If you’ve never heard of Choquequirao, we’re not surprised. Though it’s considered Machu Picchu’s sister city, few people are aware of its existence, and even fewer make an effort to visit.
That may be about to change.
The Peruvian government recently approved plans to build what would be the first aerial tramway in Peru. The tram will span the canyon of the Apurimac River, connecting the site to the nearest road with a 3-mile cable. The ride will take 15 minutes. Currently, the only way to access Choquequirao is via a two-day hike
If Choquequirao resembles Machu Picchu, it’s not accidental. The lesser known site was built by Topa Inca, the tenth Sapa Inca and son of Pachachuti, the Inca ruler who commissioned Machu Picchu. Both sites are roughly the same size, though only 30% of Choquequirao has been excavated. Plazas, terraces, aqueducts, and residential areas are visible as well as a section were priests likely lived. The entire complex is 5,740 feet above sea level, lower than Machu Picchu. The view, however, is not diminished. The ruins look down upon the glacier-fed Apurimac River and three valleys.
Choquequirao’s isolation kept it hidden for several hundred years after the fall of the Inca Empire. In 1710 the first outsider, a Spanish explorer, discovered the site though it was mainly ignored until Hiram Bingham visit in 1909, two years before he stumbled upon Machu Picchu. Excavations and detailed research, however, did not begin in earnest until the early 1990s.
Its isolation has also kept the number of tourist to an extreme minimum. According to the Associated Press, Choquequirao see only five visitors on average each day. Machu Picchu, on the other hand, is so popular that the government has to limit how many travelers can set foot in the citadel to 2,500, an astonishingly large number in comparison.
Keen to see Machu Picchu yourself? Check out our Machu Picchu & Peru Tours here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.
Thanks to Roubicek for the title image of this blog.