Trams to whisk visitors to Peru’s mountaintop ruins

By Bob Schulman

Mountain fortress of Chachapoyas has over 400 buildings. Photo by Adventure      Life.

A few years ago your neighbor spent the better part of a day on a train and then on a bus over scary roads to the Peruvian ruins at Machu Picchu – and you’ve been hearing about it ever since. But you’ll soon be able to one-up that tale with your own stories about visiting Machu Picchu’s nearby sister city (Choquequirao), and about getting there on a tramway over some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world.

Imagine casually telling your neighbor: “Oh the tram ride to Choquequirao took our breath away...and it was quick, just 15 minutes.”

The 3-mile-long tramway – being built by the Peruvian government at a cost of US$83 million – is planned to open by the end of 2015. Its cable cars are expected to carry thousands of passengers a day to the 9,800-foot-high Choquequirao ruins, said to look much like the terraces, squares and temples of Machu Picchu.

Currently, the only way to get to Choquequirao is to hike there (it takes a couple of days) over rugged mountain trails. So the city – known as “the cradle of gold” – sees few visitors.

Elsewhere in the country, construction is set to get underway shortly on an aerial tramway aimed at making it a lot easier to get to the walled fortress of Kuelap in the Chachapoyas area. Visitors will hop into cable cars for a 10-minute ride to the ancient city of 400 buildings, perched on a high ridge in a cloud forest overlooking a deep valley.

Pre-tram trips to the cities

Classic Inca mountaintop terraces. Photo by Adventure Life.Adventurous travelers who’d like to beat the crowds to the two ruins can see them before the trams open, thanks to trips offered by a company called Adventure Life ( One tour, the “Chachapoyas Discovery,” starts at Lima and goes on by air to Chiclaoy and then by ground transport to Kuelap and other remote ruins in the area. Cost of the nine-day tour starts at at US$2,195 per person.

Adventure Life’s “Choquequirao Trek” is a 12-day trip starting at Lima with stops at Cusco, Choquequirao, Machu Picchu and several other cities (and with lots of hiking and camping along the way). Cost of the trip starts at US$3,450 per person.

Prices do not include the international air hops to Peru and back.

Adventure Life General Manager Jonathan Brunger notes, “Choquequirao and Kuelap will always be magnificent. Nothing will change that. However, the overall experience is sure to be very different in the future. So, now is the time to go if you want to see these ancient ruins in their current, barely visited state.”

Based in Missoula, Mont., Adventure Life offers private journeys, small group tours and expedition voyages to destinations around the world.

More info on the Chachapoyas/Kuelap tour:

More info on the Choquequirao tour:

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