Choquequirao trek without a guide, independently. Complete guide

How to hike Choquequirao trek without a guide, ultimate independent hiking guide. In this article we give complete itinerary, route, public transport options, campsites and prices. All you need to know to hike Choquequirao on your own on a small budget.

Choquequirao ruins

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!

Choquequirao ruins in the mist look very mystical. Choquequirao trek without a guide
Choquequirao ruins in the mist look very mystical. Choquequirao trek without a guide

Choquequirao trek budget

6 day, per person

  • Transport – 40soles/11$
  • Food – 40soles/11$
  • Trekking gear – 300soles/89$
  • Entrance fee – 37soles/7$

Total: 417soles/$118

Choquequirao ruins, view from the visitors center. Choquequirao trek without a guide.
Lower Choquequirao ruins, view from the visitors center. Choquequirao trek without a guide.

Gear prices in Cusco

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).

Beautiful scenery on Choquequirao trek.
Beautiful scenery on Choquequirao trek.

How to get to Cachora from Cusco by public transport?

Cachora is a small village in Cusco region and the starting point of the hike. Here are two options of getting there by public transport:

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.

Alya enjoying her morning coffee with a view. Camping at
Alya enjoying her morning coffee with a view. Camping at Choquequirao ruins

Choquequirao trek without a guide, complete 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.

Walking above the clouds, Choquequirao trek
Walking above the clouds, Choquequirao trek

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!

Camping at Choquequirao Lower ruins.
Camping at Choquequirao Lower ruins.

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.
Terrasa 22 llamas from the view poin, Upper ruins. Choquequirao trek without a guide.
Terraces 24 llamas from the view poin, Upper ruins. Choquequirao trek without a guide.
View over the canyon from the Upper ruins, Choquequirao.
View over the canyon from the Upper ruins, Choquequirao.

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.

Watching sunrise at Upper Choquequirao ruins.
Watching sunrise at Upper Choquequirao ruins.
Terraces at Lower Choquequirao ruins.
Terraces at Lower Choquequirao ruins.

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 Choquequirao trek without a guide, 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.

Campbell at the terraces of Lower Choquequirao ruins.
Campbell at the terraces of Lower Choquequirao ruins.

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  • Hello Alya and Cambell

    thanks so much for the information you have provided. It is good to know independent travel is still possible. I would like to do the Choquequirao to Machu Pichu trek in early July with my two daughters ages 17 and 18. I have a lot of experience with hiking in the States but have never done a longer trek than 5 days in the backcountry. (Rockies and Olympics) I am wondering about the feasibility of doing the 8-9 day trip without mules or muletiers? Is this possible or is it too much to carry? Can one get water (will purify of course) along the way and what about food so we don’t have to carry ALL the food.
    I know you did not describe this exact trek but I have gotten A Stewart’s book and it seems like it could be the trip of a lifetime. Any thoughts are appreciated.

    cheers, stephan

    • Hello, Stephan! Thank you for reading our blog! Sorry we took long to reply we’re currently walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain don’t have much time. Regarding your question we hiked only to Choquequirao and back there were places every day to buy ready-made food or pasta, cans, noodles etc. Unfortunately we don’t know about food situation from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu. A an option you can pack food for the second part of the hike after Choquequirao and eat in local places or buy food on the way to the ruins. I’m sure if there are villages on the way to Machu Pichu you’ll be able to get food. We refilled water from springs and taps purifying pills are must. We didn’t walk the whole way because we’d done Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu just before and didn’t feel like going there again. The main challenges on the hike are steep ups and downs just take your time, don’t rush, drink enough water and you’ll be fine.
      Good luck!

  • Hi folks,
    Many thanks for sharing. Your info is very useful. Could you please share – if you remember – where you went shopping in Cusco for both, gear and food? Especially gear. 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Hi, Rover!
      Thank you for the comment! We bought our gear in different small shops in the center, along Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Francisco. We spent a day walking around and checking for the best prices. There are several supermarkets in Cusco where you can buy food, prices are about the same. There are small shops in Cachora as well you can buy food here.
      Good luck!

  • Hello! Quick question: how big is your backpack? We are thinking of doing this hike in two months and we have 55 Liter backpacks, but we don’t know if they are ‘too big’ to carry-on on our flight from Lima to Cusco.


    • Hello, Ingrid! Thank you for the question! My actual big backpack is 50l but for this hike I used a small 35l backpack and it was enough. My husband walked with my 5ol we could fit everything only our tent was attached from the outside. Check with the airlines their carry-on luggage limits if they have any size limits or not. I often see people with 50-55l backpacks as a hand luggage. We always moved by buses in Peru and have no fliyng experience.

  • Thank you so much for all the info. I have been hearing mixed messages about the level of hike thit is. Some say training is required or a mule and quide is a must. We are planning a 16 day trip to Peru and are trying to figure out if we have time for this. Budget is always a concern so we like to stick to busses. Hiring a quide seems out of budget as well. Any thoughts or suggestions? Can we do this and still see some ‘musts’ on our list if traveling by bus?

    • Hello, Marissa! Thank you! Choquequirao is not a high altitude hike that makes it easier than some other hikes around Cusco. The trail is very easy to follow there is nowhere to get lost it’s just one path all the way so a guide is not necessary at all. What about a porter our advice don’t take too much luggage and you’ll be ok. There is one quite step and long up but you do it in two days (stay overnight at Santa Rosa camp). The main advice don’t rush, drink enough water and rest if feel tired. Many people say it’s very difficult but is absolutely doable without any guide or mule. To hike to the ruins and back you can in 4 days.
      About enough time it depends what else you are planning to see in Peru. If MP and Titicaca lake you can fit Choquequirao in your trip. If your list has more “musts” than I’m not sure. It was my second trip to Peru on my first trip I went to MP, Titicaca lake, Colca canyon, Nasca and Lima. It’s never enough time to see everything in Peru so it’s up to you what to skip and what to visit. If you have more questions we’ll be happy to answer!
      Good luck!

    • Hello, Heather! Thank you! We’re happy our post was helpful! Hope you enjoyed Choquequirao, it’s an amazing place!
      Good luck with future travels! Cheers!

  • What month did you do this hike in? While you hiked around the ruins did you have to worry about the security of your gear in your tent/campsite? Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hello, Montyd! Thank you for your comment!
      We hiked Choquequirao in November it’s supposed to be rainy season but we didn’t have any rain. We had no security issues while camping at the ruins, there were few tourists and two or three rangers. We didn’t leave our campera/phone/money in the tent only our gear and it was ok. We always use a small luggage lock to lock our tent just in case.
      Good luck and enjoy the hike!

    • Hi, Karen! We asked for it in one of the gear shops where we bought some stuff for the hike. You can ask around in tour agencies pretending you want to do a tour with them. We actually wanted to buy a better map but in a book shop at the tourist info office they didn’t have any. The navigation of the hike is very easy the trail is well marked it’s difficult to get lost.
      Good luck!

  • Hello there! Very good article and a lot of information. Thanks for sharing! I have a question about gear. I am in Lima now and looking for gear here before I make my way to Cusco. Do you have an idea about which is better to buy gear. Lima or Cusco? In terms of quality and price. Thanks…

    • Hello, Aysenur! Thank you! We bought everything in Cusco there are more options there than in Lima. You can choose between expensive gear shops, local fake gear shops and second hand stuff. Many shops/agencies rent camping gear as well. It’s very easy to shop around in Cusco since everything is located in the city center. Lima is quite a big place to shop around can be more complicated. So we’d say Cusco. Good luck and enjoy hiking!

        • Hello, Rita!
          You can find second hand gear by checking different small shops/agencies, many of them rent second hand stuff and don’t mind selling it as well.

  • Hi. Great article. Quick question : do you think it is necessary to get a mule in Cachora? Also, do you think it would be too much to do the trek in 4 days? thanks

    • Helli, Ingrid! Thank you for the comment! We did it in 5 days and had one extra day at the ruins but most people do it in 4 days it’s enough. Just remember to start the second day (the day you arrive at the ruins) early that you have more time up there. Regarding the mule if you more or less fit you don’t need it just try to make your backpacke as light as possible. There is a long steep up on the way but you climb it in 2 days just don’t rush and take enough water with you for the up.
      Good luck!

      • Thanks for the information.

        I have been trying to find information on the schedule for the buses leaving terminal terrestre to Abancay but I can’t really find any. Do you remember if the buses are leaving constantly from the terminal? On the way back from cachora to Cusco, do the buses constantly pass by the bus stop? Or do you think I would need to make special arrangements and buy a ticket ahead of time?

        Thank you

        • Abancay is a local bus terminal so there is no real schedule we arrived there in the morning waited for some time and once it was more or less full we left. Buses from Cusco don’t go to/from Cachora you can either walk or take a shared taxi. We walked down on the way to Cachora and took a taxi on the way back. The taxis drop you at the main road many buses drive past there on the way to Cusco. We didn’t wait even 5 min when a bus arrived. You just wave them and they’ll stop for you. If you have more questions don’t hesitate asking.

  • Hey. Awesome thread! Two of us are looking to do this trek in the coming weeks. We won’t be doing this on our own as we can’t take all the gear onwards with us…. been quoted around $450, in anyone’s experience is this reasonable? I saw a $250 give or take, above!

    • Hello, Adam! Thank you for your comment! In our opinion the price is too high for a 4-5 day trek to Choquequirao. We did one hike around Cusco with an agency Salkantay to Machu Picchu and paid for 5-day trek 190$ it included everything; transport, food, guide, porters, one night in a hotel with dinner, gear rental, tickets to Machu Picchu etc. So I think you definitely can find Choquequirao for the same price. Don’t book anything online you’ll pay more, better shop around Cusco once you’re there. There are many tour agencies and companies and it is low season now I don’t think it’ll be fully booked. The only one problem is the weather it rains a lot in Jan-Feb.
      Good luck!

    • Hi, Barry! Thanks for your question! If you already have all the gear I’d rather take it with. You can buy cheap stuff in Cusco but you’ll need a day or two to shop around for the best price.
      Good luck!

  • Hi guys, great little read and plenty of info. We are looking at doing something similar very soon. Can I ask where you bought all your gear? Did you shop around the main stores or did one shop provide you with most and do you a deal? CHeers.

    • Hi Steve, thanks for reading. We shopped around and bought almost everything at different shops and yes we definitely bargained! Cusco is in our experience the best place to buy trekking gear. The same tent we bought for $38 we saw in El Chalten, Argentina for $300! Goodluck

  • Hey you guys! What an awsome posting, thank you! This definitely seems to be worth a hike. A “stupid” question…did you bring your luggage (all of it) with you, or did you leave it behind in Cusco? Just discovered your blog and will be readinf more 🙂 Thanks a bunch!

    • Hi, Mili! Thanks for your question! We left most of our luggage in our hostel, in Cusco. Extra luggage is not a problem, any hostel/hotel in Cusco will keep it save for you while you’re hiking and it’s free of charge.

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