The ancient city of Choquequirao is often referred to as Machu Picchu's sister city. Choquequirao, meaning "cradle of gold" in the Quechua language, is only accessible by foot. After two days of stunning hiking, travelers explore the ruins at leisure during the day, and camp near the ruins at night. While at a lower elevation than the classic Inca Trail, the ascents and descents are very steep making for a challenging -- and extremely rewarding -- adventure. Finish your trek with a visit to legendary Machu Picchu.
Explore traditional markets and colonial churches in Cusco
Trek to Choquequirao, an Incan ruin site only accessible by foot
Visit a textile market and interact with locals in the Sacred Valley
Walk across the street to the airport in Lima for your domestic flight to Cusco.
Andean history comes alive in Cusco. Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas fill the streets and markets, colonial churches sit atop bases of smooth stonework laid centuries before the Conquistadors, and campesinos (Peru's rural farmers) in colorful dress move busily back and forth across the plazas.
You will be picked up at the Cusco airport and taken to your hotel to drop off your luggage and rest. In the afternoon, you'll begin to explore Cusco on a guided walking tour of the city. The sites visited today are flexible, as your guide sets the pace and agenda according to your interests and your ongoing adjustment to the altitude.
Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of SUVs). You can also wander through the bustling Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, shop for love potions in the local markets, or people watch from the cafes and restaurants that line these lovely streets. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged. The evening is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.
Depart Cusco early this morning and drive north toward Capuliyoc. As you leave the city behind, cross into Antamapma, where you can see Mt. Salkantay and Humantay. Leave the high meadows and the impressive peaks of Mt. Veronica, Chicon and Pitusiray come into view. The road descends into the town of Limatambo, time permitting visit the Inca site of Tarawasi located in the outskirts. The road continues to the Apurimac River and crosses an impressive gorge.
Pass the village of Curawasi to the trailhead at Capuliyoc at 9550 feet (2911 m) to meet the pack animals and horseman to begin the trek. Start hiking along the edge of Capuliyoc mountain to get get the first views of the Apurimac canyon. A few hours later arrive to Chiquiska at 6210 feet (1893 m) for lunch. After lunch continue hiking along rushing waters of the Apurimac River until making camp at Playa Rosalina for the night.
Distance: 6.7 miles (10.8 km)
Approximate hiking time: 6 hrs
Highest elevation crossed: 9550 feet (2,911 m) | Camp Elevation: 4849 feet (1478 m)
After breakfast, cross the suspension bridge and continue uphill towards Marampata 9550 feet (2911 m). Stop for a delicious lunch at a beautiful mountain meadow with amazing views of the Andes Mountains. Rested and fed from lunch ascend up a steep trail with spectacular views of the canyon land vegetation on both sides of the Apurimac canyon. The trail begins to level a bit as you approach the hanging valley where the site of Choquequirao is found. Camp near the ruins tonight and ready yourself to explore the isolated Inca site and the surrounding cloud forest.
Distance: 6.5 miles (10.6 km)
Approximate hiking time: 8 hours
Highest elevation crossed: 9550 feet (2,911 m) | Camp Elevation: 9401feet (2,866 m)
Today explore the ruins of Choquequirao with your guide, located about a mile from camp. Explore the different sectors of Choquequirao 10,059 feet (3066 m) which scattered on both sides of the spur of Apu Corihuayrachina. Due to the size and complexity of the ruins, plenty of time is given to explore all the wonders Choquequirao has to offer. Before departing the ruins complex enjoy lunch nearby. Keep your eye open for the Andean condor, often seen here.
After a full day visiting Choquequirao make your way down to the campsite of Santa Rosa Baja 6801 feet (2073 m) for dinner and a chance to share storiea about the days archeological explorations.
Distance: 4.9 miles (8 km)
Approximate Hiking Time: 4 hours
Highest Elevation Crossed: 10,059 feet (3066 m) | Camp Elevation: 6801 feet (2073 m)
After a hearty breakfast at camp, descend through the Apurimac Valley. Take your time in this steep descent to the bottom of the river valley exposing some impressive and unforgettable views. Continue on to Chiquiska 6210 feet (1893 m) for a rest and delicious lunch.
After lunch, trek onward to Cocasama 7644 feet (2330 m), a small village full of typical Andean houses. Enjoy the last night of the trek with some amazing views of the night sky.
Distance: 5 miles (8.6 km)
Approximate hiking time: 8 hours
Highest elevation crossed: 7480 feet (2,280 m) | Camp Elevation: 7480 feet (2,280 m)
After breakfast early in the morning in Cocasama begin the last day of the trek. On the way back to Capuliyoc stop a the lookout point for some final spectacular views of the mountains you got to know so well. In Capuliyoc meet your shuttle here for the return ride to Cusco. After the drive to Cusco, your guide will help you settle into your hotel for a good night's rest and a hot shower!
Distance: 2.9 miles (4.8 km)
Approximate hiking time: 3 hours
Highest elevation crossed: 9550 feet (2,911 m)
Explore the Sacred Valley and test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac, or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras and its pre-Columbian salt mines (still in use today with salt being collected in traditional fashion) as well as the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Eventually, make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo.
Day 10: Ollantaytambo Ruins | Train to Machu Picchu
In the morning, visit the under-rated ruins of Ollantaytambo before the larger groups of tourists arrive. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cusco. The ruins feature expansive terraces, giant building blocks and well-preserved architecture. Even the town itself is still laid out as it was during the Inca empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.
Board the Vistadome train late this morning and follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, Peru. After checking into your hotel and enjoying lunch in Aguas Calientes, take the short bus ride up to the gates of Machu Picchu and begin exploring this amazing site - the former retreat of Inca kings. After walking amongst the massive complex of ruins and learning about its fascinating history, you'll return to the village of Aguas Calientes (located at the base of Machu Picchu). Enjoy one of many excellent local restaurants after exploring one of the most magical archaeological sites in the world.
Day 11: Free Day at Machu Picchu | Return to Cusco
Today you will return to the ruins of Machu Picchu for further exploration. Return early with the hope of catching the sun coming up over the mountains at Machu Picchu. Depending on your preference in permits, arrive in time to hike to the top of Huayna Picchu for incredible views of the entire area or choose to simply walk amongst the vast expanse of ruins and listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants with your guide. (The basic re-entry permit is included in the cost of this tour. Hiking permits require additional costs and should be reserved at the time of booking your tour due to limited availability.)
After your final exploration of Machu Picchu, return to Aguas Calientes to catch an afternoon train toward Cusco. Settle into your hotel or head out on a famous Cusco culinary adventure.
Beyond expectations! Then again we weren't sure what to expect. Lovely stay at the lodge, met other like-minded travelers (many had their trips planned by Adventure Life) and the owner was a gracious hostess. It felt like you were one happy family, visiting with a favorite aunt.