The pre-Columbian El Choro trek once formed part of the famous Inca Trail network known as the Qapac Ñan. It begins an hour outside of La Paz, at La Cumbre, and ends in the village of Chairo in the tropical Yungas valley. Along the way, hikers are treated to striking views as they descend from the frosty heights of the Andean range, past the cloud forest, and into a semi-tropical ranforest.
The trail is moderate, although you’ll want to refrain if you have knee problems. With a exception of some flat and steeply inclined segments, it’s mainly downhill, descending from 4,900 to 1,350 meters above sea level. It can be done in two or three days.
You don’t have to book the El Choro trail if you don’t want to; unlike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you aren’t required to go through a travel agency in order to hike this trail. However, it’s still a good option if you’d like to learn more about the area and don’t want to have to carry a tent and food. When you book through an agency in La Paz, you only have to carry you sleeping bag, the day’s water ration, and your personal items. Your campsite and meals are prepared for you.
What Do You See on the El Choro Trek?
Most hikers take three days to do the trek, although it’s possible to do it in just two days. The first day begins at starts at a high, windy point known as La Cumbre, which is barren and cold, and in the mornings is often covered with snow. (This is near the beginning of the World’s Most Dangerous Road, which we talked about in our post on biking down death road.) You’ll begin by traversing a pre-Inca segment of the trail, which is mainly paved by cobblestone. During the time of the Inca Empire, it was pressed into service for the transport of food and goods between the cities and communities in the mountains and those in the jungle. In the beginning of the walk, plants are few, and animals are limited to the grazing herds of llama and cattle. Continuing on, however, more and more plants will appear. You’ll also see a set of Incan ruins, of a tambo, a rest-stop where travelers along the trail received food and drink. After a 6-hour walk, you’ll reach Challapampa village and its family-owned campsite, where one can be food and beer.
The second day is very up-and-down. You’ll notice the weather warming up and the vegetation becoming denser as you enter the cloud forest. There’ll be some great views, and plenty of wildflowers. After an 8-hour walk, you’ll reach the village of Sandillani, nearby where one can set up camp.
Finally, on the third day, you’ll walk for 5 more hours, but this time through the semi-tropical Yungas Valley. You’ll mainly be following a big river, with some waterfalls and hanging bridges punctuating it. Along the way, you’ll see subtropical plants banana palms and coffee plants. Butterflies and tropical birds complete the colorful picture, with one highlight being the scarlet Cock-of-the-Rock.
From the high mountains to the subtropical woods of the Yungas, you will see many different plants, colourful butterflies and many parts are close to a river, which includes spots for dipping in the water and several smaller waterfalls.
After completing the trail, you’ll find yourself in the small village of Chairo. From here, you can take public transportation to La Paz for 20bs. If you want to stay in the Yungas valley, you can continue on to Coroico by taxi, as there isn’t public transportation available, but it will run you around 180bs.
What to Pack for the El Choro Trek?
Because of the descent, this trail generally starts out in cold weather, with snow and ice sometimes collecting on the ground in the morning, but it ends in tropical weather. Because of this, you’ll need to prepare for some weather shifts. Our list of items to pack includes these musts:
- Rain poncho, and if possible a water-proof set of clothing
- Hiking shoes
- Hat, gloves and scarf for the beginning of the trek
- Insect repellent
- Sunglasses and sunblock
- Energy snacks
- Plastic bags for refuse, and to protect certain belongings in case of rain
- Flashlight for use at the campsite at night
Aside from having our own hostel in La Paz, Pirwa also boasts its own travel agency, which is part of the Inca World Travel family. If you’re looking for a fairly-priced, reliable operator through which to book the El Choro Inca Trail, contact us for more information!