Choquequirao (Aymara chuqui, Gold, and Quechua k´iraw, Cot, ie Cradle of Gold), city of the Inca Empire is situated between the foothills of the Salkantay Snowy, in the province of Anta, Cusco region, southern Peru.
Its strategic location allows Choquequirao to encompass what could be considered one of the most extraordinary journeys on altitude of the country with varied ecosystems that range from snowy hight over 6,000 meters, to tropical valleys just over 1.800 meters high.
Moreover, it preserves an important water reservoir in the Qoriwayrachina, Sacsarayoc, Abuela and snowy Padreyoc, and on the western slope of Mount Salkantay.
It is inhabited by 16 species of birds, 93 of plants and animals as the condor and the bear with glasses.
The archaeological remains of Choquequirao are comprised of buildings and terraces on different levels, from the lowest level to the top Sunch’u Pata truncated highest, which was leveled and fenced with stones to form a platform with an approximate area of 150 square metres.
Choquequirao (also called Choqequirau or Choquekiraw) is considered the elder sister of Machu Picchu for its structural and architectural likeness; it could be one of the lost citadels in the valley of Vilcabamba, where the Incas took refuge from 1536.
As you can see the citadel resisted the passage of centuries, thanks to the lush and wild vegetation and the rocks, which have camouflaged and still cover about 80% of its surface.
Even though its discovery is not recent, in the last few years it has aroused the interest of the Peruvian government to recover the archeological complex and make it even more accessible for tourists interested in learning about the Inca culture alternative.
HOW TO GET TO CHOQUEQUIRAO?
The starting point is from the city of Cusco by the road leading to Abancay. At mile 154 one should take the detour to the town of Cachora (2.900 meters), the last village before reaching the archaeological complex. From there you should take a hike of about 30 km. which can be made in two days.
From Cachora it is necessary to go down to camp at the Apurimac River (1.530 m). On the second day the hike goes up to 3.085 meters where Choquequirao is located.
In the coming years there will be a cable car to the archaeological complex of Choquequirao, built between Apurimac and Cusco making the access the to Inca city in just over three hours starting from Cusco.
Choquequirao was more than a fortress, it was a religious site. For its location it is likely to have been the most important religious center, inhabited by priests and those consecrated to the gods. There were paintings and cemeteries found that would confirm this theory.
Choquequirao is arranged in nine areas and small villages built around a large square where all the roads from each area end. It was possible to locate the upper plaza (Hanan), the deposits (Qolqa), the main square (Huaqaypata), the lower square (Hurin) the agricultural platforms immediate to the main square (Chaqra Anden), the ceremonial platform (Ushno) and housing for the priests in the bottom of the hill.
Other theories are inclined to consider that Choquequirao was a political and economic center, which served as a commercial and cultural center, between the coast, highlands and jungle.
Surprisingly Choquequirao has multiple two floors buildings with cooking facilities inside.
They have found 22 figures known as Llamas del Sol carved in stones, arranged in 15 terraces facing the snowy Qory Hauyrachina. (see photo gallery).
Choquequirao has a great system of terraces / balconies, a feature of the Inca villages. They were built on the hillsides for agricultural use.
According to the legend, Choquequirao corresponds to the lost city and would have been the place inhabited by the last Incas who escaped from the capital of his empire, Cusco, after the defeat of Manco II. In this place the Incas had found refuge and managed to resist the Spanish invasion for forty years. Choquequirao was so extensive that had contained fifteen thousand inhabitants.
The true story of Choquequirao is lost in the depths of centuries. Another version says it was a border fortress defending probably the upper valley of Apurimac, one of the natural access routes to Cusco, built aganst the surprise attacks of the powerful enemy nation of the Chanca, who sought the Inca capital at the time Viracocha.
From an undeniable Inca origin, the stories say that it was built by the Inca Viracocha, by his son Pachacutec, or his grandson Tupac Inca Yupanqui.
CHOQUEQUIRAO – MACHU PICCHU TREK
The road from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu is one of the alternative paths to the traditional Inca Trail to reach the majestic Inca citadel.
This is the longest walk of all and also one of the least busy. To make this ride it is necessary to have a guided tour with an experienced and familiar with the area guide.
Living the Choquequirao – Machu Picchu trek is amazing. Travelers walk from the most imposing heights to deep ravines, crossing rivers over bridges made from tree trunks and enjoying the experience of the different climates of the Peruvian jungle.
The journey begins in Cusco, where the tour operator picks up the passengers from their hotels to go to the village of Cachora. There the porters are waiting to begin the trek downhill by the Apurimac canyon to reach Chiquisca (1.800 m.a.s.l.) where the first camp is made. The next morning starts the walk towards Choquequirao, where we visit the archaeological site and condors are seen flying over the mountains ranges.
During the following days other archaeological sites in the region as Pinchiunuyoj are visited where you can see different species of birds, and enjoy the coca and orchid plantations. It then ascends to the Cornfield at 3.000 meters where we camp.
In the following days, they continue touring and visiting the different Inca constructions.
The peak height is 4.670 m.a.s.l. where one can see a spectacular view and two snowy mounts can be observed: Sacsarayoj and Padreyoj. Then we descend to the Rio Santa Teresa to continue walking the extensive valley until you can take a shuttle to the district of Santa Teresa where you can enjoy a beautiful and comforting Hot Springs.
The last day a hike of 3 hours is undertaken to reach the 2,810 meters where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city of Machu Picchu and then descend the valley to take the train heading towards the town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo). Once arrived in town the traveler can choose to enjoy the hot springs to relax their bodies and recharge for the visit to the Citadel of Machu Picchu the next day.
Duration of Choquequirao – Machu Picchu Trail: 9 Days – 8 Nights (can last 8D / 7N).
Complexity: The walk is the toughest, several days of expedition marked ascents and descents.