Elevated at about 3000 meters above sea level on a southwest-facing spur of a glaciated peak right above the Apurimac River, hides a magical lost city similar to Machu Picchu, not known by many who plan to travel to Peru. Choquequirao is located 98km west of Cusco, in the Vilcabamba range, and can only be accessed by a challenging hike.
Choquequirao has been referred to as the “sister” of Machu Picchu. While most travelers swear by Machu Picchu, this is understandable – if you see the breathtaking photos – Choquequirao is very similar to Machu Picchu but almost completely deserted. It takes a few days to trek up to these majestic ruins, but for the more adventurous ones, the reward of this Inca sanctuary is well worth the effort.
The mysterious city of Machu Picchu is easier to reach and allows travelers to rest comfortably in the town of Aguas Calientes before and after seeing the ruins. A one-day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco is doable for those who have limited time. No special hiking gear or equipment is necessary to view the typical flora, fauna, and archaeological remains that can be found here.
With these two unique options of Inca Lost Cities found in the mountains of Peru, it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. We at Kuoda have summarized the most important differences that should be considered when making this difficult decision.
If you choose to visit Machu Picchu, you can tick off one of the world’s seven wonders. It is considerably easier to travel Machu Picchu than Choquequirao, but there are also opportunities to do challenging treks. You can take the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek to the lost city on foot.
If you opt to take the train, you will have incredible views of the mountains in luxurious comfort. You will have the opportunity to explore Aguas Calientes, the town just below Machu Picchu. This town is well catered for tourists and offers comfortable accommodation and a variety of restaurants. You can also book a full-day tour from Cusco and other parts of the Sacred Valley if you have limited travel time.
If you choose to visit Choquequirao, you will have a way less crowded experience than Machu Picchu, which means you can stay longer at this sacred site with no rush. Choquequirao is enormous, bigger than Machu Picchu, with more city corners to explore.
The local cultural experience is exceptional as the people who live at Choquequirao cater especially to you from their homes. It is a more challenging hike, so it may appeal to hike lovers seeking more adventure. The scenery is comparable to Machu Picchu, with pearly white llamas and lush green mountains as far as the eye can see.
You can visit Machu Picchu any time of the year, but the best time would be during the shoulder months. These months run from April to May and again from September to November.
The weather conditions are the best for viewing the ruins, as it is right after the rainy season so the vegetation is lush and green, and the crowds are less than in the peak season from June to August.
The only way to reach Choquequirao is by hiking, so it is important to consider the best hiking conditions when you plan to go. This is a challenging hike so you should be in a physically healthy condition to take on these mountains.
The ideal hiking months are from May to November, as this period comes with crystal clear views of the breathtaking landscapes and the soil is dry around the trail which helps to prevent mudslides.
Since Machu Picchu is a relatively easy mission, you don’t need much equipment or preparation before going unless you are planning to do a trek to get there. Aguas Calientes is a town that thrives on tourism, so you should be able to find whatever you need in one of the many shops if you forget to pack it.
It is always recommended to carry a good rain jacket, wear good walking shoes and bring some mosquito repellent as mother nature is always hard to predict in the altitudes of the Andes. It is not necessary to bring hiking poles for Machu Picchu, in fact – the regulations forbid the use of them inside the archeological site area unless you really need to have them.
In Choquequirao, it is vital to have your hiking poles with you due to the difficulty level of this hike – you will need them for sure. You would also need good hiking gear, walking shoes, warm clothes, a rain jacket, and mosquito repellent – anything that will make your hiking experience more comfortable.
Alternatively, pack a few snacks and drinks or vital things you know you would personally need and will most probably not be accessible up there.
When you visit Machu Picchu, you will see the Sacred Square, which is surrounded by some of the most spectacular structures of Machu Picchu: The Temple of the 3 Windows, the Main Temple, and The House of the Priest.
Some believe that the square was the main place of the workshop in the city. Other highlights include Royal Tomb, Intihuatana, Sun Temple, Temple of the Condor, Huayna Picchu Mountain, Moon Temple, and Sacred Rock. You will also have post-card views of Machu Picchu mountains and the sights of llamas roaming freely everywhere.
Since hiking is the only way to reach this remote lost city of the Incas, it guarantees stunning landscapes and a special connection with the Andean mountains. There is no sound or light pollution, making the experience a more tranquil and deeply profound connection to the mountains.
Visit the beautiful Ushnu Mountain for the best views of the valley and the river, or walk up the daunting steps of the llama Terraces to fully embrace the experience. It allows a truly magical journey to unfold, as you have more time to explore these sacred sites due to the smaller crowds that come here. Other highlights include The House of the Priest, the Plaza, and the temple of the three windows.
Machu Picchu is one of the most, if not the most, popular sites to visit in Peru. People travel from all around the planet to walk the sacred lands of this spectacular archeological beauty. There are many ways to reach Machu Picchu.
The preferred way for most people traveling with families is by train, as it is much quicker and more comfortable. For the more adventurous types, two treks lead to the ruins – the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek. It is also possible to do a one-day trip from Cusco or any other place in the valley, especially if you have a limited time in the country.
As mentioned before, the only way to reach Choquequirao is on foot. It is a challenging hike, and a good hiking experience and equipment are recommended before taking on these mountains. Visitors hike almost 1500m down the Apurimac River and back 1600m on the other side of the valley the next day.
This is the perfect opportunity for hiking lovers to explore a lost city of the Incas that is remote and quiet due to the lack of tourists compared to Machu Picchu.
There are so many hidden gems in Peru, and we have taken the time to research and visit them individually to give you all the information you need and answer all the important questions you may have before planning your trip to the sacred land.
Peru is a big country, with so much diversity and many beautiful archeological sites to experience – we understand that it can be overwhelming to prepare for such an important trip. Whether you are traveling with your partner, a friend, or your family – we at Huaynas are specialized in customizing trips that suit your personal needs and requests. Contact us today, and we will connect you with one of our trip designers.
Here we show you the best tours to Choquequirao and its alternatives.