Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Adventure Travel

The Other Machu Picchu

Solitude lovers, rejoice: Peru's Choquequirao Trek offers all the Incan wonders of Machu Picchu with none of the crowds.


Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Nab this view of Cusco from Saksaywaman en route to the trailhead. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Saksaywaman, an Inca complex known for its stone walls, is just north of Cusco. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Kick off the Choquequirao Trek by descending to the Apurímac River. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Two hikers traverse a ridge along the Apurimac River Gorge. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Reach the Apurímac River near the end of day one. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Take in a view of the switchbacks you descended to the bottom of the canyon. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Get your first view of the Choquequirao ruins on day two. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

A local prepares food just off the trail en route to the ruins. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

The Choquequirao Trek takes you through a variety of landscapes; here, transition from the arid canyon to a lush jungle. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Perks of going with a guide: room service. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Get this bird’s-eye vantage over the ruins. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Llamas hang out on the distinct, terraced white stones. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

A hiker ascends the terraces to the settlement’s epicenter. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

The photographer, Andrew Bydlon, takes in a view downcanyon across the Apurímac. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

On the trek, you’ll be privy to this up-close view of the 15th-century settlement. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Locals play pick-up soccer in Choquequirao. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Hit these switchbacks on the “out” and the “back” of this hike. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

When the photographer did this trek in 2014, hikers needed to cross the Apurímac via a rope bridge with an open, metal basket. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

The sun sets over day four’s camp. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

Peru - Choquequirao Trek

Trekkers close out the Choquequirao out-and-back through cloud cover. [photo: Andrew Bydlon]

OK, you won’t find true solitude at Machu Picchu itself, so the best way to see Peru’s 15th-century Incan ruins without the crowds is on a four-day out-and-back to the Choquequirao settlement, an old Incan bastion of stone temples and structures atop a truncated hilltop. But there’s a catch: You have to do it within the next year or so. Officials are planning to install a tramway to the ruins; once the tram is in place, Choquequirao will be almost as bustling as its more popular alternative.

From Cachora, my guided group followed the Apurímac River gorge, which is up to 9,800 feet deep in spots—nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Despite hiking in August (prime trekking season in Peru), we encountered only a handful of locals on the path, including a corn farmer and a cowboy. After tent-camping by the river on night one, we spent the second night just a 45-minute walk from the Choquequirao ruins, allowing plenty of time to explore. While the ancient relics aren’t as dramatic as those at Machu Picchu, you can only access them on foot, so we had the stone-ringed settlement to ourselves.

Do It

Neither this trek nor the Salkantay Trek require a guide, but we recommend using one; the author used Adventure Life Guides (adventure-life.com). Expect to pay roughly $1,535 for a five-day Choquequirao Trek and $2,285 for a seven-day Salkantay Trek.

Season: For the best weather (but more people), go May through August; for guaranteed solitude, pack rain and snow gear and aim for December through April.

To see photo’s from Peru’s mountainous Alto Route, click here.