1. There are three roads to get there, Cachora, Huanipaca and Yanama. Cachora is the most popular one and the items below are writen from my experience on the trek.
2. About budget, the whole 4 days trek can be done for about 100 soles, if you’re camping, avoiding the ticket control and carrying your own gear. You will be spending about 30 soles for the bus from Cusco to Ramal and back, 10 from Ramal to San Pedro and back, 5 for every night spent at a camping ground, making a total of 20 for four nights and around 40 to 50 soles for five days of food at the campgrounds, assuming you will be having two meals a day each meal costs around 8 soles, it all totals around 100, say 200 if you choose to stay in private rooms instead of camping or 300 if you will be paying the ticket and having a few beers. And say 2000 soles if you want to do it through a travel agency because well, it’s a travel agency.
3. The pros to doing it with a guide is that they cook and set up the camp for you, that way you can have your hands free to swat mosquitoes, and sometimes they even tell you a bit about the history of the place. The cons are that you need to talk and listen to them, and to the other people in your group (socializing takes energy and effort), that you need to give them money and you follow their schedule and rules (you can’t venture into the jungle to look for a treasure if you feel like it).
4. Its safe, everywhere. There are no thieves or pickpockets, no one will scam you or rip you off, everyone is nice, but many tourists fall off the cliff and die. The road is really narrow, and at some points, you need to stand at the edge of the cliff to wait for all the horses to pass you by, some horses and mules are exhausted and they push you over and then you fall, and you die.
5. To get to Ramal de Cachora you take the bus to Abancay from “Cusco Terminal Terrestre”, it takes around 3 hours.
6. The ‘Terminal Terrestre’ in Cusco is located in front of a gigantic market called “El Molino” where there are about 6 outdoor gear shops where you can buy all your camping equipment at extremely cheap prices before getting on the bus to Abancay, most shops open after 10am.
7. The buses to Abancay leave every 2 or 3 hours and cost 15 soles, 10 if you bargain or 20 if they see you looking hopeless. Anyway, don’t pay more than 20.
8. You need to get off the bus at a town called “Ramal de Cachora.” So you check your GPS (mapsme works well in South America.) and tell the driver a few kilometers before to drop you off. If you fell asleep on the bus and missed your stop, you can get off at Abancay and take a bus back to Ramal.
9. From “Ramal de Cachora” you can take a minivan for 5 soles, a taxi for 50 or walk a few hours to “San Pedro de Cachora.”
10. Mercedes, a woman in town has the friendliest and cheapest accommodation in the city at only 15 soles for a private room, if you stay in a hostel expect to pay 40 for a shared one. Her house has no sign but it’s the one with the Peruvian flag on the roof half block downhill from the main square on the way to the mirador. Just tell her the boy with the black dog sent you.
11. If you arrive in Cachora before 4 pm there’s a great street market where you can buy fruits and vegetables at 1 sol a kilo, an enormous plate of food for 5 soles or any supplies you may need for your trip at ridiculously cheap prices.
12. The road from San Pedro de Cachora to Choquequirao is intense, if you just can’t be bothered you can hire a horse (caballo), a mule (mula) or a porter (arriero) for about 40 soles a day, it’s the same price for the locals, they’re not ripping you off.
13. From Cachora to the starting point of the trek (mirador) you can take a mini van or car for 5 soles or walk three hours. Notice that if you choose to walk every car that passes you will bless you with a thick cloud of road dust as a way to welcome you to Choquequirao. And if you choose to take a car they leave town starting at around 9 am every day.
14. The shop where the cars drop you off (near mirador) has amazing food in very generous portions for 5 soles a plate drinks included, this is the cheapest it will get, from then on it’s either 8 or 10 soles a plate.
15. The heat is brutal, unless you’re a fire elemental, or you get really lucky to have some clouds that day.
16. You better take a mask because every horse that passes you on the way will leave the road full of dust, so will every hiker and every gust of wind.
17. The road is never flat, it’s either heart-exploding steep or a knee-destroying down hill slope.
18. It’s a really nice walk, except because of the heat, and the dust, and the rocks, and the mosquitoes, and the flies and the horse dung.
19. Its possible to do it at night while its still cool, and if you’re afraid of missing the view there’s not really much to see besides a river valley, not different from the one you can see from the top of any mountain elsewhere.
20. Dogs are allowed everywhere, camps, ruins, shops, you name it, I mean just in case you didn’t notice her in the pictures, for Bong Gu and I, everything went as smoothly as it could have.
21. There is no way to charge your phone on the trail.
22. There’s no internet anywhere after Cachora.
23. There’s no electricity at night, they use solar panels during the day.
24. It’s totally possible to do the treck without any camping gear as there are two campsites that have rooms for rent, the first one is Chiquisca, 19 KM from the start of the trail, it’s fairly easy to make it there on the first day, the second one is Maranpata at KM28, you can make it there the second night, explore choquequirao on the third day (it’s huge) and spend the night in Marampata, in the morning of the fourth day you hike back down to Chiquisca and sleep there or continue onwards to town.
25. The first day you will be going downhill all day, it’s recommended (by me) to do it in zigzag to lessen the damage to your knees.
26. The second day you will be going uphill.
27. Water along the trek comes from streams and it’s mostly safe to drink, but like with any source of water in the countryside there’s always the chance of explosive diarrhea if you’re not used to it and you don’t purify it, so drink at your own risk.
28. Beer goes for about 15 soles a litter at any of the camping sites, alternatively the local drink of choice is some sort of fermented corn drink called chicha. It looks like milk and you will see the guides and porters drink it by the gallons.
29. All the people you meet on the way will ask you where do you come from and where are you going. So you better learn the names of the camping sites or wear your headphones so you don’t need to listen to them.
30. Don’t get lost.
31. Take toilet paper.
32. Take sunblock.
33. Take insect repellent.
34. There is a cave some 10 minutes away from Maranpata where there are said to be human remains of some people that were buried there before the time of the Incas and there is an entity called “El Abuelo” that’s supposed to look after them and it causes some sort of harm to those who venture inside it. Yes, you read that right.
35. Every village has it’s own sorcerer/healer/shaman called “Apu” that takes care of healing some people that were harmed by “El Abuelo”. Apu is not a real person but a magical being that sometimes materializes in the form of a short person with wings. (!)
36. It’s totally possible to avoid the ticket control. There is just one person watching the whole city of Choquequirao and he works from 7 am to 5 pm, get in before or after that time and there’s no one. Alternatively just walk around it, everybody’s super relaxed and even if they catch you they probably won’t mind you “lost” your ticket. Sometimes there may be someone in the official campsite but with so many tents there its very possible that he won’t notice you, they didn’t ask me for a ticket when I went there. And its also a possibility to camp in the ruins and enjoy the protection of the ghosts of the fallen Inca children.
37. If you want to pay for the ticket it costs 60 soles and 30 for students but you can just tell the guy to give you the student ticket for 30 and give 10 to him as a bribe as the way to save 20 soles. They are chilled like that.
38. The official campsite in the ruins is free.
39. That music in the campsite though.
40. If you are camping at the official al site its possible to ask the cook of the group tours to cook an extra plate for you for a small fee.
41. Some tour guides don’t care, they take up to the main plaza and then leave you there to “explore” by yourself.
42. If you’re going there to look for treasures or the lost gold of the Incas, consider that the jungle is dense and there are no trails, remember to take a machete, thick clothes, insect repellent and some digging equipment. Also consider that there’s a legend that says that every night of August every year, the gold of the Incas glows in the dark at exactly 12 AM.
43. When you finish you have the option to stay and live forever near the ruins and become a mountain dweller or you can also continue on to Yamana. From Choquequirao, take the hiking trail going up the hill from the main plaza to “Abra Choquequirao”, then walk down the mountain until the “Maizal” and you will reach the main road in about a day and a half, there you can take a bus or car to go to a different place.
44. If you want to continue to Machu Pichu, the app Mapsme has the route for the trek on it but it would take you like a week so you better take food or be ready to forage and catch your own food on the way there. Also, there’s a chance you get lost and turn into a lama.
45. Alternatively just walk back to Cachora, take the minivan to Ramal and flag a bus going back to Cusco or onwards to Lima. If you want to go north get off at Abancay and take a bus north. Notice that to go back to Ramal from San Pedro you need to ride in the trunk of the car for some reason.
46. If you want to sell your camping gear you can do it at any of the shops that rent gear in Cachora.
47. If you seriously want to go there in search of gold and treasures be aware that people who are probably better equipped and have more knowledge of the area than you have been searching for treasures there for the last few decades. There are active sites and archaeologists working on them, and the locals at Maranpata say the gringos took the gold 10 years ago and that they helped them load them into their helicopters.
48. If you’re going there expecting to discover a yet unknown, lost Inca city, be aware that hundreds of tourists will pass you on the way there and there are always at least a dozen tourists on the site.
49. If you’re going there for the landscapes and sights, I would recommend you to take a taxi from Cusco to Tambomachay instead and make your way back along the valley through grasslands and gorges while checking out all the ruins on the way (picture below).
50. In other words, take Choquequirao for what it is, a tough but super cheap hike that will end up in some amazing ruins.
And if you have any questions drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or wechat/instagram: mylastvacation