Conquer the Apurimac Valley on this picturesque trek to Choquequirao, Peru’s other Lost City

Escape the crowds and delve into the wilds of the Peruvian Andes on this challenging, but deeply rewarding trek to Choquequirao. Believed to be up to three times larger than Machu Picchu (the exact size is unknown as much of it is still covered in jungle), the road to Choquequirao takes you through the scenic Apurimac Valley. Hike steep paths and trails that zigzag through dense cloud forest, dusty desert and spectacularly scenic passes with views of dramatic landscapes and snow-capped peaks. Choquequirao’s secluded splendour will leave you in awe. A trip to Peru wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu; this adventure takes you to some of Peru’s other famous Inca ruins, and also provides time to explore historic Cusco.


Start
Cusco, Peru
Finish
Cusco, Peru
Destinations
Style
Basix
Theme
Walking & Trekking
Code
GGXQ
Physical rating
Ages
Min 13
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • The trek through the Apurimac Valley to Choquequirao is challenging at times, but also incredibly beautiful and serene. You won’t find the crowds of the Inca Trail. Instead, see spectacular views the whole way without another trekker in sight

  • Tucked high in the Andes, Choquequirao, doesn’t get the same fanfare as Machu Picchu, but undeservedly so – these sprawling Inca ruins are up to three-times the size of Machu Picchu and incredibly well-preserved. Only a handful of visitors make the journey each day, meaning you often have the whole site to yourself!

  • This trek takes you past an incredible diversity of scenery - from cloud forests and canyons to high passes with views of pristine snow-capped peaks

  • Enjoy a guided tour of Peru’s most famous Inca city, Machu Picchu, as well as the Inca citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley

  • Perched high in the Andes, Cusco is south America’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and an interesting blend of Inca and colonial influences. Spend time exploring its artisan markets, lively squares, historic sites and surprisingly thriving nightlife.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This full-service camping trek is graded as Challenging/Tough (Activity Level 6), with eight days point-to-point walking and full porterage throughout. Please refer to our activity level guidelines.

  • Significantly more strenuous than the classic Inca Trail, this demanding trek takes you up to high altitudes on steep but well-defined trails, mostly following mountain switchbacks as you move from valley floor to mountain pass on your journey through the Andes. This trail follows ancient Inca pathways the same as the Inca Trail, but without the restrictions of trekking permits and human porterage. Expect early starts and long days (up to 11 hours) with steep gradients throughout, all rewarded with breath-taking views across the Andes. This trek is not technically difficult and is suitable for all walkers with a good level of fitness and some experience of multi-day trekking. There are some steep drops and narrow paths which makes this trek unsuitable for vertigo sufferers or those without a head for heights.

  • You may find our Fitness Training Guide a useful reference.

  • As this trip spends considerable time at altitude, we ask you to refer to the altitude warning within the Trip Notes. We spend two days in Cuzco (3400m) acclimatising before starting the trek. the maximum altitude reached on this trip is approximately 4,660m (Yanama Pass).

  • Protest action/strikes are not uncommon in Peru, and whilst these are generally peaceful, they can involve roadblocks and cause disruption to travel. Occasionally your leader may have to adapt your itinerary in response to this.

  • Walking hours stated within the itinerary are given as approximates only. Timings stated include lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of your group.

Itinerary

Welcome to Cusco. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. After this important meeting, get acquainted with this charming city's intriguing blend of Inca and Spanish culture on a guided walking tour with your leader. Check out some of Cusco's main attractions, as well as its lesser-known sights such as the Qoricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square. End the walking tour with a visit to the Chocolate Museum where you get to sample hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. There’s also a small store where you can shop handicrafts and artisanal chocolate products. Don't miss the opportunity to sample mate de coca (coca tea) while here.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.

As Cusco is a high altitude town (3450 metres), it's a good idea to arrive a few days early so you can spend some time acclimatising. As this tour doesn't involve much time in Cusco, this will also give you a chance to take part in some of the optional activities available. Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Health' sections in the trip notes for detailed information.
Enjoy a free day exploring Cusco and its intriguing mix of Spanish and Inca influences. You may opt to spend more time at the sites your tour leader took you to yesterday. Perhaps revisit the San Blas neighbourhood and spend time browsing its boutique shops and handicrafts made by local artisans, or simply grab a coffee and people-watch in Plaza de Armas. Alternatively, use this day to visit Sacsayhuaman, the remains of an impressive Inca fortress that offers stunning views of the city. Cusco’s buzzing markets offer a tasty (and inexpensive) range of Peruvian eats. Though Mercado San Pedro is larger, the locals tend to prefer Mercado San Blas. We have an early start tomorrow, so it’s a good idea to retreat to the hotel early; however, Cusco has a surprisingly thriving nightlife (due to the large number of travellers who pass through) if you want to head out this evening.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you start your trek! It’s a five-hour drive to Capuliyoc Pass, the start of the Choquequirao Trek, so you need to wake early and be ready to leave the hotel at 5 am. Stop twice along the way to explore two incredible, but seldom-visited Inca archaeological sites: Tarawasi (also known as Rimactambo) and Saywite. Arrive at Capuliyoc around noon and be immediately struck by the spectacular panoramic views of the Apurimac Valley and snow-capped peaks in the distance. Beginning at an altitude of 2915 metres (9560 feet), today's walk is downhill. Descend into the valley through dry forest, taking in the beautiful scenery and wide variety of flora and fauna. Your campsite for the night is at Chiquisaca (1950 metres/6400 feet).
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today is one of the longer, more challenging days of the trip, but the awe-inspiring views make it worth it. Start very early and descend to Playa Rosalina. Cross the Apurimac River here and begin the long and steep climb through dusty desert up to the village of Santa Rosa. After a rest stop, continue climbing to a plateau above Maranpata (2920 metres/9580 feet). From here, the path becomes less steep and the hike to Choquequirao camp becomes easier. The landscape transitions to high-altitude forest and the region is home to spectacled bears – you just might catch sight of one as we approach the Inca citadel. Throughout the day, it’s also possible to see toucans, hummingbirds and maybe even a condor.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Spend most of the day exploring the vast, sprawling ruins of Choquequirao. Meaning ‘cradle of gold’ in Quechua, Choquequirao sits nearly 1600 metres (5250 feet) above the roaring Apurimac River. Significantly larger than Machu Picchu, only about 30 percent of this ancient Inca city has been cleared, but you can clearly see the main square, ceremonial platforms, palaces, terraces, ritual baths and temples dedicated to the sun, moon and earth spirit, Pachamama. Choquequirao is also significantly less visited than the country’s more famous ruins – in fact, it’s not uncommon to have the entire site to explore to yourself. In the afternoon, visit the terraces of Pacchanta.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
In the morning, embark on a short but steep climb to the top of the Choquequirao Pass (3215 metres/10,550 feet) for sweeping views of Choquequirao. You’ll get a real sense of the enormity of the ruins from this vantage point, as well as its isolation. Then begin the descent down the Apurimac Valley. Walk down a dusty road to Pinchinoyoc (2400 metres/7875 feet) where we’ll stop to visit Inca terraces previously covered in vegetation. Then continue descending to the bottom of the valley. There, we cross the Rio Blanco and begin our ascent back up the other side of the valley to Maizal (3000 metres/9840 feet). This is a strenuous day, descending over 1500 metres (4920 feet) and then ascending over 1500 metres over the course of the day.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Start the day with a five hour, steep, switchback climb up the San Juan Pass (4170 metres/13,680 feet). The climb is challenging, but the reward is panoramic views of the snow-capped Vilcabamba mountain range at the top. Make a stop at the 500-year-old La Victoria silver mine on the way up. After basking in the breath-taking views, descend for about three hours following an old miners track to the camp at Yanama (3400 metres/11,155 feet). In May, this path becomes particularly beautiful as it winds through a landscape filled with wild lupins in bloom. Keep an eye out for Andean condors today, which frequently soar above this stretch.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Journey through stunning landscapes as we climb to the highest point of the trek, the Yanama Pass (4660 metres/15,290 feet), where the magnificent snow-capped Vilcabamba mountain range dominates the skyline. Our gravelly trail follows the river up the valley, then begins to climb to the pass. Afterwards, pass small villages as we descend for about four hours to our camp site for the night, Totora (3,440 metres/11,285 feet).
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Continue to descend today as we make our way to the Salcantay Trail, where you’ll begin to notice more trekkers and greener surroundings. We follow a road for a short section, then a gravel path beside the river that runs through a lush cloud forest. You’ll notice lots of fruit trees and coffee plantations along this part of the trek. After about six hours of hiking, we set up camp at a particularly special location – on Inca terraces in the middle of a coffee plantation. If there’s time, you may opt to tour the coffee plantation for a small fee.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Rise early today and follow an original Inca trail that climbs uphill for three hours to the Inca complex, Llactapata. Spend some time exploring the site, then descent for two hours to Santa Teresa, where we stop for lunch. Afterwards, continue the last leg of the trek, crossing the Vilcanota River and finishing at the train station. Enjoy a comfortable train ride to Aguas Calientes and check into a hotel upon arrival for a well-earned shower and rest!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In order to beat the crowds (and queues), rise very early to tour the famous ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Machu Picchu. This fascinating Inca complex is considered one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world – made only more dramatic by its stunning mountain backdrop. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, catch an afternoon train to Ollantaytambo where you spend the night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Explore the village of Ollantaytambo this morning and spend time strolling its narrow, cobblestone streets. See the colossal Inca stone terraces carved into the surrounding hillside up close, then continue to Pisac in the Sacred Valley, where you’ll visit the ruins of the Citadel. There’s also time to wander its colourful markets and perhaps shop for local handicrafts and last-minute souvenirs. Afterwards, drive to Cusco, passing gorgeous Andean scenery, old towns and quaint villages along the way. Tonight, you may choose to sample Cusco’s exiting nightlife and celebrate the end of your adventure with fellow travellers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Bid farewell to Cusco and your fellow travellers. Your Peruvian adventure comes to an end after breakfast.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

12 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners

Transport

Private Vehicle, Train

Accommodation

Hotel (5 nights), Camping with basic facilities ( 7 nights)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

PASSPORT DETAILS REQUIRED
Full passport details are required at the time of booking in order to purchase Entrance fees to certain sites. Additionally on certain trips it's needed to book bus, train or flight tickets. Delays to provide this information may result in booking fees or changes to your itinerary.

NEW TRIP
Just as a heads up before you book: this trip is new to our range this year. And while we have thoroughly researched every detail of the logistics, new destinations can sometimes throw us some unexpected surprises. More often than not, it’ll be a great surprise. But every now and again there might be a hiccup. We like to think that’s what puts the ‘adventure’ in ‘adventure travel’.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.