Choquequirao ruins, Peru
HIKING hiking Peru South America

Choquequirao trek detailed guide + route to Machu Picchu

Choquequirao trek is a 58km return hike to Choquequirao Ruins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas near Cusco, Peru. It can be done as a separate trek or combined with hiking to Machu Picchu and can be completed independently which is cheaper but more challenging or with a tour company – more expensive but easier. The return hike to Choquequirao ruins and back will take between 4 and 5 days, a hike to Machu Picchu will require 8 to 9 days.

Choquequirao ruins

Around Cusco there are dozens of Inca ruins, everyone knows about Machu Picchu, thousands of people (to be more precise 3000) visit MP every day, but not many know about the “little sister” of MP ruins Choquequirao. Probably the main reason for it being unknown is its location and difficulty 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, only about 40% has been excavated. Choquequirao complex is quite big, you need at least one full day to explore it. The structure is similar to MP, buildings with steep roofs, terraces and massive walls. Choquequirao was built about 200 years before the Spanish conquest, reasons it was abandoned are unknown. Its location is not as impressive as Machu Picchu, but the views of the valley and canyon from the ruins are stunning, especially at the sunset.

What we really liked about Choquequirao is its quietness, all day we saw 6 people, you have the ruins all to yourself. Unfortunately, the 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 it will destroy the unique atmosphere. Go there now before it’s too late! Want to know more about all our favorite hikes in Peru?

Choquequirao ruins in the mist.
Choquequirao ruins in the mist

Best time for Choquequirao and Machu Picchu

Summer months; December to March – a lot of rain, the worst time for hiking in the mountains, not many tourists due to bad weather, low season. The Sacred Valley and Cusco are located high in the mountains as a result day temperatures have little season difference, nights are warmer in summer.

Winter months; June to August – almost no rain, cold nights, days are warm, many tourists due to summer holidays in the northern hemisphere and dry season. Expect prices to be higher, sights are crowded and hotels are full.

In our experience the shoulder season; April, May, and September, October is, in general, the best – fewer people, lower prices, not much rain, nights are warmer. We’ve been to Cusco twice and both times in shoulder season.

Need to know about the trek

Choquequirao trek is not a high altitude hike, the highest you go is 3000m so if you stay in Cusco for a day or two before the hike you’ll be enough acclimatized. Note! It’s different for the Machu Picchu route, for more details check the Machu Picchu part below.

The trail is well marked, there are not many places to get lost.

Tap water and water from streams and rivers is not drinkable, it’s highly recommended to use water purification tablets or a LifeStraw bottle or buy bottled water on the way.

There is no lodging on the hike you need a tent.

There is one very steep and long downhill (1500m) with a subsequent uphill walk (about 1500m) both ways make sure to have enough water.

Tickets to Choquequirao ruins you buy at the entrance, no need to book them beforehand.

How we rank Choquequirao trek

Difficulty level – 4 out of 5. It’s not a high altitude or long distance hike, but there is one long steep uphill that you walk over two days. The climb is quite tough, but any relatively fit person should be able to toughen it out even with a backpack.

Scenery – 4 out of 5. There are some stunning views of the canyon and the ruins.

Touristy – 1 out of 5 off season (we were 6 people in total); 2 out of 5 in season, nothing compared to Machu Picchu.  

Information on other hikes around Cusco you can find on our Ausangate trek guide and Salkantay to Machu Picchu guide

Orchids at Choquequirao ruins
Beautiful and fragile orchids with Choquequirao ruins on the background

Travel insurance for Choquequirao trek

Like any outdoor activities trekking involves risks of getting injured, losing or breaking gear, cancellation of the trip due to unpredictable weather conditions, etc. Choquequirao is a moderate altitude trek through remote and difficult to access areas (most parts of it can be accessed only on foot or on a donkey) of Peruvian Andes it’s highly recommended to have travel insurance for the period of the hike.

Choosing an insurance company that you can rely on in case of emergency is very important, we recommend World Nomads. The company focuses on covering outdoor activities including trekking. Peru is one of their top hiking destinations it means they have experience in working with local companies. A great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance online while traveling, it takes only a couple of minutes. Their insurance policy is very flexible you can purchase one that covers the whole trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s one or two days. Get a quote right now! 

Note! Always read carefully terms and conditions.

Travel Insurance for Hiking Diving Backpacking and more

Guided tour or independent hike?

It’s a personal decision some people like being part of a group and find it more fun to hike with others, some people, like us, prefer to plan everything themselves and have more control over the situation.

Independent trek

Pros

  • The obvious one – it’s cheaper.
  • Planning is fun (maybe not for everybody).
  • Walking independently you have more contact with locals.
  • You understand better what’s going on around.

Cons

    • We enjoy planning, working out the route and making a packing list but it’s a part of our normal life, when you’re on holiday you might not feel like doing that.
    • Everything is up to you if you forget to pack or lose something there is no backup.
  • It’s not always fun to pitch a tent and cook a meal when you’re tired after a long day of walking.

Guided hike

Pros

    • It’s easy all you need to do is to find a good company, they will arrange everything for you from transport to food and accommodation.
    • It can be fun to join a group especially if you travel alone.
  • There is always some sort of a backup and nothing is your problem.

Cons

    • It’s more expensive.
  • If you’re unlucky with a group or a guide it can spoil your hike.

There is a great guided tour option with G-Adventures – all inclusive 12-day hiking tour from Cusco to Machu Picchu through Choquequirao ruins.

If you’re thinking about exploring more of Peru there are several great small group tour options to join;

To take a mule or to carry your own backpack?

It’s up to you. First of all, don’t make your backpack too heavy it’ll be easier to carry. We read many people saying how happy they were about hiring a muleteer with a mule, we didn’t hire anybody and were able to walk with our backpacks up and down. If you are not used to hiking with a heavy backpack rather hire a muleteer if you’re an experienced hiker you’ll be fine carrying your own stuff.

Choquequirao packing list

There are no hotels or lodges on the trek you have to be self-sufficient and bring all the necessary gear with. For this kind of hikes through remote areas it’s important to have good reliable gear; a tent that won’t start leaking if it rains, a sleeping bag that can keep you warm in low temperatures. Camping mattress – we have inflatable camping mats; they’re light and small, easy fit in a backpack, comfortable and have good isolation. 

You’ll find a complete packing list for Choquequirao trek in this post ↓↓↓.

A detailed Peru packing list for hiking and camping

Download our complete Choquequirao trek packing list

Choquequirao trek cost

Without a guide, only Choquequirao ruins, per person. 

Transport – bus Cusco – Abancay – 40 Sol/US$12 (one way); minibus Abancay – Cachora – 5 Sol/US$1,5 (one way) or taxi 30 Sol/US$9 per car.

Shopping (food, cooking gas) – 40 Sol/US$12 pp.

Entrance fee – 60 Sol/US$18

Trekking gear rental (optional) – it depends on what you rent and for how long, average cost between 160 Sol/US$50 and 260 Sol/US$80 pp.

Hiring a muleteer with a mule (optional) – 40 Sol/US$12 per day.

Total; 190 Sol/US$57 pp. + extras; gear rental and mule hire.

Without a guide Choquequirao ruins + Machu Picchu, per person. 

Transport – bus Cusco – Abancay – 40 Sol/US$12; minibus Abancay – Cachora – 5 Sol/US$1,5 or taxi 30 Sol/US$9 per car; bus Hidroelectrica – Cusco – 60 Sol/US$18; train Aguas Calientes – Hidroelectrica (optional, you can walk) –  60 Sol/US$19 (one way).

Shopping (food, cooking gas) – 80 Sol/US$25 pp.

Entrance fees – Choquequirao – 60 Sol/US$18; Machu Picchu ruins 152 Sol/US$45, a combined ticket to Machu Picchu ruins + Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountain – 200 Sol/US$59. Don’t forget to book your entrance tickets beforehand, especially if you travel in peak season and want to go up one of the mountains. It’s impossible to pay the entrance at the ruins, you can book tickets through the official website it takes time and involves several steps. Another option is to do instant booking through GetYourGuide (the easiest and fastest but more expensive way); Machu Picchu, MP + Machu Picchu Mountain, MP + Huayna Picchu Mountain

Accommodation in Aguas Calientes – from 26 Sol/US$8 pp. in a hostel.

Trekking gear rental (optional) – it depends on what you rent and for how long, average cost between 260 Sol/US$80 and 360 Sol/US$109 pp.

Hiring a muleteer with a mule (optional) – 40 Sol/US$12 per day.

Total; 425 Sol/US$128 (470 Sol/US$140 with Machu Picchu/Huayna Picchu Mountain) pp. + extras; gear rental, mule hire, train tickets.

With a tour company

A 4-day tour from Cusco to Choquequirao ruins and back including; transport, guide, food, water, mules, entrance fee, tents and mattresses, chef and cook will cost you from 1600 Sol/US$500. Gear rental (sleeping bag, poles, shoes, etc.) is not included.

A 7-8 day tour Cusco – ChoquequiraoMachu Picchu including; transport, food, water, mules, guide, chef, tent and mattress, entrance fees – from 2600 Sol/US$800 pp. Gear rental (sleeping bag, poles, shoes, etc.) is not included.

Although possible to do on your own you might be more comfortable to leave planning and logistics to an experienced company that knows the area. Runnatrip is a group of professional trekkers that want everyone to be able to experience the beauty of this amazing trek regardless of prior trek experience. Check them out for an organized Choquequirao trek, all you have to do is reserve your spot!

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.

Distances on Choquequirao trek

The total distance of the hike from Cachora to Choquequirao ruins and back – 60km.

  • Cusco – Cachora (bus) – 165km
  • Cachora – Capuliyoc – 10km, relatively flat
  • Capuliyoc – Playa Rosalina – 9km, steep downhill, -1500m
  • Playa Rosalina – Santa Rosa Alta – 3km, steep uphill, +400m
  • Santa Rosa – Marampata – 2,4km, steep uphill, +1100
  • Marampata – Choquequirao campsite – 3km, flat
  • Choquequirao campsite – Choquequirao Upper ruins – 1km, steep uphill

Stops on the route

Basically at every campsite, except the one at the ruins, you can buy food (pasta, tuna, instant noodles, eggs, cool drinks, beer, snacks)  or get a home-cooked meal.

Cachora

A town with shops, hotels, and restaurants though quite small.

    • Campsite – yes, 5 soles
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Colmena

A small campsite/shop on the way.

    • Campsite – yes, 5 soles/tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Capuliyoc

The last place accessible by car on the way to the ruins.

    • Campsite – yes, 5 Soles, hot shower 1 Sol
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – no
    • Toilet – no
  • Shower – no

Chiquisca

The main place where tour groups stop on the first day.

    • Campsite – yes, free
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Playa Rosalina

A nice and big campsite on the river just before the bridge. We were thinking of staying here but it’s close to the water there were hundreds of small flies ready to bite.

    • Campsite – yes, free
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes, mainly cool drinks and beer
    • Cooked meal – no.
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Santa Rosa Baja

Not a nice place with very poor facilities.  

    • Campsite – yes, 5 soles/tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes, mainly cool drinks and beer
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes, just a hole behind the curtains.
  • Shower – no

Santa Rosa Alta

Much better than the previous one.   

    • Campsite – yes, 5 soles/tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Marampata

A tiny village with a couple of houses selling food.

    • Campsite – yes, 5 soles/tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Choquequirao ruins campsite

A nice spacious and grassy spots with no food to buy.  

    • Campsite – yes, free though you pay the entrance fee
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – no
    • Cooked meal – no
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes
Camping at Choquequirao ruins.
Campsite at Choquequirao ruins, Peru

How to get to Choquequirao from Cusco?

Cachora, a small village 165km from Cusco, is the starting point of the trek.

    • From Terminal terrestre in Cusco take a bus towards Abancay (40 Sol/US$12), ask to stop at the turn to Cachora (desvio a Cachora).
  • From there either walk, a steep descend to Cachora (1,5-2 hours) or take a shared minibus. Note! Local drivers sometimes overcharge tourists, shared minibus up or down to Cachora costs 5 Sol/US$1,5.

Another option of getting to Cachora; take a minibus from a small terminal at Arcopata street, Cusco (up the street from the Mercado San Pedro) to Ramala (30 Sol/US$9). Then take a shared taxi (10 Sol/US$3) to desvio a Cachora, then either walk down or take a minibus/taxi. The first option is faster and easier.

We got to Cachora late afternoon and decided to stay there overnight in one of the campings. There are several accommodation options in the town, hostels, campsites, etc. For our camping we paid 5 Sol/US$1,5 per person, camping outside a hostel, cold shower and toilet.

Choquequirao trek itinerary

Day 1. Cachora – Santa Rosa Alta, 23km

Cachora (2900m) – Capuliyoc (2900m) – Chiquisca (1800m)  – Playa Rosalina (1550m) – Santa Rosa Alta (1950m)

It took us between 6 to 7 hours to reach campsite Santa Rosa Alta. We started at 8am, left Cachora, after about 2 hours walking we reached Capuliyoc, the last place on the route accessible by car. As for April 2019, we were informed that the entrance fee to Choquequirao ruins in paid in Capuliyoc and it’s 60 Soles/US$18, there is a discount for students so bring your student card with).

After Capuliyoc there is a long steep descend all the way down to the river, it took us about 2,5 hours to reach the bottom. At the bottom there is a campsite Playa Rosalina, it’s free, with some basic facilities; running water, places to make fire. You can stay here and the next morning start your ascend all the way to the ruins. We decided to keep walking to Santa Rosa Alta, it took us 2 more hours, the climb is quite steep, take enough water, it can get very hot. We’d recommend staying in Santa Rosa Alta, it’ll make your 2nd day easier and you’ll have more time at the ruins.

Note! There are two Santa Rosa campsites; Santa Rosa Baja and Santa Rosa Alta. The first one doesn’t have a shower, a toilet is just a hole behind the curtain. S.R. Alta is about 15 minutes further up, it has a shower and proper toilet, both 5 Sol/US$ per tent.

Highlights

  • Stunning view over the canyon and Apurimac river.

Challenges

  • Long steep descend to the Apurimac river, 1500m down.
  • Steep ascend from Playa Rosalina to Santa Rosa Alta, 400m up.

Day 2. Santa Rosa Alta – Choquequirao ruins, 6km

Santa Rosa Alta (1950m) – Maranpata (3000m) – Choquequirao ruins (2900m)

We’d suggest starting this day early in order to make it all the way up to Marampata before it gets too hot. At Marampata 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.

We reached the campsite before lunchtime, 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 Lower Ruins (Ruinas Bajas) or terraces and had it all to ourselves!

Highlights

  • Impressive view over the Lower Ruins from Marampata.
  • Choquequirao ruins
  • Dozens of hummingbirds flying around the campsite.

Challenges

  • A very steep and long ascent from Santa Rosa Alta to Marampata, 1100m up.
Terraces at Lower Choquequirao ruins.
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 point, Upper ruins. Choquequirao trek without a guide.
Terraces 24 llamas from the view point, Upper ruins. Choquequirao trek without a guide.

Day 4. Choquequirao – Marampata –  Santa Rosa – Capuliyoc, 19km

Choquequirao ruins (2900m) – Maranpata (3000m) – Santa Rosa Alta (1950m) – Playa Rosalina (1550m) – Chiquisca (1800m) – Capuliyoc (2900m)

Early wake up at 5am for the sunrise at the ruins. That day we were lucky with the weather; no clouds, a perfect sunny day, we had a chance to take some nice photos. Note! Our readers informed us that as for April 2019 the gate is opened only from 7 am till 5 pm which makes it impossible to watch the sunrise at the ruins.

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 a 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.

Highlights

  • Sunrise at Choquequirao ruins.
  • Again stunning views of the canyon, we even had a rainbow over the canyon.

Challenges

  • Steep long descend from Marampata to the river (Playa Rosalina) – 1500m down.
  • Steep and long ascend to Capuliyoc from Playa Rosalina – 1500m up.

Day 5. Capuliyoc – Cachora – bus to Cusco, 10km walk/165km drive

Capuliyoc (2900m) – Cachora (2900m) – Cusco (3400m)

The next morning after a big and cheap breakfast we walked for 2 hours back to Cachora, took a taxi uphill for 5 Sol, then bus to Cusco in 3 hours we got back.

We were very glad we did Choquequirao trek, it was definitely worth the efforts. The trek is quite challenging; steep ascends and descends both ways, it’s important to take your time, have breaks, and drink enough water.

Watching sunrise at Upper Choquequirao ruins.
Watching the sunrise at the Upper Choquequirao ruins

Accommodation in Cusco

For backpackers there are several options in Cusco some of them are super budget but being a backpacker doesn’t mean willing to stay in a nice place, does it? Ecopackers Hostel is an awesome place to stay and chill after the hike. Located in the very heart of Cusco next to Plaza de Armas, in a big old house, this hostel has everything you can expect it to have. Big spacious dorms, clean bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchen, wi-fi, good breakfast included, bar, inside patio with sun loungers etc. Great staff, nice vibe, central location – the right place for a solo traveler or a group of friends. By the way, it’s not super expensive – US$11 pp.

If you don’t feel like staying in a dorm after hiking and would like to have a place for yourself, stay close to the center and not pay too much – check out Arcopata Apartments, only three blocks away from Plaza de Armas. The apartments have a fully-equipped kitchen, bathroom, double or single bed, wi-fi, TV, washing machine (great to have after the hike). Not luxurious rather basic place but good value for money, double rooms start at US$25.

For middle price range accommodation, we’d suggest looking at Sumaq Illariy Hotel, located 1km from Plaza de Armas, in a modern part of Cusco. A new and cozy hotel has all you need for a comfortable stay; nicely decorated rooms, big comfortable beds, private bathroom, wi-fi, flat-screen TV, continental breakfast included. A great place to chill and rest after the trek.

If you want to spoil yourself after the hike and you are not on a tight budget – Antigua Casona San Blas is a great option. It’s always amazing after a week of hiking and sleeping in a tent to get into a nice hot shower and climb into a soft bed. The hotel is located in the historical center of Cusco; close to the main sights, restaurants, and shops. Rooms are spacious, nicely decorated and have all you need for a relaxed stay in the city; extra large bed, private bathroom, AC, wi-fi, flat-screen TV, heating, balcony, etc. Delicious breakfast that is served in the patio is included in the room price.

Antigua Casona San Blas, Cusco, Peru.
Antigua Casona San Blas, Cusco, Peru. Photo credit; booking .com

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu

This is going to be a long tough hike, it’s probably the toughest route to Machu Picchu.

If you decide to walk without a guide make sure you pack enough food and have all the necessary gear.

You have to be properly acclimatized, there a couple of passes over 4000m on this route.

Get a proper map or use GPS navigation.

The area is quite isolated though almost every day you walk past locals’ houses.

We’d recommend doing this part independently only if you’re an experienced hiker otherwise take a tour.

Don’t forget to buy tickets for Machu Picchu in advance you can’t do it at the ruins.

Your backpack is going to be heavy it’s not a bad idea to use a mule at the beginning of the trek, to go down and up the canyon.

We’d suggest staying for two nights at Choquequirao the day you arrive there you won’t have much time to walk around and visit both Lower and Upper Ruins.

You walk past several smallish Inca sites on the way between Choquequirao and Aguas Calientes.

The second part of the trek from Colpapampa on (day 6)  was less impressive, more touristy and developed. At Colpapampa the trail joins with Salkantay trek and follows the same way till Aguas Calientes.

 Machu Picchu ruins, Peru
Stunning Machu Picchu ruins, Peru

Complete 8-day itinerary

Day 1. Cachora – Santa Rosa Alta, 23km

Cachora (2900m) – Capuliyoc (2900m) – Chiquisca (1800m)  – Playa Rosalina (1550m) – Santa Rosa Alta (1950m)

The first three days are the same as on the Choquequirao trek. As an option on the first day, you can camp at Playa Rosalina to make this day shorter and easier. Remember the next day you’ll have to walk all the way up, 1700m in one go it’s important to start early in the morning in order to finish the climb before it gets hot.

Day 2. Santa Rosa Alta – Choquequirao ruins, 6km

Santa Rosa Alta (1950m) – Marampata (3000m) – Choquequirao ruins (2900m)

The distance is very short but due to the uphill, it’ll take you quite a while before you get to the top.

Day 3. Choquequirao ruins

It’s an optional day, we really enjoyed staying an extra day at the ruins but if you don’t have an extra day you can continue to Maizal. If you start the second day early you’ll have enough time to explore the ruins.

Sunrise at the ruins is beautiful if you’re lucky with the weather to go up to the Upper Ruins early. You have the whole day to wander around the ruins and to rest before the next stage of the trek.  

Day 4. Choquequirao ruins – Maizal, 18km

Choquequirao ruins (3000m) – Choquequirao Pass (3300m) – Rio Blanco (1900m) – Maizal (3000m)

It’s going to be quite a long day; first steep but short up in the beginning from the campsite to the pass, then a long and steep descent down to the river Rio Blanco, about 1200m down.  Once there you can stop for lunch, rest and swim (water is quite refreshing). There is no bridge you cross the river walking. From the river, you start a steep uphill climb to Maizal, back to 3000m. This part of descending and ascending is very similar to the one on the first day.

Highlights

    • Beautiful cloud forest, orchids, hamming birds.
    • Terraces Pinchinuyok
  • Rio Blanco

Challenges

    • Steep ascend from Choquequirao to the Pass – 300m
    • Steep descend from the pass the Rio Blanco – 1400m
  • Steep ascend from Rio Blanco to Maizal – 1100m

Day 5. Maizal – Yanama, 17km

Maizal (3000m) – Victoria Pass (4200m) – Yanama (3700m)

One more tough day of steep and long uphill walking, to get up to Victoria Pass takes long – high altitude makes you very tired. On the way up you’ll see Minas Victorias.

Highlights

    • Icas mines – Minas Victorias
    • Paved Inca trails
    • The scenery on the way to the Pass
  • Condors gliding over the canyon

Challenges

    • Long steep ascend from Maizal to Victoria Pass – 1200m
  • Steep descend from the Pass to Yanama – 500m

Day 6. Yanama – Colpapampa, 22km

Yanama (3700m) – Yanama Pass (4660m), the highest point of the trek – Totora (4100m) – Colpapampa (2870m)

One of the most challenging day on the trek. At Colpapampa the Choquequirao route joins the Salkantay route, expect to see more people, from now on there will be small shops to buy food and snacks as well as places to get cooked meals.

Highlights

  • Stunning views from Yanama Pass; mountains, snow peaks, green valleys.

Challenges

    • Another long and steep ascend to Yanama Pass (4660m), the highest point of the hike
  • Long and steep descend to Colpapampa, 1600m down
Yanama Pass, snow peaks
Snow peaks, Yanama Pass, walking from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu

Day 7. Colpapampa – Lucmabamba, 14km

Colpapampa (2870m) – Lucmabamba (2100m)

A nice and easy walking day with no ups and downs through beautiful lush forest and coffee plantations.

Highlights

    • Lush green forest with hummingbirds, colorful butterflies, orchids and fruit trees.
    • Coffee plantations at Lucmabamba.
  • Hot Springs – about 30min. drive from the village, you can catch a minibus, it is quite touristy but we enjoyed soaking in the hot pools after several days of walking without a hot shower.

Day 8. Lucmabamba – Aguas Calientes, 19km

Lucmabamba (2100m) – Hydroelectric station (2000m) – Aguas Calientes (2040m)

The walk from Lucmabamba to Hydroelectric is mostly on the gravel road with occasional truck driving by, there is no steep ups and downs on the way.

Highlights

  • Nice scenery; lush green jungle, mountains, rivers, many hummingbirds and butterflies.

Challenges

  • Walking along the railway from Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes (about 10km), taking a train is not a bad idea.

Day 9. Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes, 15km

The last day to toughen up before you can finally relax and rest from walking and climbing. If you want to meet the sunrise at Machu Picchu and be there before the crowds it’s important to start very early basically in the dark. You can choose to walk all the way up or to take a bus. The ascend is quite long and steep, 400m up, not as long as some of the ups on the trek but still tough. It takes about 1,5 hours to get from the town to the ruins. Don’t worry you will easily find the trail there will be many people with headlamps walking this direction.

Taking a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is another option, you can buy a ticket online (more expensive) or in the town. The ticket office is opened from 5am to 9pm, one-way ticket – US$12 (adults), return US$24. The journey to the top takes 40 minutes. Buses leave every 10 minutes; to MP from 5.30am to 3.30pm; from MP from 6.00am to 6.00pm. You can walk up and take a bus down (there is a ticket office at the ruins) or other way around.

Don’t forget to buy tickets for Machu Picchu beforehand you can’t buy them at the entrance. There are only 2500 tickets issued a day in high season it’s essential to book in advance especially if you want to go up one of the mountains Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu ruins, Peru
Machu Picchu ruins with peacefully walking alpacas.

Accommodation in Aguas Calientes

What a pleasure it was to check in a nice hotel after walking in the mountains and sleeping in a tent for a week!

Aguas Calientes is a gateway to Machu Picchu the closest to the ruins town. There are many hostels, guest houses and hotels basically the whole town is just hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, not the most authentic place but convenient and has all good infrastructure; train station, market, shops, accommodation, buses, ATMs etc. 

For a budget private stay Machu Picchu lodging is a good option; nice and clean, comfortable double or single beds, hot shower, flat-screen TV, wi-fi, towels, includes breakfast.

If you’re a family or a group of friends traveling together Waman Suites Machu Picchu is a great option for you, they have family rooms, apartments for 4 and 5 people, a new and very neat place. Spacious rooms, extra large beds, great bathroom with a great rain shower and a bathtub, toiletries and towels, flat-screen TV, satellite channels, wi-fi, delicious big breakfast included.

If you’re not on a tight budget and want to spoil yourself Hatun Inti Boutique Machupicchu is an amazing place to rest and relax after the hike. Spacious double rooms with spa bath, bid comfortable bed, fireplace, wi-fi, flat-screen TV, buffet breakfast included etc. – everything you might need for a delightful stay. Located close to the train station, rooms with mountain and river view.

Hatun Inti Boutique Hotel, Machu Picchu
Hatun Inti Boutique Hotel, Machu Picchu. Photo booking.com

Books and guidebooks

For a self-guided walk one of Machu Picchu guide books will be quite helpful, e.g. The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour by Alfredo Valencia Zigarra (paper book) or Lonely Planet Peru (paper and Kindle).

If you want to travel back in history and find out more about the discovery of Machu Picchu, you’ll enjoy reading Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham. Kindle and paper book.

Nice and fun reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams trying to answer a common question; What is Machu Picchu? Kindle and paper book.

If you’d like to read some local authors Death in the Andes by the most famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa is a great choice. The novel tells some mystic events happening in the Andes, not far from Cusco when Machu Picchu was still quite of the beaten track place to come. Kindle and paper book.

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44 Comments

  1. I just wanted to say a big thank you – this guide helped so much with my solo hike to Choquequirao!
    A few notes what may be helpful – Santa Rosa Alta was still closed , I got mixed answers when asking around beforehand – BUT there is a campsite to the left of Santa Rosa baja what looks nice and well maintained . It’s within a few minutes of Santa Rosa baja and there’s signs to both campsites so take the left . Baja was fine too.
    Playa Rosalina was closed and did not look like it had been open for a while. A few people still camped there.
    I had to go back up to Marampata on from Santa Rosa Alta on the way down (long story) so ended up camping at Chiquisca – it was my favourite campground. – free , cooking area, flushing toilets , cold shower etc.
    I went to the bus station in Cusco the day before – there’s five or so companies offering buses to Abacany . The earliest bus I could get was 6am. I shared a taxi for 30 soles to the mirador (haggle) with another hiker. Others who took the alternative route paid way more for a taxi (80 soles) . If you start from Cusco on the first day I would suggest starting at the mirador as we didn’t arrive there until around 11 . The heat was tough on the way down and it still took me about 6 hours to get to Santa Rosa baja as a result- I can be slow but had completed Salkantay before – this was probably one of the most physically challenging hikes I’ve done.
    It took me 3 hours to get back to the mirador from chiquisca – set off early (by 5) it’s beautiful hiking as the sunrise and you avoid the heat. I got to the mirador at 8, had time to get a coffee from the lovely campground owners then at 9 a collectivo dropping tourists off took a group of 8 of us back to Cusco centre for 35 soles. Usually they arrive between 8-10 .
    There’s also a campsite between the mirador and Chiquisca should you want to try and push a bit further before the final day.
    There’s many campsites in marampata (I counted over 6) and a couple did it without their own tent- either renting or staying in cabanas .
    Also – as a solo female I had two incidents where local workers asked if I wanted to have sex. One time it was fine to brush off as I was walking but the other time was at a campground and more persistent. Two other groups were at the campground so I felt safe but I would just suggest to be aware of this and when asked if ‘solo’ talk about friends ahead on the trail.

    It’s beautiful and still a very quiet hike – I saw two tour groups but only for a couple of days. I arrived at the ruins around 11 from Santa Rosa baja and had plenty of time to explore that afternoon – be warned there’s still a fair bit of walking involved and go to the llama terraces first when at the upper ruins – you get to them from the plaza principal i didn’t see the sign initially.

    I’m starting the Ausangate in two days and your guide is helping so much 🙂

    Safe travels !

  2. Hi guys,
    Love your guides, they’re brilliant and confidence inspiring.
    Couple of comments as we just finished the trek.
    The entry price is paid at Capulioc and is now 60 sols per person. There’s a cheaper student rate if you bring your card.
    The capulioc camping next to the house is an incredible spot, spent last night there. It’s now 5 sols for a tent, free toilet and showers are 1sol per person.

    A lot of people were talking about going to the ruins for sunrise, however the gate gets opened at 7am and closed at 5pm!
    Lots of biting bugs as you said down lower.

    Thanks again for the awesome blogs!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Luke! Thank you very much for the feedback and updated information on Choquequirao! We’ll update the post according to the changes on the route.
      Safe travels!

  3. Hello, great article, we’re looking to trek independently to MP on the Choque trail in May. It’s reassuring that the trail is well trodden so we won’t get lost, what is it like underfoot – paved, hard dirt, gravel, or a mixture?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Maggie! Thank you for the comment! The trail is definitely not paved there are some rocky parts but mostly it’s hard dirt, not really muddy or slippery.
      Enjoy the trek!

  4. Hello,

    My friend and I want to do this trek without a guide but only have 3 days. Is it possible to do the full trek in 3 days if starting at Capuliyoc?

    Thanks!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Nelson! It’s possible to go to Chquequirao from Capuliyoc and back in 3 days but you’ll have to walk long days in order to have more time at the ruins. You can try to walk in one day to the ruins from Capuliyoc (we did it on the way back) it’s quite challenging; first you have to go all the way down, about 700m and then all the way up, about 800m. If you’re a good walker it’s possible to do, this way you’ll have a complete day at the ruins. We’d suggest to arrange the return transport beforehand to be sure you’ll get back to Cusco in time.
      Good luck!

  5. Excelente Post! realmente lleno de información útil.
    Estaré el mes entrante haciendo el Camino al Choquequirao y quisiera preguntarle ¿que camping observó más equipado en cuanto a provisiones? ya que nuestra idea es comer de lo que vendan estos campings llevando pastillas potabilizadoras y algunos snacks desde Cachora
    Saludos!!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Nehuen! Thank you for your comment! My reply is in English as the majority of your readers are English speakers. The information you ask about is in the post, there is a section “Stops on the route” where it’s described what you can expect to find at each stop on the way from Cachora to Choquequirao ruins.
      Good luck!

  6. 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

    • Stingy Nomads

      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!

  7. 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!

    • Stingy Nomads

      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!

  8. 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.

    Thanks,
    Ingrid

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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.
      Cheers!

  9. 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?

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

  10. Thanks for this post! We just got back from Choquequirao and your guide was very helpful to us!

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

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  12. 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.

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

  13. Hi there, where did you get maps for your hike?

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

  14. 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…

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

      • Rita Andrea Simon

        Hey. Where can I find second hand stores? Thanks.

        • stingynomads@gmail.com

          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.
          Cheers!

  15. 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

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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

        • stingynomads@gmail.com

          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.
          Cheers!

  16. adam van-der-zee

    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!
    Thanks,
    Van.

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

  17. Barry Brinkley

    If my group already has trekking gear is there any reason not to fly it in rather than buy it there?

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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!

  18. Looks amazing! Will have to try this hike when back in Cusco

  19. 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.

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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

      • Mary Harvey

        We’ve just got back from this hike and we LOVED it! (As much as you can love anything with a 1500m ascent at the end). The locals in Chacora are all so friendly and welcoming. Just a note, we went at the end of June (high season) and s
        santa Rosa Alta was closed, but facilities have improved at Santa Rosa Baja (proper toilet and shower now). We stayed at Capuliyoc on the final night and loved it, 5soles for the tent now. We also managed to get a collectivo from there straight back to Cusco the next morning (there were 3 of us) for 30soles each. The owners were really helpful!

        • Stingy Nomads

          Hello, Mary! Thank you very much for the feedback and for additional details on the trek! We’re glad you enjoyed Choquequrao, it’s a fantastic trek. I’ll add the information about prices and the collectivo to our post. We’re going to Peru in two months and still contemplating walking the Choquequirao again.
          Safe travels!

  20. 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!

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      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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