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Let's go to Choquequirao, known as the sister city of Machupicchu!

Home / Travel Blog / Let's go to Choquequirao, known as the sister city of Machupicchu!

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 which 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 has carved figures expressing art and astronomical meanings (Lonely planet, n.d.). On the other hand, the main square (Haukaypata), comprising 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 having 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.


What is really Choquequirao?

  • Choquequirao is an Inca urban center with features common to others in Cusco, especially Machu Picchu.
  • The similarity with Machu Picchu is due in large part to the similarity of the geography of the place where the enclosure was built.
  • According to various investigations, Choquequirao would also be a fortress and a ceremonial center. The truth is that due to its hidden location on a high and distant mountain; it was a strategic point for various purposes.
  • Over the years, like Machu Picchu, Choquequirao was abandoned and covered by the jungle until its re-discovery.


What does Choquequirao mean?

  • Choquequirao means ‘Cradle of gold’ in Quechua. It is considered the city ‘Sister of Machu Picchu’, due to its similarities with Inca City.
  • In truth, its architecture is as impressive as that of Machu Picchu.
  • At the moment Choquequirao has the advantage of not receiving the amount of visitors that its ‘Big Sister’ receives.
  • Few people know Choquequirao. Perhaps due to the difficult walk, it takes to get there.

Where is Choquequirao located?

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.

Choquequirao trek tour Picture: Archaeological Center of Choquequirao


How high is Choquequirao?

  • Choquequirao is located at 3,103 m.a.s.l. in a privileged location: it lies on the impressive canyon of the Urubamba River.

What was the purpose of Choquequirao?

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.


In 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, a 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?


The last refuge

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 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, because large vegetation covered part of the mountain where it is located.


The 'sacred sister' of Machupicchu

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 stand 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 of Hanan, you can see the imposing Ushnu, a circular platform for ceremonies and from which you have an impressive view of the entire citadel. In total, 9 sectors 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 proves it.


How is the architecture in Choquequirao?

  • Choquequirao has numerous Inca buildings. However, currently, only 30% of its entire area has been excavated.
  • Its most important buildings are made of quartzite, cut in great detail. The rest of the walls are made of raw stone.
  • These walls were covered with clay both inside and out.
  • The walls of Choquequirao are believed to have been painted light orange. Although in reality, few structures continue with this coating.

What to see in Choquequirao?

  • The ancient city of Choquequirao has two main squares, temples, fountains, canals, workshops, warehouses, elite residences, and other more common ones.
  • The ceremonial center of Choquequirao is a large platform that can only be reached through a double jamb door.
  • The largest buildings in the area are the colcas (warehouses).
  • Like Machu Picchu, Choquequirao has structures that mark solar events such as solstices and equinoxes.

Is Choquequirao worth visiting?

  • The only way to get to Choquequirao is by walking. There are 3 days of roads (round trip) including the tour of Choquequirao.
  • The trek to Choquequirao makes visiting this inaccessible place a difficult but memorable adventure.
  • Once in Choquequirao, the tourist will be practically alone with an archaeological site as spectacular as Machu Picchu.
  • The few tourists in the world who visited Choquequirao agree that it was worth it.

How to get to Choquequirao?

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 not-so-rough terrain.


An unforgettable route

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.


Can I visit Choquequirao without a tour?

  • Unlike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is a destination that can be visited without a tour.
  • To go to Choquequirao on your own, you must organize the walk (luggage, food, camp) and pay the entrance fee at the door of the archaeological site.
  • When going to Choquequirao on their own, the visitor is their guide. He must organize the luggage and take all the necessary precautions.

Interesting facts about Choquequirao that you should know

  • During the trek to Choquequirao, the tourist can choose from many places to spend the night. It is estimated that a camp can be found every 3 hours.
  • There is an alternative route that connects Choquequirao with Machu Picchu. This adventure begins in Cusco and lasts 8 days and 7 nights.
  • In Choquequirao, a cable car will be built that will link the archaeological site with a neighboring town. This would facilitate access to the Inca site.
  • In 1909 (2 years before the ‘discovery’ of Machu Picchu), the American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived in Choquequirao.
  • Like Machu Picchu, the Incas built Choquequirao in a strategic position on top of a mountain. This allowed them to have a privileged view of the environment.

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