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The Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most challenging and spectacular hikes in the region. This Peru trek connects two of the most famous Inca cities, Choquequirao and Machu Picchu.
The Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is the most incredible way to experience Inca history first-hand. Choquequirao and Machu Picchu were two of the most important sites during Incan times, and and this trek lets you retrace the steps of a past civilization.
The hike starts with the classic Choquequirao trek, one of the most challenging routes in the area. Starting in Chiquisca, we follow the Choquequirao trail down to the Apurimac River and then climb steeply back up again until we reach the ruins. After some time to fully explore as much of this incredible site as possible (it’s still only partially excavated!), the trek continues from Choquequirao towards Machu Picchu.
After two and half more days of hiking through beautiful mountain landscapes and past remote villages, we will drive to Lucmabamba where we will stay on Day 5. Lucmabamba is a semi-tropical area full of fruit trees and other crops, and we will have a chance to learn first-hand about traditional coffee making. You can also choose to spend the night in a homestay rather than camping!
On Day 6, we hike up to Llactapata for our first views of Machu Picchu – an amazing perspective on this World Heritage Site. After spending the night in a comfortable hotel in Aguas Calientes, we then travel up to Machu Picchu itself on Day 7 for a tour of the Inca citadel. In the afternoon we return to Cusco by train. See the Itinerary below for full details day by day on the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu.
Want something different? We also offer an 8 day and a 9 day Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu. Our 8 day Choquequirao Machu Picchu adventure is not for the faint of heart. The route follows nearly the same itinerary as the 7-day trek with a challenging detour to the Qhiswa Pass on Day 6. Only for fit hikers!
The 9 Day Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu is our signature trek and adds a trek to Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Incas. This trek truly checks off all the boxes for the history buff, with visits to Choquequirao, Vilcabamba (Vitcos Rosaspata) and Machu Picchu.
For our full packing list for treks in the Andes, see What to Bring.
Our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru will also give you some great tips for how to get ready for your trek, before you even leave home.
Our guides are all licensed and receive regular training. They share their experience, professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm with our passengers on every trek.
Get to know our team!
We begin our Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu with an early departure from Cusco and head towards the Apurimac canyon, surrounded by impressive 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.
From here, we continue by car another 3h to Capuliyoc (2970m / 9744ft). In Capuliyoc we have our first beautiful views of the Apurimac valley stretching below, as well as the snow-capped peaks of Padreyoc and Huayna Cachora.
We will meet our muleteers here and walk about 15 minutes to have our lunch at the Capuliyoc lookout point. From here, we descend steeply 3-4h into the Apurimac Canyon, taking in the spectacular views until we reach Chiquisca (1950m / 6397 ft), with breathtaking drops on either side. An hour beyond Chiquisca, we arrive at the roaring Apurimac River (1520m / 4986 ft).
From the river, we begin to climb to the Santa Rosa Campsite (2095m / 6873 ft). This is a tough 2h climb but makes the next day easier! As the campsite is further along than the most popular camp, it is often quiet and you can soak up the stars.
We depart early again today, in order to get the most out of the day! We begin by continuing upwards to Marampata where we will have a break. The climb from the Santa Rosa campsite to Marampata (2940m / 9646 ft) takes about 3 hours and is a tough uphill stretch. A little further on from our break site we will get our first view of the ruins of Choquequirao! From here we have 2 more hours of hiking over gentle, undulating terrain until we reach the ruins. We take our lunch at the Choquequirao campsite (2900m / 9514 ft) nearest to the ruins, before we head to Choquequirao itself for the afternoon.
Only around 30% of the Inca remains of Choquequirao have been excavated. What can be seen today, however, is most impressive and very much worth the challenging trek to get there! The stonework in Choquequirao is not as sophisticated as that found in Machu Picchu, because the stone found here is very difficult to carve, but the buildings are impressive and suggest a site of high status. Choquequirao evokes a sense of awe simply because of the site’s surrounding beauty and isolation.
Spending the afternoon exploring the ruins, we will watch the sunset and keep our fingers crossed for the chance to see condors soaring through the sky!
We begin this part of the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu with an early morning visit to the impressive Choquequirao site. Originally discovered in 1710, there were a series of European explorers who passed through this area and knew about this site, however little importance was given to Choquequirao until 1909 when Hiram Bingham, who is credited with the scientific discovery of Machu Picchu, came across the site. This brought more international attention to Choquequirao but even then, the site was largely ignored until the 1970s when the Peruvian government started its excavations.
Choquequirao is composed of an amazing and extensive set of terraces and a smaller religious and administrative area with a total area of over 1800 hectares. There are impressive irrigation channels and all of this set in the dramatic setting of the steep Apurimac Canyon.
We will take our lunch within the ruins today to allow for more exploration time. After our guided visit we climb over a ridge for about 1 hour and then descend for 3h to the ruins at Pinchiunuyoc (2470m / 8104 ft). We will take a short break at these ruins to admire the majestic views. From here, we will descend to the Rio Blanco (1880m / 6167 ft), a further 1.5 to 2 hours steep descent. We camp tonight at Rio Blanco – insect repellent is a must!
Today, after breakfast we will start a difficult climb to a small cleared agricultural area on the mountain known as Maizal (3000m / 9843 ft). For many people, this is the most difficult section of the whole Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu. The climb is a difficult 3-4 hours zig-zag uphill.
After our lunch in Maizal, we climb a further 4-5h hours uphill through cloud forest to the Victoria Mines, an incredible and breathtaking climb, with an elevation gain of around 1000m! Here we can admire the shine of the outcropped rocks illustrating the high concentration of minerals and metals and the reason for the ancient mines.
During our trek through the puna, we’ll walk over well-preserved Inca trails, with their classical zig-zag shape before setting up camp for the night at Pajonal (4000m / 13,123ft). Pajonal affords stunning views of the trail where we have just walked, back towards the amazing Apurimac valley. Due to the altitude of the camp, this will be a cold night.
The newly discovered Coryhuayrachina ruins are between Maizal and Yanama, where we will head tomorrow. Though we do not visit Coryhuayrachina, it is still interesting to learn about some of the little-known Inca historyabout Coryhuayrachina in the areas that we are hiking through.
We wake early and climb for an hour to the San Juan Pass, also known as Victoria Pass (4130 m / 13,549ft). From this high pass we will be able to see the imposing Mount Choquetacarpo in front. This is a fantastic spot to take pictures on a clear day, possibly the best photo ops on the whole Choquequirao trek to Machu Picchu! The spectacular views continue from the pass as we descend about 2.5h to the charming village of Yanama (3700m /12,139 ft).
After lunch, we will say farewell to our muleteers, some of whom may be from Yanama itself, and your group will be met by a vehicle which will transfer you to the high jungle village of Lucmabamba (2100m / 6889ft), about a 3h drive. You will enjoy the warm high jungle climate and different atmosphere! Once we arrive at Lucmabamba, a local coffee grower will provide us with a coffee making demonstration and you will have the chance to learn more about the coffee growing process.
We will camp the night at Lucmabamba. Note, your campsite altitude tonight is half of what it was the night before! You can also choose to spend the night in a homestay in Lucmabamba. Spend the night with a local coffee-growing family and enjoy a hot shower and a comfortable bed! There is an extra cost for this option. Read more about our homestay options.
We leave early and climb for about three hours through the jungle before descending to the interesting, but largely covered ruins of Llactapacta, an amazing introduction to Machu Picchu. Originally discovered by Hiram Bingham at the same time that he discovered Machu Picchu, modern day explorers Vincent Lee and Gary Ziegler recently established that the Llactapacta ruins are much bigger and more important than previously thought. From here we have our first view of Machu Picchu, in the saddle of the mountain opposite.
After this visit, we descend very steeply on a muddy track for two hours to the impressive Machu Picchu Hydroelectric Station (Hidroelectrica) where we will have lunch and if you have the strength you can visit the Inca ruin of Intihuatana.
We will board the train at Hidroelectrica in the mid-afternoon, arriving in Aguas Calientes about an hour later. After checking into our accommodations, we will enjoy a celebratory dinner before having an early night in preparation for the next day’s visit to Machu Picchu.
We will take a bus in the pre-dawn hours up to the ruins of Machu Picchu so that you can appreciate this famous city in the dawn light. Your 3-4h 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.
After visiting Machu Picchu, you can take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes (or walk down!). From there, we return to Cusco in the afternoon by the Expedition (tourist class) train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, where our driver will meet us and transfer you directly back to your hotel in Cusco. Total travel time is about 4 hours from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.
Apus Peru made our trek the experience of a lifetime. We had an awesome time on this trek. It was NOT easy and I would say it was the toughest trek we have ever done. However the views were awesome and the treking company made the trip, a trip of a lifetime. Apus was well equipped and experienced and we attentive to all our needs. The food was awesome, the tents were in excellent condition and the crew was outstanding. Well done Apus!!