Like Machu Picchu, the spectacular Inca ruins of Choquequirao dominate yet blend respectfully into the vertical Andean world of immense canyons and towering snowpeaks. Straddling a mountain saddle at 3,033 m/9,950 ft., the Inca city comprises an extensive complex of palaces, ceremonial plazas, ranks of agricultural terraces and residential buildings.
The ruins occupy a saddle 1,605 m./ 5,264 ft above the Apurimac River; by comparison, from the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park to the Colorado River at the well-known Bright Angel campsite, hikers face a vertical descent of just 1,315 m/4,314 feet.
Ongoing exploration and excavation amid the surrounding forest is revealing many more structures, and so our ideas of the size and importance of this Inca city are gradually being revised, year by year. Nineteenth-century explorers were aware of the site, and many were drawn to visit it, crossing the roaring Apurimac River suspended from a frail cable. We cross the river via a modern footbridge built in 1992 to replace the previous precarious cable system.
The trailhead at Capuliyoq, 178 km/111 miles from Cuzco, is an impressive destination in itself: you enjoy a spectacular view north toward the precipitous glaciated peaks of the Vilcabamba Range. The route in is a challenging hike. You descend 1,420 meters (5,000 ft) to the banks of the Apurimac River, a world of house-sized water-worn granite boulders dominated by the steady roar of the river. Following a night in camp, you climb – 6 hours, 9.7 km/6 miles and 1,500 vertical meters up to the campsite located just below the ruins at 3,033 m/9,950 ft. Though the trail is well-maintained, and the grade is moderate, by the time you reach Choquequirao on the afternoon of the second day you have more than earned your visit to this site.
The physically demanding route limits the number of visitors – qualitatively, your exploration of Choquequirao is very different from a visit to the more accessible Machu Picchu. We spend a full day exploring the ruins in depth and at leisure.
On the morning of the final day, we trek 15 km to the trailhead and our waiting van. We make a stop at Sayhuite, a cluster of intricately carved boulders marking a sacred spring on the mountainside. Then we return on the main highway, passing Limatambo and Tarawasi on the 5-hour trip to Cuzco.
Your trail duffel and the heavy camp gear is carried by packhorses and porters; you walk carrying only a day-pack. Cooks prepare wholesome meals from fresh ingredients and handle all the kitchen chores. You sleep warm and protected in high quality tents. Join the most reliable outfitter in the Andes for a trek you'll never forget.