Choquequirao trek without a guide, independently
Choquequirao trek is highly recommended for those who like exploring new unspoilt archeological sites, enjoy hiking and love mountains.
It was my second time in Peru, after 3 years, I was quite confident that I saw everything around Cusco, at least all Inca ruins, I was wrong. About Choquequirao ruins we found out by chance from a Peruvian backpacker in our hostel. He told us about possibility to do the hike independently, without guides, porters, mules which means cheap.
Choquequirao trek budget (6 days per person)
- Transport – 40soles/11$
- Food – 40soles/11$
- Trekking gear – 300soles/89$
- Entrance fee – 37soles/7$
What is Choquequirao?
Around Cusco there are dozens Inca ruins, everyone knows about Machu Picchu, thousands of people (to be more precise 3000) visit MP every day, but not many know about “little sister” of MP ruins Choquequirao. Probably the main reason of it being unknown is its location and uneasiness to get there. First of all there is no road to the ruins, the closest point you can get by car is about 1,5-2 walking days away.
The ruins itself are well maintained, by now was excavated about 40% of it. Choquequirao is quite big, you need at least one full day to explore it. Structure is similar to MP, buildings with steep roofs, terraces, massive walls. Choquequirao was built about 200years before the Spanish conquest, reasons it was abandoned are unknown. Its location is not as impressive as MP’s, but the views to the valley and canyon from the ruins are stunning, specially at the sunset. What we really liked about Choquequirao is its quietness, in all day we saw 6 people, you have ruins all to yourself. Unfortunately Peruvian government is planning to build a cable car all the way to the ruins, it’ll bring a lot of money for the region which is good, but at the same time will destroy unique atmosphere. Go there now before it’s too late!
Back to our days, we had nothing for the hike, we’d done couple of hikes before during this trip but always with rental gear. This time we decided to buy everything, in Cusco you can find anything you need for camping, trekking and outdoors, both real and fake stuff.
Next two days we spent shopping and we bought (prices in soles/$):
1. Tent for two persons (National Geographic) – 130soles/38$
2. Sleeping bag (down, for cold weather) – 160S/47$
3. Sleeping pads – 35S/10$ per mat
4. Fleece inner for sleeping bags – 35S/10$ per inner
5. Gas stove (small and light) – 40S/12$
6. Gas (230g) – 25/7$
7. 2 pots – 60S/17$
8. Purification tablets for water (4×2,5l) – 8S/2$
9. Thermal pants – 20S/6$
10. Socks (4pairs) – 1,5S/0,4$ per pair
11. Food for 6 days: noodles, oats, cans of tuna/beans/corn, cooked rice, boiled eggs, snacks, cookies, chocolate, some fruit/vegetables, tea, coffee – 75S/22$.
In total for shopping for both of us we spent 685S/200$ (100$ per person) and afterwards we had a tent, stove, cooking gear, sleeping bag and fleece inners for doing more independent trekking! Transport both ways per person 40S/11$, plus entrance fee 37S/10$. Cheapest tour will cost you about 220$ for 4 days (obviously you can not keep any gear afterwards).
How to get to Cachora (the starting point of Choquequirao trek) from Cusco, two options:
1. From Terminal terrestre take a bus towards Abancay (15S/4$), ask to stop at the turn to Cachora (desvio a Cachora), from there either walk quite a steep down to Cachora (1,5-2hours) or take a shared taxi, be careful with taxi drivers, they tend to charge tourists more, taxi up/down to Cachora costs 5soles.
2. Take a minibus from small terminal in Arcopata street (up from mercado San Pedro) to Ramala (15S/), from there take a shared taxi (10S/ ) to desvio a Cachora, then either walk down or taxi. First option is faster and cheaper.
We got to Cachora late afternoon and decided to stay there overnight in one of the camping. There are several accommodation in the town, hostels, campings etc. For our camping we paid 5S per person, camping is in the yard, has cold shower and toilet.
Choquequirao trekking itinerary
Day 1. Cachora – Capuliyoc – Camping Santa Rosa, about 6,5-7 hours
Next morning we started about 8am, left Cachora, after about 2 hours walking slight uphill and we reached Capuliyoc, place where the car road finishes. Then 10min. more to the pass here you start a long descend to the river, it took us about 2,5hours to reach the bottom.
There is a campsite Playa Rosalina here, it’s free, with some basic facilities, running water, places to make fire. You can stay here and next morning start an ascend all the way to the ruins. We decided to keep walking, till we reached camping Santa Rosa, it took us 2 more hours, the climb is quite steep, take enough water, can get very hot. I’d recommend to stay in Santa Rosa, it’ll make your 2nd day easier and you’ll have more time at the ruins.
There are two campings Santa Rosa Baja (the first on the way up) doesn’t have shower, toilet is just a hole behind the curtain and Santa Rosa about 5min. further, with shower and proper toilet, both 5soles per tent. In all campings on the route (except one at the ruins) you can get a hot meal and buy snacks, eggs (they can boil them for you), pasta, tuna, some fruit and vegetables, of course everything is more expensive than in Cusco or Cachora.
Day 2. Camping Santa Rosa – Marampata – Choquoequirao ruins, about 4,5-5 hours
Second day we started at 8am, after 3hours’ climb we reached Marampata village. Here you have two options; camp in the village or go all the way to the ruins and camp there.
Camping at the ruins is free, it has toilets, showers with ice-cold water and basins, only one backdrop you can’t buy food there. We decided to camp at the ruins, since we had our new stove, pots and food. From Marampata to the ruins it takes about 1,5hours, after the village there will be a check point where you register and pay the fee 35soles (students have a discount).
About lunchtime we reached the camping, got a bit wet on the way and had to wait before could pitch our tent. Except for us there was only one guy at the camp. After lunch we went to the bottom ruins (ruinas bajas) or terraces and had it all for ourselves!
Day 3. Choquequirao ruins
It was the only one rainy and overcast day out of 6 and we spent it in the upper ruins, walking in the mist, discovering new and new houses, walls, terraces. In 4 hours we saw 6 people!
Things not to miss at the ruins:
- terraces 24 llamas, look for the sign in the main square at the ruins, terraces locate lower, long way down;
- view-point of the terraces and the valley, from the bottom terrace, there is a sign Mirador.
Day 4. Choquequirao – Marampata – Camping Santa Rosa – Capuliyoc, 8-9 hours
Early wake up at 5am for the sunrise at the ruins. That day we were lucky with the weather; no clouds, perfect day, so we had a chance to take some nice photos.
After that we started walking back, hoping to get all the way to Cachora. We started a non stop down to the river, where we had lunch break and some rest. After that a steep up all the way to the top. By the time we reached Capuliyoc the weather turned bad with rain and very strong wind so we decided to stay there. To camp behind the house was free but probably because we bought our dinner and breakfast there. Which wasn’t expensive at all, good and quite big. The owners are very nice and friendly people.
Day 5. Capuliyoc – Cachora – bus to Cusco, 2 hours walk, 3 hours drive
Next morning after big and cheap breakfast in we walked for 2 hours back to Cachora, took a taxi uphill for 5soles, then bus to Cusco in 3hours we got back.
We were very glad we did it on our own, without a tour, it was definitely worth of the efforts. The trek itself is not difficult, except steep ups on the way to and back the rest is easy, just take your time, have breaks, don’t make your backpack too heavy. Trek doesn’t require special training, altitude is not a big problem (the highest point is 3050m), after couple of days in Cusco you’ll be ok. In Cachora you can arrange a mule to carry your stuff.
If you want to know food prices in supermarkets of Cusco, our recommendations of hostels, cafes etc. check here.
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