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Choquequirao means "cradle of gold" in Quechua although this is probably not its original Inca name. It is another "lost city of the Incas" located high on a ridge spur almost 1750m above the raging glacier-fed Apurimac River and surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks.
The US explorer Gary Ziegler suggests that Choquequirao may have been the place where the last Inca, Tupac Amaru, was raised among Inca Priestesses. The abundance of many double jamb doorways and niches indicates that the place was held in high status.
The ruins were first visited and described to the western world by a French explorer during the 18th century. Hiram Bingham visited the site in 1910. This was his first experience of "lost cities" prior to his discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911. The remoteness and inaccessibility have discouraged visitors until fairly recently when COPESCO constructed a footbridge over the Apurimac River below the ruins. Even today the ruins are still rarely visited although, with the enforcement of new regulations on the Inca Trail, Choquequirao is destined to replace the traditional hike as the serious trekkers alternative.
(May vary slightly from company to company)
Day 1: Cusco - Cachora - Coca Masana - Playa Rosalina
We leave Cusco at 4:00 am in the morning for the 5 hour drive to the town of Cachora. Here we will have a late breakfast, meet our wranglers and arrange our equipment on mules and horses. It is a 2 hour hike to Capuliyoc (2915m) from where we have our first beautiful views of the Apurimac valley stretching below as well as the snow-capped peaks of Padrayoc and Wayna Cachora. We then descend toward Coca Masana (2330m) where the climate becomes noticeably warmer and the flora and fauna begin to change. Finally we arrive at Playa Rosalina (Rosalina Beach) at 1550m beside the raging Apurimac River where we will set up camp and spend the night.
Day 2: Rosalina Beach - Choquequirao
This is considered the hardest of the 5 days. After an early breakfast to climb a steep trail. It is a 5 hour hike to Raqaypata beside the Chunchullumayo River where we will have a late lunch and a much deserved rest. Along we way we will observe many orchids and wild flowers as well as many birds. From Raqaypata to Choquequirao (3035m) is a 2 hour hike. We will arrive at the archaeological site in time to enjoy the sunset and maybe the opportunity to see a Condor flying nearby. Our campsite will be just outside the ruins.
Day 3: Choquequirao - Raqaypata
Today is dedicated to exploring the incredible ruins of Choquequirao. Our guide will explain the history and importance of the site. After you will have free time to visit the many sectors of the complex. Late in the afternoon we will start the return trek and camp the night at Raqaypata.
Day 4: Raqaypata - Coca Masana
After breakfast we continue our return trek with a steep descent towards the Apurimac River where we will stop and have lunch. In the afternoon we will climb for approximately 4 hours to our final campsite at Coca Masana.
Day 5: Coca Masana - Cachora - Cusco
After a 3 hour climb we reach Capuliyoc. From then on it is a fairly flat trail back to the village of Cachora. We will say goodbye to our wranglers and take the bus back towards Cusco. We will stop at the archaeological site at Saihuite, a chance to rest and have lunch. A further 4 hours by bus bring us back to Cusco. After a luxurious hot shower it's time to enjoy a much deserved beer and a good meal !
(trekking information and itinerary used with kind permission from Peru Treks & Adventure www.perutreks.com)