Peru’s ancient treasures beckon adventurers from around the globe, offering an opportunity to step back in time and explore the awe-inspiring remnants of the Inca civilization. Among the many historical wonders in Peru, Choquequirao and Machu Picchu stand out as two remarkable Inca citadels, each with its own unique charm and mystique. Choosing between these two incredible sites can be a tough decision, as they both offer a profound connection to the past and a breathtaking journey through the Andean landscape. In this guide, we will delve deep into the details of Choquequirao and Machu Picchu to help you make an informed choice when planning your Peruvian adventure.
Choquequirao: The Hidden Gem
History and Significance
Choquequirao, often referred to as “Machu Picchu’s Sister City,” is an archaeological site tucked away in the Vilcabamba region of Peru. This remote citadel was constructed by the Inca civilization in the 15th century, and like Machu Picchu, it served as a religious, agricultural, and administrative center. Choquequirao is believed to have played a significant role in the Inca resistance against Spanish colonization.
Accessibility and Trekking
One of the most defining features of Choquequirao is its relative remoteness. To reach this hidden gem, you must embark on a challenging multi-day trek, typically lasting four to five days. The journey includes rugged terrain, steep ascents and descents, and breathtaking vistas of the Apurimac Canyon.
Choquequirao’s remote location has its advantages, as it provides a sense of isolation and exclusivity that Machu Picchu often lacks due to its popularity. If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, Choquequirao may be the perfect choice.
- Terraced Ruins: Like Machu Picchu, Choquequirao boasts extensive terraced fields that once supported the Inca agricultural system. The sight of these well-preserved terraces is truly remarkable.
- Main Plaza: The central plaza is an excellent place to appreciate the layout and architecture of the city. It’s a serene spot to take in the history and atmosphere.
- The Llama Terraces: At Choquequirao, you’ll find the unique Llama Terraces, which served as a sacred area. The stone llamas carved into the terraces are an intriguing sight.
- The Hike: The trek to Choquequirao offers a diverse range of ecosystems and scenic beauty. You’ll traverse lush forests, traverse the Apurimac River, and experience the beauty of the high-altitude Andean landscape.
Machu Picchu: The Iconic Wonder
History and Significance
Machu Picchu, often dubbed “The Lost City of the Incas,” is undoubtedly one of the most famous archaeological sites globally. It was built in the 15th century and is located in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Machu Picchu is celebrated for its advanced architecture, urban planning, and religious significance, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Accessibility and Trekking
Unlike Choquequirao, Machu Picchu is relatively more accessible. You can reach Machu Picchu by train from Cusco, or by combining train and a moderate hike along the Inca Trail. The most popular trek to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, usually takes four days, offering stunning scenery, Inca ruins, and a memorable journey.
Machu Picchu’s accessibility, however, means it’s often crowded with tourists. If you prefer a quieter, more introspective experience, you might consider alternative trekking routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek or Lares Trek.
- The Sun Gate: Machu Picchu is famously greeted by trekkers through the Sun Gate, offering a breathtaking first view of the citadel.
- The Intihuatana Stone: This unique stone structure is believed to have served as an astronomical clock or ritual device for the Inca.
- The Temple of the Sun: A stunning example of Inca architecture, the Temple of the Sun is a must-see for its precise stonework and historical significance.
- Huayna Picchu: The towering mountain peak behind Machu Picchu offers a challenging hike and panoramic views of the citadel and the surrounding landscape.
Making the right choice
Deciding between Choquequirao and Machu Picchu ultimately comes down to your preferences and priorities. Here are some key factors to consider when making your choice:
Choquequirao might be the right choice for you if:
- You seek a more secluded experience: Choquequirao’s remoteness guarantees a quieter atmosphere and the feeling of being alone with the ruins.
- You’re up for a challenging trek: If you’re an experienced hiker and relish the prospect of a demanding journey, the trek to Choquequirao will be a gratifying adventure.
- You value exclusivity: Choquequirao’s relative inaccessibility means fewer visitors, providing a more exclusive and intimate encounter with the site.
- You have a fascination with the undiscovered: Choquequirao’s ongoing excavation and restoration efforts make it an exciting place to witness history in the making.
Machu Picchu might be the right choice for you if:
- You want a more accessible option: If you prefer a more straightforward way to reach a world-famous site, Machu Picchu is the way to go.
- You appreciate a range of trekking experiences: Machu Picchu offers various trekking options, from the classic Inca Trail to less crowded routes, catering to various fitness levels and preferences.
- You’re interested in iconic landmarks: Machu Picchu’s worldwide recognition is well-earned, and experiencing its grandeur in person is a bucket-list item for many.
- You’re interested in cultural immersion: The town of Aguas Calientes, located near Machu Picchu, offers opportunities for cultural immersion, shopping for local crafts, and enjoying Peruvian cuisine.
Making the Most of Your Trip
Whether you choose Choquequirao or Machu Picchu, both sites promise an unforgettable journey through time and history. Here are some general tips to help you make the most of your trip:
- Local Guides: Hiring a knowledgeable local guide can provide you with insights and stories that bring these ancient sites to life.
- Responsible Tourism: Follow the principles of responsible tourism by respecting the sites, local communities, and the environment.
- Proper Preparation: Ensure you’re physically prepared for the trek you choose, whether it’s Choquequirao or Machu Picchu. Adequate fitness is essential for an enjoyable experience.
- Travel with an Open Mind: Be open to unexpected experiences and the magic of discovery that these sites can offer.
- Capture the Moment: Don’t forget to capture the beauty and history you’ll encounter with your camera, but remember to take moments to simply absorb the grandeur around you.
In conclusion, Choquequirao and Machu Picchu are two extraordinary Inca citadels, each with its own unique appeal and significance. The choice between them hinges on your preferences and what you seek from your Peruvian adventure. Whether you decide to explore the hidden gem of Choquequirao or the iconic wonder of Machu Picchu, both will leave you with lasting memories and a profound connection to the rich history of the Inca civilization. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and either way, you’ll embark on a journey through time that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. At Inca Peru Travel, we also offer a tour that includes both of these amazing destinations in a single package!