- Explore the ancient ruins of Choquequirao, "Sister City" of Machu Picchu
- Pass through the recently-uncovered ruins of Picha Unuyoc
- Descend down to the Rio Blanco for a refreshing dip in the river
- Climb the Abra San Juan pass (4150m) with views of Cordillera Vilcabamba
- Finish the trek at Machu Picchu, and explore the ruins at sunrise
|Min. duration||5 days|
|Max. elevation||4,650m (15,260 ft)|
|Best season||Late Spring/Early Fall|
This trek takes you to some of the most remote Inca ruins in the Andes, up and over the beautiful mountains of the Anta and Urubamba provinces. The route follows the footsteps of Hiram Bingham, an American explorer who brought Machu Picchu to the world’s attention.
The ruins — Choquequirao, Llactapata, and Machu Picchu — each have their own distinct character. An administrative hub, an imperial rest stop, and a citadel respectively, all the sites played an important role throughout the history of the Incas. The Incas built an extensive road system spanning these sites and the entire Sacred Valley, allowing for a precise yet intrepid trek.
|Day 6||Aguas Calientes||2100m|
Day 1: Drive to Cachora and trek to Chikiska
Drive to the rustic Cachora village where your trek will begin. After having lunch, start your trek by following a switchback trail down into the Apurimac canyon. You’ll stay the night at Chikiska, a small mountainside settlement with beautiful views down into the Apurimac valley.
Day 2: Chikiska to Choquequirao
Continue your trek across the Apurimac River and pass through the communities of Santa Rosa and Maranpata. The steep path passes through territory which can get humid and hot depending on the season. One of the more strenuous days, with dramatic views of the canyon as you approach the ruins of Choquequirao. You will have arrived at a campsite right next to Choquequirao by night.
Day 3: Explore Choquequirao
With few other tourists around, explore the main plaza, ritual bath, and inlaid stone llamas at the ruins of Choquequirao before returning to base camp. The site sits atop a hill rising 1,600m above the Apurimac and was hidden from the Spanish for centuries until Bingham stumbled upon it before Machu Picchu. The site is yet to be completely excavated, with much of it still shrouded by jungle and cloud forest.
Day 4: Choquequirao to Maizal
Get ready for the toughest day of the trek. You’ll start by trekking 1,400m downhill to the newly uncovered ruins of Picha Unuyoc, then down to Rio Blanco where you can dip your feet in the refreshing water. You’ll then climb 1,200m back up to Maizal, a beautiful campsite at 3,000m.
Day 5: Maizal to Yanama, then drive to Lucmabamba
Hike past long-lost silver mines through the Abra San Juan mountain pass, the highest point of the trek at 4,150m. From here, you’ll have breathtaking views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba range, then you’ll descend down to the village of Yanama before driving over the Totora pass to the hamlet of Lucmabamba.
Day 6: Lucmabamba to Llactapata to Aguas Calientes
On your last day of hiking, you’ll walk through plantations and cloud forests along an imperial Inca trail. Llactapata is a small, beautiful set of ruins hidden in the wilderness with a view across to Machu Picchu. From here, you’ll continue down to the Hydroelectric power station, where you can either take a train or hike to the town of Aguas Calientes for the night. Get a good night’s sleep for an early start to see Machu Picchu at dawn.
Day 7: Tour of Machu Picchu, return to Cusco
From Aguas Calientes, it’s a 30-minute bus ride to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Go early in the morning before the crowds arrive, and explore the wonderful walls and temples at your own pace. After returning back to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon, you’ll catch a train back to Cusco or Ollantaytambo.
The best time to go trekking in the Andes is during the dry season from June to August (this is also the busy season for tourism). Generally, the shoulder months — May & September — are a great time to visit for fewer tourists but still a chance for great weather.
From November to April, be prepared for some rain. Also, the Inca Trail closes down in February each year for annual maintenance.
Expect larger crowds at Machu Picchu in the dry season, especially in July and August. However, crowds are generally not an issue for the Choquequirao trek given it’s more remote and difficult than the other treks to Machu Picchu. Overall, trekking anytime from May to October should be ideal.
Day 6: You get to decide whether to take a train or hike 2-3 hours to Machu Picchu Pueblo from Llactapata.
Day 7: You can also take a trail up to the stunning Sun Gate, which takes approximately an hour. Or, you can go on a slightly shorter detour to see the Inca Bridge hanging off the cliffsides.
Getting there & away
The trail starts at Cusco, the regional capital and a city with its own distinctive eclectic traditions worth exploring. The most common way to get in is through a flight from Jorge Chávez International Airport, which is well connected to cities throughout South America as well as American cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, and New York. Prepare for flights to be canceled due to poor weather conditions. Alternatively, you can take a bus, but the journey is long and can take up to a day.
The drive from Cusco to the starting destination, the village of Cachora, is smooth and follows a tarmac road. After the weeklong trek ending at Machu Picchu, a bus transports you downhill, and a train takes you back to Cusco. The train speeds along the Urubamba river and is a scenic experience itself, giving you a moment to reflect on your adventure as you return from the wilderness.