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Why Choquequirao Trek

Written by: Incatrailhikeperu May 7, 2022

What is Choquequirao?

A massive Incan ruin complex Choquequirao, although not as well-known as Machu Picchu, is worthy of praise. Only accessible by foot, Choquequirao is an isolated ruin surrounded on all sides by dense Amazon high jungle. Choquequirao was a very important Incan settlement as it served as a check point to the city of Vilcabamba. Vilcabamba was the last hope and last Capital settlement of the Inca Empire before being fully conquered by the Spanish.

Choquequirao is an Incan Citadel meaning “cradle of god” or “cradle of gold” and is believed to have been built by Incan Emperor Pachacutec. The citadel was constructed high in the Vilcabamba mountain range in a nearly unapproachable mountainside. Because it’s so remote, the Inca were able to take refuge from Spanish for 40 years inside Choquequirao making it one of the most important sites in the empire. Being only 30% – 40% excavated there are still many mysteries and discoveries to be made and excavations are ongoing.

So why Choquequirao trek you ask? Well, if you’re the type of person that seeks reel adventure, if you love the idea of hiking through a dense jungle before arriving at an isolated pre Columbian ruin packed with Incan history, or you just want to feel like Indiana Jones, then this is the hike for you!

Choquequirao an Important History

Most of the history of Choquequirao is still speculative as its remoteness has always shrouded the Incan City in mystery. Choquequirao is believed to have been built in the 15th century around the same time as Machu Picchu during the rule of Pachcutech. The city was upgraded and expanded by Pachacutec’s succesor and son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui. It’s been suggested that Choquequirao was one of the agricultural centers during the 15th century, producing and distributing large amounts of coca leaves and other crops to Cusco and the empire in general.

After the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, and their eventual take over of Cussco, Choquequirao served as an important stronghold and hideout for the Incan Emperor Manco Inca. After abandoning Cusco, Manco Inca fled to Ollantaytambo where the battle of Ollantaytambo took place. Although Manco Inca achieved an impressive victory over the Spanish, he decided Ollantaytambo was too close to the Spanish controlled Cusco, and retreated deep into the high jungle. High in the Jungle, Manco Inca established the “Neo Incan Empire” and it’s capital Vilcabamba in 1539. During this time Choquequirao served as a stronghold and checkpoint for the capital city of Vilcabamba. Because of its relation to the city of Vilcabamba Choquequirao was one of the most important Incan sites in the 16th century.

Where is Choquequirao?

Choquequirao is situated at 3000m above sea level on an artificially leveled hilltop above the Apurimac River. The hilltop was leveled and stones placed to create a large platform and foundation for the stone structures. Part of Vilcabamba mountain range, Choquequirao is located in the Mollepata district, Anta province of the Cusco Region. The site has a total of 1,800 uncovered hectares but only an estimated 30% – 40% of the site has been excavated. There are thought to be many more structures buried under the earth or still covered by jungle.

Hidden deep within the jungle the only way to approach Choquequirao is by hiking, there are no roads leading even close to the site. There are however multiple different multi-day hikes that will lead you to Choquequirao. The most standard hike is the classic 4-day trail which is the shortest option. You can also take the 5-day hike. Finally if you are really looking for an adventure you can try and tackle the intense 7-day trail to Machu Picchu. On these treks you will be journeying through some of the most pristine Andean jungle landscapes and will be surrounded by jungle flora and fauna. You’ll also hit some high altitude spots so be ready to pace yourself, there are mountain passes that are as high as 4000m.

Types of Hikes

There are a few different multiday versions of the hike although all follow the same trail. The classic trail takes 4 days and is the shortest route. Alternatively, you can take the 5-day trail, which is a little longer. Or if you´re an avid hiker and looking for an adventure then the 7-day trail ending in Machu Picchu is ideal. You pass some amazing sights, managing passes at over 4000m in elevation. Choquequirao is towards the top of the Andes Mountains and The Amazon Jungle and because of its proximity to the jungle, you will be graced with Amazonian flora and fauna while trekking. Giving you wild flowers with the most vivid and vibrant colors.

Choquequirao tre information - Unique nature

Is the trek to Choquequirao difficult?

Extremely!!! This is one of the most difficult hikes in the region meant only for the most seasoned and experienced adventurers.

Choquequirao is one of the most remote and rarely visited tourist attractions in the region. Every single day will be a challenge there are no rest days you will have to push yourself at nearly every step of the way. First you will descend 1400m only to climb right back up to 3100m. The altitude is not the issue on this hike. The problem is the total elevation gain, over the course of the hike you will ascend and descend multiple times which can be very taxing on the legs and knees. Although it’s not as high as some of the other hikes you still need to acclimatize for a couple days either in the Sacred Valley or Cusco.

The difficult approach is what makes Choquequirao so special. It will seem like you’re there alone especially when compared to the hordes of Machu Picchu. On average there are a total of 25 visitors to Choquequirao per day.

Choquequiroa Trek Compared to The Inca Trail

Number of Visitors

One of the main differences when comparing the two hikes is the number of visitors. Choquequirao only has 25 hikers on average per day. That is nothing when compared to the 500 permits that are allocated for the Inca Trail. Even though the hike is very difficult it has a special feeling because it’s such a secluded hike. It’s unlikely you will see very many people if anyone at all on the trail.

Which is more Difficult?

So, which hike is more difficult? Well, the Inca trail has people of all fitness level completing the entire route every single day. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Choquequirao hike. Only people of high physical fitness should attempt Choquequirao especially if yo are considering the 7-day hike. Don’t expect there to be any easy days, you will have to pace yourself knowing there won’t be any rest until the end.


Generally, the wildlife is the same on both hikes being in the same region and ecosystem. However, there are less people at Choquequirao so your chances of seeing some of the more uncommon creatures is a bit higher.

Guided Tour or solo Adventure?

When deciding whether or not to take a guided tour there are a few things to consider. The pros to taking a guided tour may out way the solo adventure. On a guided tour you have the peace of mind that your guide knows exactly what route to take. This can be especially valuable when on a hike as remote as Choquequirao.

Consider that the amount of gear needed to complete a multiday hike is a lot. Taking all that weight on a hike as difficult as Choquequirao can be too much for most people. If yo have a guided tour however you will have most of your gear packed onto pack animals making the hike significantly easier on the body. Your guide will also provide all the tents, camping gear, cooking equipment and the food so you won’t have to think about any of that.


We recommend you only go it solo if you are really seeking the ultimate challenge and adventure. It may be more enjoyable and less stressful overall if you go the guided our route.

Altitude Sickness

At this elevation altitude sickness is a slight concern but not as bad as some of the other hikes in the region. You should still acclimatize in lower elevations for a few days before trying this or any other hike.

Tips To Avoid Altitude Sickness In Cusco

  1. Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated is one of the most effective ways to prevent altitude sickness. Make sure you are drinking water thorough the day and at night.
  2. Stay well rested: Being well rested will help your body as you adjust to the altitude.If you are not feeling well consider just taking a nap.
  3. Drink coca tea and chew coca leaves: An ancient remedy the Andean people have been using for thousands of years. The coca plant has extremely beneficial properties especially when combining altitude sickness
  4. Get to lower elevation: If you do start to develop symptoms and nothing is helping then getting yourself to a lower elevation is the best thing to do.
  5. Bring oxygen tanks: If you really want to be prepared you can bring oxygen with you but this is really for the higher elevation hikes and may not be necessary.

Whats the average cost of a guided Choquequirao tour?

The simplest and most secure way to get to Choquequirao is to take a guided tour with a regestered tour operator. The Choquequirao tours average between $450 – $800 depending on the company you chose and how comfortable of an experience you want. All of the gear will be included in the cost so you won’t have to rent any additional gear from a third party. You also won’t have to bring your won tent stove etc. and unless you brought all of that gear with you it will most likely be more expensive renting it all separately.

Getting to Choquequirao Trailhead alone You can certainly make the journey without a guide but it’s both physically and logistically challenging. You will first need to take a private taxi or colectivo to the town of Cachora from Cusco. The easiest way is to then take another taxi to Mirador de Capuliyoc this will take off a substantial portion of the hike. If you want to hike the full 4 das start the trail at Cachora. From the trailhead continue on until you hit the first campsite Playa Rosalina. If you feel like you want to cover more ground before pitching your tent then continue on until you arrive at the next campsite Santa Rosa.

***PLEASE NOTE: There are multiple different campsites throughout the trail so you should have a hard time finding a place to pitch your tent.

What is the actual distance from the trailhead to Choquequirao?

The standard 4 day hike to Choquequirao is 43km. You can break up into a smaller hike if you take a taxi to Mirador de Capuliyoc.

Arriving at the Choquequirao archeological site

You did it you completed the hike now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! You can either spend the day at Choquequirao (There is no time limit but you cannot sleep there). Or, you can camp at one of the close by campsites and explorer the following day with more time and at a more leisurely pace.

Packing checklist for Choquequirao trek (guided tour)

What you have to take with you?

  • Passport: the same you booked your tour with
  • Day Bag: To carry your daily essentials
  • Reusable Water Bottle: A 2 or 3 liter water bottle or camel back is best
  • Good footwear: Comfortable hiking or running shoes with good tread is recommended
  • Sunscreen: You will be a decent elevation so sun protection is necessary
  • Headlamp or flashlight: One of the most important items to bring on any hike
  • Insect repellant: The biting insects can be terrible in the jungle especially in the rainy season
  • Hat and sunglasses: To protect you from the rain and the sun
  • Warm layers: A warm fleece or down jacket as well as thermal underwear for the nights
  • First aid kit: It’s better to be safe than sorry
  • Personal medication: If you take any medication let your guide know and have it with you
  • Battery Bank: There will be no places to charge electronics
  • Camera: If our phone camera is good enough there’s no reason
  • Hand sanitizer/wet wipes: To keep yourself clean
  • Snacks: To keep our energy up during the hike
  • Extra money: For tipping or buying souvenirs

What to put in duffle bag the tour company provides

The tour company will provide a duffle bag to put all of your non essential personal items. Please be aware you will not have access to this bag until you arrive at the campsite as the pack animals will be in front carrying it. The bag can carry a maximum of 7kgs, remember, your mattress sleeping bad and clothes will all be in this bag. If you need to carry more than 7kgs you can certainly take it with you in your day bag.

***PLEASE NOTE: You will not be allowed access to the duffle bag until arriving at camp. Make sure all your daily essentials are with you in your day bag.

Standard 4-day Choquequirao Trek Itinerary

Day 1: Cusco – Capuliyoc– Playa Rosalinas – Santa Rosa

Your tour guide will pick you up early at 4:00am from your hotel in their private van. From the hotel you will drive to the town of Capuliyoc. After arriving in Capuliyoc you will pack all of the equipment onto the pack animals and start the hike. Hike until you reach the first rest point at Playa Rosalinas when you will relax and have lunch. Once you have finished lunch continue on the trail until coming to the first campsite Santa Rosa. There you will spend your first night, get a good nights ret and prepare for the journey ahead.

  • Meals: Lunch – Dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping facilities
  • Distance: 12kms/7.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Day 2: Santa Rosa – Maranpata – Choquequirao

Eat an early breakfast at first light then get started on the trail. You will ascend for about two hours going over difficult terrain with many switchbacks. Eventually you will come to the remote Andean village of Maranpata. Immerse yourself in the amazing landscapes and scenery in this remote region where there is a plethora of different plants and animals all calling this place home. Continue your adventure on the trail until you come to the main event, Choquequirao!

At Choquequirao you will have lunch and get an in depth guided tour of the ruins by your knowledgeable expert tour guide. There are many important sites such as urban plazas, sacred temples, the “llama section”, agricultural terraces, and much more. Once you’re done exploring the complex head back down to the second campsite to eat dinner and stay the night.

  • Meals: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping facilities
  • Minimum Altitude: 1900m/6234ft
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,150m/10,397ft
  • Distance: 8km
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Day 3: Choquequirao Maranpata – Chiquisca

Once you’ve had your satisfying breakfast at the crack of dawn head back up to Choquequirao to explore anything you may have missed the day before. After exploring all you can turn back towards the rural village of Maranpata where you will have lunch and relax. Continue toward the Apurimac River and beyond for a few hours until coming to the third campsite Chiquisca.

  • Meals: Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping facilities
  • Distance: 12kms/7.5 miles
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Day 4: Chiquisca – Saywite – Cusco

The final day and end of you amazing jungle adventure! Start the day early again with a much needed hot breakfast. Ascend up relatively difficult and steep slope until coming to a great vantage point with incredible views of the Apurimac River Canyon. This will mark the end of the hike from here on it’s cars and roads no more hiking! Take a private vehicle provided by your tour guide to the small village of Cachora where you will have lunch. Once you have finished lunch continue by private transport to the archeological site of Saywite. Here you will get a chance to admire the Saywite monolith, which has many intricate carvings of animals agricultural terraces and hydraulic canals and channels. The last leg of the journey, youre guide will take you back to your hotel finally arriving in the evening around 6:00pm. Take pride in your accomplishment you just completed one of the most difficult hikes in the region, good job!

  • Meals: Breakfast – Lunch
  • Distance: 8km
  • Difficulty: Difficult

This itinerary has been provided by ORANGE NATION


1. Sam Travel Peru


Over 80 trips Completed | Regional Expert Service level: top

  • Small intimate groups of 2 to 8 person
  • Guaranted and Secure Trips

SAM TRAVEL PERÚ is a family-owned Travel Company & Tour Operator located in Cusco, Peru that creates customized uniquely designed adventure treks and tours to untouched wilderness places, OFF THE BEATEN TRACK, in the High Andes Mountains of Peru. Our many years of experience is demonstrated in our excellent reviews!

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2. Orange Nation Peru


Over 45 trips Completed | Regional Expert Service level: Standard

  • Small intimate groups of 2 to 8 person
  • Guaranted and Secure Trips

ORANGE NATION is Peruvian owned Travel Company that specializes in tour and trekking in Cusco Peru. They are experienced in offering small group personalized service for tours from the BREATHTAKING ANDES MOUNTAINS TO THE MAJESTIC MACHU PICCHU CITADEL. Making your experience beyond what even you could have dreamed!

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3. Spider Travel Peru

Over 45 trips Completed | Regional Expert Service level: Standard

  • Small intimate groups of 2 to 8 person
  • Guaranted and Secure Trips

SPIDER TRAVEL PERU is an innovative adventure travel company in Cusco Peru that offers UNPARALLELED EXPERIENCES TO UNTOUCHED WILDERNESS AREAS. Our adventure treks and tours are specific and carefully designed to cater to budget and personal needs!

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4. Glamping Peru Treks

Over 45 trips Completed | Regional Expert Service level: Luxury

  • Small intimate groups of 2 to 8 person
  • Guaranted and Secure Trips

Glamping Peru Treks creates treks and tours that offer unsurpassed luxury and comfort while hiking off the beaten track. All accommodations, food, and services are of the highest quality and standards. If you are looking for something UPSCALE AND LUXURIOUS while trekking or touring, this is the absolute best option for you. Do not be afraid to work with their service operators to create your dream personalized luxury trek or tour. The company group size averages 2 to 4 persons, not exceeding 8 people. If you love your privacy, be sure to ask for a private tour.

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69 explorer

5. 69 Explorer Peru

Over 45 trips Completed | Regional Expert Service level: basic

  • Small intimate groups of 2 to 8 person
  • Guaranted and Secure Trips

Welcome to 69 Explorer, a premier tour operator based in the heart of Cusco, Peru. As a company born and nurtured in the lap of the Andes, we specialize in creating unforgettable travel experiences in one of the world’s most enchanting destinations.

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