"lost city" fascinated 19th century explorers and Hiram
Bingham visited it two years before he discovered Machu Picchu.
Difficult to reach, the ruins are rarely visited by travelers.
TREKKING TO CHOQUEQUIRAO
Trek to the ruins of one of Peru´s most impressive Inca sites.
Choquequirao is as impressively located as its more famous sister
city Machu Picchu, but this route through the remote Vilcabamba
triangle has been traveled by few trekkers, guaranteeing our travelers
a sense of discovery, after a journey through spectacular scenery
and a vivid regional history.
The more famous ruins of Machu Picchu are situated on the eastern
slope of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, and Choquequirao, located on
the western slope at about the same parallel, forms what could almost
be described as their mirror image. Both citadels are located half-way
up steep, densely-forested mountain slopes, overlooking two of the
region’s major major rivers.
The approach to Choquequirao requires a steep descent
from over 3000 meters to the Apurímac river at 1200 meters,
followed by an even steeper ascent to the ruins. The site is perched
a magnificent 1600 meters above the Apurímac, surrounded
by spectacular cascading waterfalls and densely-forested mountain
slopes in the shadow of huge, snowcapped peaks. The ruins have been
partially-cleared and can be easily explored by those intrepid enough
to undertake the demanding trek required to get there.
From Cusco we journey by road to the small village of Tambobamba.
The journey is 140 kilometers along a paved road, followed by 30
km of dirt road and a 10 kilometer track. We will reach the village
(at 2270 meters/7445 feet above sea level) at around midday. That
afternoon we will walk for two to three hours to the San Ignacio
bridge ( 1509 meters/5244 feet) over the Apurímac River,
where after a refreshing swim we will make our first camp.
Today we make our ascent to the ruins. This is a 1500 meter climb
along a trail too narrow for pack animals, surrounded by dense cloud
forest foliage. Our gear will be carried by local men hired as porters
from the village of Tambobamba. This is a strenuous day’s
hiking, but we will be rewarded by fine scenery, abundant bird life
and a real sense of discovery when we camp at the ruins of Choquequirao
that night at 2858 or 9374 feet above sea level.
gateway village of Tambobamba
We have a full day to explore Choquequirao, both in the company
of our guide and alone, as well as visiting other sites such as
Pikiwasi and we will have time to study the recent excavations around
the site, which have revealed several outbuildings and extensive
terracing long hidden by the luxuriant cloud forest.
Today we make the long descent from the ruins to San Ignacio bridge,
where once again the cold waters of the Apurímac will refresh
our limbs. We will have reached the bridge by midday, giving us
the afternoon to hike up to Tambobamba, where we will make our final
camp. Horses are available on this final day for those tired from
almost four days trekking.
Today we end our journey into this remote and magnificent region
of the Andes with the drive back to Cusco. On the way we will have
an opportunity to visit the Saywite stone. Saywite is a limestone
outcrop about four meters in diameter on which the Incas carved
a model of their empire, Tawantinsuyo. The stone, upon which images
of the flora, fauna, topography and customs of the empire were carved,
was used in ceremonies dedicated to the worship of water. Several
other similar rock outcrops lie scattered across the surrounding
area, along the vestiges of an Inca highway.