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Choquequirao – Trekking Peru’s Best Kept Secret

My name is Ninoska. I am Maximo Nivel’s photographer a native to Cusco, Peru. I typically travel between Peru, Guatemala, and Costa Rica capturing memories of our international students, projects and destinations. I also spend time volunteering at our projects, and have benefitted from realizing how grateful I truly have been for all the opportunities I’ve been granted. But my favorite part is the adventure. Meeting others who share my passion for exploration and a bit of excitement has always made my trips most memorable.

I learned about the hike to Choquequirao from some friends who’d accomplished this hike in the past, and after learning about their experience I knew immediately it was an adventure I wanted to be a part of. Not many people visit this site because it’s about a 4 day hike, but that’s when I knew I needed to do it. Everyone was a bit skeptical because we’d be hiking solo, and camping outdoors without really knowing anything about our campsites firsthand. But being a part of the Couchsurfing community really helped me to connect with like minded individuals who were totally down for the adventure.

Chocquequirao-Day-1-Ninoska

Two girls responded to my post about the hike, and after meeting one day to discuss details, we met the following day and started on our journey. We left my city of Cusco on a Tuesday about 6:30 am and arrived at Curahuasi around 9:30 am. From Curahuasi we crowded into a “colectivo” to Cachora, but knowing we needed to go further we begged the driver to take us just 30 minutes out to Capuliyo. With our charming smiles, and the persuasion of 5 extra soles, we got our driver to agree. We ended up paying 20 soles each the whole way.

At Capuliyo we realized residential neighborhoods and houses. There were restaurants and small shops with water and food. There were also families that rented horses for 40 soles. The hike was one of the most intense, and I once considered hiring a horse, until I learned that I’d have to pay an extra 50 soles for a guide. 90 soles per day? I’d rather pass out for a bit.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Even after a 4 hour hike from Capuliyo down to Rosa Playa Linda that took lots of focus and effort not to just tumble down. Please note that there are only about 2 stops during this hike to buy snacks and water, and it will be more expensive than in the villages. Sweaty and accomplished we made it to Playa Rosa Linda around 4:30PM. But it wasn’t over just yet. There was another 2 hour hike across the river and then uphill to Santa Rosa Chico before we were able to camp out for the night.

At Santa Rosa Chico, camping is free as long as you buy food. But should you come with your own food, camping is 5 soles per person. Thankfully, my new Couchsurfer friends came prepared with bread and powdered eggs that were perfect for breakfast, so we were grateful to pay the 5 soles.

Chocquequirao-Day-3-Terraces

After the day prior, it was the best sleep I’ve gotten in my life, and by 5:00 am, we were up cooking breakfast and preparing for Day 2 of our hike to Choquequirao. By 6:30 am, we were back on the hike. It’s important to start back before sunrise.

From Santa Rosa Chico to Marampata, I experienced the worst part of our trek–a steep incline 5 hours long. I literally thought I would die, until I thought again about the expense of those horses and somehow found the strength and energy to carry on. Finally arriving in Marampata, we were happy to rest, even if it was only a bit over an hour. We devoured our lunch and proceeded the last bit of our journey to Choquequirao.

Chocquequirao-Day-3-Views

From Marampata, an easy 1.5 hour hike gets you to your final destination where you finally realize the sanity behind your choice to start on this trek. After paying your 60 soles entrance fee (this fee is applied to everyone, but nationals are free on Sundays), you step back into the reign of the Incas and are overpowered by the sacredness of this site.

Chocquequirao-Day-3-Visiting-the-ruins2

Known as Machu Picchu’s little sister–similar in structure, architecture, and size–Choquequirao is assumed to have been an entrance point to Vilcabamba and served as an administrative hub for political, social, and economic functions. Ritual temples are dedicated to ancestors, earth, water, and the sun. In addition, you can find ruins of mansions for chief administrators and more modest dwellings for other residents. It wouldn’t be Incan if there were no farming terraces, and Choquequirao seemed to link The Amazon Jungle and the city of Cusco.

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The whole time, we only saw about 8 other tourists at this site making it even more personal and sacred than any other Inca site I’ve visited. We were free to roam without interruption from other tourists groups or guides hustling their services. The only downside to this was that because we didn’t have a guide, we were left to interpret the ruins ourselves utilizing the little bit we researched beforehand.

Chocquequirao-Day-3-Llamas

We camped that night in Choquequirao about 30 minutes from the ruins. Since there weren’t many tourists, we were allowed back to explore more of the site the next day at no extra charge. This time though, we explored “El Sector de Las Llamas”, one of the more popular sites in this area. After a number of hours, we headed back to the campsite one last time to have lunch and bid farewell to our hosts.

Chocquequirao-Day-3-Views-from-above

We decided to take an alternative route to Cusco as it would be less strenuous than our original route. We left Choquequirao around 1:00 pm, and arrived at Playa San Ignacio at 4:30PM. Another 2 hours to Hacienda San Ignacio and we were greeted with sights of a beautiful waterfall. In Hacienda San Ignacio you have the option to pay 10 soles for a bed, or 5 soles to camp. At 7:00 am the next morning we were back on the road to Villa Los Loros consisting mostly of flatlands, making for the easiest part of the trek. From here, we hitchhiked a ride about 35 minutes back to Huanipaca where we had lunch and prepared for the final leg of our journey.

From Huanipaca we paid 17 soles each for a ride to Curahausi (about 1.5 hours), and another 15 soles got us from Curahuasi to Cusco.

For some hikers, Choquequirao is only the midpoint. An extra 5 days of hiking brings you to Machu Picchu making for an epic adventure and accomplishment.

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What to Bring

Preparing for the hike is essential. Here are some tips on what to pack:
Tent, sleeping bag, mattress
Purifying pills for clean drinking water
Money for food, snacks, and water along the way
Powdered eggs were an extra
Towelltes–showering is scarce
Sunscreen
Bug repellent
A hat
A walking stick

Difficulty: 10

Must Do

Make sure to get your passport stamped with an official Choquequirao entry stamp! Also, my advice is to do this hike before Peru installs cable lifts that make it easier for loads of tourists to visit. The government plans to implement these changes in 2020.

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