The region around Cusco provides many Inca sites that are worthwhile to visit. One of these sites is the remote and beautiful ancient Inca city Choquequirao. Choquequirao is perfect for the adventurous traveler that wants to escape the crowds. A tough 4 to 5-day hike 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 hike the Choquequirao trek?
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 dramatic and impressive scenery. This 15th-Century Choquequirao archeological site is only accessible by foot, donkey or horse. The challenging hike to Choquequirao is the main reason why only a few tourists visit this place. This means that you can walk around the ruins undisturbed and have the place all to yourself.
The total area of the Choquequirao site covers an area of 18 km2. Only 30% of the area is cleared from jungle growth. This means that you will not only see the beautifully restored buildings that have been excavated but by walking around and looking between the bushes you might discover some partly hidden and overgrown Inca structures. It shows that there is still so much more to explore and discover in this area. The hike to Choquequirao is pretty tough but beautiful. Walking tho this site definitely adds to the whole experience of visiting this impressive site. We got a bit of an Indiana Jones feeling. 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 and Finish of the Choquequirao trek
The official start of the Choquequirao trek is in the village of Cachora. The first 10 kilometers of the trek from Cachora to Mirador de Capuliyoc is just another dirt road and in our opinion worth skipping. It will save time which you can spend at Choquequirao itself.
Classical route to Choquequirao: Mirador Capuliyoc – Choquequirao – Mirador Capuliyoc .
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. This route takes 4 – 5 days
An alternative route to Choquequirao: Mirador Capuliyoc – Choquequirao – Kiunalla – Huanicipaca.
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 fewer tourists following this route the logistics to get a taxi back from this point to Cusco can be difficult. From a logistic point of view, it makes sense to start the trek from San Ignacio and leave the area via Mirador Capuliyoc. This route takes 3- 4 days
Distance Choquequiaro trek
The distance of the classical route to get 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 meters.
- Distance: 50 km
- Highest point: 3100 m
- Length: 4-5 days
The difficulty of the Choquequirao trek
The trek to Choquequirao is pretty tough! We have done many multi-day hikes but were struggling the first day. Other hikes in Peru, such as 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 be useful to bring hiking poles to decrease the intensity of the hike.
Best time to visit Choquequirao
You can visit Choquequirao year-round. But the best time is between the months of May to November. This is the dry season meaning less rain, better roads and clear views on the way.
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, is one that leaves early in the morning: 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 11:30. Often guided groups are dropped off at the mirador around 12:00 to start the Choquequirao trek. It turned out perfect timing. For 40 soles per person, we got a ride back with a ‘servicio turistico’ directly to Cusco. 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 on 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. The campsites are surprisingly well-maintained, and some even have hot showers, shops, and restaurants. It makes the challenging hike a bit easier with these facilities on the trek. Wild camping on this hike is difficult. The terrain is steep, making it fairly impossible to pitch the tent anywhere else than the campsites.
Food: Campsites provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also sell basic food supplies in the shops. The only exception to this, is the Choquequirao campsite itself next to the archeological site. This campsite doesn’t have a shop or restaurant.
Water: All campsites have running water.
Costs Choquequirao without a guide or organization
Organized tours to Choquequirao costs around 500 dollars per person. If you hike the Choquequirao independently, it doesn’t have to be that expensive. In total, we spend 75 dollars per person for 5 days. This includes transport, accommodation, entrance fee & food. Below you will find an overview of our costs per person:
Transport total: 80 soles (25 dollars)
- Bus Cusco – Abancay: 20 soles
- Taxi to Mirador de Capuliyoc: 20 soles
- Taxi back to Cusco: 40 soles
Entrance fee Choquequirao: 60 soles (18 dollars)
Costs on the trail: 100 soles (30 dollars)
- 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 ruins?
Make sure you have enough time at the Choquequirao site. We recommend planning at least 4 hours to visit Choquequirao. The opening hours of the Choquequirao site are from 7 am until 5 pm. We decided to make this a 5-day hike instead of 4-day hike 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 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 gradients can be demanding on the knees.
- Water filter: you can never be sure enough.
Day by day description Choquequirao without a guide
Below you can find a description of our route. The good thing about the Choquequirao trek is that there are several campsites. This provides the option to plan as you go and continue or stop the route at different places.
Day 1: Mirador de Capuliyoc to Santa Rosa.
- Transport from Cusco to Cachora
- Hike from Mirador de Capuliyoc to Santa Rosa.
- Distance: 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.
The hike started with a 9.5 km descent, into the Apurimac Canyon. The trail goes all the way down to the river and drops 1500 meters. Right from the start of the trek, you can already see the Choquequirao Archeological Site in the far distance. But it took a lot of effort to get there.
A steep descent is sometimes more demanding than hiking up. We took a short break at the campsite Playa Rosalina near the bridge where we bought some snacks and drinks to refuel. Although pretty tired, we decided to continue and do the first part of the big climb to the next campsite: Santa Rosa Baja. The climb to Choquequirao is a very long and tough one. For that reason, we decided to continue and ascent
Day 2: Santa Rosa – Choquequirao
From Santa Rosa to Choquequirao it is a 1000 meter climb. We crossed the small mountain village Marampata. From Marampata the toughest part of the climb was behind us. From there it is ‘only’ a one hour walk to Choquequirao. On the part of the trek between Marampata and Choquequirao, the stunning views on the terraces of Choquequirao starts.
Note: Most people put up camp or stay in a hotel in Marampata to visit Choquequirao. We recommend to continue the hike and spend the night at the Choquequirao campsite instead. It provides more freedom to visit the Choquequirao site in the afternoon and the next morning.
- Tip: if you stay at the choquequirao campsite and you only have a few 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..
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 site. There was so much to explore! The descent all the way down on the backside of the Choquequirao was worth all the struggle (our legs were pretty tired by that time). The afternoon we packed our tents and hiked back to Marampata.
Day 4: Marampata to Chiquista
We hiked back the same route. 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.