Looking for an less crowded alternative to Machu Picchu?
Choquequirao (Chuqik’iraw or Chuqi K’iraw) is a complex of ruins built by the Incas in XV and XVI century. The complex covers an area of 1800 hectares, but only around 30-40% of the ruins are excavated. Still a significant part of the ruins is covered with flora in a way that completely camouflages them. Choquequirao seemed to be the royal residence founded by Pachacuti (Pachacutec, in Quechua Pachakutiq) and then remodeled and extended by his son Topa Inca Yupanqui (Túpac Inca Yupanqui, in Quechua Tupaq Inka Yupanki).
At the moment, the ruins are very well preserved and make a great impression. This Inca city has larger area than the famous Machu Picchu and is situated a little higher. Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of about 2430 m., while Choquequirao at a height of about 3000 m.
Choquequirao ruins near Cusco
Choquequirao is far less crowded than Machu Picchu. It’s less accessible to tourist, so it’s still a place that’s calm and mysterious. For example Machu Picchu can be reached in different ways. One of the quickest and easiest possibilities is the train which goes directly from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The journey takes about 2.5 hours. Then in Aguas Calientes you can take a bus which goes directly to Machu Picchu. This part of the trip takes approximately 30-40 minutes.
In the case of Choquequirao, the trip looks a bit different. Transportation like train, car, bus, are not available here. The only way to reach the ruins is trekking, possibly with the help of horses, donkeys and their owners, called Arrieros. Getting to the ruins requires about two days of hiking, and another two days for coming back. For those who do not have experience in walking in the mountains, the entire trip can be extended to up to 5 days.
Admittedly, the expedition to Choquequirao is one of the toughest treks in the region of Cusco. Why? Because before you arrive to the Inca city, you have to overcome a lot of kilometers, at first you have a few hours to descend to the valley and then you have to climb to the top on the opposite side of this valley. But it’s still not the end of the expedition. Then there is a little parts which are flat, and again some minor downhills and ascensions. Finally, after about 2 days, the goal will be reached. And even if this part of the trip does not seem too hard, for sure the road back will consume quite a lot of energy. In the case of Choquequirao, for now there is no option to do a circle. You need to come back the same route in which you arrived to the ruins. Which means nothing less than the first few hours will be sharply down, and then a few hours quite sharply up.
How many days is needed for an expedition to Choquequirao?
In principle, all travel companies offer trekking to Choquequirao in 4 or 5 days. But also it is possible to explore the ruins in three days. The details about our 3 days trip you will find in the article “How to organize Choquequirao trekking in Peru in 3 days“
Entrance ticket to Choquequirao ruins
At present, for admission into the Choquequirao ruins you need to pay only $13 USD. As a comparison, for entrance ticket to Machu Picchu ruins you have to pay much more – $62 (students and children $37).
New project – the cable car to Choquequirao
At this moment Choquequirao is still a place very unique, mysterious, distant.
All these features of the Inca city may soon be lost, due to a long time project to build a cable car to the archaeological site of Choquequirao. Authorities of Cusco region are hoping that the construction of cable car to Choquequirao will relieve Machu Picchu from the big crowds. At present Machu Picchu is so crowded with tourists, that there is a plan of new limitations on visiting this unique place.
The case of construction of the cable car to Choquequirao is quite controversial. There are those who support the project and those who are strongly against this option. One thing is certain, the build of a cable car will deprive Choquequirao of its unique and mysterious character. It will cause that this place will be not anymore filled with beautiful tranquility, peace and harmony, which everybody could now enjoy. Is it worth it to destroy this uniqueness? Judge for yourself…
At present, due to the protests of the local population, the final decision on this project has been suspended. For how long is hard to say, but probably soon some breakthroughs in this matter will appear.
Choquequirao or Machu Picchu?
Both archaeological complexes are very beautiful, unique and worth seeing. Decision about which place to choose depends on the tastes of each person, physical and financial conditions, general plan of your trip around Peru, the time available, as well as the month you intend to come to Peru, etc.
As resources portfolio and time allow it is definitely worth seeing both Machu Picchu and Choquequirao, a decision can be difficult. In such a situation, ask yourself before deciding several key questions and think for a moment what is the most important for you.