The journey to visit this lesser known, remote Inca outpost is difficult and dusty, and totally worth it. Choquequirao means ‘Cradle of Gold’ because of the precious metals found in the area.
Its structure is very similar to Machu Picchu, though very obviously also influenced by someone else as well. This trek is not for the faint of heart-as of now the only way to reach the citadel is a 4 hour drive from Cusco, then a two day hike- the first day downhill all day, then the second day uphill all day. Why would you do this? Because it’s awesome, and here’s why:
To start with, the history and mystery of Choquequirao are magnetic. It was constructed around the same time as Machu Picchu in the 14th century. As mentioned, its architecture is similar to Machu Picchu, but it also has many important features that appear to be of a Chachapoyas design, the people the Incas found in the area when they conquered. This would imply that Chachapoyas worked with the Incas to construct the city.
The most famous features are probably the llama terraces- considering how difficult it would have been to build these terraces in the first place, the fact that they took the time to find and place white stones in these walls shows how important these animals were to the Inca culture. At the very bottom you’ll find a figure, most likely a shepherd- or really ‘llamaherd’- leading the llamas all up the mountain.
Another reason to go now is that Choquequirao is still relatively unknown and isolated, though interest is growing every day. At this time, a busy day in the site will see maybe 50-60 people total, and that number is growing. Don’t worry though, you will have no problem getting pictures of the different features without people. Because of the difficulty getting there, only the most adventurous make the trip. This won’t always be the case, as the Peruvian government has given high priority to the building of a cable car which would carry people across the canyon much more quickly and easily than a two day hike. They project that when this happens, Choquequirao will see as many people as Machu Picchu, thousands every day instead of 50. Trust me, you want to see it before this happens. Also, at this time only about 30-40% of the site is exposed and restored… there’s still much to find hidden in the jungle. More adventure!
The Choquequirao trail itself is fantastic if you like to challenge yourself. It is about 95% either downhill or uphill, with campsites at oases that spot the trail. So you will need to be prepared for a hard hike, but the campsites are owned by local families, who maintain clean bathrooms, cool showers (after a hot, dusty climb, a cool shower is perfect), and little stores where you can buy toilet paper, soap, snacks, or even a well-earned beer (I’d recommend no more than one… you do have a hard hike ahead of you the next day). These comfortable campsites plus the food our cooks prepare for you will have you refreshed and ready to continue your journey. And the great thing about this trek, if and when you need to stop for a bit to get your breath back and take a sip of water, you get to take in a view like this:
Have you hiked this trek, a similar trek, or have any questions about what to expect? Please let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below! I’m happy to answer!