Choquequirao faces Machu Picchu for attracting the attention of tourists. One of the most important archaeological monuments of the Cusco region and the country is Choquequirao which was an Inca Llaqta that functioned as a checkpoint between the jungle and highlands, waiting to be discovered by you.

Located in the department of Cusco, province la Convención, place of many architectural charms that enclose in its streets and buildings unique and incredible stories, which are often told loudly by its own architectural space during the tour, being one of the most important societies of America, built in the time of Tupaq Inca Yupanqui, today still remains intact as a symbol of power, with its imposing terraces, temples, Huacas, Qolcas, which offers its visitors as a good host.

What is Choquequirao?

The term Choquequirao comes from the Aymara words chuqui=gold and the Quechua k'iraw=cuna, which translated into Spanish would be "cradle of gold", refers to the reflection caused by the sun's rays that reflect the micaceous schist with which the architectural structures were built, alluding to a golden color in the distance during the day.

Studies to date mention that Choquequirao must have been built in the time of Tupaq Inca Yupanqui, at a time of dynamic Inka expansion, although some mention that it was the great Pachakuteq, who would have built such an important site. However, both possibilities are accepted, because let's remember that both governed the Tawantinsuyo, while Tupaq Yupanqui, carried out the great expansionist campaigns, Pachakuteq was dedicated to magnify Cusco and the cult to their Gods, as well as the disposition of the "mitmas" in the lands that were being incorporated to the Tawantinsuyu.

Interesting Construction of Choquequirao

Regarding the architectural construction of the archaeological site, there is evidence of a change in the construction material and, to a lesser extent, a variation in the design. These changes can be seen in the variation in the use of lithic material (schist) for construction; the highest quality schist (with little mica) is used in the earliest buildings, while lower quality schist (with little mica) is used on a larger scale for the construction of walls and enclosures that are incorporated into the structures already designed and the structures already designed. 

While the lower quality schists (presence of mica in quantity) are used on a larger scale for the construction of walls and enclosures that are incorporated into the structures already designed and the new construction sections, thus choquequirao is a llaqta that architecturally was not completed, From these results it is proposed that the initial social and agricultural infrastructure of Choquequirao was changing in the functional sense, by presenting new spaces developed sequentially today called subsectors such as "Paqchayoq" which is differentiated by presenting a different rigging. 



According to the latest archaeological research in Choquequirao there is evidence of occupation by the "Antis", among them the "Manaríes and Pilcozones". Who were the first settlers in this territory, to then be occupied by the Killke of the Late Intermediate (1000-1200 AD), which expanded into the valley of Cusco, Anta, Urubamba (archaeological site of Ancasmarca), Vilcabamba valley (archaeological site of Qoriwayrachina), then it was occupied by the Incas.


In the Inca occupation of Tupac Yupanqui Choquequirao is called the nation of the "Quechuas", becoming part of the territory of Pachakuteq who conducted campaigns of "reconquest", achieved the end, coca leaf plantations were made in large quantities, To later serve as an access control point to the jungle for exotic bird feathers and other spices that served as offerings and ornaments for the elaboration of the Inca's clothing, already having a territorial domain, the Incas established a new economic, social, political and administrative system, where the natives adapted to a new change of architectural patterns, imposed by Pachakuteq, manager of the conquest of the "Antis" peoples. 

At this time, all this space became "moyas" and orchards of fruit trees, where they planted: chili, coca, cotton, chichira (hemostatic plant - serves to stop nosebleeds), vilca, snuff and a sacred tree for the Indians called "wilka", called the land of the sun: Worked by the mita system, which were planted and cared for by the mitimaes of Quito or "yungas Indians", until the year 1534 to 1575 date where there was the return of the mitimaes to their hometowns, in which others were enrolled in the army of Manco Inca.

Important events.

  • In the XV century "the Quechuas" were one of the largest and most powerful tribes of the Andes, which caused the famous civil war between the Chancas-Incas, who occupied the Apurimac river basin.
  • In 1572, the transition period, choquequirao is considered as one of the last Inca resistance llaqtas of Tupac Amaru I, which by orders of Manco Inca, left the city of Cusco and then took refuge in the region of Vilcabamba from where they resisted the attack of the Spanish, which culminated in his capture and execution.

The resistance of Manco Inca.

In 1537, Manko Inca abandoned the city of Cusco and chose the Antisuyo area as a refuge and resistance against the Spaniards, where Manco Inca ruled with his sons supported by his captains who moved through the mountains and along the banks of the Mayomarca River.

During the colonial period, between 1537 and 1572, these lands were the domain of four Incas from Vilcabamba, starting with Manko Inca who died in 1544 at the hands of the Almagristas; Sayri Túpac left Vilcabamba after making a pact with the Spaniards; Titu Cusi Yupanqui who dictated a written chronicle and Felipe Túpac Amaru the last Inca of Vilcabamba, defeated and executed by order of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572. 


Choquequirao is located in the department of Cusco, within the territory of the Yanama Rural Community, Santa Teresa district, province of La Convención at an altitude of 3,105 masl, located 1,500 m above sea level on the Apurimac River.

When is the best time to travel to Choquequirao?

The best time to venture to travel and make long walks is in the months of April to October in which we do not have the presence of rain.

Climate of Choquequirao.

The Choquequirao archaeological site has a climate:

  • Temperate to warm dry, in the months of April to November.
  • Rainy in the months of December to March. 

Humid temperature of 25°C during the day and at night drops to 4°C, with an average temperature of 14°C.


During the trip to the Choquequirao archeological site, you can observe endemic orchid varieties: Bletia catenula, Zaza. Zaza (Cyrtochilum aureum), waqanki (Masdevallia veitchiana), Telipogon Marleneae, among others; Pinco pinco (Ephedra rupestris), Kiswar (Buddleja coriacea), Queñoa (Polylepis tomentella), Achupalla (Puya herrerae), Sankayo or warako (Echinopsis maximiliana), etc. 


During the hike you can observe recurrent species in this landscape such as: Spectacled bear (tremarctos ornatus-ursidae), White-tailed deer (odocoileus peruvianus-cervidae), Andean fox (lycalopex culpaeus-canidae), Marsupial weasel (marmosops noctivagus), Hummingbird (trochilenae-Apodiformes), Swallow (Hirundo rustica-Passeriformes), Andean Condor (Vultur Gryphus- Chordata) and others typical of the Yunga montane forest, we have sixteen endemic species of amphibians and reptiles as well as twenty-one species of birds.

What you will see inside Choquequirao

  • Hanan Temple 

    Located to the north of the main square in which it is observed: temples, enclosures of rectangular plant, water channels, colcas and a staggered paqcha, it is divided in two: Subsector A. Located north of the upper plaza, composed of a building of 36.1 m2 with several corridors and platforms, quadrangular in shape with double jamb niche. Subsector B. It is located to the south of the upper plaza where there are three buildings placed contiguously. 

  • Deposits or Qolqas

    They are located to the southeast of sector I, where nine platforms and five rectangular structures that served the function of storage of products, textiles and weapons to then be redistributed among the inhabitants of the population of Choquequirao are observed.

  • Main Plaza 

    It is located in the central part of the archaeological complex, referring to the open space, being one of the main meeting centers where cultural and religious events of social use were held, adjacent to them are observed nine structures of rectangular plan and four terraces.

  • Portadas

    Considered as a sacred monument, dedicated to the ancestors, located south of the main square, referring to the four double jamb niches that represent a sacred space, this sector is a space for ceremonial and religious events.

  • Ushno 

    Located south of the main square, on the top of a terraced hill bordered by a perimeter wall, referred to a ceremonial space where sacrifices were made and liquid offerings were released as thanks for the production of land, political and religious site.

  • "Priests' dwelling. 

    Located to the southwest of the Ushno, it consists of two rectangular buildings, this space was a site for the preparation of the priests who performed religious events, therefore access to this space was restricted.

  • Sacred Platforms 

    Located northeast of the main square, formed by five retaining walls, being an agricultural space belonging to the lands of the sun.

  • Llamas terraces

    Located to the west of the main square in the lower part of the hillside, with an altitude between 3020 and 2770 m.a.s.l., where there are sixteen platforms that present 16 Zoomorphic and anthropomorphic figures, as well as geometric lines of camelids and a muleteer made with white limestone, with a more stylistic than agricultural function, adapting to the topography of the land.

  • Pikiwasi or Administrative sector

    Located to the southeast of the main square, composed of sixteen buildings of different sizes and disposition, buildings that correspond to a social-domestic function.

  • Paraqtepata 

    Formed by 18 terraces and 5 sections of terraces for crops accompanied with water channels for irrigation, it is located on top of one of the landslide zones that projects on the right bank of the Ch'unchumayu stream.

  • Phaqchayoq

    Located in the middle part of the right bank of the Ch'unchumayu stream, it is a large set of cultivation terraces that occupy an area of 5.7 hectares of agricultural function, it is also observed "the house of water" which is a ceremonial place where they worshiped the water that comes from the snowy.

  • Pinchaunuyoq

    Located on the northwest side of the archaeological site of Choquequirao on the road to the site of Cotakoka, where you can see cultivation terraces, a three-hour trip by bridle path.

Choquequirao vs. Other Inca Ruins

The use of the lithic material of stone slabs and the decorative walls of the archaeological site of Choquequirao, present similar characteristics to the decorative techniques of the walls of the archaeological site of Kuelap and Pajaten of the Chachapoyas style, this for having been carried out by mitimaes brought during the government of the Inca Pachacuti.

It is mentioned that Choquequirao and Machu Picchu were built at the time of Huayna Capac with the same commemorative intention, built for the political and religious elite with some differences related to their physical environment, as for the location in the upper part was given by the management of space to have visual control of the space around them.

Routes to Choquequirao

There is no excuse to travel to Choquequirao because we have different routes to go to this site.

  1. San Pedro de Cachora-Choquequirao: 

    Route with greater frequency, it begins in the populated center of San Pedro de Cachora in the km 151, in the asphalt road Cusco-Abancay, we continue a detour to the sector of Capuliyoc, to continue walking for Chiquisca, beach and bridge Rosalinas, until the sector Santa Rosa Baja and Alta, Marampata and finally the Archaeological Complex of Choquequirao approximately to 32 km of the town of Cachora.

  2. Vilcabamba-Choquequirao: 

    Less frequented route that begins the hike in Huancacalle, in the District of Vilcabamba, which links to the pre-Hispanic road that goes to Choquequirao, traveling approximately 70 kilometers uphill.

  3. Huanipaca-choquequirao:

    A less frequented route that starts in the town of Huanipaca in the province of Abancay, on the paved Cusco-Abancay road Km 151, we continue on a dirt road to Tambobamba and the rural community of Kiuñalla, to the old hamlet of San Ignacio and the beach of the Apurimac River, and then ascend through a pedestrian path of 64 kilometers.

  4. Mollepata-Choquequirao: 

    Route little frequented of 135.5 kilometers, that begins in the populated center of Mollepata, crosses the opening of the Salqantay peak arriving to the middle part of the valley of the Santa Teresa River, then to the Yanama Peasant Community and concludes in Choquequirao.

  5. Machupicchu-Choquequirao: 

    Approximately 82.99 Km. traveled in 34 hours 20".

  6. Santa Teresa-Choquequirao: 

    Approximately 76.54 Km traveled in 28 hours 40".

Cultural and Local Experience

Typical food and drink of the region:

These activities are historical and cultural traditions that were inherited from generation to generation through time typical of the area such as:

  • Tallarin de casa con estofado de gallina (house noodles with chicken stew) 
  • Guinea pig pepian
  • Guinea pig chactado
  • Stuffed guinea pig
  • Chicharrón de chancho (pork rinds)
  • Chicha de jora: Ancestral drink made with corn, of Inca origin.
  • Cambray: Liquid drink made in an artisanal way, since colonial times from sugar cane juice.
  • Cañazo or aguardiente: Liquid drink extracted from the trunk of sugar cane made in an artisanal way belonging to the colonial era.
  • Anisado: Handmade liquid drink where the main element is the cañazo, where green anise (Pimpinella anisum) from colonial times is added.

Interaction with the local community and how to support the local economy in a responsible way.

If you wish to stay a few more days in this unique landscape, it is recommended to develop the following.

  • Experiential tourism: A local family will be ready to welcome you as a member, without making distinctions so that you can have the best experience of your life, experiencing the best experiences and adventures of coexistence.
  • Ecotourism: If you are a lover of plants and animals Choquequirao is an environment conducive to interaction with nature by the existence of high biological diversity with the presence of habitats and microclimates of the place.

Nearby accommodations

There are safe places to spend the night:

  • Capuliyoq
  • Chiquiska 
  • Santa Rosa  
  • Rosalindas 
  • Maranpata

Practical tips:

  • Recommended tours and highlights within the site.

Once in the archaeological site, we recommend visiting: the Central Plaza, Hanan Temple, Las Portadas, Pikihuasi and the Ushnu; for those who love biodiversity, there is the sector of Las Llamitas, Paracteqpata and Pachayoq.

  • Tips to avoid crowds or to have the best experience.

Due to the extension of the archaeological site it is recommended to bring: 
high mountain sneakers, overalls or light clothing, wide-brimmed hat , dark sunglasses, two walking sticks, a good camera , a binocular, water and snack and should not miss a backpack with: medicinal alcohol, a bandage, gauze, flashlight, medicine for colic, headache and muscle pain, a repellent and mosquito net as this site is habitat of mosquitoes to have a nice souvenir of the site.

Being at the site of Choquequirao you have to keep in mind

  • Be very careful with the heritage, since these belong to everyone, not just to one person, and must prevail through time so that other generations can learn about their culture and history.
  • Follow the arrows because with them we will continue the tour without missing a sector.
  • Do not touch the lithics (stones), because they could be overlapped, causing some accidents.
  • Do not climb and lean on the walls, because with our personal weight we will increase the pressure on them, causing them to collapse (collapse).
  • In case of losing the way to the group with which we are going, consult with the park rangers and redirect to where they are.

Frequently Asked Questions

In what year were the first archaeological investigations carried out in Choquequirao?

In 1986, Architect Roberto Samanez Argumedo and Archaeologist Julinho Zapata Rodriguez carried out the "Proposal for the Restoration and Enhancement of the Archaeological Ensemble of Choquequirao". 

Because it is said that Choquequirao is the other Cusco.

According to studies conducted by archaeologists Roberto Samanez and Julinho Zapata, Choquequirao has the same architectural design as the Inca city of Cusco, with a dual organization, where the high sector or Hanan and the lower part or Hurin were created, in which both Inca cities had temples, enclosures, terraces, ceremonial buildings, the three two-level buildings and the two kallankas (Samanez and Zapata 1999: 90).

Who was in charge of working the terraces of Choquequirao? 

Choquequirao, due to its location, was a very productive land called the land of the sun worked by the "mita" system, which was worked and cared for by the mitimaes of Quito or "yungas Indians" who were brought from Ecuador by Pachacutec (Espinoza 1973: 90). (Espinoza 1973).

Which characters were in Choquequirao?

The characters that arrived to the archaeological site for the first time were:

  • 1710 the Spaniard Juan Arias Días Topete, who mentions that Choquequirao is an uninhabited town.
  • 1834 Hiram Bingham, states that Choquequirao is Vitcos, occupied by the Vilcabamba Inca. 
  • 1965 The American archaeologist and explorer Gary Ziegler, as part of his work to study the history of the Incas of Vilcabamba and the geographical scope of this area. 

The Ultimate Takeaway

Choquequirao is one of the recommended places for a long hike, where you can enjoy the scenery, biodiversity and tranquility that gives us, adventure that you can do as a couple or with friends, where you will discover that Peru has many archaeological sites of great importance that are not yet as well known as Machu Picchu in which we can camp and have a tea in the main square without paying much money.

Additional Readings

Bibliographical Reference

  • Lecoq, P. (2010). Terrasses aux mosaïques de Choqek’iraw, Pérou: Description générale et premières interprétations. Journal de la Société des Américanistes (en línea), 96(2). (consulta: enero 2024).
  • Apaza. Bolívar(2016) el otro cusco: choquequirao,pg 1-32.( consulta: enero 2024)
  • L.Esmerita, A. (2022).Area de conservacion regional de Choquequirao, Cusco, Peru “orquideas de choquequirao”, (consulta: Enero 2024).