Choquequirao to Vilcabamba Trek 9D

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Duration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
Availability : Every Day.
Depart: Capuliyoc
Destination: Machu Picchu
Difficulty : ★★★★ Challenging
Adventure : ★★★★ Very adventurous
Min Age : 10
Max People : 12

Choquequirao to Vilcabamba Trek Highlights

  • See stunning views of snow-capped mountain ranges, plunging canyons, and roaring rivers.
  • Hike along intact Inca roads and pass through little-known remote, high Andean villages.
  • Immerse yourself in Inca history as you walk from Choquequirao to Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu.

About the Vilcabamba Choquequirao Tour

Hike from Choquequirao to Vilcabamba to retrace the steps of the ancient Inca. Visit the Cradle of Gold (Choquequirao), the Last Refuge of the Incas (Vilcabamba) and also Machu Picchu!

If 9 days seems like a lot, check out our 7-day and 8-day Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu options!

See Full Description

This is a trek for hikers, history lovers and adventurers! The 9 day Choquequirao to Vilcabamba trek is Apus Peru’s signature trek. This Vilcabamba Choquequirao tour follows a completely innovative route, pioneered by Apus Peru, deviating from the route taken by other agencies.

One of the most challenging and spectacular hikes in all of Peru, you’ll have the chance to visit the stunning Choquequirao ruins without the crowds, travel along original Inca trails, and visit the last refuge of the Incas: Vilcabamba. The 9 day Choquequirao to Vilcabamba hike culminates in a visit to the unforgettable Machu Picchu. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

>> See more photos and information about Choquequirao and Vilcabamba

Prices are per person in USD, based on group size. We do not have fixed-date group departures. If you do not want to book a private trek, please see our Trekkers Wanted page for a list of open departures within your dates.

2 people


4-6 people


7-8 people


9-12 people


High quality personalized experience

Unique, off-the-beaten track routes

Experienced staff

Verified sustainability practices

$20 of every trek donated to Threads of Peru

Important Details About the Vilcabamba Choquequirao Tour

What is Included?

  • Pre-trek briefing
  • Collection from your hotel on the morning of your Choquequirao to Vilcabamba 9D trek departure
  • Private transport from Cusco to the trailhead and return at the end of the trek
  • Entry fee to Machu Picchu and Choquequirao
  • English/Quechua/Spanish speaking professional guide, plus an assistant guide for groups over 8
  • Tent: 2 people in a 4-person tent, allowing for greater comfort and backpack storage!
  • Basic foam mattress. If you would like greater comfort during the trek we can rent you an inflatable mattress. See Optional Extras & Upgrades below.
  • Cook and cooking equipment, plus assistants for larger groups.
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary. Our professional cooks prepare a combination of traditional Peruvian and Western cuisine. Talk to your guide if you have certain preferences! Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available. When served, salads are washed in boiled water.
  • Toilet tent
  • Horses and horsemen, who carry camping equipment, food and kitchen utensils. We provide duffel bags at your briefing for your personal items (up to 7kg/15lbs per person).
  • 1 emergency horse which can be ridden if you are feeling ill or if you are a little slower.
  • Dining tent with camp tables and chairs, and kitchen tent for the cook to prepare meals
  • Tents, sleeping bags and mattresses for our staff to sleep in, plus a budget for their meals
  • First aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle
  • Bus down from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Train ticket (Expedition service) from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
  • Private transport from Ollantaytambo to Cusco
  • Celebratory dinner in Aguas Calientes
  • Lunch on the last day is included in this itinerary.
  • 1 night accommodation in Aguas Calientes in a Standard Hotel. This will be a nice, clean and safe hotel with breakfast included and private bathroom. You can also upgrade to a higher quality hotel.

What is Not Included?

  • Breakfast on the first morning.
  • Dinner on the last night.
  • Entrance to the Aguas Calientes and Colcamayu hot springs
  • Entry to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
  • Sleeping bags. Available for rent if you don’t have one with you.
  • Tips for the guide, cook and porters
  • Additional horses for your personal luggage

You Should Bring

    See What To Bring for our comprehensive recommendations on what to pack for your trek. Note: it gets hot in the Apurimac Canyon! Although there will be plenty of cold nights along the trail, you should also be prepared to de-layer when we climb down towards Apurimac river. For more great suggestions, check out our blog about How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.

Optional Extras & Upgrades

    We offer you the opportunity to personalize your trek and make your experience more comfortable through our Optional Extras and Upgrades. All options are available during the reservation process; please ask your sales consultant for more information.

    • Extra horse to carry luggage exceeding the allowed 7kg (15lbs) per person
    • Extra horse for you to ride, and horseman to lead it
    • Sleeping Bag suitable for -5˚C
    • Deluxe sleeping bag suitable for -15˚C
    • Light-weight aluminum walking stick. Two sticks are recommended for tough hikes.
    • Thermarest inflatable mattress
    • Thermarest inflatable pillow
    • Single-occupancy tent supplement
    • Comfort Camping Upgrade
    • Aguas Calientes Hotel Upgrade
    • Extra Day at Machu Picchu
    • If you’d like to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain , let us know at the time of booking as it requires a separate permit.
    • If you’d like more flexibility in your return travel to Cusco, consider a train upgrade for an extra $30 per person. This upgrade must be requested at time of booking.


    • When calculating the cost of renting equipment, calculate using the length of the entire trip, not just the number of trekking days.
    • Please be careful with rented equipment! You are responsible for the cost of replacement if something is damaged or broken.
    • Any upgrades or trip extensions must be requested at time of booking.

Available Discounts

  • Students: USD $30 off, in certain circumstances. Please enquire for details about eligibility.
  • Youth 12-17: 5% off. A valid passport must be presented upon booking.
  • Children 5-11 years: 15% off. A valid passport must be presented upon booking.
  • Children 0-4 years: Free. A valid passport must be presented upon booking. Children under 4 will not count towards the total number of guests in a group. This discount does not apply to train fares. Children under 2 will not be considered to occupy a seat on any train or bus, and instead must ride on a parent’s lap.
  • 5% off a day tour listed price when you also book a 3-day or longer trek operated by Apus Peru

Trekkers Wanted

    Want to join a trek? Ready to confirm a departure date of your own, but interested in having others join you? Then Trekkers Wanted is for you! Our innovative Trekkers Wanted system matches people up who are interested in hiking the same trek, bringing costs down and multiplying the fun for everyone! Read More about Trekkers Wanted, post your trek or search for confirmed departures!

Important Info

  • Each guide has their own preferred route and so the route you trek might not correspond exactly to the route described here.
  • The times cited in this itinerary are approximate. Walking times depend on the group, and the guide may change lunch spots and campsites, depending on the progress of the group.
  • The Choquequirao to Vilcabamba 9D trek is one of the toughest hike in the region. It crosses several high passes, as well as the Rio Blanco which does not have a substantial bridge and can be dangerous to cross in periods of heavy rain. This trek should not be attempted by those who do not have some experience in trekking, plus a solid level of fitness!
  • Trek conditions vary according to the season. In the dry season the trail can be dusty; in the wet season it can be slippery and muddy. Apus Peru takes no responsibility for trail conditions, as it is directly related to the weather.
  • We do not recommend this trek during Dec-Mar, inclusive, though this recommendation depends on the actual weather conditions.
  • Please note: This is a true adventure and things may not go exactly according to plan! Keep an open mind and let yourself enjoy the cultural differences you may experience. There is always an opportunity to learn something!

Ready to Book?

  • Does this trek sound like just what you were looking for? If you’re ready to book or just want to find out a bit more information, fill out the Inquiry Form in the top right-hand corner of this page to get the ball rolling. You’ll be connected with one of our amazing sales people who will be able to turn your dream of hiking in the Andes into a reality. For more information on the entire booking process, please see our How To Book page.
  • Travel insurance is a must! World Nomads offers travel insurance for adventure activities.

Choquequirao to Vilcabamba 9 Day Itinerary

Day 1Cusco – Cachora – Chiquisca – Santa Rosa

    We leave Cusco early in the morning to start our Choquequirao to Vilcabamba 9D trek and head towards the Apurimac Canyon, surrounded by breathtaking snow-capped peaks. After about an hour and a half of driving, we will have a short stop at Tarawasi (2675m / 8776 ft).

    Tarawasi gets its name from two Quechua words: tara, a type tree native to the Andes (latin name: caesalpina espinosa), and wasi, which means “house”. So Tarawasi is “the house of the Tara tree”. Tara is a multipurpose tree that produces large bean pods that turn orange when ripe. The seeds inside are used as a natural dye, and also have medicinal purposes.

    Tarawasi is a ceremonial centre that dates to Incan times. One of the most striking features of this archaeological site is the presence of an usnu, a ceremonial structure where ritual offerings would be prepared.

    We will then continue another 3h to Capuliyoc (2915 m / 9,563ft). When we arrive we’ll have our first views of the incredible Apurimac Valley stretching below, as well as the surrounding mountains Padrayoc and Wayna Cachora.

    Our horsemen will meet us here and we’ll walk about 15 minutes to the Capuliyoc Lookout where we’ll have our lunch. With full bellies, we’re ready to start the steep 3-4 hour descent into the Apurimac Canyon. After passing Chiquisca (1836 m / 6,023ft), we arrive at the roaring Apurimac River (1550m / 5085ft).

    We’ll cross the river and then begin the difficult 2-hour climb to Santa Rosa campsite (2095 m / 6,873ft). This is a less popular camp, making for a typically quiet and restful night under the stars.

    Total Walking Distance – 14km
    Total Walking Time – 6/7h
    Minimum Altitude – 1550m / 5,085 ft / Maximum Altitude – 2915m / 9,563ft
    Altitude of camp – 2095m / 6,873ft
    Approx. night temperature – 15°C

Day 2Santa Rosa – Choquequirao Ruins

    It’s another early start this morning as we depart early to escape the heat of the canyon. Today, we are continuing upwards towards Maranpata (3110m / 10,120ft). After a good night’s sleep, we should be ready to tackle this tough, 3-hour uphill stretch. A little beyond Maranpata we’ll be treated to our first views of Choquequirao, a nice reward for the morning’s challenge. From here, it’s just another 2 hours over gentle, undulating terrain until we reach the ruins – a welcome change of pace! Stopping first for lunch at the Choquequirao campsite(2900m / 9,514ft), we then head for the site itself where we have the entire afternoon to explore.

    Originally discovered in 1710, Choquequirao was given little importance by European explorers passing through the area until it was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1909. This was largely overshadowed by Bingham’s additional rediscovery of Machu Picchu, and so it wasn’t until the 1970s that the Peruvian government began to excavate at Choquequirao. With only about 30% of the site excavated today, Choquequirao consists of an extensive set of terraces, irrigation channels and various religious and administrative complexes extending over 1800 hectares. And all this set against the dramatic background of the Apurimac Canyon!

    We’ll watch the sunset over the ruins and, with any luck, catch a glimpse of condors soaring through the canyon that surrounds us.

    Total Walking Distance – 16km
    Total Walking Time – 10h
    Minimum Altitude – 2095m / 6,873ft / Maximum Altitude – 3110m / 10,120ft
    Altitude of camp – 2900m / 9,514ft
    Approx. night temperature – 5°C

Day 3Choquequirao – Pinchinuyoc – Rio Blanco

    Early this morning, we’ll have another chance to wander the ruins at Choquequirao before continuing on to Pinchinuyoc after lunch. This is a 3-hour hike taking us over a ridge and then down towards this other stunning archaeological site. We’ll take a short break here to enjoy the majestic views and then continue our descent for another 1.5 h to the Rio Blanco where we’ll camp for the night. Note: insect repellent is a necessity at Rio Blanco!

    Total Walking Distance – 14km
    Total Walking Time – 9h
    Minimum Altitude –1800m / 5,905ft / Maximum Altitude – 3300m /10,826ft
    Altitude of camp – 1800m / 5,905ft
    Approx. night temperature – 15°C

Day 4Rio Blanco – Maizal – Pajonal

    After a nourishing breakfast, we start a difficult 3-hour climb, zig-zagging uphill to Maizal (3000m / 9,842ft), a small, cleared agricultural area on the mountain. Make sure you are physically and mentally prepared before we head out: many people find this to be the hardest section of the entire Choquequirao to Vilcabamba trek!

    We’ll have lunch in Maizal and then climb a further 4- 5 hours uphill through cloud forest to the Victoria Mines, gaining about 2000m in elevation as we go! We’ll take a short rest here and admire the shine of the outcropped rocks illustrating the high concentration of minerals and metals – it’s no wonder this was an ancient mining site!

    We then continue our trek through the puna, treading well-preserved Inca trails with their classic zig-zag shape, before setting up camp for the night at Pajonal (4150m / 13,615ft). From here we can look back over the terrain we’ve just traveled towards the incredible Apurimac Valley. This will be a cold night so make sure you’re prepared to bundle up!

    Between Maizal and Yanama are the recently discovered Coryhuayrachina ruins. We won’t have time to stop and explore them, but we encourage you to read more about this fascinating and little-known Inca history.

    Total Walking Distance – 16km
    Total Walking Time – 9-10 h
    Minimum Altitude – 1800m / 5,905ft / Maximum Altitude – 4150m / 13,615ft
    Altitude of camp – 4150m / 13,615ft
    Approx. night temperature – -10°C

Day 5Pajonal – Yanama – Yutuypata

    After spending the night at this cold, high altitude campsite, we venture higher still, climbing for about an hour to the San Juan Pass (4150m / 13,615ft). From the pass we’ll have spectacular views as we descend for about 2.5h to the charming village of Yanama (3600m / 11,811ft). We’ll have lunch near the village, where some of the horsemen accompanying you on your trip may be from! We always try to hire locals and many come from this community.

    From here, we head into virtually uncharted territory on a route pioneered by Apus Peru that takes us to Vilcabamba, the Last Bastion of the Incas! After lunch, we head down into a valley towards a small river, and then start climbing again on the other side towards Yutuypata where we’ll have beautiful views through the valley. Hiking time to Yutuypata is around 3 hours. Although we are still at high altitude, the valley creates an interesting microclimate, leaving the landscape green and forested with lush vegetation.

    Total Walking Distance – 13km
    Total Walking Time – 6h
    Minimum Altitude – 3100m / 10,170ft/ Maximum Altitude – 4150m / 13,615ft
    Altitude of camp – 3700m /12,139ft
    Approx. night temperature – -5°C

Day 6Yutuypata – Quellqua Machay – Inca Machay

    We’ll have a relatively easy morning today, walking for about 4 hours through the Quellqua Machay valley over gentle terrain and surrounded by dramatic mountain views until we reach our lunch spot. After lunch, we climb another 2 hours to our highest point along the Choquequirao to Vilcabamba route, the Choquetacarpo Pass (4600m / 15,091ft). Surrounded by craggy mountain peaks, this is a spectacular pass with an incredible view, a definite high point – literally and figuratively! – of the trek.

    At this point, we have the chance to walk an almost perfectly preserved Inca trail. Following in the footsteps of the Inca chaskis or runners, you’ll marvel at the engineering skill of the ancient Incas who created these unique trails. We head down for about a 1.5h over original Inca steps, observing many ancient Inca dwellings along the way. This is an incredible immersion into ancient Incan history as we’ll have constant opportunities to admire their ingenuity. How did they manage to build in such remote places??

    We end our long day at a beautiful, isolated campsite where we will rest our weary legs and absorb the tranquility and awe-inspiring scenery.

    Total Walking Distance – 17km
    Total Walking Time – 9h
    Minimum Altitude – 4000m/ 13,123ft / Maximum Altitude – 4600m / 15,091ft
    Altitude of camp – 4000m/ 13,123ft
    Approx. night temperature – -10°C

Day 7Inca Machay – Huancacalle

    We continue downwards this morning, following a gentle slope and passing some small roads no longer used for transportation along the way. After about 4 hours, we arrive at the village of Huancacalle (2900m / 9,514ft) where we will have lunch.

    From here, we will climb up to visit the interesting ruins of Vitcos-Rosaspata and Ñustahispana for the afternoon before returning to Huancacalle for the night. The route from Huancacalle to the ruins and back again is around 3.5 hours.

    Total Walking Distance – 17km
    Total Walking Time – 8-9h
    Minimum Altitude – 2900m / 9,514ft / Maximum Altitude – 4000m/ 13,123ft
    Altitude of camp – 2900m / 9,514ft
    Approx. night temperature – 0°C

Day 8Vitcos Rosaspata – Santa Teresa – Aguas Calientes

    This morning we can relax and reflect on the journey we’ve just taken along the Choquequirao to Vilcabamba trail, from the verdant valleys and plunging canyons to the high mountain passes at San Juan and Choquecatarpo. Huancacalle is a quaint rural village, where you might spot pigs and their adorable piglets wandering the streets. Isolated in the mountains, you might feel a sense of nostalgia for a forgotten time as you take in the peaceful lifestyle, a stark difference from what awaits us in Aguas Calientes, a busy city bustling with tourists eager to visit Machu Picchu.

    From here we will take private transport over narrow, winding mountain roads to Santa Teresa (1550m / 5,085ft). The 5-hour journey is an amazing journey in itself, as you go from high Andean plains down to the lush vegetation of the jungle, passing villages and then banana, tea and coffee fields. The final leg of the journey sees us traveling along the edge of the rushing Vilcanota River – a reminder of the powerful natural forces that are a constant presence in the Andes.

    From Santa Teresa we take the Hydroelectric train to Aguas Calientes, a nice change of pace after days of hiking and hours of driving! Peek up as the train winds along the canyon and you might get a tantalizing glimpse of the lower reaches of Machu Picchu!

    Arriving at Aguas Calientes, a soak in the thermal baths might just be the perfect recipe for aching muscles! We’ll enjoy a celebratory dinner in Aguas Calientes before turning in early in anticipation of the next day’s centerpiece: Machu Picchu.

Day 9Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

    Today we achieve what for many is a lifelong dream: a visit to the Imperial Inca City of Machu Picchu! In the pre-dawn hours, we’ll take the bus up to the site to enjoy the ruins at sunrise. Your 4h visit to Machu Picchu can be spent exploring some of the alternative routes, like the Inca Bridge, after which your guide will give you a 2-3h walking tour of the historic citadel.

    If you’re feeling adventurous you may wish to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, but take note: this requires an extra permit, and they can sell out well in advance! Be sure to tell us at booking if you would like to add one of these hikes. For more tips on what to see, check out our Visiting Machu Picchu page.

      Want more time to explore? Consider our Extra Day Upgrades.

      We return to Cusco in the afternoon by Expedition (tourist class) train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, where we will be met by our driver who will transfer you directly back to your hotel in Cusco. Total travel time is about 4 hours from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.

3 Reviews
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Brian W

Group Traveller

It was everything I wanted – ruins, scenery & fun! Tough, but I enjoyed it. I thought it was perfect as the views and vistas were different every day.

Everything was great. I really felt like I was waited on. The entire team was always one step ahead making sure I had the best experience – I’m wowed by the attention to detail to make sure I’m having the best trip possible.

Office Staff: Claire did an amazing job answering any and every thought that popped into my head.

Guide: Urbano is awesome. Very knowledgeable about the ruins/area. Great at letting us trek at our own pace. A true pleasure to spend 9 days with!

Meals: Amazing food. The taste, variety, presentation & thought that went into each meal impressed me.

15 October, 2019


Couple Traveller

“Our organized hike and tour with Apus Peru was magnificent. The organization of the hike, from contacting and receiving information, customizing aspects of the tour to the day to day carrying out of the 10-day trek was so efficiently, caringly and well done. The Apus team was always helpful the entire way and was what made our hike so enjoyable. I truly enjoyed the company of our amazing guide, the cooks and our horsemen. The food was perhaps the best I had the entire time spent in Peru, all cooked on the mountain sides! A wonderful, sustainable company that treats their employees and the local context with great reverence and respect. Superb!”

15 May, 2019

Amanda Z. from Chile

Couple Traveller

My boyfriend and I went with Apus on their Choquequirao-Vilcabamba trek. We wanted to do something a bit more adventurous than the trampled Inca Trail. It’s a tough route but has lots of rewards: watching the sunset over the Choquequirao ruins, possible condor sightings and the Vitcos ruins. Best of all, we were able to explore both sites without any crowds at all.

There are a ton of tour operators in Cusco but I can tell you from experience that Apus is the best. They certainly aren’t the cheapest but they offer great value for your money and work hard to make sure you have a memorable trek. If you’ve ever been with a cheapie operator, you know you get what you pay for. You do pay more but Apus provides tailored tours not cookie cutter ones, has top notch North Face tents, knowledgeable guides and you certainly won’t be handed a bag with a bologna sandwich and a candy bar at lunch time.

Speaking of food you won’t believe how well you can eat while hiking with Apus. Our chef kept us fueled up with healthy and fresh dishes. We were amazed by the variety even on an 9 day hike. There was always too much food but the mule driver and his helper didn’t mind helping us finish.

All of your gear is carried by mules so all you need to bring is a water bottle, some layers, sunblock and a camera. Going light means you can really enjoy the views and don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy backpack. The mules, mule driver and cook go ahead of the group so when we arrived to camp our tents were already set up and tea and snacks were waiting for us.

The only things we didn’t like about this trek was the mosquitos. We went in September which is the worst month for them. Make sure to pack bug spray if you go on this trek.

Whenever our friends ask who to hike with in Cusco, we always send them to Apus. Don’t let the price put you off, you’re going to spend your holiday trekking in the mountains so you might as well pay a bit more to go on a top quality tour, be comfortable, eat well and get the most out of the experience!

24 January, 2016
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