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Ever wanted to trek Choquequirao to Espiritu Pampa? One of the most incredible Andean adventures out there, this spectacular 15-day journey will take you through the Apurimac Canyon, over the Vilcabamba mountain range, and down through Andean jungle to some of the most little-visited parts of the Andes.
You’ll see a stunning array of flora and fauna, including the famous llamas, alpacas and possible even the condors and you´ll visit completely un-touristed Inca ruins typically reserved for the hardy Inca enthusiast or modern-day Indian Jones.
The tour culminates in a stop at Last Capital of the Incas, Espiritu Pampa, a site that still remains covered in vegetation and shrouded in mystery.
This 15D trek Choquequirao to Espiritu Pampa does not include a visit to Machu Picchu. If you’re interested in adding this to your itinerary, check out our Machu Picchu Extensions!
Optional Extras and Upgrades
It gets hot in the Apurimac Canyon!
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 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.
Leaving Tarawasi behind, we 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.
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.
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!
After a nourishing breakfast, we start a difficult 3-hour climb, zigzagging 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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re half way!! Take a moment to congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come on this trek Choquequirao to Espiritu Pampa! Today we’ll take a much-deserved rest to reflect on all we’ve accomplished so far, and prepare ourselves for the rest of the journey. We’ll take a group vote about how we should spend the day, but it may include visiting the interesting ruins of Vitcos Rosaspata and Ñustahispana. We will spend the rest of the day in the hostel in Huancacalle where we can recharge camera batteries, wash dirty clothes and generally rejuvenate ourselves before continuing.
After a delicious breakfast this morning, we will take a local transportation to Huarina (2hs drive), from Huarina we will hike up to Puncuyoc to visit the intriguing site of Incahuasi (4300mt /14,107ft), returning to Huarina at the end of the day in about 7h total hiking time. We camp again tonight at Huarina.
Today is the most adventurous day of the Vilcabamba Trek to Espiritu Pampa as we hike for about 9h along the mountain ridge, passing beautiful lakes along the way. We will camp in Capillayoc lagoon.
We must be well-rested today in order to face a long day of hiking. We will hike about 10h in total as we journey from Capillayoc lagoon to Qollpaqasa (4h) and then continue on to Ututo (4h), where we will camp for the night.
Today’s journey will take us through Andean jungle from Ututo to Vista Alegre. We will cross Inca trails and will have the opportunity to see the tunki bird, which is a relative of the famous Peruvian “gallito de las rocas”. We will overnight in Vista Alegre.
After breakfast, we will start trekking for 11h descending from Vista Alegre to Concevidayoc. We will admire different types of birds and flora like orchids. We will pass Tunqui Mayo bridge, the Andean community called Urpi Pata and different communities who are engaged in agriculture, raising farm animals and coffee growing.
After three really long, intense days of hiking we get a well-deserved break! From Concevidayoc we will hike for about 3 hours until we reach Espiritu Pampa (1400m /4593ft). Here we can admire the remains of the archeological site of Espiritu Pampa, the last Inca Capital. We will camp at Espiritu Pampa and spend most of the day here. Espiritu Pampa is an especially intriguing site as most of it remains shrouded in vegetation, adding to its mystique. We will continue the journey back by bus (5h), stopping at Kiteni where we will spend the night in a hostel.
For even more adventure and a chance to see Machu Picchu, don’t forget about our Machu Picchu Extension!
Excellent 15 days trek in area where we saw seldom any other tourists – especially when we leave Choquequirao and even there we meet only two small group of tourists. After that only people we met on our way were local people. In these 15 days we walked on dusty roads in mountain, we could appreciated old Inca trail – although is more than 500 centuries old I was surprised how preserved it and we went through lush vegetation where we had to find our own way.
As it is quite adventure and long trek there are only few companies who provide this experience. Apus Peru was only one give me a lot time for exploration – and as I am not enthusiastic trekker and my main reason was to spend as much time on historical sites Apus Peru was my first choice and I do not regret at all. You can do this trek in 12 days but you will have only momentary glimpse on these monumental ruins. Especially in Choquequirao you can spend two days and still you will not be bored. Not only that I had enough time to enjoy all these places but my excellent guide were able to answer all my questions. And when was time to refill lost calories our cook was the one on right place. His food was delicious and never boring. Every day started with tea served to tent what was especially in cold mornings in mountains very welcome.
We spent nights in different surrounding – once in back yard so there was opportunity to meet local people, once on river bank so we could wash dust from our out cloths and bodies.
I can recommend this trip to everybody who like adventure and challenges. It is demanding trek but absolutely worth it. Beautiful scenery, minimum people and if you go with Apus Peru more than 100% service.