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Choquequirao to Machu Picchu
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View of Choquequirao

The treks to Machu Picchu are usually demanding, but there is one that puts more than one to the test. The most extreme trekking route to Machu Picchu is the one that starts near the Apurimac Canyon and passes through the archaeological site of Choquequirao. This route can be done after 7 or 8 days of trekking through the Apurimac and Cusco Andes. Making this trek requires good physical preparation and also having enough knowledge of the route, the itinerary, and especially the patience required to make such an extensive and demanding route. Below, we leave you details and some tips for this route.


The route to Machu Picchu through Choquequirao

There are several hiking or trekking routes to Machu Picchu and most of them are demanding, especially for people who are not prepared for trekking routes. Here we want to present the longest route to Machu Picchu, following only the mountain route. That is, following a path exclusively on foot, this route is well known as the Choquequirao Trek to Machu Picchu. This route has variations of 7, 8, and 9 days. The popular route can be done in 8 days, in which more than 100 kilometers are traveled on foot, each day hiking until reaching Machu Picchu. There are also other variations where the number of days is increased so that the daily trek is not so long.

To avoid confusion we want to focus on the 8-day route, which is usually the most commercial and highly recommended because it allows you to have a tailor-made experience. The trek will start in Cachora, near the Apurimac Valley. From this place, you should leave your vehicle behind and prepare your belongings for the next 8 days. However, before arriving at this place, normally, tourists arrive first at Cusco so you have to make a trip from Cusco to Cachora. There is also the possibility of doing the whole trip with the help of a travel agency and on your own. For the latter, you will have to make reservations for the entrance tickets for both Choquequirao (which can be done in the same place) and to enter Machu Picchu.

In the case of the Machu Picchu ticket, it is possible to make the reservation well in advance and online. In case the trip is independent, it is necessary to foresee this and also the camping equipment and food. When the route is done with the help of an agency, they usually take care of all the logistics such as transportation, food, camping, and guiding for the trek. Something that should also be taken into account before starting the trek is that the participants of this route must have been physically prepared for at least three months in advance, with regulated routines designed to improve their physical condition. The route to Choquequirao allows crossing different geographical areas which we will see in detail below.


The magic of nature for 8 days

One of the most spectacular views of the Choquequirao
One of the most spectacular views of the Choquequirao – Machu Picchu route
 

The main motivation for people to dare to do this route is that they can find a way to connect with nature. The hikes along this route to Machu Picchu follow trails that are rarely used by the people of the surrounding communities. In this sense, these routes have a certain mysticism because they include some sections that were used by the inhabitants of the Tawantinsuyo, that is, by the inhabitants of more than 500 years ago. In short, the sections known as the Qhapac Ñam are followed, especially when starting the route to Machu Picchu from Choquequirao.

Another of the most important factors of this route is that you can appreciate the meeting of two valleys. At the beginning of the hike you are at an altitude of less than 3000 meters above sea level. In this sense, you can find a similar geographical space to Cusco, but Cachora is surrounded by higher mountains and snow-capped peaks in the distance. As for the climate, it is slightly warmer than Cusco, but it is not a bad idea to start the hike with warm clothes that will be useful as you ascend the trails.

During the first days of the trek it is possible to appreciate a geographical space composed of high mountains with little vegetation, almost scarce, but with a beautiful view of the Apurimac and Vilcanota rivers. Both rivers played an essential role for the Tawantinsuyo since they formed the valleys that shaped the fertile land, ideal for agriculture and the production of corn, beans, and potatoes. These plantations are common in both regions and it is normal to find them about to harvest during the months of January and February.

As the trails approach Choquequirao, it is possible to find more vegetation. You can also find one of the highest bird viewpoints in Cusco. In this place with a lot of luck you can find the condor flying from the heights in search of food. This place is located in Capuliyoq, right on the route, and also from this place you can see all the advanced trails, and the Apurimac Canyon. These brief moments are really a spectacle and ideal for the contemplation of nature. Later we descend to Playa Rosalina where we can see the Apurimac River, and the group will spend the night near the place.

In the same way that when arriving at Choquequirao, when leaving this place, a brief route begins that moves away from the abundant vegetation and again we enter trails of regular vegetation. The wonderful thing about this entire route is that during the whole journey we can appreciate the mountain ranges that seem infinite because they are lost in the horizon. During the last stretches before reaching Machu Picchu and through the same place it is possible to find a great variety of orchids and with luck to see some multicolored birds, typical of the area. It should be noted that Machu Picchu is located in the high jungle of Cusco and also has several microclimates throughout the Natural Sanctuary that expand as a sector of natural and environmental protection.


The most complicated sections

Choquequirao refuge
Before touring Choquequirao we arrive at the camping area, ideal for spending the night
 

Believe it or not, the first days are usually the most complicated. During these days there are different sections that include ascending and descending routes. These sections, although safe, demand a certain resistance capacity in the legs and knees due to the constant friction required to move forward. That is why, to facilitate the ascent and descent, hiking poles should be used to avoid carrying too much weight. The poles help to reduce the force used in each stride, providing the strength driven by the arms.

Another complicated stretch is when you reach Yanama and the Victoria Pass, an old mine that can be covered briefly. During this pass, which is normally reached on the fifth or sixth day, you can appreciate the scenery from an altitude of more than 4,130 meters above sea level. This sector is the most icy and has the highest altitude that is traversed during this route. It is usually complicated precisely because of these factors, although altitude sickness is unlikely to occur, but the cold, can lower the temperature and reach up to 0 ° C.

Finally, the most complicated part is when the tour of Machu Picchu ends and the return trip begins. There are many people who do not want to finish the tour. However it has turned out to be one of the most complicated and really extreme routes because of the number of days and the strong difficulty of some sections. To culminate this process must provoke an extensive moment of reflection and self-knowledge. This is what hiking trails offer, moments where you can disconnect from reality and begin to live in an environment surrounded by nature. In addition, the route that connects Choquequirao with Machu Picchu is one of the most beautiful because of the nature that composes it, where the mountain ranges seem infinite. If you do this route you can not forget a camera.


The reward?

Doing this route is already a reward in itself. The different landscapes and days of peace that this route offers you are gifts from nature itself. In addition, achieving a connection for so long with the environment is simply a form of rebirth. In the sense that the whole experience allows an excellent form of introspection and also to forget about all those problems of existence itself. When this type of activity is carried out, the whole journey and the time it takes is an immediate reward. In addition, reaching Choquequirao and then going to Machu Picchu is a feat that few people, to date, have managed to accomplish.

Long hikes in the Andes require adequate physical and mental preparation. Thoughts can often be a problem, but doing this type of activity allows the mind to free itself from what imprisons it. Besides being a permanent stimulus towards adventure, that is to say, you will leave stress and other evils behind. Finally, it is worth mentioning that being part of the small number of people who achieved this walk must represent something really important. In which the importance does not lie in feeling special, but in conquering one of the most beautiful challenges on planet Earth.

Capuliyoc viewpoint
This is part of the trail from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu – Capuliyoc viewpoint
 


Some recommendations

We just want to leave some recommendations so that making the decision to make this trip is not so complicated. We believe that, if you made it this far, you are very close to making the decision to make this trip. Don’t think twice, exercise and start planning your next trekking route.

  • Start training, in case you do not do it very often, it is important to do this route in good physical condition.
  • The most recommended training activity is to go jogging.
  • Plan your trip well. Try to make your reservation to Machu Picchu with the necessary anticipation.
  • Take only what you need for the hike.
  • Do not use disposable utensils or tools.
  • Have some cash on hand.
  • To enter Choquequirao and Machu Picchu, you will have to show your passport or ID card.
  • During the trek it is important that you adjust your footwear properly.
  • Use hiking shoes or similar, resistant, and comfortable shoes.
  • If you are traveling in company, make sure you do the trek in a group. It is not advisable, and much less safe, to get ahead or fall behind.
  • And, most importantly, enjoy this experience to the fullest.

 

By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 27-02-2024


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