Choquequirao (possibly from Quechua chuqi metal, k'iraw crib,
cot) is an Incan site in south Peru, similar in structure
and architecture to Machu Picchu. The ruins are buildings and terraces
at levels above and below Sunch'u Pata, the truncated hill top. The
hilltop was anciently leveled and ringed with stones to create a 30 by
50 m platform.
Choquequirao at an elevation of 3,050 metres (10,010 ft) ) is
in the spurs of the
Vilcabamba mountain range
Vilcabamba mountain range in the Santa Teresa
La Convención Province
La Convención Province of the
Cusco Region. The complex is
1,800 hectares, of which 30–40% is excavated. The site
Apurimac River canyon which has an elevation of 1,450
metres (4,760 ft).
The site is reached by a two-day hike from outside Cusco.
Choquequirao has topped in the prestigious Lonely Planet's Best in
Travel 2017 Top Regions list.
2 Location and layout
2.2 Ceremonial center
5 See also
8 External links
9 Photo gallery
Choquequirao is a 15th and 16th century settlement associated with the
Inca Empire, or more correctly Tahuantinsuyo. The site had two
major growth stages. This could be explained if
Choquequirao and his son, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, remodeled and extended
it after becoming the Sapa Inca.
Choquequirao is located in the
area considered to be Pachacuti’s estate; which includes the areas
around the rivers Amaybamba, Urabamba, Vilcabamba, Victos and
Apurímac. Other sites in this area are Sayhuite, Machu Picchu,
Chachabamba (Chachapampa), Choquesuysuy (Chuqisuyuy) and Guamanmarca
(Wamanmarka); all of which share similar architectural styles with
Choquequirao. The architectural style of several important
features appears to be of
Chachapoya design, suggesting that
Chachapoya workers were probably involved in the construction. This
suggests that Tupaq Inka probably ordered the construction. Colonial
documents also suggest that Tupac Inca ruled
Choquequirao since his
great grandson, Tupa Sayri, claimed ownership of the site and
neighboring lands during Spanish colonization.
It was one of the last bastions of resistance and refuge of the Son of
the Sun (the "Inca"), Manco Inca Yupanqui, who fled
Cusco after his
siege of the city failed in 1535.
According to the Peruvian Tourism Office, "
Choquequirao was probably
one of the entrance check points to the Vilcabamba, and also an
administrative hub serving political, social and economic functions.
Its urban design has followed the symbolic patterns of the imperial
capital, with ritual places dedicated to
Inti (the Incan sun god) and
the ancestors, to the earth, water and other divinities, with mansions
for administrators and houses for artisans, warehouses, large
dormitories or kallankas and farming terraces belonging to the Inca or
the local people. Spreading over 700 meters, the ceremonial area drops
as much as 65 meters from the elevated areas to the main square."
The city also played an important role as a link between the Amazon
Jungle and the city of Cusco.
According to Ethan Todras-Whitehill of the New York Times,
Choquequirao's first non-Incan visitor was the explorer Juan Arias
Díaz in 1710. The first written site reference in 1768 was made
by Cosme Bueno, but was ignored at the time. In 1834 Eugene de
Santiges rediscovered the site. In 1837 Leonce Agrand mapped the site
for the first time, but his maps were forgotten. When Hiram Bingham,
the discoverer of Machu Picchu, visited
Choquequirao in 1909 the site
gained more attention. The first excavations started in the 1970s.
Location and layout
Choquequirao is situated at an elevation of 3,000 m above sea
level on a southwest-facing spur of a glaciated peak above the
Apurimac River. The region is characterized by mountain topography
and covered with Amazonian flora and fauna. It is 98 km west
of Cusco, in the Vilcabamba range. The complex covers 6 km2.
Architecturally it is similar to Machu Picchu. The main structures,
such as temples, huacas, elite residences, and fountain/bath systems
are concentrated around two plazas along the crest of the ridge, which
encompass approximately 2 km2 and follow Inca urban design. Also
there is a conglomeration of common buildings clustered away from the
plaza. Excavations and surface items suggest they were probably used
for workshops and food preparation. Most buildings are
well-preserved and well-restored; restoration continues.
The terrain around the site was greatly modified. The central area of
the site was leveled artificially and the surrounding hillsides were
terraced to allow cultivation and small residential areas. The
typical Inca terraces form the largest constructions on site.
Many of the ceremonial structures are associated with water. There are
two unusual temple wak'a sites that lie several hundred meters lower
than the two plazas. These are carefully crafted step terraces down a
steep slope are designed around water. The site also contains a
number of ceremonial structures such as the large usnu built on a
truncates hill, the Giant Staircase, and an aqueduct providing water
to the water shrines.
The archaeological complex of
Choquequirao is divided into 12 sectors.
While the contents of each sector are different, terraces used for
various purposes are common throughout. It seems that most of the
buildings here were either for ceremonial purposes, residences of the
priests, or used to store food.
Sector I is the highest and most northerly portion of the site. There
exist 5 buildings constructed on terraces at varying levels, a temple
and a plaza, as well as a smaller plaza in the uppermost area of the
sector. Two of the buildings appear to be qullqas (warehouses). The
three long buildings, called kallankas were likely priests’
Sector II is where a majority of the qullqanpatas, or depositories are
located. In one part of this sector there are 16 ceremonial platforms
with canal routes in between that branch off from the main water
Sector III is between the hanan (high) area and the urin (low) area of
the complex and contains what is believed to be the Haucaypata
(Hawkaypata), or main plaza. At the periphery of the plaza there are
one story and two story buildings. To the north, there is a Sunturwasi
and a single level kallanka likely used for ceremony. To the east
are the buildings with two levels. The main plaza is discussed in more
detail in the section called Ceremonial Center of this page.
Sector IV is located in the southerly area of the complex, known as
the urin zone. The main building here has walls that were probably
ceremonial in function since one of them is known as “wall of
offerings to the ancestors”.
Sector V is the location of the usnu which is a hill leveled at the
summit to form an oval platform used for ceremony. A small wall
encircles the hill. From the platform, one can see the main plaza of
sector III, the snowcapped mountains and the Apurímac River.
Sector VI, south of the usnu in the urin area, it has the Wasi Kancha
("house yard"), also known as the priests' quarters. There are four
terraces here that were used as ceremonial space. In the walls of
the terraces there is a zigzagged design.
Sector VII can be reached from the main plaza by pathway. Located on
the east side of Choquequirao, this zone contains cultivation terraces
that have markedly greater amplitude than all others throughout the
Sector VIII, on the western side of the complex, has 80 cultivation
terraces divided into plots by water canals that stream down from the
main plaza. In this zone, one will find the famous "Llamas del
Sector IX contains general living quarters for groups of people, such
as workers or families. The buildings are constructed on top of
artificial platforms in circular and rectangular design,
interconnected by stairways and narrow alleys.
Sector X, called paraqtepata, has 18 terraced platforms that have
irrigation canals running parallel to the stairs.
Sector XI has 80 terraces used for cultivation, called phaqchayuq
("the one with a waterfall"), which are the most extensive in the
entire complex. Also found here are small, quadrilateral
enclosures with two levels used for both ceremony and living. Outside,
there are three water fountains used for drinking and to supply the
Sector XII lies three hours away (by foot) from the upper part of the
complex. Here there are 57 platforms with permanent irrigation
systems. In the uppermost terraces there are buildings for ceremony
and a pool of water fed by a spring. In the semicircular enclosures
ceramic shards, stone tools and remains of bones have been found.
The ceremonial center of
Choquequirao shares many features similar to
those of other Inca ceremonial centers and pilgrimage sites, such as
Isla del Sol, Quespiwanka (Qhispi Wank'a, palace of Huayna Capac),
Tipon and Saywite. The long and treacherous
Choquequirao likely passed by Machu Picchu,
leading onto the face of
Machu Picchu Peak. From Llaqtapata, the path
continued down into the Mollepata Valley, traversed the Yanamia pass
at 4670 m, and continued across the Rio Blanco, finally reaching
Choquequirao from above after an estimated 7- to 10-day journey.
The ceremonial center consists of a main platform and a lower plaza.
Stone lined channels carried ceremonial water, or chicha to shrines
and baths throughout the site. The main platform, unique in its size
and prominence, limited ceremonial activity to royalty and the
ministerial class. This seems as such due to evidence showing that the
only entrance to the platform was through a double-jam doorway, which
functioned to control access to the sacred space. Other features
of the ceremonial center include structures that mark the direction of
certain solar events, such as when the June and December solstice sun
rises and sets.
Located in the main platform, the Giant Stairway opens to the sunrise
of the December solstice. Measured at 25 meters long and 4.4 meters
wide, this structure seems to have been purely ceremonial in function,
since the stairs end abruptly partway down a hill, leading to nothing.
Large boulders that rest upon the risers of the stairway become fully
illuminated when the December solstice sun rises. Gary R. Ziegler and
J. McKim Malville have postulated that when the boulders become
illuminated, a wak'a is activated by its solar camaquen—a case
similar to when the large stone of the Torreon at
Machu Picchu becomes
In the lower plaza a group of structures were found that appeared to
be water shrines and baths. This belief is held based on their strong
resemblance to those at sector II of
Llaqtapata and because there are
numerous water channels leading to that portion of the plaza.
Overall, it seems as though the site was chosen, as
Machu Picchu was,
for its sacred geographical location, and was designed to facilitate
ritual and ceremonial activity.
The area around Choquequiaro contains several subsectors that have
been associated with the Inca culture that thrived in Choquequirao,
suggesting that the subsectors are most likely part of the site.
Design, construction style, and cultural parallels support that these
sectors were tightly intertwined with Choquequiaro and the Inca at
some point in their history. The lack of residential space in these
sectors suggests that these were probably farming outposts from
Choquequirao rather than an independent site. Due to differences
in design and construction styles, it is believed that these sectors
were built in three different phases. Like
Choquequirao art style,
the subsector also contains multiple camelid art and ceremonial
phaqchas that are tightly related to Inca, especially Pachacuti’s
All lithic materials utilized for the construction of the site and
surrounding sectors were mined from the local quarries. Due to the
metamorphic rock in the quarries of Choquequirao, superb masonry like
Machu Picchu could not be obtained. Instead, the entrances and
corners were shaped from quartzite, and the walls were made of achlar
and plastered with clay and then painted in a light orange color.
Most of the rock art in
Choquequirao is in the terraced area where
cultivation occurred. Archaeologists have documented twenty-five
semi-naturalistic figures on the terraces of sector VIII of
Choquequirao. The rocks used to build the walls are dark schist while
the camelid images are of white calcocuarcita, a sandstone of quartz
and carbonate. The camelid motifs vary between a maximum height of
1.94 m and one minimum of 1.25 m. In 2004, archaeologist
Zenobio Valencia from the University of San Antonio Abad of Cusco
found several camelid figurines made of white stones in a group of
terraces in one sector of the archaeological site.
One recent discovery for example, uncovered a scene laid into the
stone terraces with white quartzite depicting several llamas loaded
with cargo standing by their handlers. Present on the uppermost
terrace wall is a zigzag pattern of the same quartzite. This style of
design is uniquely
Chachapoya and not found in other sites of Inca
construction, indicating that workers from
Chachapoya may have been
involved in the construction of Choquequirao.
Presently the only way to access
Choquequirao is by a hard hike. The
common trail head begins at the village of San Pedro de Cachora,
which is approximately a 4-hour drive from Cuzco, along the
Cusco-Abancay route. Another access point is from Huanipaca village,
whose crossroad is located on the same route Cusco-Abancay,
4-5 km beyond the Cachora crossroad. Huanipaca offers a
15 km trail, half distance less than Cachora trail (31 km).
Over 5,000 people trekked to
Choquequirao in 2013. From Choquequirao
it is possible to continue hiking to Machu Picchu. Most treks range
from 7-day to 11-day hikes, and involve going over the Yanama Pass,
which at 4,668 m is the highest point on the trek.
The construction of the cable car to
Choquequirao has been declared a
priority by the Apurímac Regional Government, which are destined to
receive 220 million Peruvian Soles (US$82.7 million) to fund the
project. It will reduce a two-day hike to a 15-minute cable car
ride. Carlos Canales, president of the National Chamber of Tourism
(Canatur) believes that in the first year of operation the
Choquequirao cable car will receive 200,000 tourists, which will
generate an income of US$4 million, with the average visitor paying
US$20 per ticket.
Iperu, tourist information and assistance
Tourism in Peru
^ Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la
Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco,
Cusco 2005 (Quechua-Spanish
^ Ref Bertonio
^ Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi
yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
^ Lee 1997
^ a b Choquequirao, Peru's Tourism Office, 2011
^ a b Trail to Choquequirao, El Comercio Newspaper, Lima, Peru, May
13, 2009, [Spanish] Archived April 16, 2013, at Archive.is
^ a b Echevarría López 2009, p.213.
^ Echevarría López 2008, p.83.
^ Echevarría López 2008, p.82.
^ Ziegler 2011, pp.162-163.
^ Ethan Todras-Whitehill on the New York Times
^ Ziegler 2011, pp.162–163.
^ a b Echevarría López 2009, p.214.
^ Ziegler 2011, p.162.
^ Ziegler 2011, pp.163-164.
^ Ziegler 2011, p. 164.
^ Ziegler 2011, p. 162.
^ Burga, Manuel.(2008). p. 103-104.
^ a b c d Burga, Manuel. (2008). p. 104.
^ Burga, Manuel. (2008). p. 104-105.
^ Burga, Manuel. (2008). p. 105.
^ a b c Burga, Manuel. (2008). p. 106.
^ a b c d Ziegler 2011, p.167.
^ Echevarría López 2008, pp.81-82
^ Echevarría López 2008, p.77.
^ Echevarría López 2008, pp.81-82.
^ Echevarría López 2008, p.72
^ Ziegler 2011, pp.164-165.
^ Echevarría López 2009, pp.214-215.
^ Echevarría López 2009, p.216.
^ Ziegler 2011, p.165.
^ Trekking To Machu Picchu, Horizon Guides, 2017
^ Salazar, Carla. "Tramway planned for Machu Picchu's 'sister city'".
AP Travel. Associated Press. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
Choquequirao recibiría 600 mil viajeros en el 2018 con
teleférico". El Comercio. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
Burga, Manuel (2008). Choquequirao; símbolo de la resistencia andina
(historia, antropología y linguística). Lima: Universidad Nacional
Mayor de San Marcos. pp. 103–106.
Echevarría López, Gori Tumi; Zenobio Valencia García (2009). "The
'Llamas' from Choquequirao: A 15th century
Cusco imperial rock art".
Rock Art Research. 26 (2): 213–223.
Echevarría López, Gori Tumi; Zenobio Valencia García (2008).
"Arqutectura y contexto arqueológico Sector VIII, andenes <<Las
Llamas>> de Choquequirao". Investigaciones Sociales (20):
Ziegler, Gary R.and J. McKim Malville. Choquequirao, Topa Inca's Machu
Picchu: a royal estate and ceremonial centerjournal=Proceedings of
the International Astronomical Union. 2011, number 278, pages
Ziegler, Gary R and J Mckim Malville.(2013). Machu Picchu's Sacred
Choquequirao and Llactapata; Astronomy, Symbolism and Sacred
Geography in the Inca Heartland. Johnson Books, Boulder.
Ziegler, Gary R. Beyond Machu Picchu; Lost City in the Clouds,
Lee, Vincent R. (1997). Inca Choqek'iraw: New Work at a Long Known
Site. Cortez, CO:Sixpac Manco Publications.
Choquequirao, Peru's Tourism Office, 2011
Trail to Choquequirao, El Comercio Newspaper, Lima, Peru, May 13,
Cusco travel guide, September 5, 2011, [Spanish]
Machu Picchu article on
Choquequirao (The New York Times,
June 3, 2007)
Jones, Paul. Exciting News about the
Choquequirao Cable Car. Totally
Latin America. S.A. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
Salazar, Carla. Tramway planned for Machu Picchu’s 'sister city'. AP
Travel. Associated Press. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
Choquequirao recibiría 600 mil viajeros en el 2018 con teleférico.
El Comercio. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Choquequirao.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Choquequirao.
Machu Picchu article on
Choquequirao (The New York Times,
June 3, 2007)
Adventure Trekking Specialist in
Debate on the value of publicizing
Choquequirao as a travel
destination from the author of the New York Times article
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