The perfect alternative to the Inca Trail
Thinking about a Trek to Machu Picchu, but not sure which one is right for you? Follow Travel Consultant Jared Karp as he takes us on his journey to Choquequirao & Machu Picchu.
As many of us did, I grew up with a sense of adventure and curiosity of what this beautiful world has to offer. I imagine the time when the world was still new and undiscovered. The feeling one must have after hiking days to finally come across an ancient civilization, or ruins of one, captivated my mind. With nobody around to spoil the serenity, you surely feel a deep sense of wonder that is in each and every person. This hypothesis was answered in the best of ways during the Choquequirao trek. Hiking to visit the Incan ruins of Choquequirao solo was exactly that kind of experience and full of wonder. It awakened that sense of wonder that drives us to discover, to learn and to experience.
As I have always believed that the best things in life take time and effort, it was ok that this experience was no different. I had done my research, rented my gear and embarked on a challenging, unforgettable journey. After four days of hiking, visiting Machu Picchu at the end was the best icing on an unforgettable cake. At that point, the experience was so phenomenal that the crowds of people at Machu Picchu did not bother me a bit. Without a doubt, everyone should visit the very popular Machu Picchu. If you have the type of wonder and adventure that I have, the Choquequirao trek is the way to go. Either way, you will not regret the experience.
Everyone is familiar with the Machu Picchu ruins, but have you heard of the Choquequirao ruins? Choquequirao is about 98km west of Cuzco and is believed by some historians to be the last of the Inca empire as it crumbled. Choquequirao means “cradle of gold” in the local language Quechua. The intelligent design of this outpost displays the sophistication the Incan had so long ago. Architecturally similar to Machu Picchu, it is possible that it is, in fact, more historically significant. With more tourism and money to discover the mysteries of Choquequirao, we will one day learn these answers.
Getting to Choquequirao
Take a bus or private transfer about four hours west of Cuzco to the small town of Cachora. From there it is about 30 km to the ruins. The Choquequirao trek typically takes about 4 days / 3 nights, but you can extend it to 5 days / 4 nights. You have the option to travel by car to the trailhead or, like me, you can trek. After a few hours, you will reach the first viewpoint where you can see the ruins in the distance. From there, travel downhill to Rosalina Beach. Here you can stop for the night and set up camp.
The next morning cross the Apurimac River by small footbridge. When I did the hike, I used a metal basket suspended on a wire with a pulley system to cross the river. Continue climbing towards Santa Rosa, zigzagging up a steep slope until you reach Marampata. From there, walk for another few hours until you reach the archaeological complex of Choquequirao. Here you will find incredible campsites with stunning views and located about 20-minute from the ruins.
Rest for the night and continue the long trek from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu. Doing the trek made the experience the hardest and most rewarding physical activity I have ever endured. Going from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu pushes you to climb and descend many mountains while passing through a variety of microclimates. Although the hike is fascinating and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it is still incredibly challenging.
Tips for travelers
Hiking with a guide and renting a mule to carry your stuff is an excellent idea. Carrying your pack, with all your supplies, can be quite intense. Although the trek takes you through remote villages, there are a few places along the way to buy items such as beer or chocolate, so be sure to bring some soles. This experience is an amazing alternative to the traditional, more popular treks, like the Inca trail. With fantastic scenery and minimal foot traffic, the trek to Choquequirao is an excellent choice for adventurers. If time permits, I recommend finishing the trek at the Santa Teresa Hot Springs.
The Future of Choquequirao
While looking at these amazing ruins, keep in mind that only about 20-30% are uncovered, meaning that these could very well be the next big Machu Pichu. There also has been talks of a cable car being built to make it possible for thousands of tourists to visit a day. This fact makes it a real race to experience the serenity and magic before it is gone. For more Trekking Tours check out the Top 4 Alternative Inca Trail Treks to Machu Picchu.