After quite a tough hike we will see fascinating and remote Choquequirao (“cradle of gold” in Quechua) – awesome in design and also location, perched high on a spur above the Apurimac canyon – the third deepest canyon in Peru. This is the great place to see condors inhabiting the area. From here we continue our trek into even more remote territory where we can see villagers who live in the area of Yanama, as well as glaciers, valleys and mines of silver.
Choquequirao to Machu Picchu The highest point of the trek is Yanama pass at 4800 msnm/15900 feet after which we descent to the subtropical area. We walk along coffee and banana plantations before arriving at Aguas Calientes. The last day is devoted to exploring the Lost City of Incas – Machu Picchu. You must join us on this unforgettable and challenging adventure.Less
You leave Cusco and drive on good tarmac until turning off to the beautiful village of Cachora. Your trekking team will be waiting for you near the trailhead. After an early lunch you start to descend the switchback trail, 1600m (5250ft) into the Apurimac canyon and the small settlement of Chikiska where you camp for the night.
After a delicious breakfast, you continue down to cross the roaring Apurimac River then climb past the small communities of Santa Rosa and Maranpata to camp next to the Choquequirao ruins. The path is good though steep and it can get very hot. This is a long tough day requiring an early start but the scenery more than makes up for the hardships endured.
A fifteen minute walk takes you to the main square of Choquequirao. Perched on a tiny hilltop 1,700m (5580ft) above the Apurimac, the location and views are awe-inspiring. The ruins cover an area far bigger than Machu Picchu. Enormous curving terraces, ritual baths and a fine main plaza are just some of the highlights. Those with the energy can even descend to see the famous white stone llamas laid into the rock.
Choquequirao remains a mystery. It was not mentioned in the Spanish chronicles and although Hiram Bingham visited, he failed to realise its importance. Large areas still remain covered in the thick cloud forest, giving you a true Indiana Jones experience. Even today it receives very few visitors, protected by its remote location.
After a great day exploring you return to base camp to relax and ponder upon all that you have learnt and seen.
You leave early for the short climb to the pass. Then it is downhill 1400m (4600ft) past the recently discovered ruins of Pincha Unuyoc to the Rio Blanco where you can dip your feet in the cool waters. Just beware of the biting sand-flies. Known as “Pumahuacachi” their name means “makes the puma cry”.
Refreshed, you climb steeply again, 1,200m (3900ft) to the small and beautifully located campsite of Maizal at an altitude of 3,000m (9840ft). This is probably the toughest day of the trip but if you have prepared well and are determined, you will succeed. And the cold beer on arrival will taste even better.
You leave camp behind and climb past old silver mines to the highest pass of the trip. Abra San Juan at 4,000m (13123ft) affords spectacular views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range.
You then take a delightful and at times precipitous path down to the charming Andean village of Yanama. Here you say goodbye to your muleteers and climb aboard the waiting vehicle for the spectacular drive on dirt road over the Totora pass to the small hamlet of Lucmabamba.
Your final day of hiking: you take a spectacular royal Inca trail up through lush coffee and tropical fruit plantations, into pristine cloud forest. As the path crests the ridge, old Inca walls appear out of the forest and you step in the recently cleared ruins of Llactapata.
Hiram Bingham got here too, but the map he drew was so bad, neither he nor anyone else could find the ruins again for 80 years. In the mid-1990s an Anglo-American team found them once more, totally covered over by thick jungle vines.Step a few metres further and you will see just why the Incas built here. The view across to Machu Picchu is magnificent. Few tourists have ever seen it from this side.
After some time to sit, contemplate the view and watch the Andean swifts playing overhead, you descend steeply to the Urubamba valley and the hydroelectric plant train station. From here you have a choice. Either wait for the short but spectacular train ride, or hike two to three hours along the rail track to the bustling tourist town of Machu Picchu Pueblo and your hotel for the night.
Relaxed after a comfortable night, you head up to Machu Picchu for your full guided tour before the crowds arrive. There is time afterwards to hike to the Inca Bridge, Watchman’s hut or just wander through the ruins soaking up the atmosphere.
In the afternoon you descend to the waiting train to enjoy one of the great train journeys of the world back towards Cusco.