Similar to the much better known Machu Picchu, Choquequirao was once the mountaintop refuge for Incan royalty. To reach this breathtaking site you have to trek for at least 12 hours - consequently it receives far fewer visitors than nearby Machu Picchu, which is only just 30 miles away.
However things are set to change as the Peruvian government has given the go-ahead to building an aerial tramway to reach the Choquequirao, the first of it’s kind in the country. It will cross the Apurimac river canon and will make the site far more accessible. In fact it will allow visitors to reach the site in just 15 minutes from the nearest main road. Currently it takes about 4 hours by mountain roads from Cuzco which are prone to landslides and flooding and then a further 12-16 hours on foot.
The tramway will be approximately 3 miles (5km) long and will be able to transport about 400 people every hour each way. It will be suspended about half a mile above ground. At present the costs are estimated in the region of £30m ($45m) and they anticipate that it will increase the visitor numbers to about 3,000 per day when it opens in late 2015.
Machu Picchu has a daily limit of 2,500 visitors and it is hoped by opening up Choquequirao it will ultimately take some of the burden away from Machu Picchu. The few visitors who do make it (about only 5 per day) usually love it as often they have the site to themselves.
Choquequirao means "cradle of gold" in Quechua. It is thought to have been the final refuge of Incan rulers who fled Cuzco after being defeated by Spanish conquistadors. It is situated in the shadow of the Salcantay peak at around 3000m (9900ft) with steep precipices all around. It is as well preserved as Machu Picchu and with similar incredible views. At the moment only about 30% of Choquequirao has been cleared for tourism with the remaining 70% covered in vegetation.
Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, has pledged to build 24 tramways in a bid to boost tourism throughout the country through his Cable Car Program. Choquequirao will be the first and it is thought other archaeological sites in the region will also open up as a result. The belief is that it will give a welcome boost to tourist services by investment through hotels, restaurants and other amenities, in what is one of Peru’s poorest regions.
However, there are some people who are not so keen on this idea and nor of this investment. Some detractors think it will ruin the tranquility and spirituality of the place and also affect the wildlife such as the condors which soar above the site. They believe that the modernity of the tramway will take away the authenticity of Choquequirao and it will lose some of its charm.
How it affects the area remains to be seen as the government start taking bids for theconstruction from as far away as Switzerland and Andorra.
Peru is a remarkable country with so much to see and do that one trip is never enough. For inspiration on some beautiful old colonial style hotels to stay in have a look at Historic Haciendas.
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