The Choquequirao trek is an adventure in the truest sense of the word. Sitting high in the Vilcabamba mountain range, the 15th-Century Choquequirao Archaeological Complex is only accessible by foot. And while Choquequirao closely resembles Machu Picchu with terraces, temples, plazas, and aqueducts, there is one very noticeable difference between the two: Machu Picchu gets around 3,300 visitors per day, while Choquequirao sees an average of only 15 to 20.
An Introduction to the Choquequirao Trek
When it comes to difficulty, the trek to Choquequirao is hard as hell, but you probably already know that the coolest experiences usually are. The 4-day trek means a 1,500m descent into the valley followed by a 1,800m climb (and back out the same way you came). If you undertake the full 9-day Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu, you’ll make the same plod to the ruins but continue along for several days, climbing high passes and dipping into lowland basins. The Choquequirao trek (with or without a guide) is a relatively tricky trek in Peru. But, struggle through the tough parts, and you’ll get to experience one of the best Inca Trail & Machu Picchu alternatives in all of the Sacred Valley. And to experience something like Machu Picchu, but with practical solitude makes the Choquequirao trek totally worth it.
Interested in undertaking the Choquequirao Trek? Get out there and do it. Go for the adventure, go for the experience, and most importantly, go before they build a damn cable car. I’ll show you how.
Want the Guidebook?
It was tough to get information on the Choquequirao trek in 2016. Besides a couple of blog posts and an email thread with the guys at Effortless Digital, there was hardly any information about the trek back then! That’s why in April 2019, we’re publishing our first ever Travel Outlandish Guide about the Choquequirao Trek! It includes detailed topographical maps created by a cartographer, 3 researched trekking routes (including the full route to Machu Picchu), an overview of campsites, recommended tour operators, and tons more information that we couldn’t fit into one post. If you’re interested in being one of the first readers, it costs $6.99 and I promise you it’s more than worth it. Join the waitlist and we’ll send you an email when it’s ready to go in April 2019.
Trekking Routes to Choquequirao
The Choquequirao Trek is a 4-day to 9-day trek that visits Choquequirao. There are 3 major routes as of 2019, but there are slight variations based on your fitness or interest.
Wondering which route to take? Any way you go will boast untouched scenery plucked straight out of nature documentaries. Choquequirao can be your destination or hike from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu for an epic Inca faceoff. The 3 main routes are:
- The Classic Route: The Classic Route is a four-day out-and-back hike to Choquequirao that starts and finishes in Cachora
- The Huanipaca Route: The Huanipaca Route is the fastest route to Choquequirao; it’s also a four-day hike that starts in Cachora, but rather than hiking out the way you came, you’ll spend your last night at Villa los Loros and take a taxi out to Huanipaca.
- The Yanama Route: The Yanama Route is a nine-day trek from Cachora to Machu Picchu that covers all the highlights of the Sacred Valley with stops at Choquequirao, Pinchinuyoc, Llactapata, and Machu Picchu; this trek starts in Cachora and eventually joins up with the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.
The Classic Route in Detail
Below is a detailed itinerary for the Classic Route to Choquequirao. Kilometer markers are based on the distance between stops or campsites.
Day 1: Cachora to Santa Rosa Alta // Hiking Distance: 24 km or 13 km (with taxi)
Start in Cachora. From town, you’ll need to get to the trailhead at Capuliyoc Mirador (11 km) which can be done on foot (2.5 – 3 hours) or by taxi (30 minutes). As Cachora to Capuliyoc is a rather unexciting footpath that intersects with the road, it is preferable to catch a taxi and start trekking from Capuliyoc. From the Capuliyoc Mirador, you’ll make a steep descent into Apurimac Canyon via a long series of switchbacks. As you walk, you’ll get views of Padreyoc and the river below.
The first campsite you’ll pass is Cocamasana, and onward still is a campsite nestled between the trees called Chiquisca (7 km). You can choose to stop here or continue towards the Apurímac River. Just before the bridge over the Apurímac River, you will come upon another paid campsite with nice views, fire pits, bathrooms, showers, a basic food store, and simple kitchen called Playa Rosalina (2 km). You can camp here, or if you still have the daylight or energy, you can venture further with an ascent to one of the two sites at Santa Rosa Baja (3 km) or Santa Rosa Alta (1 km), though this site is often closed. Don’t be fooled by the short distances – the uphill is tough after a long day of hiking, but it will cut some of the altitude gains off of your next day. It’s worth pushing for it if you can!
Day 2: Santa Rosa Alta to Choquequirao // Hiking Distance: 7 km
It’s a tough climb from Santa Rosa Alta to Choquequirao. Before getting to the ruins, you’ll hit the tiny mountaintop town of Marampata (3 km). While it’s only 3 km of hiking from Santa Rosa Alta to Marampata, this part is tough because of switchbacks, false summits, limited tree cover, and an altitude gain of over 700m. You can either opt to toss your bags in town or continue on to the campgrounds located just beneath the ruins. From Marampata, it’s a gradual incline towards the Choquequirao campsite (4 km), offering a significant reprieve from the rest of the day. If you start early enough, you can make a quick visit to the Choquequirao ruins before returning to your campsite for the night.
Day 3: Choquequirao to Playa Rosalina // Hiking Distance: 11 km
If you camped at Choquequirao, wake up early and hike back to the ruins for sunrise. The return trip to Cachora is easy enough to navigate; you’ll just return back the way you came. That said, the switchbacks and steep downhill of 1,880m towards the Apurímac River make the descent almost as physically challenging as the way up. Depending on how much energy you’ve spent, you can set up camp at Santa Rosa Alta (7 km) or continue further to the river-side camp, Playa Rosalina (4 km).
Day 4: Playa Rosalina to Cachora // Distance: 20 km or 9 km (with taxi)
Your ascent time to the Capuliyoc Mirador will vary. If you camped at Santa Rosa Alta, you’ll hike downhill (4 km). It’s all uphill from Playa Rosalina (9 km). While much of the hike to Capuliyoc is an easy climb along the side of the canyon, it finishes with the same series of sharp switchbacks that you started with. Once you’ve finally reached the Capuliyoc Mirador, you definitely deserve a cold drink. From there, you can hike the easy downhill hike to Cachora (2 hours) or take the short taxi ride (30 minutes).
Get the guidebook for route maps + day-by-day itineraries for the Huanipaca Route & Yanama Route to Machu Picchu
There are designated campsites and even a couple of simple hotels along the route to Choquequirao. The campsites are surprisingly well-maintained, and many have bathrooms, showers, shops, and simple kitchens.
- Cachora (0km): The starting point of the Choquequirao Trek is a small town with hotels, restaurants, and plenty of food stores.
- Cocamasana (~16 km): Brand new campsite with awesome views across the valley, but often not open. Three small pitches and a terrace with open space for tents, basic toilets.
- Chiquisca (19 km): Paid campsite just before a rough descent to the river with basic toilet and shower facilities and simply cooked food for purchase.
- Playa Rosalina (21 km): Paid campsite next to the river with nice scenery, fire pits at every site, bathrooms, showers, a very basic food store, and a kitchen that prepares simple food.
- Alfonso (22 km): Simple campsite, no bathrooms, kitchen access. Reports that this site is often closed and could be subjected to flooding if it rains due to no grass and limited drainage.
- Santa Rosa Baja (24 km): Paid campsites with very basic toilets and showers, but nice views of the canyon. Located next to a private hut selling food and simple meals. A second family-run operation nearby with horses and mules, but gets very buggy.
- Santa Rosa Alta (25 km): Free campsite just up the hill from Santa Rosa Baja with clean facilities and simple meals. Reports that it’s often closed, but the owner has plans to open it soon. Sites are nice.
- Marampata (28 km): A tiny town with several campsites, stores for buying food, and even a small hotel. The best place to hire a mule if you’re too tired to continue the trek on your own.
A complete list of sites en route to Huanipaca or Machu Picchu detailed in the book.
Guide or No Guide?
Unlike the Inca Trail, it is possible to do the Choquequirao Trek and other Inca Trail alternatives without a guide. That said, the Choquequirao trek is recognized as one of the most challenging treks in Peru. You should make an honest assessment of your fitness and weather before going it alone.
Choquequirao Tours with a Guide (from Cusco)
Most guided tours include round-trip transport (from Cusco to Cachora), pre-trip accommodation, a guide, a muleteer, a mule, necessary camping equipment, and food. There are plenty of advantages to taking a Choquequirao tour. On a trek as difficult as this one, you won’t have to worry about navigation, carrying your gear, or logistics. Your guide will offer localized knowledge about the region and the ruins that you’ll probably miss on your own.
The notable disadvantages are that this trek is still super expensive. The tour will cost between $500-$1500 per person if you’re arranging it from Cusco, which is as much as 10x more than it would cost on your own. Another drawback is that you’ll have someone to smooth your logistics over, and where’s the fun in that?
Here are a couple of the best-reviewed companies running the Choquequirao Trek from Cusco.
- Choquequirao Trek (from $500)
- Apus Peru (from $475)
- Tierras Vivas (from $450)
- SAM Travel Peru (from $537)
- Villa los Loros (from $550)
Choquequirao Tours with a Guide (from Cachora)
If you’ve already got your camping gear and don’t mind figuring out accommodation and transport, you can also find a tour from Cachora that will include a guide, a muleteer, a mule, necessary camping equipment, and food. Pros of this option are similar to the above. All the navigation, carrying, and logistics are taken care of and you’ll have someone who knows the region!
The disadvantages are that it’s still more costly than going alone at $300-$800 (though prices are nearly half what you’d pay from Cusco). You’ll also have to arrange at the last minute since most of the guides in Cachora don’t have a website or storefront.
Choquequirao Trek without a Guide
Since this whole post is about doing the Choquequirao trek without a guide, I’ll start with the disadvantages. You’ll be hauling your own gear and worrying about logistics. You’ll need to make arrangements for your own camping gear (here are some rental agencies in Cusco) and bring cooking equipment and food in case you’re traveling during low season. But if you’re like me, the struggle is half the fun.
The Choquequirao Trek without a guide is a good option if you’re on a budget or like the thrill of independent hiking. The trail is very straightforward and well marked along the Classic Route, so there’s truly no way to get lost. You’ll go at your own pace. The only real costs of the Choquequirao trek without a guide are local buses, simple hotels, park entrance fees, campsite fees, food, and transport. Without markup by the tour operator, you’ll find that these costs are pretty negligible. All in all, a four-day hike to Choquequirao shouldn’t cost more than $150 including food and gear rental (or less if you’re with a larger group). You can check out my detailed cost breakdown below for the Choquequirao trek solo.
WANNA HIKE THE CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK WITHOUT A GUIDE? GET COMPLETE INFORMATION ON CHOQUEQUIRAO TREKKING ROUTES INCLUDING DETAILED CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK MAPS AND CAMPSITE INFORMATION INSIDE “THE CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK – A GUIDE TO HIKING THE OTHER INCA TRAIL“
How much does the Choquequirao Trek Cost?
Here’s a general projection of costs for two people on the four-day Classic Route to Choquequirao (2019). The route becomes significantly more expensive once the trail joins with the Salkantay. You should increase your daily budget the closer you get to Machu Picchu. I bought and rented everything I needed in Cusco, but some basic supplies are also available in Cachora.
- Roundtrip Transport from Cusco to Cachora ($30-$50)
- Pre-Accommodation in Cachora ($30-$40)
- Campsite Fees (Free – $20)
- Camping Equipment Rental ($60)
- Food & Water (from Cusco) ($30)
- Food & Water (purchased) (Varies)
- Entrance Fee to Choquequirao ($18)
- Optional: Mule Hire ($120)
Costs are per person. The per person cost of accommodation, gear rental, and mule hire is less if you’re sharing with another person. If you do the hike independently, it shouldn’t cost more than $150-$200 per person.
How to get to Choquequirao
The Choquequirao trek begins in Cachora, a small village about 3 hours outside of Cusco. Here’s more information on getting from Cusco to Cachora as of 2019.
- Take a taxi from Central Cusco to Terminal Terrestre (S/8 / $2.40)
- Get the bus to Abancay (from S/30 / $9), but ask to stop at “Ramal de Cachora.” This is about 3 hours and 150km away, and the bus won’t stop here unless you ask. Keep an eye out for the “148 km” marker to be sure you don’t miss it. At the time of writing, Oltursa, Cruz del Sur, and Movilbus had busses from Cusco to Abancay bookable online. To depart earlier in the day, go directly to Terminal Terrestre to book your bus ticket. If you miss your stop, you can get off in Abancay and try to catch a shared minivan back to Ramal de Cachora (S/5 / $1.50)
- Once you’ve arrived at Ramal de Cachora, you can either: wait for a shared minibus or “collectivo” to fill (S/5 / $1.50) or pay for a private taxi (S/30 / $9) directly to Cachora. Be prepared to bargain as the taxis and collectivo drivers can be a little sheisty along this route.
- Optional: If you choose to start your trek from Capuliyoc Mirador, you can hire a taxi in town (S/30 / $9)
What Food to Pack for a 4 Day Trek
You can buy food on the trail, but it was nearly impossible to find open shops in low season. Below are some cheap and locally available ingredients that you can bring along:
- Water (4 L of water ($2), and instant coffee ($1))
- Mains (4x ramen noodles ($1.50), 1 loaf of bread ($1), cooked rice ($1), penne noodles ($.50), 8 tamales ($3), 1 packet of soup ($.50))
- Proteins (2 cans of tuna ($3), protein powder ($1), 4 boiled eggs ($2))
- Snacks (6 packets of cookies ($2), peanuts ($2), raisins ($1))
- Condiments (1 packet of peanut butter ($3), 1 packet of jam ($.50), condiments ($1))
- Fruits & Vegetables (cut broccoli and carrots ($1); 4 apples ($2)
Where to Stay In Cachora
As I mentioned, you’ll need to get there a night ahead to give yourself plenty of time to trek. At the time of writing, there are just two hotels in Cachora. that are listed online
CasaNostra Choquequirao | CasaNostra Choquequirao is the best accommodation in Cachora by a landslide. The simply furnished hotel is outside of the center, but the attractive surrounds make up for it. Double rooms start from $35.
Inka Dream | There’s not much dreamy about the Inka Dream. You’ll want to check out your room in advance and go in without high expectations for service. That said, the basic hotel is one of the only hotels in Cachora for the time being. Double rooms start from $40.
Still want more information about the trek? Leave us a comment or download the guidebook.