Choquequirao – Cool Facts About Peru’s Other Lost City

10. Introducing Choquequirao

Choquequirao: sister of Machu Picchu, the golden cradle, keeper of many secrets. This monumental site built by the Inca’s holds many secrets as archeologists have barely scratched the surface of what lays hidden beneath the earth.

Choquequirao is located on the spurs of the Wilkapampa mountain range in the La Convención Province in the northwestern part of the Cusco region and was first discovered in 1710 by Spanish explorer Juan Arias Diaz. Over 250 years later in 1970 excavations began and to date only 1/3 of this site has been explored, leaving much to be discovered.

9. The History of Choquequirao

Choquequirao is often considered the twin of Machu Picchu, for the resemblance they have to one another in terms of architecture and structure. The history of Choquequirao is widely speculated and with only 1/3 of the site excavated, it’s only theories that exist about this incredible set of ruins. The first theory is that the city was built as a royal estate by Tupa Inca, the tenth ruler of the Inca Empire who lived during the latter half of the 15th century.

It is said that Tupa Inca intended to build a city similar in location and design to Machu Picchu, which is said to have been built by his father and predecessor, Pachacuti. Another theory states that Choquequirao was built around the same time as Machu Picchu, and its construction was commissioned by Pachacuti, rather than by his successor.

8. Evidence of Tupa Inca

Choquequirao is located in the area considered to be Pachacuti’s estate and the architectural style of several important features appears to be of Chachapoya design, suggesting that Chachapoya workers were probably involved in the construction which means Tupa Inca probably ordered the construction. Confusing, we know.

To further back up this claim, colonial documents also suggest that Tupa Inca ruled Choquequirao since his great-grandson, Tupa Sayri, claimed ownership of the site and neighboring lands during Spanish colonization.

7. Choquequirao’s Importance

There is something that all experts agree on though and that is that Choquequirao was most likely one of the entrance checkpoints to the Vilcabamba, one of the most important valleys in the perimeter. It most likely served as an administrative hub serving political, social and economic functions.

It is no doubt that the city also played an important role as a link between the Amazon Jungle and the city of Cusco. It has also been widely speculated that Choquequirao provided a seasonal pilgrimage destination for regional state-sponsored ceremonial events. And going one step further there is evidence to suggest that Choquequirao was also an important center for the cultivation and distribution of coca.

6. The Layout

Architecturally this city is very similar to Machu Picchu and laid out over six square kilometers. There are two plazas along the crest of the ridge that follow Inca urban design and host main structures such as temples, elite residences, and fountain and bath systems. The complex of the city is divided into 12 sectors, with different contents in each but it seems most of the buildings were used for one of three things; ceremonial purposes, residences of the priests, or used to store food.

5. Excavations

The recent excavation of Choquequirao has further revealed the skill of the Inca engineers. Everything here was built with great precision and attention to detail. The wealthy residents of the city built houses with towering double doors, the water fountains were made with large rocks as to not wear quickly and flat slabs were created under windows in order to store food. Most buildings are well-preserved and well-restored, making it an absolutely beautiful place to visit.

4. Unique Features

There are a couple of significant and interesting features of these ruins. On a set of terraces down the stairway of the main plaza, there is unique art. The builders of the city decorated each terrace with white rocks in the shape of either llamas or alpacas, now thought to pay tribute to this animal as they were used to transport food and supplies.

There are also two unusual sacred temple sites that lie below the two plazas. They are step terraces that have been designed around water, leading experts to believe that water played an important factor in this city.

3. Day 1 of “The Trek”

Getting here to discover this ancient city is the hard part, and the trek is considered one of the hardest in Peru. It’s no surprise that during high season when Machu Picchu is seeing 2,500 visitors a day, Choquequirao is seeing 30 people. From the starting point at the village to the ruins and back this trek is a whopping 46 miles, and that doesn’t take into account the elevation changes.

On the first day it’s an 18km walk to Capuliyoc Mountain, then down to Playa Rosalinas, where travelers camp for the night. The trail drops 6,000 feet to the floor of the Apurímac River valley during that first day. If you choose to travel alone make sure you have money for the two different access fees along the trail. It is possible to travel there without a guide, just make sure to brush up on your Spanish.

2. Day 2 of “The Trek”

Day two is when it gets really intense, as trekkers then have to cross the Apurímac River and traverse 8km of grueling uphill switchbacks to reach the campsite close to the ruins. Here some people continue on the extra 2km to reach the ruins, 3,100m above sea level but most spend the night at the campground. In the morning, refreshed, it’s a 2km hike up to the ruins themselves.

Most guided tours take anywhere from 4-7 days to complete this trek as getting home is just as hard as getting there. What you will be rewarded with though is sweeping mountains views at every turn, lush wilderness, untouched ruins and the place to yourself. This is not a tourist destination, yet and besides a couple more travelers who have made the same journey you have and a few excavation workers, the ruins are yours to explore.

1. The Future

Although the ruins are deserted now, they may not stay that way forever. In August 2014 completion of the Puente Rosalina bridge, which spans the Apurímac River made it that much easier for people to visit. Now tour operators can easily cross the bridge on horseback, instead of using a hand pulley system to transport them across the river one by one or hiring another set of horses to be waiting on the other side.

Campsite owners say the number of travelers has increased since the completion of the bridge. Officials also have a plan in motion to construct a cable ride that would shorten the journey from a multi-day trek into a short 15-minute cable car ride. The timeline for the cable car has already been pushed back twice, and the bridge took an extra four years to construct so chances are we won’t be seeing it anytime soon. One thing remains certain though, Choquequirao remains so spectacular because of how untouched they are and we secretly wish they would stay that way.

 

8 Best Things to See and Do in Argentina

Throughout Argentina, visitors find a huge diversity of things to do and see all around the country. Many points of interest are conveniently close enough to travel between by bus or car, making it easy to plan a mix of activities, from easy-going sightseeing to heart-pounding excursions. The Argentinean people are welcoming, the backdrop gorgeous, and costs for amenities can fit almost any pocketbook, from budget trips to luxury vacations. Explore this list of eight impressive attractions across Argentina to find out what this captivating South American country has to offer.

8. Delve Into Buenos Aires

Argentina occupies a large swath of South America, sidled up against Chile, in an opportune location on the mid-eastern side where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Rio de la Plata. The spectacular Buenos Aires backdrop sets the perfect stage for the lively café cultured, neo-classically styled, European-inspired city—yet the city still exhibits strong ties to cultural roots evidenced throughout tango halls, local artisan shops, and distinctly Argentine cuisine. Historic neighborhoods filled with character, romantic dining spots, and wide, grand avenues set the mood for fun. Get your dose of retail therapy via Palermo Viejo and Palermo Viejo; become mesmerized by a Tango show at a milonga; and hit the jazz clubs at San Telmo and Palermo Soho. Explore European and Latin American arts along museum-laden Avenida del Libertador and don’t forget to try one of the famous grill houses and try world famous Argentine beef.

Druid007 / Shutterstock.com
Druid007 / Shutterstock.com

7. Ski San Carlos de Bariloche

Almost a full day’s travel southwest of Buenos Aires is San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina’s winter Mecca for skiers and snowboarders within a national park of the same name. Tucked into the foothills of the Andes, it’s the biggest of South America’s ski areas—often seeing almost six feet of powder by season’s end—and a warm weather hotspot for paragliding, climbing, boating, horseback riding, cycling, and trekking. Frigid Lake Nahuel Huapi, which doesn’t get much warmer than 14 degrees Celsius, is perfect for the courageous to take a plunge, and sits below stunning alpine peaks towering over 6,500 feet. Breathtaking beaches Villa Tacul and Playa Bonita are fantastic summer destinations but beware the influx of students come July. As Argentina’s chocolate capital, Bariloche’s shop fronts display a huge array of the sweet stuff—a definite must-try if you’ve got even the slightest sweet tooth.

San Carlos de Bariloche

6. Drink Wine in Mendoza

A short three hours from San Juan is Argentina’s celebrated wine country of Mendoza. Mendoza city is a lively center set on the eastern side of gorgeous Mount Aconcagua, the Western Hemisphere’s tallest summit. Just a quick drive from the downtown core, the countryside is the consummate playground with plenty of opportunities for hiking, rafting, climbing, cycling and more, but it’s still the wine that draws the biggest crowds. With over 1,000 lush vineyards in Mendoza, it’s easy to imagine the hundreds of options for tours and tastings (most wine bodegas are friendly, family-run operations). Oenophiles from around the globe flock to Mendoza for the rich offering of incredible award-winning blends; most famously Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec varieties. Scenic drives throughout the magnificent region are popular, most notably from Mendoza through the mountains to Upsallata along Route 52, also called El Camino de las 365 Curvas.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

5. Hike El Chalten

If horseback riding, hiking, or cycling is on your hit list, head to El Chalten, a small mountain hamlet in Argentina’s Santa Cruz Province. Towered over by glacier fringed Cerro Torre and craggy Monte Fitz Roy, and found on the banks of the Rio de las Vueltas inside Los Glaciares National Park. El Chalten’s neighboring area holds a series of unforgettable waterfalls, forests, peaks, glaciers, and lakes rivaling almost every South American landscape. Enigmatic and untamed, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is here, beckoning climbers across its wild terrain. Set off between December’s end to late February and enjoy longer daylight hours and encouraging weather. Test your will on an alpine adventure but know that at trail’s end you can chow down at a local parilla (grill) where Argentinean asado, a style of barbequing, will quickly bring you back to reality—if not into a food coma.

El Chalten

4. Relax in Villa La Angostura

There’s definitely a mountain theme throughout Argentina and the upscale resort town of Villa La Angostura follows through. An easy going village in northern Patagonia, Angostura is an ideal escape to misty mountains, alpine forests, and sublime views. Just an hour north of Bariloche near Argentina’s western border, Villa La Angostura is a choice departure point to incredible Los Arrayanes National Park but also a worthy destination on its own. It’s a popular egress for those heading off along Ruta de los Siete Lagos (The Seven Lakes Route) which ties San Martin de los Andes to Angostura in the most breathtaking way: trek through densely forested glens, below mountain passes, and alongside almost a dozen glassy lakes—the fishing is world class and campsites on route are good. If sticking to town, explore the village center’s quaint stores offering artisanal goods like trout, chocolate, and beer.

Villa la Angostura

3. Sightsee in San Martin de los Andes

Spread across the banks of magical Lake Lacar, San Martin de los Andes is Patagonia’s shining star. Smaller and more chilled out than Bariloche but retaining the same magnetic charm, San Martin de los Andes is a birder’s paradise, a mountain biker’s dream, a skiers Eden, and perfect for hitting the water in any vessel. The landscape is absolutely gorgeous, so entrancing it’s hard to get away. Culture buffs will adore the lakeside town for the many charming arts and crafts tiendas and all the incredible, artisan foods anteing up a gratifying sensory experience. On the town’s west side, the lake attracts those who don’t mind cooler waters and a nice sandy stretch to kick back on. It’s on during the winter months for skiers and boarders at Cerro Chapelco and bustling in summer for Parque Nacional Lanin’s excellent climbing, trekking, and cycling.

San Martin de los Andes

2. Touch the End of the Earth in Ushuaia

Ushuaia is Tierra del Fuego’s beloved capital: a bustling port and center for worldwide explorers. As the world’s southernmost settlement, Ushuaia gives way to Argentina’s most exciting attractions, promising to spark eyes open and get hearts pumping wildly. This essential access point leads swiftly into Glaciar Martial and Cerro Castor for premier skiing; to the Beagle Channel where orcas, penguins, and other wildlife abound; and to astounding Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina’s foremost coastal park filled with easy-to-navigate trails along rivers and bays, leading through thick evergreen forests, and radiant vermillion hillsides in autumn. Ushuaia draws some pretty interesting characters too: this is where you can knock back a few brews and swap stories with some of the world’s most intrepid vagabonds and plot the next day while sharp, ocean waves crash into shore and the Andes taunt from the clouds.

Ushuaia Argentina

1. Listen to Deafening Iguazu Falls

There are some pretty spectacular waterfalls around the world—then there’s other-worldly Iguazu Falls, a natural wonder resonating in the memories of those lucky enough to experience its resounding flow and incredible power. The setting can easily lead to so many other adventures: Iguazu is set directly between Argentina and Brazil in a sweeping area of rainforest and national park (makes you wonder just who set the boundaries back then). Taking a day tour of both the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the falls offers a broad experience while in Puerto Iguazu. Go independently and find easy route to the falls and area, and a lot to explore including the Tancredo Neves Bridge, the Mborore Museum of Images of the Jungle, and world-renowned Iguazu National Park. West of the center visit Hito Argentino, a vibrant bazaar at the confluence of Iguazu and the Ríos Paraná.

Iguazu Falls - Iguazu National Park