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The "Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu"


View of Choquequirao

Choquequirao, the "Cradle of Gold"



The recently discovered Inca city of Choquequirao, also called the "Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu" is one of the least- heard-of ruins in Peru.

The beautiful site can even be visited by travelers. It is advised for you to book at an agency in order to be able to visit is as easily as possible. Infrastructure in the area is not adequate for receiving masses of tourists. Individual travel is rather difficult.




About Choquequirao...


Only part of of the ruins were uncovered from the earth and dense vegetation.

The views around are beautiful and the location as well was well-chosen by the Incas.

Though, Choquequirao is not even close to Machu Picchu from the aesthetical point-of-view.


Due to the similarities between the location and architecture, the two sites were considered "sisters". But, Machu Picchu is the bigger and more beautiful sister.


About 1.800 ha is approximated to be the city's size and 30-40 % has been so far uncovered from the wild vegetation.


The typical Inca dwellings are found here too. The architecture techniques are almost identical to those used in Machu Picchu.

At Choquequirao there are temples, agricultural cultivation terraces, irrigation channels, there is a typical Inca "pata" open space, just like in Ollantaytambo and in Machu Picchu.


Choquequirao also has sectors, districts. There is a Popular District and a Sacred (Religious District). Of course, what some might call "sectors" others call "district" and on our site the two terms are generally used to describe two different things.

In the case of Choquequirao we are talking about the main parts of the urban part of the city. The Popular District is the one that has most houses - this is where most of the population lived, while the Sacred District is where the priests lived and that is where the temples are located.


Choquequirao Agricultural Terraces

Choquequirao has a large number of Inca terraces



The Past of Choquequirao


 Presumably in the 15th century, the Inca leader Túpac Inca Yupanqui (or Topa Inca), the son of great Pachacuti had ordered the building of this city, which later became known as the "Last Stronghold of the Sons of the Sun".


Túpac Inca Yupanqui had built Choquequirao high, at a remote location, just like his father, Pachacuti did when he ordered the construction of Machu Picchu


The city of Choquequirao was often labeled as a lost Inca city. This is partly true, because it was forgotten and lost at some point and then discovered. But: this is not a legendary lost city, in no case.


After the siege of Cuzco in 1533, the rebel Inca ruler, Manco Cápac II. (Manco Inca Yupanqui) has found refuge behind the walls of this remote city. The name of Choquequirao is actually a new one, not the ancient name of the city, which could not be preserved due to the facts that the Incas didn't write and that the population abandoned it. In Quechuan, "Choquequirao" means "Cradle of Gold".


What Was Choquequirao?


Probably a gateway-checkpoint at the entrance into the Vilcabamba Valley. Choquequirao is located strategically at the tip of a triangular-shaped part of the Vilcabamba and from the higher ground it had a great view over what was going on below.


The entrance to Vilcabamba where the city of Vilcabamba was located has taken the Spaniards long years to fight the way in.


If we look the other way, we could also say that Choquequirao's purpose was actually to control the entrance into the Sacred Valley. The Inca capital was there and was more important defending it than the Vilcabamba.


Specialists say that this city could have played an important role in the trade and transportation between parts of the Inca Empire and the Amazon region. It is speculated that the Incas had periodically travelled into the Amazon basin in the northeast in order to bring various products from there. Some even say that there might be Inca settlements there (in the Amazon).


Another theory tells us that Choquequirao was a remote religious center of the Inca. Similarly o Machu Picchu, a sacred refuge, sanctuary.


The Discovery of Choquequirao


The city was already mentioned in 1710 in a Spanish document. Later, in another one in 1789, again. Afterwards it was forgotten.


The exact location of the city remained unknown until Eugène de Santiges came across it again in 1834.


In 1837 Léonce Agrand, who was France's consul in Lima arrived to the site and mapped it, but unfortunately Choquequirao was forgotten again and "got lost" in the deep jungle, just like a needle in a haystack.

The well-known American historian, Hiram Bingham finally rediscovered Choquequirao in 1909, just 3 years before he accidentally discovered Machu Picchu - the most dreamlike city on Earth.


In the 1970s, works have started to uncover the city, but unfortunately much the objects that have previously belonged to Choquequirao were gone. Signs of looting were found. Throughout the centuries, the city was repeatedly the target of robbers, most often grave robbers and treasure hunters who left no trace in history, but have left their marks on the archaeological sites.




Getting There


The city is not far away from Machu Picchu and even.


The site of Choquequirao is on the Salcantay Mountain Range, surrounded by spectacular snow-peaked mountains and there are very abrupt slopes quite close to it. In the valley below, runs the Apurímac River similarly to the Vilcanota running below Machu Picchu.


Choquequirao is located at a height of 3.085 m (10,121 ft), higher than Machu Picchu and it is less accessible, also less known by the great public. This is a good thing, because mass tourism doesn't deteriorate it as it does with the "Old Peak".


There are travel agents that will take you there. There are even hikes organized to the site.



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