- Experience 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
|Trek Fast facts|
|Trek 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 1||Arrival in Lima||Lima|
|Day 2||Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City||Cusco|
|Day 3||Choquequirao Trek Day 1/6: Drive to Cachora, Trek to Chikiska||Chikiska|
|Day 4||Choquequirao Trek Day 2/6: Chikiska to Choquequirao||Choquequirao|
|Day 5||Choquequirao Trek Day 3/6: Explore Choquequirao||Choquequirao|
|Day 6||Choquequirao Trek Day 4/6: Choquequirao to Maizal||Maizal|
|Day 7||Choquequirao Trek Day 5/6: Maizal to Yanama, Drive to Lucmabamba||Lucmabamba|
|Day 8||Choquequirao Trek Day 6/6: Lucmabamba to Llactapata to Aguas Calientes||Aguas Calientes|
|Day 9||Tour of Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 10||Depart Peru|
Day 1: Arrival in Lima
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore.
Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants.
Suggested activities include:
Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire.
Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family.
Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts, as well as pieces of erotic art.
- In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls. The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific.
- Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.
Day 2: Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City
Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries after conquering the Killke settlement on the same location.
Remember: you will be 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, start your exploration of the narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a walk through the plaza — if the weather is beautiful, it's a perfect place to sit on a balcony and have a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation.
Suggested activities include:
Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun." The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
See the Cathedral, the most imposing monument in the central Plaza de Armas and a repository for Cusco's colonial art. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654.
Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of Cusco. Built by the Killke people, Sacsayhuamán is a marvel of ancient architecture, a monolithic fortress built from giant blocks of stone, the origins and assembly of which remain a mystery.
Discover the elaborate Puca Pucara ruins—an architectural complex of alleged military use with multiple plazas, baths, aqueducts, walls, and towers. It is believed that the entourage of the Incan emperor used it while he stayed at Tambomachay, the elaborate estate and baths nearby.
Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community.
Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, breads, vegetables, and other necessities.
- Eat lunch at a local Peruvian restaurant and sample local flavors and cooking techniques—crackling pork, pickled vegetables, seasonal flavors, bread baked in earthen ovens, roasted vegetables, and sweet donuts make for a delicious and filling meal.
Day 3: Choquequirao Trek Day 1/6: Drive to Cachora, 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 4: Choquequirao Trek Day 2/6: 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 5: Choquequirao Trek Day 3/6: 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 6: Choquequirao Trek Day 4/6: 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 7: Choquequirao Trek Day 5/6: Maizal to Yanama, 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 8: Choquequirao Trek Day 6/6: 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 9: 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.
Day 10: Depart Peru
Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the airport, where you will connect to your departure flight. ¡Buen viaje!
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 8: You get to decide whether to take a train or hike 2-3 hours to Machu Picchu Pueblo from Llactapata.
Day 9: 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 trekking 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.