A visit to Peru is not complete without a visit to the Inca ruins. Surrounding Cusco there are a lot of options to visit ancient Inca cities and ruins. One of such is the remote and beautiful ancient Inca city of Choquequirao. Choquequirao is perfect for the adventurous traveler that wants to escape the crowds. You can roam around the ruins almost all by yourself! A tough four to five day hike, which is a beautiful one on its own, will get you there and back. This article is a guide for those who want to do the Choquequirao trek self without a guide or organization.
Why do the Choquequirao trek without a guide?
Choquequirao, the cradle of gold, is one of the great Inca ruins in Peru. The location, on top of a hill on a junction of three valleys, is in the midst of a dramatic and impressive scenery. This 15th-Century Choquequirao archeological site is only accessible by foot, donkey or horse.
The challenging hike to get there is the main reason why there are only a few tourists visiting this place. This means that you can walk around undisturbed and have the place to yourself. The total area of Choquequirao covers an area of 18 km2 and only 30% is cleared from jungle growth.
Walking around the area you do not only see the restored buildings but looking between the bushes and trees you will find overgrown Inca structures. It shows that there is still so much more to explore and discover in this area.The hike to Choquequirao is tough but beautiful and adds to the whole experience of visiting this impressive site. We were pleasantly surprised by the hike itself with its great vistas.
Map and GPX Choquequirao trek
The map and GPX below shows the classical route to Choquequirao. Note: this is only one way. You will have to backtrack the same route
*Download GPX on IOS devices can be done via safari.
Start & Finish of the Choquequirao trek
The official start of the Choquequirao trek is in the village Cachora. The first 10 km of the trek from Cachora to Mirador de Capuliyoc is a boring dirt road and worth skipping. It will save time which you can spend at Choquequirao itself.
Classical route to Choquequirao: Mirador Capuliyoc – Choquequirao – Mirador Capuliyoc (4/5 days).
Most people will start the Choquequirao trek from Mirador Capuliyoc, hike to Choquequirao and walk back the same way. There is an alternative route which is described in the paragraph below. We followed this classical route and were fine with backtracking. The hike back to Capuliyoc is nice enough and does provide some views we missed on the way to Choquequirao.
Alternative route to Choquequirao: Mirador Capuliyoc – Choquequirao – Kiunalla – Huanicipaca (4 days):
An alternative route from Choquequirao is leaving the area via San Ignacio and get a taxi back to Huanicipaca. The total length of this itinerary is shorter and you have to climb less on the way back. But with less tourists following this route the logistics to get a taxi back from this point to Cusco can be difficult.
Choquequiaro trek distance
The total distance of the classical route to Choquequirao and back is ~50 kilometers. The altitude on the Choquequirao trek varies between 1500 meters and 3100 meters. This trek is a relatively low altitude trek in the Cusco region. Choquequirao itself is located at an altitude is 3000 meter.
- Distance: 50 km
- Highest point: 3100 m
- Length: 4-5 days
Difficulty of the Choquequirao trek without a guide
The trek to Choquequirao is pretty tough! We are experienced and trained hikers, but were struggling the first few days. At the Huayhuash, Santa Cruz and Ausangate trek, we weren’t struggling as much as we did on this one. The difficulty of the Choquequirao trek is mostly in the long and steep down- and uphill sections.
Because of the high intensity of descending and ascending some people experience knee pain, as did we. It can therefore be useful to bring hiking poles to decrease the intensity of the hike.
Getting there: Transportation to the start of the Choquequirao trek
The Choquequirao trek begins in Cachora, a small village around 150 km west of Cusco.
- Get a bus from Cusco Terminal Terrestre to Abancay. There are multiple bus companies leaving hourly from Cusco to Abancay. Bus company Bredde leaves the earliest with departures times at 6 am. Ask the driver to stop at the crossroad with Cachora (40 km before Abancay).
- Take a taxi to the start of the trek. You can start the hike at Cachora, or skip the first 10 km and start at Mirador de Capuliyoc.
- On our way back we planned to be at the mirador de Capuliyoc around 11.30pm. For 40 soles per person we catched a ride back with a ‘servicio turistico’ directly to Cusco (guided groups are dropped off at the mirador around 12pm to start the Choquequirao trek). If you are unlucky with getting a ride back directly to Cusco you can get a taxi to Abancay and take a bus to Cusco from here.
Water, food and accommodation at the Choquequirao trek
Accommodation: The good thing about the Choquequirao hike is that there are designated campsites and even a couple of simple hotels along the route to Choquequirao. The campsites are surprisingly well-maintained, and some even have hot showers, shops, and restaurants. It makes the challenging hike a bit easier with all the facilities on the trek. Wild camping on this hike is difficult. We haven’t seen any places to pitch the tent besided the designated campsites.
Food: Each campsite has a small shop and basic food (breakfast/lunch/dinner). Only at the Choquequirao campsite there are no restaurant or shops, so you have to bring your own food if you want to spend the night there. We ended up cooking one dinner and one breakfast (at Choquequirao campsite).
Water: At all campsites there are taps for water (it is recommended to filter the water) or you can buy drinks in the shops.
Costs Choquequirao without a guide or organization
Organized tours to Choquequirao costs around 500 dollars per person. If you hike the Choquiquqquirao independently, it doesn’t have to be expensive. In total we spend 75 dollar per person for 5 days. Below you will find an overview of our costs per person:
Transport total: 80 soles (25 dollar)
- Bus Cusco – Abancay : 20 soles
- Taxi to Mirador de Capuliyoc : 20 soles
- Taxi back to Cusco: 40 soles
Entrance fee choquequirao: 60 soles (18 dollar)
Costs on the trail: 100 soles (30 dollar)
- Campsite: 5 soles per tent (only the campsite at Choquequirao is free)
- Food (dinner): 10 – 15 soles
- Hot shower: 5 soles
Tips for Choquequirao
How much time needed for visiting the Choquequirao ruines?
Make sure you have enough time at Choquequirao. We recommend to plan at least 4 hours to visit Choquequirao. The opening hours of the Choquequirao ruines are from 7am untill 5pm. We decided to make this a 5 day hike instead of 4 to allow us plenty of time to walk around Choquequirao.
Useful stuff to bring on the Choquequirao trek
- Clothes with long sleeves: Although shorts and t-shirts sound perfect for trekking in the warm weather of Choquequirao, we hiked with trousers and long sleeves because of the bugs. Blackflies are everywhere and they will you eat you alive if they get the chance.
- Insect repellent. We have never seen more blackflies than on the Choquequirao trek so take some form of repellent with you.
- Hiking poles: The choquequirao trek is one of those treks where hiking poles are very useful. The steep descents and climbs are demanding on the knees and hiking poles can help.
- Water filter: Although the water from the taps often is clear, you can never be sure enough.
- Water: In dry season it is hot! There are enough water points, but be sure to carry enough in between these taps. Drink enough and you will feel a lot better.
Day by day description Choquequirao without a guide
Below you can find a description of our route. The good thing about hiking Choquequirao is that you cross various campsites. They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner and have basic food supply in the shops. This provides the option the plan as you go and continue or stop the route at different places.
Day 1: Mirador de Capuliyoc to Santa Rosa.
12.2 km 1500 meter down – 540 altimeter up
- Transport from Cusco to Cachora
- Hike from Mirador de Capuliyoc to Santa Rosa. (12.2 km 1500 meter down – 540 meter up)
The first day was a long and demanding day. We left Cusco by bus early in the morning and arrived at the Mirador de Capuliyoc around 11:30. There is a shop, restaurant and even an simple hotel at the Mirador. From here the hike starts at an altitude of 2900m.
From the mirador viewpoint you could actually already see the mountain with the Choquequirao Archeological Site (if you know where to look), but the ancient city is still 22.5 km away. In order to get there you must first descent 9.5 km (1500 meter) into the Apurimac Canyon all the way down to the river.
A steep descent is sometimes more demanding than hiking up! We took a short break at campsite Playa Rosalina near the bridge where we bought some snacks and drinks to refuel. You could spend the night at Playa Rosalina, but it will make the climb to Choquequirao the next day a very long and tough one. For that reason, we decided to climb 540 meter to Santa Rosa Baja. At 5:30 we arrived at Santa Rosa were we pitched our tent. The owner prepared a nutritious meal for us!
Day 2: Santa Rosa – Choquequirao
6.8 km 1055 altimeter.
From Santa Rosa to Choquequirao it is a tough climb of 1000 altimeters. You will cross a small mountain village Marampata. Once you arrive at Marampata the toughest part of the climb is behind you and from there on it is about a one hour walk to Choquequirao. On the part of the trek between Marampata and Choquequirao you will already have stunning views on the terraces of Choquequirao.
Most people put up camp or sleep at an hotel in Marampata and visit Choquequirao from there. But we can recommend to continue the hike and spend the night at the Choquequirao campsite. It provides more freedom to visit the Choquequirao site in the afternoon and next morning.
- Tip: if you have only 2 hours left in the afternoon, visit the lower section of Choquequirao first and explore Choquequirao’s higher section the next morning.
- Note: the campsite at Choquiquerao, is the only campsite where there is no shop or restaurant, so if you would like to camp here you have to bring at least one day of food. There is running water and toilets.
Day 3: Visit Choquequirao and back to Marampata
We left our tent and backpacks at the campsite and spent the morning and afternoon at Choquequirao. The site is huge and there is much to explore! You need at least four hours to explore most of the ruines. If your legs are up for it descent all the way down on the backside of the town to where you can see snake and lama mosaic built into the walls. We explored the area in the early afternoon and went back to the campsite. After a lunch break, we hiked back to Marampata and were treated with a delicious meal.
Day 4: Marampata to Chiquista
We hiked back the same way. We stayed in campsite Chiquista where we had a beautiful view in the valley at sunset.
Day 5: Chiquista to Mirador
This day was all about getting back to Cusco. We hiked three more hours to get up to the Mirador Capuliyoc. We had lunch at this place and got a ride back to Cusco. Around 17:00 we were back in Cusco.