Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, and each year, nearly two million people visit the lost city. But while most visitors opt for the traditional multi-day trek along the Inca Trail to get there, many are overlooking more authentic, nature-filled hikes through the native villages. These also allow adventurous tourists to pay a visit to Choquequirao, the often forgotten neighbor of Machu Picchu that features even more views of the scenic valley.
Rather than taking the standard route through the Andes, the trip to Choquequirao can be navigated in a variety of ways. Plus, once you get there, often times there are less than a few dozen people at the site. This is mainly because of how much longer it takes to get to versus Machu Picchu, because hiking through the small Andean villages, into the Apurimac Canyon, and across the nearby river takes about four to five days. The round trip is about 37 miles, and it will take an additional three or four days if you plan to include Machu Picchu as well.
And while the remote nature of this path is what draws the daring and seasoned tourists, the Peruvian government is making plans to make Choquequirao a more popular location. Peru’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, has already proposed $62 million into building a cable car that will take visitors between the two ancient Inca cities. This would allow visitors to see multiple archaeological sites, all while continuing to boost the nation’s tourist industry, especially in the Cusco region.
So for those looking to stray away from the congested Inca Trail, one option is to take the Ancascocha route. This trek ventures through a remote portion of the Andes that allows travelers to see life in remote farming villages, as well as catch views from mountain ranges that are often hidden on other trails. It’s one of the shorter options, taking an estimated three days.
Another option is the Lares Valley trek, which begins near the tourism center of Cusco before sending you through the traditional villages of the Quechua people. This trip will span about four days, and gives you an extensive look into a culture that is often bypassed by the casual tourist.
A final option could be the Salkantay trek, which is the second-most popular path even though it’s well behind the Inca Trail’s popularity. This five-day hike will see you traveling along the foot of the massive Mount Salkantay, which also features snow on its peaks. You’ll also have to go through a forest, pass by some coffee farms, and near some sparkling blue lakes. On this route, you’ll also go by another Inca site called Llactapata, giving you a full tour of even more archaeological history.
Whichever path you choose, the winding roads of the Andes offer a unique experience for every kind of traveler. Some allow visitors to take their time, while others give an expedited tour of the region’s natural beauty. No matter what your preference is, just know that anywhere you go in Peru, you’ll be sure to be captivated.