Choquequirao, known as "Cuna de Oro" in Quechua, was a ceremonial center of the Inca nobility, which served as a refuge for Túpac Amaru I before the arrival of the Spanish in the 15th century (Burga, 2008). It is located in Santa Teresa, Concepción, Cusco, and is called "the sister city of Machu Picchu" for its great similarity and the majesty that is perceived in both monuments. Although this Inca temple has been the object of attention for some time by foreign brands such as National Geographic and Lonely Planet, it has not yet fully exploited its tourist potential due to the level of difficulty of the route and its duration that ranges from 2 to 5 days, challenging even the most experienced hikers. However, Choquequirao has several characteristics to become a tourist destination of greater recognition and influx.
This monument is made up of archaeological ruins that house stories of the ancient Inca ways of life. For example, both the Chaqra Anden (anden) and the llama terraces were used to grow food, but the latter have carved figures expressing art and astronomical meanings (Lonely planet, n.d.). On the other hand, the main square (Haukaypata), comprised at its ends by a chapel and other buildings, served as a center for religious ceremonies; where the low square (hurin) played an important role by having a wall of offerings to the ancestors (Burga, 2008). Without a doubt, it is a place that had a high religious value for the Incas and that today we can contemplate.
In addition to its architectural complexity, Choquequirao preserves great scenic beauty. From the top of the summit, you can see the Apurímac river (Willkamayu), the leafy hills, the close movement of the clouds, some grasslands and the great vegetation that surrounds the center. This allows to have a reunion with ecotourism, since its variety of flora and fauna accompanies the tourist throughout the tour, being able to appreciate condors, orchids, vizcachas and even the Peruvian national bird, cock of the rocks.
In short, Choquequirao is a wonder to discover due to its impressive archeology, scenic beauty and its diversity of flora and fauna. Given its characteristics, this Inca city has great potential for environmental assets to be developed as a unique tourist destination. For this, it is necessary that MINCETUR, supported by the Ministry of the Environment (MINAM) and the Ministry of Culture (MINCUL), include Choquequirao in its strategic plans to achieve an implementation of infrastructures (cable cars, signaling, information channels, etc. ), as well as tourist services that preserve ecosystems, the wealth of natural resources and promote connectivity, generating an adequate and optimal tourist flow that leads to an economic income to achieve social progress in the host communities.
The ‘sister of Machupicchu’ is not far from her family: she is also located in the Cusco region (exactly in the Santa Teresa district, in the province of La Convencion), in the southern Peruvian Andes. And many wonder why it is considered a challenge to get to Choquequirao? Well, the answer is quite simple: only those who are physically and mentally prepared can access this territory.
It is located in the foothills of the Nevado Salkantay, in the Apurímac Valley, in the province of La Convencion in Cusco, Peru.
There is still no complete certainty of what the function of Choquequirao was, but it is presumed that this place was a sacred center, which also served to connect Pisac and Machupicchu with the Peruvian Amazon. Due to its complex access, it is also hypothesized that this area served as a refuge for the Incas, after the onslaught of the Spanish empire. The truth is that its historical legacy is invaluable, due to the amount of space that has not yet been investigated (it is estimated that only 30% of what was Choquequirao has been restored) and that sheds more and more evidence to be studied.
Its nine sectors, which include a political-religious center, you can also see an upper main square, buildings, fountains, warehouses, giant staircases, sacred corrals, houses of the rulers, a temple of the triumphal wall, temple of priests and different types of monumental platforms, among others. With all this space that is eager for you to discover it, are you going to think twice about going to Choquequirao?
There are theories that Choquequirao was, like Machupicchu, a place of residence for the Inca nobility. However, the most widespread thesis is that it served, along with other sites in the Vilcabamba valley, as a bastion of resistance. According to archaeologists such as the Peruvian Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, there, the last rebels of the Tahuantinsuyo, led by Manco Inca, son of Huáscar, founded the State of Vilcabamba and rose up against the Spanish between 1536 and 1572.
The enclosure remained silent until, in 1909, the American explorer Hiram Bingham, accompanied by residents of Apurímac, arrived at the complex and called attention to its importance. But it was only in the 1960s that the first cleaning works began, this due to the fact that a large vegetation covered part of the mountain where it is located.
At 3000 meters high, everything revolves around its main square in the lower area or Hurin. On one side are the kallankas or enclosures where the elite meetings were held. You can also walk through the areas designated for the governor's house. One of the works that stands out the most is the Triumphal Wall, named for the beauty and dimensions of its trapezoidal doors, very characteristic of Inca architecture.
In the highest part or Hanan you can see the imposing Ushnu, a circular platform for ceremonies and from where you have an impressive view of the entire citadel. In total, there are 9 sectors that make up the entire complex between squares, buildings, houses, warehouses, temples and platforms.
Due to its strategic location, Choquequirao is an example of the ambition and vanity of the Incas to dominate the world from above; the Apurímac River at its feet and the imposing mountain range around it prove it.
The transport does not enter their domains. Every route taken to Choquequirao is done on foot, in excursions that take from 2 to 3 days. You have to be physically prepared because they are long walks. And, in addition, you must be mentally prepared, because both the climate and the altitude of Cusco make this route, which is besieged by hiking enthusiasts, a little more complicated than it would take to do it in a not so rough terrain.
The trek to Choquequirao lasts approximately 4 days (2 going and 2 back) whose difficulty is basically due to its elevated location (3050 m above sea level) and steep geography. To get from the city of Cusco you must first travel by car for about 4 hours to the town of Cachora in the Apurímac region. It is a simple place that has a privileged view of the Cordillera de Vilcabamba and where you will find lodgings, wineries, muleteer services and rental of tents.
The starting point of the route is 10 minutes from the town in the middle of the mountains. Then, we continue downhill to the Apurímac Canyon until we approach the river bed that bears the same name. Nearby you will find the Playa Rosalina camping area that offers all kinds of basic services and where you can spend the night.
The next day, you will only have to complete the path whose steep ascent involves an important physical preparation in order not to suffer any inconvenience. The Marampata hamlet is the gateway to Choquequirao. There you can rest, refresh and eat something before entering the citadel located 10 minutes away, the neighbors of this small town will gladly assist you!
Remember that the cost to access the complex is 55 soles for adults and 35 for students. Finally, you will only have to enjoy and admire every corner of this majestic place and surrender to its grandeur.