Machu Picchu via Choquequirao – solo 9 days hike
Machu Picchu is on the to-do list of pretty much everyone traveling to Peru. It is one the 7 new wonders of the world and it’s absolutely spectacular. Choquequirao on the other hand is almost unknown historical site which lacks the attention from tourists because of its remote location.
If you decide to go and see MP only, you are making a big mistake. There are so many historical and archeological sites in Sacred Valley that you could be based in Cusco for 2 months and still won’t be able to see them all.
MP can be done in few different ways:
- With Agency where you have accommodation and transport to MP pueblo included - 2 days trip
- Budget Solo trip to MP for 2 -3 days, taking a colectivo for 6 hours 1 way, walking along the train tracks and hiking up to MP
- Hiking the Inca trail - possible only with a guide, 5 days for $1000 USD+ per person
- Salkantay trek - with or without guide, very popular and busy option, they are talks of making the hike accessible with guide only
- Solo 10 day hike via almost unknown historical site Choquequirao
Lonely planet has put Choquequirao on the list of top places to visit in 2017. It is also the most challenging hike you can do in Peru. If you are nuts enough, you will continue the hike all the way to Machu Picchu like we did 😀
If I knew how hard it would be, I’m not sure I would choose to do it.
BUT once it was over, there was simply no better way we could have approached it. The sense of pride and overachievement was flowing through our bodies and we can say that we truly did hike the Inca trail (without spending a fortune).
- Start at Cachora and finish at Machu Picchu
- Length: 114km but within those 10 days we walked over 130km
- Difficulty: super tough, the toughest we have ever done (even tho we didn’t feel any altitude sickness this time)
- Track itinerary: Cusco - Cachora - Playa Rosalina - Marampata- Choquequirao - Maizal - Yanama - Chaullay - Llactapata Lodge (camping) - Machu Picchu Pueblo - Machu Picchu - Santa Maria - Cusco
- There was no problem with following the trek and we didn’t get lost once
- Sleep in a tent for free in few camp sites, basic beds and paid camping with hot showers and food available along the trek
- Budget: We didn’t go super cheap this time and didn’t cook all our meals, we also enjoyed some beers so the total cost was 1263 soles = 190 USD per person for 9 days
- Transport: 15 soles (Cusco to Cachora highway stop) + 10 soles (Cachora highway to Cachora pueblo) + 40 soles (Hydroelectrica to Cusco) = 65 soles
- Accommodation - some free sites along the hike, on the Choquequirao side of trek you pay max 5 soles per site and on the Salkantay side of trek the prices go up to 10 soles per tent + everything else is extra
- Food : We have carried food for 5 days and didn’t buy more along the trek as we used the option to eat with locals when we parked the tent, price is usually around 10 soles but on the Ch. side of trek it’s definitely better value (sopa, main, mate)
- Fees: 60 soles for Choquequirao site and 100 soles (discount of 50 soles) for Machu Picchu
- To avoid crowds at MP hike to Gate of the sun first
- Gas bottle: 40 soles
- Water is accessible everywhere along the hike, just bring purifier
- Beers are super expensive: 15 soles per 1 l bottle but sometimes you just can’t help yourself
How to guide:
Day 1 Cusco - Cachora to Chiquisca - 18km
Take a bus from Terrestre to Abancay and get off at Cachora (15soles)
There are cars waiting already, they will try to charge you 30 soles to the village. We negotiated 25 and then one local guy joined us as well, so we split the fare among the 3 of us. Don’t get cheated, the local guy paid only 5 soles and the driver still wanted 25 from us, we didn’t give in.
The trek starts directly in Cachora. We got there around 12.30pm and started hiking straight away. It’s pretty well signed. I do recommend using maps.me for the whole hike even tho it’s well signed. Because we started pretty late, we weren’t able to walk all the way to Playa Rosalina which is a shame as the camping there is for free and they have pretty clean toilets and showers, I checked. We stayed at camping in Chiquisca for 5 soles per tent and the lady wanted to charge extra for using the toilet. If in need you can get cooked meals there and buy some basics. ( for example 2l water cost 12 soles).
The hike itself is fairly easy the first 10km and then it’s steep 1500 downhill. It’s not pleasant but the views make up for it.
Day 2 - Chiquisca to Marampata - 12km
After our signature breakfast (oats with granola and dried fruit) we set out for what was one of the toughest days of my life (or so I thought until I’ve hiked more days on this trek). 2 km downhill to get to the river and then climb 1500m up within 10kms. The locals can climb it up within 4 hours, it took us good 7 😉 but later I discovered that Peruvians from Andean range are built for this environment, they are smaller and their lungs are much bigger. Where I’m probably one of the biggest woman they’ve ever seen... we would have made it all the way to Choquequirao that day but Martin started to get cramps into his legs and simply couldn’t walk anymore. This was the only day when I beat him on the hill and will cherish this memory for a long time ;))
We stayed with locals and it was the best camping on the whole hike. Horses and mules al around us, beautiful views, hot shower included in the price of 5 soles and lady cooked us the best soup we could have asked for (5soles pp).
Day 3 - Choquequirao (lot of walking up and down around the ruins)
Only 3km hike and we arrived to the free camping site of Choquequirao. We built a tent and went to discover the ruins straight away. You could easily spend the whole day here, we certainly did and still haven’t seen everything. The best part was that there were maybe 15 other ppl and since 2pm we were there completely alone. There are no guides, no explanations but we loved it so much. Check out the drone footage, it’s freaking awesome. And the fact that only 30% of the site has been restored and the rest is still hidden in the forest or underground is beyond my comprehension.
Day 4 - Choquequirao to Maizal - 12km
Mother of a day! First you need to climb up 400m to the top of the hill above Choquequirao, than descend 1400m down to the river and than ascent 1200m but within 4kms. That’s 30% incline on that last part. I had to stop every 200m, later increased it to every 500m but still, it was tough! We started hiking at 7am and I got to the camp just after 6pm. Of course we had a break around lunch time and jumped into the river but still, that’s 11 hours for 12km. Martin did much better and could have finished already around 5pm but as always he waited for me to make sure I didn’t die somewhere along the trek.
The cooked meal we had in the kitchen of our hosts was awesome (although I’ve never had spaghetti with papas fritas before, but on that night it was a Michelin Stat dinner ;)).
Day 5 - Maizal to 4250peak to Yanama - 9km
They promised this day was going to be easy. They said it would take only 5 hours...but like with everything on this trek, it wasn’t. We started at 7.30am and had to ascent 1100m to reach the peak of the mountain at 4250m. The altitude was starting to do its magic and I was truly struggling to get up (like everyday on this hike ;)) After that it was pretty nice descent to the village of Yanama. The views were magnificent, the whole mountain filled with silver stones, it felt like we are in a kingdom from our favourite Slovak fairytale:
We stopped in the first camping in Yanama around 3pm and again had a dinner with the hosts in their kitchen with guinea pigs running around 🙂
Day 6 - Yanama to Chaullay - 26km
This is the day I cheated and took a colectivo. I was simply exhausted, needed hot shower, wash our clothes and simply recharge. Martin on the other hand was determined he is walking the whole trek and therefore we woke up at 4.30am to start at 5am (me to catch a colectivo and him to hike 26km). First he needed to ascend 1.2km up and then descend another 1.6km. That crazy man has done it in less then 9 hours. That also shows how much I’m actually slowing him down.
We chose to meet in Chaullay as on the map it looked like it has proper accommodation and I needed hostel, bed and warm shower.
Warning: there is no hostel as you know it in Chaullay or Collpapampa. We got a room where there were holes in the wall, air flowing freely, no electricity to charge your batteries and you still need to take a shower outside. You might probably be better off just sleeping in a tent. We are really used to it by now and love sleeping in it.
This is also where you join the Salkantay trek and the increase in traffic as well as prices is very apparent. Where before we would pay 5 soles for a spot for a tent and hot shower, on Salkantay the cheapest you can get is 10soles per tent and need to pay extra 10 soles for shower. If you want to use wifi l, it’s extra 10 soles. We opted out and spent time reading and taking to the other gringoes we saw after 6 days of solitude.
Day 7 Chaullay to Llactapata lodge - 23km aka the day we showed all the groups with agencies how to walk the walk ;))
We woke up nice and early as we really didn’t want to walk with all the other people on tours and started our hike at 7am. While the groups with agencies were planning to have very easy day downhill and stop after 15-17km, we’ve decided we wanted to sleep with the view of Machu Picchu. Of course you talk to people you meet along the road and they couldn’t believe we wanted to hike that much. But after the previous days this was a piece of cake. The hike is really beautiful, super easy and not steep downhill for 18km and then it’s 800m ascent to reach the top of the hill and finally get the first glance of MP.
The campings we saw didn’t have the view so we ended up sleeping wild near the Llactapata Lodge which was closed. It was just us and horses chewing on grass.
Day 8 - Llactapata Lodge to Machu Picchu pueblo - 13km
The descent to the river was very wet and I felt down at least twice. Nothing horrible of course. We left early around 6.15am and by 8am we are already near Hydroelectrica. On the way down there were some fruit trees and we ate Tree Tomatoes and another produce that I can’t even name. It was magical 😉
At the train station we treat ourselves to the best scrambled eggs with champignons ever as a part of 12soles desayuno set. The owner suggest we can leave our backpacks with him and also talks to us about the prices of train. The 8km ride cost 5soles for locals and $31 USD for tourists. That’s quite a difference and we decide to walk along the train tracks. It’s not the safest but certainly doable option popular by budget travellers.
In the town we found a beautiful campground run by Municipal for 15soles. It is not protected and anyone can come to the playground and exercise ground which is part of it but locals said we have nothing to worry about. We left our big backpacks in it and head up to do some research on tickets to MP.
Day 8 - afternoon at Machu Picchu
If you go to the ticket office around or just after lunchtime they might still have tickets for the afternoon and sell it to you at a discounted price. We jumped at the opportunity and paid 100soles instead of 150. Unfortunately you are not able to climb any of the mountains around MP with the afternoon ticket BUT we can confirm there were less people than in the morning, we had beautiful weather with beautiful views where in the morning it was cloudy everywhere. I refused to climb up on the stairs (400m ascend), I was freaking done with climbing the hills so we paid for one way ticket by bus (super expensive for travellers outside of Peru: 38.8 soles) and didn’t regret it in spite of the crazy price tag.
When we got there with all the other people (mostly pensioners from US on a tour) we truly didn’t know if we are going to like it. There was easily 2000ppl at the gate. The best thing we could have done is to climb up as high as possible, we went directly for the Sun gate, there are not that many people who go that way and we got rid off all the crowds. After that we could really enjoy the site almost on our own, didn’t feel rushed and spend good 3.5 hours just walking around, soaking up the views, energy and the magnificence of the sacred place.
Day 9 Pueblo Machu Picchu - Hydroelectrica - Santa Maria - Cusco
Early in the morning we walked the 8km to Hydroelectrica where we had to have the scrambled eggs again, they were just so good. After that we got a car pretty much straight away that we shared with a Belgian traveler all the way to Santa Maria and changed to colectivo to Cusco. The road is crazy, the drivers out of their mind but it’s definitely an experience. I’m glad it’s behind me 😉 We’ve paid 40soles pp all the way to Cusco. It does take minimum 6 hours but the train cost $85 USD one way and we had plenty of time.
Because of the day 6 and 7 we were able to finish a day earlier than we expected.
We are super proud we have done it. We definitely became stronger, probably better and much lighter human beings 😉
I know it is a very long post but if you made it all the way down here, let me know if you did the hike or plan on doing it. I would love to know how did you enjoy it and if you struggled equally as much as I did 😀
We have done this hike in December 2017, if you have more up to date information, please do share it in the comments. Thank you.
Check out the article Slovak newspapers published based on our story. More than 30 thousands people have viewed it to date.