Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek 9 days, via Vilcabamba - Full Itinerary (Code CCHMP9)
All kilometres and altitude gains & loss cited are approximate and considered a guide only.
Day 1 Cusco- Cachora – Chiccisqa - Santa Rosa
On the first day of the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek,depart Cusco at 5:30am in a private car for a 4 hour drive to the charming village of Cachora, situated on the edge of the Apurimac canyon and surrounded by impressive snowcapped peaks. We will stop in Cachora to purchase any last minute supplies before continuing by car to just before Capuliyoc (2915 metres/ 9561 feet) from where we have our first beautiful views of the Apurimac valley stretching below as well as the snow-capped peaks of Padrayoc and Wayna Cachora.
We will meet our arrieros (muleteers) here and walk for a further 15 minutes to have our boxed lunch here at the Capuliyoc mirador. From here, we descend steeply into the Apurimac Canyon, taking in the spectacular views as we descend for 3.5 to 4 hours to Chiccisqa (1836m / 6023ft), with breathtaking drops to our side. 1 hour after Chiccisqa we arrive at the roaring Apurimac River (1550 metres/ 5084 feet).
From the river, we begin to climb to the Santa Rosa Campsite, which is 2095m / 6873ft. This is a tough climb of 2 hours 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.
Accomodation: Camping at Santa Rosa 1950m - we will aim to be at our campsite by 6pm.
Our total hiking time today is around 6 hours / 16 km
Descending 1200m / 4 hours
2 hrs ascending – Rio Apurimac to Santa Rosa
Day 2 Santa Rosa – Choquequirao Ruins
Departing early again today to get the best out of the day (around 6am) we continue upwards onto Maranpata where we will have a break. The climb from the Santa Rosa to Maranpata (3110 metres/ 10120 feet) 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 hiking to the ruins. After the rigors of the past two days, this is a gentle undulating hike. We take our lunch at the Choquequirao campsite (3110 metres/ 10120 feet) nearest to the ruins, before we head to the Choquequirao ruins for the afternoon. Spending the afternoon exploring the ruins, we will watch the sunset and keep our fingers crossed for the chance to see condors.
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 here. 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 sites’ surrounding beauty and isolation and condors can be seen frequently soaring the skies.
Accommodation: Camping at Choquequirao campsite 3050m (10,000 ft)
Total hiking time today to campsite is: around 4. 5 hours
13 km ascending 1600 m in altitude – Santa Rosa to Choquequirao
Day 3 Choquequirao – Pinchinuyoc – Rio Blanco
We begin this part of the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hike 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 the site but even then the site was largely ignored until the 1970´s 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 boxed lunch within the ruins today to allow for more exploration time. After our guided visit we climb over a ridge for around 1 hour and hike descending to the ruins at Pinchinuyoc, (3 hrs hiking). We will take a short break at these ruins to admire the majestic views. From there, we will descend to the Rio Blanco, a further 1.5 hours steep descent.
Note – insect repellent is a necessity when camping at Rio Blanco!
Accommodation: Camping at Rio Blanco. Ascending: 1km / Descending: 7km
Hike distance and time: 8km around 5 hours
Day 4 Rio Blanco – Maizal - Pajonal
Today, after breakfast we will start a difficult climb to a small cleared agricultural area on the mountain, Maizal. For many people, this is the most difficult section of the whole Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek. The climb is a difficult 3 hours zig zag uphill, as Maizal is located at 3000m/9,842ft.
After our lunch in Maizal we climb a further 3 hours uphill through cloud forest, to the Victoria Mines to the Victoria Mines, an ascent from 3000m to 4000m! We’ll take a short rest here and admire the shine of the outcropped rocks illustrating the high concentration of minerals and metals and the reason for the ancient mines.
In our trek through the puna, we’ll walk over the well-preserved Inca Trails, with their classical zig-zag shape before setting up camp for the night at Pajonal. (Altitude 4000m/13123 ft)
Pajonal affords stunning views from where we have just walked back towards the amazing Apurimac valley. Due to the altitude, camp will be a cold night. The newly discovered Coryhuayrachina ruins are between Yanama and Maizal and though we do not visit Coryhuayrachina, it is still interesting to learn about some of the unknown Inca History in the areas that we are hiking through: http://www.adventurespecialists.org/victoria_report.html
Accommodation: Camping at Pajonal.
Total trek time 6/7 hours
Rio Blanco – Maizal (3000m) – 3 – 4 hours
Maizal – Pajonal (Victoria mines) (4000m) – 4 hours
Total ascent 2000m – 8.5km
Day 5 Pajonal – Yanama – Yutuypata
Today we wake early at our high campsite, and climb for an hour to the pass of Abra San Juan. (4130 metres/ 13 546 feet). There are spectacular views from the pass as we descend to the charming village of Yanama, (about 3.5 hours walk). Apus Peru usually uses muleteers from the village of Yanama 4100m/13,541feet (therefore providing employment for isolated people) and we will have lunch near the village.
This is the point that our new 9 day Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek, via Vilcabamba, takes is new direction, as we head away from the Yanama pass, Salkantay and Machu Picchu. Instead, we head to the Last Bastion of the Incas, the Vilcabamba region!
After lunch we descend to a small river and head in the opposite direction to the road, down into a valley and begin climbing on the other side of the river onto a small locality known as Yutuypata. Hiking time to Yutuypata is around 3 hours. Although the altitude is high, due to the micro climate created by the valley the landscape is green and forested with lush vegetation in comparison with Yanama with beautiful views through the valley.
Accommodation: Camping at Yutuypata
Distance trekked: around 12km
Ascent: 2 hours / 5km Descent: 5 hours / 7km
Day 6 Yutuypata – Quellqua Machay – Inca Machay
After around 4 hours hiking along a relatively easy route through Quellqua Machay valley surrounded by dramatic mountain views we reach our lunch spot in Quellqua Machay. After lunch we will climb a further 2 hours to pass our high point and cross the imposing Abra of Choquetacarpo (4600m/15901 ft). Surrounded by craggy mountain peaks, this is a spectacular pass with an incredible view and a definate "high point" of the 9 day Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hike, via Vilcabamba. During this section of our trek we will hike the most incredible Inca Trail, almost perfectly preserved. Following in the footsteps of Inca chaskis, we can marvel at the capacity of the Incan engineers that created these unique caminos.
Once over the pass we continue to follow original Inca Trail steps descending around 1. 5 hours observing small ancient Inca dwellings along our route. We have constant opportunities for admiration for the Inca culture. How did they build in such remote places?
We end our long day at a beautiful, isolated campsite rest our weary legs and absorb the tranquillity and awe inspiring scenery.
Accommodation: Inca Machay Campsite
Distance trekked:7.5 hours / 15 km
Ascent: 4km/ Descent: 4km
Day 7 - Inca Machay - Huancacalle
Continuing downwards this morning we follow a gentle slope, passing along some small roads that are no longer accessed by transportation. After around 4 hours, we will arrive in the village of Huancacalle, (2900m/ 9514ft). Here we will have lunch.
After lunch we will climb to visit the interesting ruins of Vitcos-Rosaspata and Nustahispaña. The route from Huancacalle to the ruins and back again is around 3 and half hours. Returning to Huncacalle in the late afternoon / early evening for our camp.
The total walking time for this day is around 7 hours.
Accommodation: Camping in Huancacalle (2900m/ 9514ft )
Distance trekked: 16km
Ascent: 1 hour /0.5 km/ Descent: 4 hours / 12km
Day 8: Vitcos Rosaspata – private car to - Santa Theresa – train to - Aguas Calientes
A well deserved rest this morning at camp as we reflect on the terrain we have encountered, from the river canyons to the high passes at San Juan and Choquecatarpo. People enjoy the remote village of Huancacalle, where pigs still wander with the piglets in the street and there is the air of a forgotten village in the mountains. From here we will take private transport to Santa Theresa (1550m/ 5085ft) having a box lunch en route. These remote mountain roads are winding, narrow and require the experienced drivers. The 5 hour journey is also extremely enjoyable as you are able to enjoy views of a rapidly changing landscape as you descend down into the jungle- a drop of around 1500m during the duration of the journey. You will pass through high villages, and then lower banana, tea and coffee crops. The final leg of the journey into Santa Theresa is along the edge of the rushing canyon of the Vilcanota River, and once again you are fully aware of the amazing forces of nature present in the high Andes.
We will take the Hydroelectric train to Aguas Calientes, which departs around 3pm. This is a fun change of pace from the car, and also hiking. Peek up as the train winds along the canyon and you might get a tantalising glimpse of the lower reaches of Machu Picchu!!!
A soak in the thermal baths in Aguas Calientes are often the perfect respite for aching muscles!!! Apus Peru include a nice celebratory dinner in the price of your tour in Aguas Calientes. So far you have crossed the mighty Cordillera Vilcanota, but the next day is a pinnace for many as the final day of their trip.
Accommodation: Aguas Calientes hostal
Distance trekked: 0km 5 hours by car to Hydroelectrica
Ascent: 0km / Descent: 0km
Day 9: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
Today we will have a guided visit of the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. This is a lifelong dream for many, and also a pinnacle of the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek!
Early in the morning (before dawn) we will take a bus up to the ruins of Machu Picchu (bus included in price), so that you can appreciate this famous city in the dawn light and before the crowds arrive. You will then have a 2.5 hour guided tour of Machu Picchu with your guide. After your tour you can further explore the ruins by yourself or climb Huayna (Wayna) Picchu for that classic photo of Machu Picchu. (You must advise at time of booking and pay an additional fee of $15US* These permits sell out months in advance. Book Early!)
If you don't get to do Huayna Picchu, other options are:
Inti Punku (gate of the sun) this is the location where the classic Inca Trail arrives.
Machu Picchu Mountain / Cerro Machu Picchu (Please advise at time of booking, $15US*)
We highly recommend walking down from Machu Picchu to get a feeling for the vegetation and also the audacity of its builders. It is a 1.5 hour walk back to the village of Aguas Calientes. We return to Cusco in the afternoon by tourist class train and are met by our driver in Ollantaytambo who will transfer you directly back to your hotel. You will arrive in Cusco approximately 4.5 hours after your train's departure from Aguas Calientes.
*Prices may change
Itinerary notes - Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek 9 days
- The times cited in this itinerary are approximate. Walking times depend on the group and the guide can change lunch spots and campsites, depending on the progress of the group. Each guide has their own preferred route and it might not correspond exactly to the route described here.
- Trek conditions vary according to the season. ie in the dry season the trail can be dusty, in the wet season it can be slippery and muddy. During the shoulder seasons the conditions depend on prior weather. Apus Peru takes no responsibility for trail conditions, as it is directly related to the weather.
- This is an adventurous trip. You should be sure to bring an open mind, flexibility and a sense of humor. Most of all you should be prepared to go with the flow. Also, we do not recommend this trek for "first time" trekkers or campers.
- The Choquequirao to Machu Picchu trek is an adventurous trek, crossing several high passes and the Rio Blanco which does not have a substantial bridge and can be dangerous to cross in periods of heavy rain. We do not recommend this trek during December, January, February, and March but this recommendation depends on the current weather conditions.
- This region is not frequently visited by tourists, therefore tourist infrastructure is limited.Visitors should be aware that things change, or may not go to plan. This is all part of the adventure!
- Considering an extra night in Aguas Calientes? (Please check out linked page) We can change the date of your train ticket to the following day. Hotels costs and costs associated with returning to Machu Picchu the following day are additional to trek costs. Please also note that your entry ticket to Machu Picchu is valid for one day only, if you wish to visit the ruins on a second consecutive day you will need to purchase the ticket again.
- To cross the Apurimac River you will take an oroya, or small cable car as there is currently no bridge. For more information please read this article in our blog, http://apusperublog.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/choquequirao-trek-now-open/.
Aguas Calientes upgrade package (optional)
Included in the price of your tour is a very comfortable, 3 star hotel with hot water etc. However, we notice that many people are accustomed to a different standard of accomodation or are looking for a splurge. Our Upgrade Package makes this type of change easy to do. This is an upgrade package for treks that already include a nights stay in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, but you would like to upgrade the standard of hotel, meals and train service.
We offer three types of Upgrade... the different types refer to the standard of the Hotel. ** For Prices and hotel options, please refer to the Aguas Calientes Upgrades page **
- Comfort Plus
All packages include the same meals and trains.
- Dinner at one of Aguas Calientes “best” restaurants, like Indio Feliz or Tree House restaurant.
- Buffet lunch at Tinkuy Restaurant, located in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. With limited eating choices at Machu Picchu hunger tends to send clients to Aguas Calientes; by including the buffet lunch we find that clients can visit Machu Picchu early, then go to the buffet to try lots of different Peruvian (and Western) dishes, and then rest and go back for a second look at Machu Picchu.
- Return in Vistadome train rather than Expedition train, which gives you the opportunity for a more varied timetable and to return in a nicer train, with big windows in the roof.
For complete facts about many aspects of Apus Peru tours, check out our FAQs page!
- Pre trek briefing
- Collection from your hotel in the morning of trek departure.
- Transport from Cusco to the trailhead at the beginning of the trek in private car
- Entry fee to Machu Picchu (Huayna Picchu $15 extra - please advise at booking as places are limited) & Choquequirao
- English/Quechua/Spanish speaking professional guide (you will have an assistant guide for groups over 6 people).
- Tents - 2 people in a 4 person tent which allows for greater comfort, and also storage of backpacks.
- Basic foam mattress. If you require greater comfort during the trek we can hire you an inflatable mattress (eg. Thermarest) .
- Cook and Cooking equipment (Assistants are provided for larger groups)
- Toilet tent
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary (optional vegetarian food). Our professional cooks prepare meals that incorporate elements of the western diet and also traditional Peruvian delicacies. (Please communicate with your guide/cook during the trek if you have a preference for certain types of dishes). Salads, if served, are washed in boiled water.
- Horses (for equipment and personal items) including horsemen. They carry camping equipment, food and kitchen utensils. We provide duffel bags at your briefing for your personal items (up to 7 kg/15lbs per person).
- 1 emergency horse which can be ridden if you are feeling ill or if are a little slower
- Dining tent with camp tables and chairs & Kitchen tent for the cook to prepare meals
- Tents for our staff to sleep in
- First aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle
- Bus up and down from Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu
- Train or equivalent luggage from Hydroelectric station to Aguas Calientes
- 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 basic hotel. This will be a nice, clean and safe hostel with breakfast included and private bathroom. If you wish to upgrade from this hotel, please check out the options listed on our Aguas Calientes accommodation page.
What is not included?
- Breakfast on the first morning.
- Dinner on the last night.
- Entrance to the thermal springs
- Entry to Huayna Picchu
- Sleeping bags - If you haven't got a sleeping bag or you don't want the hassle of bringing one all the way to Peru with you, then we have sleeping bags for hire.
- Tips for the guide, cook and porters
- Additional horses for passengers luggage.
- Extra activities (ie Cola de Mono zipline)
You should bring:
- A light day pack with a change of clothes for the whole period of the trek - prepare for a vast range of changes in temperature
- Rain gear (jacket and pants if available) or rain poncho. Plastic ponchos can be bought for about $1 in Cusco .
- Strong footwear, waterproof trekking boots recommended. Extra socks are a must.
- Sandals or plastic slip on thongs are also good to give your feet a chance to breath in the evenings if you wish to carry them.
- Warm clothes, including jacket, fleeces, gloves, scarf and beanie/touk. Thermal clothing is also recommended, especially for sleeping.
- Sleeping bag (we can hire these to you)
- Torch/ Flashlight and spare batteries
- Camera, films and batteries (batteries consume more quickly under cold conditions)
- Hat or cap to protect you from the sun, rain and cold
- Sun block
- After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body
- Insect repellent - minimum recommended 20% DEET - although no malaria risk has been reported
- Toilet paper, pack in & pack out
- Snacks: biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, raw fruits, muesli, etc.
- Non-disposable canteen (Nalgene type) and water for the first morning.
- We advise you to bring water sterilizing tablets in case you collect water from streams.
- Your own medical kit with any special medications that you might require, paracetamol, second skin for blisters etc.
- Small towel or sarong
- Bathers/swimsuit (if you intend on swimming in hot springs )
- Cash - sufficient for snacks, tips and souvenirs.
- Original passport & ISIC (International Student Identity Card) if you have one.
- Walking sticks or poles (we can hire these to you. Please note poles with metal tips cannot be carried into Machu Picchu and should be left at your hotel on the final day)
- Binoculars (if you have them)
We can hire the following to you - please contact your Travel Consultant / or our booking forms for the current rates.
- Extra mule to carry YOUR things
- Extra riding mule and muleteer to lead it
- Sleeping Bag suitable for – 10deg
- Deluxe Sleeping Bag suitable for -15deg.
- Walking stick lightweight aluminum - Two sticks are recommended for tough hikes.
- Thermarest inflatable mattress -
- Thermarest Inflatable pillow
- Comforting Camping trek upgrade - bigger tents, camp beds, includes sleeping bag, thermarest, and walking stick.
- Single tent supplement (ie you don’t want to share a tent)
- When calculating costs for hire of walking stick, sleeping bag, calculate using the length of the tour. Even though you won’t use the equipment on the final day it will still be ‘on the road’ and ‘occupied.’
- If you hire equipment and break it – you are responsible for price of replacement /or repair. (please do the right thing!)
AVAILABLE DISCOUNTS (these discounts are not cumulative)
- 5% discount on treks only for members of South American Explorers Club (SAE)
- Students: US$ 30.00 (students require a valid International Student Identity Card. Please beware that Youth Travel Cards are not valid)
- Teenagers: US$ 20.00 (up to 15 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)
- Children: US$ 45.00 (up to 10 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)
TO MAKE A BOOKING
Please visit our Make a Booking page.
You will need to email us to check availability, receive booking forms and then make your deposit. For our payment conditions and booking please refer to our Make a Booking page
* For organisational reasons, we require one week to organise your booking, prior to departure.