Tucked high in the Andes, Choquequirao may not get the same fanfare as Machu Picchu, but is no less spectacular. Few visitors make the journey each day, meaning you often have the whole Inca site to yourself!. Your trek through the Apurimac Valley to Choquequirao may be challenging, but it’s incredibly scenic. See cloud forests and canyons, high passes and snow-capped peaks, often without another trekking group in sight.. After visiting Choquequirao, continue on to enjoy a guided tour of Peru’s most acclaimed Inca city, Machu Picchu, as well as the Inca citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.. Spend time exploring artisan markets, lively squares, historic sites and thriving nightlife in Cusco – South America’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and an interesting blend of Inca and colonial influences.
Escape the trekking crowds and follow the trail to Choquequirao on a 13-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. Hike steep paths that zigzag through dense cloud forest, past dusty desert and over high-altitude passes to views of snow-capped peaks. Believed to be up to three times larger than Machu Picchu, Choquequirao has a secluded splendour that will leave you in awe, and with a local leader joining you each step of the way, you’ll experience this Inca marvel in all its glory. Continue on through Peru, visiting to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, and bookended with a visit to the high-flying centre of Cusco, embark on an all-encompassing Inca adventure with a group of likeminded travellers.
Breakfast Included: 12 Lunches Included: 7 Dinner Included: 7
Welcome to Cusco! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm where you'll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. After this important briefing, get acquainted with this charming city's intriguing blend of Inca and Spanish culture on a guided walking tour with your local leader. Check out some of Cusco's main attractions, as well as its lesser-known sights such as the Coricancha temple, San Pedro market, the main square, the 12 Angled Stone, Regocijo Square and San Blas Square.
You’ve got a free day to explore the sights of Cusco. 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 bustling markets offer a delicious range of Peruvian eats. Though the Mercado San Pedro is larger, the locals tend to prefer Mercado San Blas. As you’ve got an early start tomorrow, it’s a good idea to have an early night; however, Cusco does have a thriving nightlife due to the large number of travellers who pass through.
Trek – Chiquisaca Camp
Today you start your trek! It’s a 5-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 lesser-visited Inca archaeological sites: Tarawasi (also known as Rimactambo) and Saywite. Arrive at Capuliyoc around noon (12 pm) and be immediately struck by the 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).
Trek – Choquequirao Camp
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.
Choquequirao Inca Site
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.
Trek – Maizal
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 hidden by vegetation before 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.
Trek – Yanama
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 taking in the breathtaking views, descend for about three hours following an old miner’s 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 trail.
Trek – Totora
Journey through stunning landscapes as you 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 rocky trail follows the river up the valley, then begins to climb to the pass. Afterwards, pass small villages as you descend for about four hours to the campsite for the night, Totora (3440 metres/11,285 feet).
Trek – Lucabamba
Continue to descend today as you make your way to the Salcantay Trail, where you’ll begin to notice more trekkers and greener surroundings. 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, 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.
Trek – Aguas Calientes
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 descend 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!
Machu Picchu – Ollantaytambo
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 will spend the night.
Sacred Valley – Cusco
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 get a taste of Cusco’s exciting nightlife and celebrate with your fellow travellers.