less than most agencies, but we have top of the line food and equipment, and on this trek that matters ! Great food, air beds, clean modern sleeping bags, etc. The cost for this trip is $595 per person, minimum 3 people. We will take just two people on a private trip for $75pp extra. Keep in mind that the fixed cost of private (we don’t take buses !) transportation is very high – it is a 5 hour drive each way to the trailhead. With two people, it is very difficult to cover the fixed costs of transport, guide etc which is why we have the $75pp charge. Having said that it makes a very cool trip for you because you get to go at your own pace. This is a very important benefit, trust us. Sleep in, or get up early,….. hang out a the river or get going … .the choice will always be up to you.
Things to Know:
Although they are susceptible to the occasional shutdown due to a water or maintenance issu,, there are in fact basic bathroom facilities at all the camp sites. Filtered drinking water is included free on your trip, and bottled water is also available along the way if you wish to purchase it. The sun is very strong on this trek so be sure to have strong sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. We recommend hiking in lightweight long sleeve shirts of a breathable material and lightweight full length pants. we have found that covering your skin in this matter is the best protection against sun and insects, of which there is a lot of both on this trek. There is an entrance fee to the site but it is included with your trip free of charge. The weather is consistently warm and sunny from May to November, and equally consistent rainy and intermittently sunny from December through the end of April.
They key to comfort on this trek, as with most in the Andes, is successfully layering. This means having on a few different pieces of clothing that allow you to quickly and easily adjusts as the temperature swings here in the mountains can be extreme, mostly depending on whether the sun is shining or not. We recommend long sleeve breathable fabric shirts, lightweight long pants, and an outside shell that doubles as both a windbreaker and rain jacket. Throw in a thermal shirt in the backpack and you will be ready for any temperature you will encounter. We recommend bringing several extra pairs of socks and underwear, as they don’t weigh much you can wear new ones every day. As your hiking pants will get dirt anyway within minutes of walking, many trekkers use the same pants every day but change out everything else. You do need to pack reasonably light as everything must be carried in my mule. Finally, don’t forget a comfortable pair of sleeping pants, cotton shirt, and sandals that you can keep clean and wear everynight at camp.
Here below is a more specific list of what to bring, please ask if you have any questions.
Footwear – Your footwear choice is critical to your comfort on this trek so choose carefully. lightweight hiking shoes are best, boots are not recommended. Running/trail shoes can be worn but only if you have experience walking long distances in them through steep up and down terrain. The most important thing is that whatever you bring to walk in, it should be comfortable and well broken in.
Socks - bring wicking and/or woolen socks, two to four pair depending on preference and season. Bring an extra pair or two of regular cotton socks for lounging at camp.
Pants – comfortable trekking pants (the type that zip off into shorts make a good choice), two pair Also a pair of comfortable pants for camping at night and a pair of shorts (optional)
Shirts – we recommend a long sleeve, lightweight breathable shirt for the majority of your trekking time, to protect you from sun and insects. One or two long sleeve warmer, thermal type shirts should be brought along with one or two short sleeve shirts for camp or when it is really warm.
Hats - a large, wide brimmed hat to protect you from sun and rain is one of the most important things to have and take care to remember to bring one. A second fleece hat for warmth is also recommended for the cool mornings and evenings.
Gloves - or mittens, especially if your fingers and hands get cold easily. There are some cacti on this trek, and along with the strong sun many of our guides wear a light weight pair of gloves while trekking.
Sunglasses - depending on personal preference, bring an extra pair if your eyes are sensitive to sunlight in case the first pair is lost or broken.
Sunblock - we think 30SPF is the minimum and we use 40 to 50.
Lip Balm - with additional SPF protection
Mosquito Repellent - bring any brand that you prefer
Headlamp - with spare batteries, this is a must bring accessory
Blister kit – our guides carry one as well, but never a bad idea to have along with you
Batteries - extra for your camera and other electronic accessories. No electric outlets are available during this trek and batteries are not likely to be available for purchase
Soap – a biodegrable brand is requested to protect our environment
Towel - quick drying type preferred, can bring both a shower towel as well as a small personal hand towel
Toiletries - per personal preference
Medicines - bring all prescription pills needed, there are no medical supplies available on this trek. Bring also any personal hygiene items, contraception, feminine products, contact lens solution, etc. Also recommended is a small bottle of ibuprofen tablets to alleviate muscle soreness and swelling