A number of adventurous travelers may seek out the world-renowned Manchu Picchu, but it is definitely not the only fascinating Inca ruins worth visiting in Peru. Just about 44 kilometers from the nation’s top tourist site, lies Choquequirao, which is means “cradle of gold” in Quechua.
The Choquequirao complex is tucked in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is surrounded by the Salkantay mountain range. This mountaintop city was used as a ceremonial site and a place of refuge for the royal family of the Inca civilization. It is believed to have been built during the 15th century under the authority of Top Inca Yupanqui, the son of the great Emperor Pachacuti.
Choquequirao possesses the same atmosphere as Manchu Picchu minus the big crowd. This deserted quality has very much to do with the old city’s very remote location. The only, albeit enjoyable, way to get here is by trekking. This trekking adventure usually starts from the town of Cachora, which can be reached by driving four hours from the city of Cuzco. Although there are other trails that begin at various small settlements, most people choose Cachora as the jumping point because the service trail from here to Choquequirao is the best maintained.
There are many reasons why hiking to Choquequirao using centuries-old well-connected trails is worth the effort. Along the way, the mesmerizing beauty of nature will unfold. You will see scenic valleys and snow-capped mountains. You will also most likely encounter a wide range of plants, as well as wildlife especially birds. Although it may be possible to do the trek on your own, it is highly recommended that you hire a guide or a tour company to assist you. The terrain is challenging and tricky especially for people who are not familiar with it. The entire journey can be done all on foot but you also have the option to rent a mule to carry your pack or ride a horse for most of the way. You can arrange the trip, hire a guide and rent a mile in Cachora town.
The trek to Choquequirao typically lasts for two days. In those two days, you should expect to really tough it up as the trekking will not only be long; the trip also involves camping in the wild and seldom showers. You may bring sleeping bags and tents with you or rent them in Cachora. As for food and drink, it is best to bring some with you. But there are small family settlements near campsites and along the route that sell water and simple dishes like eggs, potatoes and soup. Expect to pay a minimal entrance fee once you reach the gate of the Choquequirao Park. The gate is situated about a kilometer from Marampata, a small village (pueblo) below the ruins.
As you step into the old Incan complex, you will instantly realize why Choquequirao is a special destination. Being here gives you that authentic feeling of being in a lost city of a world that has long been gone. The complex is a protected park that covers a large amount of land. Thus, if you want to completely explore the area, you will need a full day to walk around it. Make sure to bring a camera to capture your exploration of Choquequirao.