Peru is a hiker’s dream as the country is a blend of various geographies and biomes. Deserts, jungle, windswept coast, and more clash together. As a hiker, you can expect to experience deep ravines and fast running rivers first hand, but the best reason for hiking in Peru is the Andes.
Pushing Past The Foothills Of The Andes
These are the mountains that makeup fantasy worlds, except they exist in South America just waiting for someone to explore. Although the mountains in Peru are the foothills of the Andes many of their peaks stretch up to 20,000 feet tall over a comparably small area.
To visit this hidden refuge in Peru, you must hike about 40-miles in total, looping back to the start location. Initially, the hike takes explorers through a high-altitude desert and then into a tropical forest in the mountains. At about 10,000 feet you officially enter the foothills of the Andes. The hike keeps away from the more significant peaks, and this hike is one of the best ways to experience standing in the shadow of a mountain.
Many of those who have made their hikes up to Machu Pichu can attest that spending days among the greenery that makes up the many folds of these mountains is life changing. Most of the hike will take place nestled into the ridges of the Andes, navigating with the ravines and the high mountain ridges.
Machu Picchu Has A Little Sister
The purpose of this hike is to find the final refuge of the Incas, a Citadel in Choquequirao. The Incas, a not-forgotten but still ancient culture which left many clues of their way of life. The Incan empire dates from about 1438 to 1532 AD and the construction as well as agricultural plotting shows the advancement of the Incas who began settling this expansive land.
Although many people make their way to Peru every year to climb the magnificent mountains and step foot into the mysterious Machu Picchu, there are more unanswered questions about Choquequirao.
The Inca Emporer Pachacuti commissioned Choquequirao for unknown purposes although the Citadel makes it clear there is some divine presence. It is clear to historians that this same Emporer called for the establishment of Machu Picchu for religious purposes, but the fact that Choquequirao is so far from the rest of the Inca settlements baffles researchers.
Choquequirao translates to “Cradle of Gold” and sits near a small village on the very edge of Cusco that is nearly impossible to access. Hiking to Choquequirao is a daunting task that has no modern conveniences or guidance.
How Choquequirao Was Found And Then Found Again
The trails are as challenging to walk today as they were nearly 500 years ago when the Incas sought their last place of refuge from invading Spaniards. To get to Choquequirao hikers must use the trails set out by the Incas. After the Incas used these paths in the mid-1500s, they would sit untouched and growing wild until 1909.
Hiram Bingham III found Choquequirao, unfortunately for the many explorers of the world, when he discovered Machu Picchu, he forgot all about this city on the edge of the world. It’s no doubt that the stunning sight that sat between curtailed mountaintops grabbed his attention. Choquequirao would sit forgotten again until 1968.
For explorers the lore of the Incas fall in less than 100 years and the wild nature that has overtaken it make Choquequirao a must-see location.
Machu Picchu has gone through an assault from the overload of visitors, and now literally sinks into the hills of the Andes. The nature that bloomed and thrived there is dying from pollution and human presence. All the while that Machu Picchu was becoming known as the explorer’s paradise, Choquequirao was making its way onto the Official Register of Archaeological Monuments.
Hiking Up To Choquequirao
As with many of these mountain trails that run through untamed regions of nature, it’s always best to hire a local guide. Be sure that before hiking up to Choquequirao you know you’re in peak physical condition as the altitudes are high and the hike is demanding.
Any local guide should have a wealth of knowledge about the flora, fauna, local culture, and Inca history or lore. Although all anyone can do is speculate about the purpose of Choquequirao’s existence, many guides can offer insight into the advancements and agricultural methods that the Incas brought to our world.
Choquequirao is known as the edge of the world, although when you finally hit the top of your climb, you’ll realize it doesn’t have all the finality the weight of its nickname carries. Standing at the entrance to Choquequirao you have an unremarkable overlook of the Andes.
Take In Everything Before You Go
The trail takes a turn that requires patience and caution. The way down is through a stairway path that is nearly a vertical descent and goes on for about 50 stories.
At the bottom you enter the Rio Apurimac, pass the Playa Rosalina and enter a small farming community. You continue through many farming towns and a massive amount of untouched wilderness.
The citadel is small, and it’s no doubt that this refuge wasn’t planned to act as the last place of hiding for the Inca people. Before leaving, be sure to observe the small details in craftsmanship as well as the stunning views. Use your imagination to recreate pilgrims making this great journey, as well as the last wave of Incas retreating here for safety.
Don’t forget to see the Llamas del Sol or to walk among the many other terraces. One of the perks of making this hike is the ability to visit Choquequirao both in the day and night. Many explorers love to camp in the citadel and gaze at the open sky above them.
Because Choquequirao has gone through waves of restoration, you can see where rebar is present for doorway reconstruction. These days Choquequirao is still a location that only explorers have any interest in and has not seen half the attention that Machu Picchu could have in a year. Who knows how long Choquequirao will stay empty.