The chance to trek Choquequirao is not even on the radar of most people who are visiting Cusco. Instead they focus on the Inca Trail. For sure it’s the most famous hiking experience in Peru. I won’t say it’s not worth it because that many people making the trek each year can’t be wrong, but a trek to Choquequirao is a great alternative at a fraction of the cost.
The name Choquequirao, actually means Cradle of Gold, which is a perfect starting point for a fancy advertising campaign by the Peruvian Tourism Bureau. Choquequirao is similar in many ways to Machu Picchu and easily as large. Unlike Machu Picchu however, the only way to get to this amazing ruins is by using you feet. This is a blessing in disguise because you don’t get the flocks of tourists that you get at Machu Picchu when you trek Choquequirao, in fact when I visited there were only two other tourists.
Anyone who wants to trek Choquequirao needs to starts at the small village of Cachora, located a two and a half hour bus ride out of Cusco (where there is one of the best restaurants in Peru). If you want to save some money and arrange everything by yourself then you should hire a tent and buy provisions in Cusco before you leave town. Once you’ve arrived in Cachora you have the choice of either hiring a guide or making your way their by yourself. We decided to hire a guide and a companionable donkey to carry all of our stuff, which was a great idea as it saved me from carrying my 20 kg backpack.
The trek to Choquequirao should take you two days to do, one day there and one day back. As long as you are in reasonably good shape then the trek is pretty easy. Some parts are a bit slippery, but the path is clear and easy to follow so you don’t need to worry about getting lost. The only really difficult part comes before the final ascent, which is a bi#%h. Choquequirao is located at the top of a big hill. The ascent is in two stages. The first stage is a switch back path, which rises up into the clouds before petering out into a plateau. Once you’ve reached the plateau then it’s another hours walk to the ruins. My advice is to try and summit this plateau on the first day and camp at the top when you trek Choquequirao. This way you’ll be fit and ready to explore Choquequirao in the morning. When I went, we camped at the bottom of the hill and by the time we reached the top everyone was tired. Apart from me, noone was in the mood to trek Choquequirao, which was a wasted opportunity on their part.