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Pie Experiences / Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek (8 days)

Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek (8 days)

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The Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek is best described as a pilgrimage, suited to those for whom Machu Picchu isn’t simply another box to be ticked, but instead a real bucket list destination to be appreciated and enjoyed. This off the beaten path trek is the perfect addition to your custom Peru tour!
Choquequirao is sometimes described as Machu Picchu’s “sister city”. However, a significant difference between the two is that Choquequirao is seldom visited, so it offers a fantastic opportunity to visit a real “lost city”! The Peruvian government is planning to open up Choquequirao in the next few years by building a cable car, so now could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the city at its best.
Enjoy a true adventure that is the ultimate expression of “off-the-beaten-track”, as you descend valleys, climb mountain passes and hike through the cloud forest, culminating in the awe-inspiring citadel of Machu Picchu!

Highlights:

  • On the Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek, you will hike through one of Peru’s most beautiful unspoiled wildernesses.
  •  Explore the majestic ruined city of Choquequirao, the last refuge of the Incas and the last refuge away from the crowds at Machu Picchu!
  •  Walk along authentic Inca trails and discover seldom-visited archaeological sites.
  •  Enjoy a huge diversity of landscapes, climates, flora and fauna over the course of a challenging seven-day hike.
  •  Be overwhelmed when you finally arrive at Machu Picchu, a wonder of the world and the endpoint of your odyssey!

Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek Itinerary Overview:

Click through to “Tour Plan” to see the full itinerary 

Day 1: Cusco – Cachora – Chiquishca

Your private transportation will pick you up from your hotel for your transfer to Cachora, the start of the Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek! Warm up with a mostly flat, easygoing hike to Capuliyoc lookout point, from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Apurimac Canyon and even a glimpse of Choquequirao! Descend into the canyon to your campsite at Chiquishca and enjoy some well-earned rest.

Day 2: Chiquishca – Santa Rosa – Choquequirao

Warm up with a hike along the bottom of the canyon, before beginning your ascent to Choquequirao! You’ll be able to enjoy a huge range of flora and fauna as the climate changes with the altitude. Spend the afternoon exploring the enigmatic archaeological site of Choquequirao with your guide; visit the nine ancient towns that made up the city and visit the twenty-four llama mosaics. 

Day 3: Choquequirao – Río Blanco – Maizal

Head back up to Choquequirao in time for sunrise over the ruins, and spend some more time exploring the extensive site. Continue your trek up the Choquequirao pass, and down again to the bottom of Rio Blanco canyon, stopping off at the Inca ruin of Pinchayunuyoc on the way. After lunch, climb out of the canyon and up to your campsite at Maizal. The afternoon’s hike is challenging, but very rewarding, as Maizal campsite boasts some of the best views of the entire trek!

Day 4: Maizal – San Juan – Yanama

Your morning hike will take you along an authentic Inca trail up to San Juan Pass, passing through a cloud forest into the Andean highlands. Visit an ancient mine, and take in the spectacular views of the Vilcabamba mountain range, before descending to your campsite at Yanama, situated at the bottom of a valley.

Day 5: Yanama – Paso Yanama – Totora Valley

This morning’s hike will take you to the highest point of the entire trek: Yanama pass! From here, you will enjoy a fantastic view of Salkantay mountain, one of the Inca’s most important apus, and you might even catch a glimpse of the no-less-majestic Andean condor! Descend into the beautiful Totora Valley, where you will spend the night.

Day 6: Totora Valley – Wiñaypocco

Today is an easygoing hike! Descend towards the village of Wiñaypocco, observing the changes in the natural environment as the weather gets warmer. You will finish your hike early in the afternoon, so you will have the chance to swim in the natural waterfalls, or explore the orchards of tropical fruit.

Day 7: Wiñaypocco – Llactapata – Hidroelectric – Aguas Calientes

Descend through the Lucmabamba Valley, strolling through orchards of tropical fruits. After lunch, take up an authentic Inca trail, and ascend towards the beautiful archaeological site at Llactapata. From here, you’ll be able to get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu! Finish your hike at Hidroelectrica, and take the train to Aguas Calientes. Here, you’ll check into your hotel and get an early night ahead of your sunrise visit to Machu Picchu!

Day 8: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Cusco

You’ll catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu in order to beat the crowds! Enjoy a Machu Picchu tour with your expert guide, before spending some free time exploring the site by yourself. Next, hike up Huayna Picchu with your guide for spectacular views of Machu Picchu itself, and of the surrounding mountains. Travel back to Cusco in the afternoon, feeling very proud of your achievement, and full of wonderful memories of the Choquequirao Machu Picchu trek!

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Day 1: Cusco - Cachora - Chiquishca

Your adventure begins bright and early, at around 5:00am! Your private transportation will pick you up from your hotel for your transfer to Cachora, the gateway town for the Choquequirao trek. The route will take you through the Pampas de Anta, an extensive area of fertile grasslands and valleys, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Upon arrival in Cachora, you will meet your team of porters and mules and make a brief stop for breakfast. Then, it will be time to start your adventure to Choquequirao! The first few hours of the trek are an easygoing, mostly flat hike until you reach the lookout point at the mountain pass of Capuliyoc (2850m). You will be rewarded for your efforts with simply spectacular views, encompassing imposing, snow-capped mountains, the Apurimac river, and even a glimpse of Choquequirao itself! One of the major benefits of the Choquequirao trek is the relative lack of other visitors, and from this lookout point you can properly appreciate the gloriously unspoilt scenery of the Apurimac Canyon. After lunch at Capuliyoc, you will descend to your campsite at Chiquishca (1930m), where you will have dinner and enjoy some well-earned rest!   Hiking Distance: 19 Km/8-9 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Easy - Moderate Maximum Altitude:  2850m/ 9470ft Campsite Altitude: 1930 m. / 6332 Ft.
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Day 2: Chiquishca - Santa Rosa - Choquequirao

This morning, you will continue down to the bottom of the Apurimac Canyon to Playa Rosalinas (1550m). From here, you’ll continue along the Apurimac River. Cross the river via the hanging bridge, and begin your ascent up towards the ruins. This is the most challenging part of the trail, but you will be rewarded with the chance to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the Apurimac Canyon: violets and orchids, anteaters and deer, and a huge variety of birds! The trail zigzags up the side of the canyon, towards Marampata village (2850m). Here, you will make a brief stop for lunch before walking the last 1½ hours up to your long-awaited goal, Choquequirao (3033m)! You will spend the afternoon exploring the enigmatic site of Choquequirao with your guide. Enjoy the tranquility and mysterious atmosphere of this rarely-visited site, which received on average only 20 visitors per day, compared with some 3000 at Machu Picchu! Discover the nine zones of the site, originally built as separate small towns around the main square; the sweeping agricultural terraces; and the twenty-four llama mosaics. You’ll camp just twenty minutes from the site itself, giving you the wonderful opportunity to enjoy the sunset over the ruins!   Hiking Distance: 12.5 Km/7-8 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Moderate - Challenging Maximum Altitude: 3033m/ 11,125ft Campsite Altitude: 3033m/ 11,125ft
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Day 3: Choquequirao - Río Blanco - Maizal

After a quick breakfast at the campsite, you’ll head up to Choquequirao in time to watch the beautiful Andean sunrise add even more magic to the ruins! You will have some free time to explore the site at your own pace, and get your fill of this enigmatic place. Next, you’ll continue your trek, hiking up to Choquequirao pass (3500m), from which point you’ll be able to appreciate both the Apurimac Canyon and also your next challenge: the Rio Blanco canyon! You’ll descend towards Rio Blanco (1000m), stopping off for a brief tour of the recently-restored archaeological site of Pinchayunuyoc. After lunch (and a rest!) at Rio Blanco, you’ll continue through the so-called “Dry Forest”, an area of impressively tall, but mostly leafless trees. Next, you’ll cross the sparkling Victoria River, and begin the ascent to your campsite at Maizal (3000m). Make a note of the different microclimates that you experience as you make your way up the canyon. The climb here is certainly challenging, but you will be rewarded with some of the best views of the entire hike! Maizal campsite boasts views over three valleys, surrounded by majestic, snow-capped mountains. Enjoy these amazing views as you eat dinner and rest up for tomorrow!   Hiking Distance: 15 Km/7-8 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Moderate - Challenging Maximum Altitude: 3500m/ 11,482ft Campsite Altitude: 3000m/ 9842ft
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Day 4: Maizal - San Juan - Yanama

Eat a good breakfast this morning, because you’ll be beginning the day with an ascent to San Juan Pass (4200m). Your efforts will prove to be worth it, as this is one of the most beautiful treks of the hike. You’ll ascend along an original Inca trail, passing through an atmospheric cloud forest before arriving into the Andean highlands. Here, you can take a break at one of the ancient Minas Victorias, and learn about the minerals that were once produced in the area. You’ll have lunch at the top of the pass, enjoying spectacular views over the Vilcabamba mountain range, the last refuge of the Incas, and the surrounding glaciers. During the afternoon, you’ll descend to your campsite at Yanama (3500m), a small village located at the bottom of a valley. You’ll have some free time to explore this isolated highland village, where the locals are famous for growing potatoes using traditional methods dating back to the time of the Incas. Hiking Distance: 11 Km/7-8 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Moderate Maximum Altitude: 4200m/ 13,779ft Campsite Altitude: 3500m/ 11,482ft
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Day 5: Yanama - Paso Yanama - Totora Valley

Today you will climb to the highest point of the entire hike: Yanama pass (4600m)! During your hike, you can admire the majestic Sacsarayoc mountain, and the unique flora and fauna that inhabit this lofty environment. Keep your eyes peeled for Andean condors! From the top of Yanama pass, you will have a great view of snowy Salkantay mountain, the highest peak in the Vilcabamba range and one of the Incas’ most important apus (mountain gods). After lunch, you will descend down to the isolated valley community of Totora, where you will spend the night (3250m). Enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains, and look for ancient Inca tombs, hidden away in the valley wall. Hiking Distance: 15 Km/8-9 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Moderate - Challenging Maximum Altitude: 4680m/ 15,354ft Campsite Altitude: 3250m/ 10,662ft
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Day 6: Totora Valley - Wiñaypocco

DAY 6 TOTORA VALLEY / WIÑAYPOCCO Enjoy an easygoing day today, as you descend towards the village of Winaypocco (2650m). Observe the changes to the vegetation that surrounds you as you descend through several different microclimates and the weather gets warmer. Keep a lookout for bromeliads and orchids, as well as many different species of birds and butterflies! The valley also boasts a number of beautiful waterfalls, some of which are open for swimming! Enter the cloud forest and walk through orchards of cultivated fruit trees, the main source of income for the inhabitants of this remote valley. Look for avocados, coffee and Peruvian granadilla passionfruits! You will finish your day’s hike early in the afternoon at Winaypocco, where you will have lunch, dinner and plenty of time to relax! Hiking Distance: 10 Km/4-5 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Easy Maximum Altitude: 3250m/ 10,662ft Campsite Altitude: 2650m/ 8694ft
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Day 7: Wiñaypocco - Llactapata - Hidroelectric - Aguas Calientes

This morning is fairly easy going: you will begin by descending towards the village of La Playa, and then down into the Lucmabamba Valley. Because of its tropical climate, the valley is very famous for its agriculture, especially the coffee plantations, although you can also stroll through orchards of bananas, passion fruit, and cocoa. After lunch, you will start ascending in the direction of the classic Inca trail. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts at the top of the mountain with the sight of the Inca ruin of Llactapata, perfect to whet your appetite for Machu Picchu tomorrow! Discovered by Hiram Bingham shortly after Machu Picchu, Llactapata was thought to be a shrine for pilgrims on their way to Machu Picchu. From Llactapata, you can also catch glimpses of Machu Picchu itself, the mountain of Huayna Picchu and the Urubamba river sparkling far below. You will finish up your hike by descending into the valley to the town of Hydroelectric. From here, you will take a train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town of Machu Picchu, and settle into your hotel. At Aguas Calientes, you have the option of relaxing your sore muscles in the hot springs!   Hiking Distance: 19 Km/9-10 hours. Hiking Difficulty: Moderate Maximum Altitude: 2740m/ 8989ft
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Day 8: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes - Cusco

You’ll begin the day with an early breakfast, so that you can catch the first bus to Machu Picchu and beat the crowds to enjoy the mysterious, ruined city at its best. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing this wonder of the world for the first time, especially when you’ve walked for so many days to get there!

Wander through the magnificently-preserved ruins, and discover the city with your expert guide, before spending some time exploring the city at your own pace. Contemplate the magnificent, ruined buildings, wonder at the many unsolved mysteries of the majestic site and admire the breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley, almost as impressive as the citadel itself!

After your tour, you will hike up Huayna Picchu with your guide. You can explore ruins of Inca shrines on the way up the mountain, away from the crowds that often fill the rest of the site. From the tranquillity at the summit of Huayna Picchu, you can take in awe-inspiring views of Machu Picchu, and of the surrounding mountains.

In the afternoon, you’ll take the bus back to Aguas Calientes. After some free time in town to grab lunch and some last-minute souvenirs, you will take the train back to Cusco, where you private transfer will be waiting to take you back to your hotel. You’re sure to be exhausted, but also absolutely ecstatic at your achievement of having walked the most challenging path to Machu Picchu!

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