Take alternative trails to Machu Picchu from Choquequirao and see all the natural beauty and fascinating history that Peru’s mountains have to offer!
If you are looking for alternative trails to Machu Picchu, look no further! On this adventurous 9-day trek, you will walk Inca highways, hike through high Andean landscapes, descend into deep canyons, and pass through biologically diverse cloud forest ecosystems. This program combines visits to two major archaeological sites: remote and seldom-visited Choquequirao and legendary Machu Picchu. It is a fascinating adventure through part of the old empire of the Incas and one of Peru’s pristine wilderness areas.
Choquequirao stands for “Cradle of Gold” in Quechua. This was one of the last Inca cities that held out and resisted the Spanish invasion. The hike to this unique destination is not as well-known as Machu Picchu, but with similar fascinating ruins. Today, archaeologists are still excavating the city from under the lush plants of the cloud forest.
Duration: 9 Days / 8 Nights
Start and end location: Cusco
Availability: April to November
Day 1 – Drive to Cachora Village and Marvel at the Views of Apurimac Canyon from Kapulyoq Pass
To start your tour, you will take a 4-hour bus ride through the beautiful Andean highlands to Cachora village. There, you will meet the mule drivers and begin your trek. You will start with an easy hike on a historic mining road to Kapulyoc Pass (9,240 feet/2,800 meters).
You will love the stunning views of Apurimac Canyon and the snowy mountains around it. After some time to rest and enjoy the views, you will continue going down for about 3 hours on a dry trail on the wall of the canyon to the first campsite, the Chiquiska Oasis (6,000 feet/1,800 meters).
Day 2 – Cross the Apurimac River and Climb to Choquequirao
After a delicious breakfast, you will continue walking down to the bottom of the valley, where you will cross the Apurimac River (5,000 feet/1,495 meters). Then, you will begin a long, steep trek of about 5 hours to the majestic archaeological site of Choquequirao. You will get there at the perfect time to see a magnificent sunset, complimented by the shadowy canyon and imposing mountains (9,900 feet/3,000 meters).
Day 3 – Explore the Ancient Archaeological Site of Choquequirao and Eat a Traditional Meal
In the morning, you will explore Choquequirao. You will get to see both ruins that have been restored as well as ruins still covered by lush vegetation of the cloud forest. Conservators have excavated, cleared, and restored the site in recent years.
After a filling lunch, you have the option of visiting Cascade House. There, you can find terraces and restored buildings that are located 1,000 feet (300 meters) below the main structures of Choquequirao. Later on, you will enjoy a traditional Peruvian meal of “pachamanca” for dinner. This dish is made from typical Andean ingredients and is cooked in the earth. You can even help with the food preparation!
From the ceremonial platform at the highest point of the archaeological site (called the “usno”), you can see spectacular views of the Apurimac Canyon. If you are lucky, you could see a huge Andean condor flying above you.
Day 4 – Hike to the Ancient Ruins of Pinchaunuyoc and Camp at Maizal
The day starts early with an energizing breakfast because there will be a lot of hiking in the day on alternative trails to Machu Picchu. First, you will go on a short and steep uphill to the ridge. From there, you can see an expansive view of the Apurimac Canyon and Choquequirao.
After going down for 1 hour, you will arrive to the tropical vegetation-covered ruins of Pinchaunuyoc. You will have time to explore the site. Afterward, you will continue your descent to Rio Blanco. There, you can rest and eat a plentiful lunch. In the afternoon, you will go on a dusty, steep, and hot climb to the campsite at Maizal.
Day 5 – Marvel at Mountain Views as You Walk through San Juan Pass to Yanama
Feel the refreshing morning air as you start with an early hike. You will trek on old Inca alternative trails to Machu Picchu, going up quickly. As you walk, the plants around you will change from cloud forest to high Andean grassland. When you reach San Juan Pass, you can see breathtaking views of the snowy mountain peaks around you, including Mount Pumasillo, “Puma’s Claw”.
After a yummy lunch, you will continue hiking, going down for two hours. You will see empty silver mines as you walk along narrow paths with sheer drops. Finally, you will get to the small village of Yanama. After that, there is only an easy climb to arrive to your campsite.
Day 6 – Enjoy a Delicious Lunch at the Top of La Rinconada Pass
In the morning, you will walk through high grasslands to La Rinconada Pass (15,300 feet/4,650 meters), admiring the snowy peaks as you go. At the Pass, you will have lunch and look at the majestic views. The afternoon includes a long downhill, entering the cloud forest and arriving to the campsite at Totora in the late afternoon.
Day 7 – Travel through Lush Vegetation to Lucmabamba
The day starts off with a calm walk next to the Salkamayo River. The plant life will get thicker as you pass by waterfalls, passion fruit plants, and coffee plantations. By afternoon, you will get to the campsite close to the village of Lucmabamba (7,100 feet/2,155 meters). There, you can rest, swim in the river, and enjoy dinner.
Day 8 – Spot Machu Picchu from a Lookout and Relax in Aguas Calientes
Start the day with breakfast. Then, you will hike past coffee plantations to El Mirador Pass (9,500 feet/2,860 meters). From these alternative trails to Machu Picchu, you can see an incredible panorama of the iconic ancient city from an unusual angle.
You will have the last lunch of the tour at a beautiful lookout point at Llaqtapata (8,750 feet/2,650 meters). From there, you can see Mount Salkantay and Machu Picchu. You will rest, then go downhill for 2 hours to a hydroelectric station, then on to the village of Aguas Calientes. This is where the alternative trails to Machu Picchu come to an end, as Aguas Calientes is below Machu Picchu. You will sleep for the night in the village. After checking into your hotel, you can rest in the natural hot springs or wander the streets before dinner.
Day 9 – Witness the Extraordinary Archaeological Site of Machu Picchu and Return to Cusco
You will have breakfast in the early morning and ride a bus up to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu to watch the sunrise. At this early hour, the ruins are peaceful, as most travelers arrive later on.
At the ruins, your expert guide will show you around. Then, you will have ample time to explore on your own. You can walk to the Inca drawbridge or climb Huayna Picchu. In the afternoon, you will go back to Aguas Calientes and take the train to Cusco. Upon arrival, you will be dropped off at your hotel.
After you book your experience, you will receive a confirmation email from us confirming that your payment went through. You will then be connected directly to the tour operator, in case you have any further questions. We are also happy to answer any questions about the tour, or travel in general in your country of destination.