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Choquequirao has been called “Machu Picchu’s sacred sister”, because of the striking similarities of design and ceremonial architecture to its famous counterpart above the Urubamba Gorge. Yet it remains an enigmatic place whose history is a matter of speculation. One theory of its origins holds that it was a royal estate built for the emperor Topa Inca, perhaps in an attempt to rival his father Pachacuti’s spectacular domain at Machu Picchu.
For centuries Choquequirao lay shrouded in obscurity, protected by its remoteness. Unlike Machu Picchu, people knew it was there – it was first mentioned in a Spanish document of 1710, later visited by various explorers and treasure hunters, and roughly surveyed in the 19th century by the French consul in Lima, Leonce Angrand. Finally, in 1909, the indefatigable U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham –the future scientific discoverer of Machu Picchu -- explored and mapped the site.