The Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu?
What is the Choquequirao Trek?
The Choquequirao trek is the 4-day to 9-day trek in the Vilcanota mountain range. The 4-day route will take you steeply into the Apurimac canyon, up the other side to Choqeuquirao Trek, and back out the same way. The longer Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu takes you down and out of the canyon through Choquequirao, then along trails that eventually link with the Salkantay to Machu Picchu.
For undisturbed scenery plucked straight out of nature docs, we’d say that the Choquequirao trek is by far the best Inca Trail alternative.
The Choquequirao Trekking route
Wondering which route to take? You can experience the ruins at Choquequirao on your own, or take the Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu. Below you’ll find the two most common routes, but you can adjust the route depending on your schedule or level of fitness.
The Shortest Route | Cachora > Cachora via Choquequirao | 4 Days
Day 1: Catch a taxi from Cachora to the Mirador to save yourself from trekking 13km along the road. Arrive at the Capuliyoc Mirador, and start the steep descent into Apurimac Canyon. You can choose to stop at the Playa Rosalina campsite just before the bridge, but venture further to Santa Rosa Baja or Santa Rosa Alta (5-7 hours) to make the next day easier on yourself. Day 2: Today is a tough climb, with 13km of steep uphill between you and the ruins of Choquequirao. The trail is full of switchbacks and false summits, but eventually you’ll reach a flag and the small town of Marampata (4-5 hours). From here, it’s a mostly gradual path towards Choquequirao (1.5 hours). If you’ve got energy to spare, spend the afternoon wandering the ruins. You can set up camp in Marampata or at the campsite located within Choquequirao. Day 3: Wake up early to continue exploring the ruins, or set off back the way you came. The downhill back to the river is tiresome, and will take quite a bit of energy. Continue past the river to the Chiquisca campsite (8-9 hours) and rest up for the grueling uphill back to the mirador. Day 4: Begin your ascent to the Mirador with a series of steep switchbacks (2 hours). Once you arrive, we recommend a well deserved beer before an easy downhill hike to Cachora (2 hours) or short taxi ride.
** We didn’t do the full Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek ourselves, but we’ve talked with a bunch of people who did! Forgive the distance estimates.**
Day 1: Catch a taxi from Cachora to the Mirador to save yourself from trekking 13km along the road. Arrive at the Capuliyoc Mirador, and start the steep descent into Apurimac Canyon. You can choose to stop at the Playa Rosalina campsite just before the bridge, but venture further to Santa Rosa Baja or Santa Rosa Alta (5-7 hours) to make the next day easier on yourself. Day 2: Today is a tough climb, with 13km of steep uphill between you and the ruins of Choquequirao. The trail is full of switchbacks and false summits, but eventually you’ll reach a flag and the small town of Marampata (4-5 hours). From here, it’s a mostly gradual path towards Choquequirao (1.5 hours). If you’ve got energy to spare, spend the afternoon wandering the ruins. You can set up camp in Marampata or at the campsite located within Choquequirao. Day 3: Wake up early to continue exploring the ruins. Once you’re finished, you’ll climb over a ridge and make a steep descent to Rio Blanco (6 hours). Day 4: Make the challenging ascent to Maizal with a series of switchbacks and a big leap in altitude. Continue further on to the Victoria Mines before setting up camp in Pajonal (5 hours). Day 5: Climb for an hour towards Abra San Juan pass before a long descent through Yanama where you setup camp for the night (4 hours). Day 6: After a light day of trekking through Quellqua Machay valley, you’ll reach the high point of the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu. Travel along Inca Trails until you join up with the Salktantay Trek at Colpapampa (about 8 hours). Day 7: The village of La Playa is about 12km from Colpapampa (7 hours), and makes for a nice resting spot, fully equipped with snacks, drinks, and hot springs. Day 8: This is the final stretch of the trek, and you’ll ascend along an Inca Trail to the ruins of Llacapacta. You will get an exclusive view of Machu Picchu before heading down to Hydroelectrica where you’ll catch a train up to Aguas Calientes. Day 9: Get a super early start (4am if you can bear it) to join the bus line to Machu Picchu. Spend the day exploring the ruins, and don’t forget to book your return train ticket to Cusco or Ollantaytambo!
Guide or No Guide?
Unlike the Inca Trail, it is possible to do the Choquequirao Trek without a guide. That being said, the Choquequirao trek is recognized as one of the most difficult treks in Peru. You should make an honest assessment of your fitness (or sanity) before going it alone. We opted to do the trek independently, but that option might not be best for everyone.
Guided Choquequirao Tours from Cusco ($500-$1,500+ per person):
Most operators that run the Salkantay to Machu Picchu will also offer the less famed Choquequirao Trek. The guided trek should include: roundtrip transport from Cusco to Cachora, a guide, a muleteer + mule, necessary camping equipment, and food. Departures are less frequent than the other Inca Trail alternatives, but you should be able to find tours from $500 (for the short route) or $1,500+ (to Machu Picchu).
Guided Choquequirao Tours from Cachora ($250+):
If you’ve already got your camping gear and just want a guide or muleteer for the trail, you can easily find them in Cachora. If you hire a muleteer for an independent trek, it is usually expected that you share your meals and pay for the time it takes them to return back to Cachora after the trek. Prices and inclusions vary.
Choquequirao Trek without a Guide ($150+):
The trail to Choquequirao is incredibly easy to follow, so a guide is mostly just nice for the company and logistics. If you go independently, you’ll need to make arrangements for your own tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and rain cover, at a minimum. We also recommend bringing cooking equipment (camp stove, utensils, food) as we had trouble finding food along the trail. You’ll pay out of pocket for your park entrance and transport. Going the trail without a guide is by far the cheapest option, with an independent Choquequirao trek going for about $150. You can check out our detailed cost breakdown for the Choquequirao trek solo at the end of this post.
Where to Stay on your Trek to Choquequirao
You’re best off spending the night in Cachora before beginning your trek to Choquequirao. Once you begin the trek, you’ll find surprisingly well maintained campsites. Many of them have bathrooms, running water, and a place to buy simple meals. You’re also likely to find small shops where you can buy snacks, soda, and even beer that are open in the evenings.
The campsites on the Choquequirao Trek are located at the kilometer markers specified. Please note these do not include campsites en route to Machu Picchu:
- Cachora (0 km): The starting point is a small town with hotels, restaurants, and plenty of food stores.
- Chiquisca (19 km): Free campsite just before a rough descent to the river with basic facilities and simple cooked food for purchase.
- Playa Rosalina (21 km): Free campsite next to the river with beautiful views, fire pits, bathrooms, and a very basic food store.
- Santa Rosa Baja (24km): Paid campsite with basic bathrooms and nice views. Located next to a hut selling food and simple meals.
- Santa Rosa Alta (25 km): A free campsite just up the hill from Santa Rosa Baja with clean facilities and simple cooked meals.
- Marampata (28 km): A [very] small town with several campsites, stores for buying food, and even a tiny hotel!
A Choquequirao Trek Cost Breakdown (4 Days / 2 People):
It’s important you come prepared if you’re doing the Choquequirao Trek solo. We bought and rented everything we needed in Cusco, but some basic supplies are also available in Cachora. We’ve heard you can buy food on the trail during high season, but it was nearly impossible to find open shops in low season.
Below, you’ll find all the gear and food we brought for the 4-day trek (not including Machu Picchu).
This article is written and brought to you by Choquequirao.