When people hear the word "Peru", the immediately associate it with Machu Picchu. Most travelers who visit Peru go to Machu Picchu, as they are known as some of the most impressive ruins in the world.
However, what most people don't know, is that there are another set of ruins in Peru just as impressive as Machu Picchu: Choquequirao. Because so little people know about these ruins, visitors of Choquequirao can appreciate the ruins without bumping into other tourists ever two feet.
How do I get to Choquequirao?
Perhaps one of the reasons Choquequirao is visited less than Machu Picchu is because camping and hiking are required to see the ruins. It takes about three days total to successfully visit Choquequirao. The first day you must hike down and then up a steep valley, and camp at campsite at the top of the mountains. This campsite puts you about a 20-30 minute hike from the ruins.
The second day allows you to fully enjoy the ruins, as you will be camping in the same location. It is easy to spend all day in these expansive ruins, and you will be rewarded with some pretty fantastic views of the neighboring mountain ranges.
The last day you simply pack up and head back the same way you came.
Why should I visit Choquequirao?
Well for one, Choquequirao has a considerably smaller amount of tourist traffic than Machu Picchu. Don't get me wrong; Machu Picchu is amazing, and should be visited alongside Choquequirao. Visiting ruins with fewer tourists enhances the overall experience, allowing you to truly take in the beauty of Choquequirao.
The ruins are just as expansive and impressive as Machu Picchu. Choquequirao is even called "the sister ruins of Machu Picchu". Some of the highlights include an impressive main plaza, a hill overlooking the entire ruins, decorative llamas built into sides of walls, and numerous intact structures.
Lastly, Choquequirao is very cheap compared to Machu Picchu. Camping and entrance to the park are the only fees (besides bringing your own food, camping equipment, etc.), and these fees are inexpensive. However, you do have the option of hiring a mule to carry your backpack on the trek if you are willing to spend a little more money.
What else should I know before I visit Choquequirao?
I'll give it to you straight: a base level of physical fitness is required. The uphill is very steep and long, with over 25 switchbacks. For a fit hiker with no backpack, the climb up the mountain takes about three hours. It will take longer if you are less fit or have to carry your pack.
Make sure to bring enough food, water, and a stove to be able to cook food. It's always a good idea to filter water in Peru, so a water pump is very useful. Planning out meals and how you will get water beforehand will save you a lot of headaches during your time at Choquequirao.
Finally, know that it is possible to do a trek to Machu Picchu from Choquequirao. I completed this trek in nine days, and it was the most amazing hike I have ever completed. Granted it was difficult and extremely physically demanding, but was worth it in every sense. Here is a blog post about my trek.