Located on a mountain spur that faces the canyon of the Apurímac River, surrounded by high hills and snowy, hidden among the jungle of cloud forest, stands the citadel of Choquequirao.
In Andean ideology, the world is balanced according to two opposing halves, so the Inca cities were built according to a scheme that reproduces this dual and complementary form.
The Llacta of Choquequirao, whose distribution is dispersed for topographic reasons, makes no exception to the rule and presents the same urban layout in two halves: Hanan, or upper part and Hurin, or lower part.
The Archaeological Complex has been conventionally divided by archaeologists into twelve sectors, some of which are still partially covered by vegetation and not investigated.
Sector I: UPPER SQUARE OR HANAN SQUARE
It occupies the highest part of the citadel (hanan sector), at north.
To the north of the square stands a fountain fed by a canal that descends from the Chunchumayo river and crosses the site from north to south, as well as a two-storey building, probably related to worship and identified as Hanan Temple.
The east side is bounded by a retaining wall, at the base of which the water channel passes in the direction of the hurin main square; to the South side is a “kallanca” with its access vain from the east wall. From the south-west corner of the square, through a staircase, a triangular patio is accessed, anteroom to enter two small rooms with a common passageway, which show on the outer walls four paired low niches.
Sector II: WAREHOUSES AND CEREMONIAL PLATFORMS
To the southeast of the Hanan Square are located the Collcas or warehouses, constituted by five large buildings of which two of double plant, with ducts of ventilation in the floor.
Further to the south is a set of 16 small ceremonial platforms (called by Bingham "giant stairway"), delimited to the sides by stepped walls that show in its walls interior small niches of trapezoidal form. Large blocks of stone are seated on the front of each retaining wall. In the upper platform there is an entrance channel for water and in the last one is the channel of recovery of the same water that irrigates the 16 platforms.
Sector III: MAIN SQUARE OR HURIN SQUARE
Located a few hundred meters to the south and lower level, the lower sector (hurin) corresponds to the main nucleus of the city, housing the most notable buildings of Choquequirao, also arranged around a square.
The west side is occupied by the structures of the two water sources and the channel that branches to the cultivated platforms and to the sector of the popular houses of Pikiwasi.
To the North side is the main temple, a “kallanca” of rectangular plant and a single level, to which is posible going in from the place. Onto its interior walls there are low niches, in addition to "boxes" of 1.60 in height framed by lithic rings. The scholars think that the latter would have served to contain mummified bodies, protected by a tissue tied to the aforementioned rings.
On the east side of the square are three large two-level buildings, symmetrically arranged and accessible through a “double jamb” door; probably the residences of the local elite. Some parts of the walls still retain the rigging used to support the roof.
Next to these buildings is another “kallanca” of collective use, with six access spans.
Sector IV: TEMPLE HURIN AND ITS BACK ZONE
The Temple hurin, dubbed by Sartiges "triumphal wall" is constituted by a wide wall, whose facade shows four doors of double jamb. At the eastern end is located a double jamb access port that allows access to the rear area, where stand two “kanchas” for camelids, animals that guaranteed the food supply or that were sacrificed during certain ceremonies. In the open space related to the Hurin temple, there is also a house of very small dimensions and a kancha of ceremonial use.
Sector V: CEREMONIAL PLATFORM OR “USHNU”
It is a natural hill intentionally flattened in the upper part, whose plain, more or less circular, is surrounded by a small parapet interrupted to the northeast. Located at the back of the Temple hurin, it is reached by crossing the door of double jamb present in the east end of the facade of the same temple hurin.
The location of the platform on a promontory overlooking the Apurimac River canyon, the Huanipaca Valley, which allows visitors to observe all the surrounding mountains, suggests that it functioned as an observatory and a place of worship at the same time.
Sector VI: HOME OF PRIESTS
In the south slope of Choquequirao, below the ceremonial platform, is located a fountain with puddle and vent of the water. Continuing the descent we find two two-storey buildings located side by side - following a pattern of contrast - that have been designated as the Houses of Priests, because of their location and very special orientation. Each building has, to the east and west, three superimposed trapezoidal niches: two below, closed, and one at the top, open. The buildings are enclosed together by a perimeter wall, with a single access space on the East wall.
Sector VII: LORDLY PLATFORMS
This spectacular infrastructure, visible from afar, is located in the lower part of the main square, on the eastern slope of Choquequirao. It consists of three long platforms, divided by stair boxes that contain large and high tiers. The retaining wall at the bottom supports the platform of the causeway that communicates with the main square. Each terrace is bounded up and down by a retaining wall 4 meters high. Three steps make it possible to move from one terrace to another. Stones prominent inserted in the wall, also serve as stairway.
Sector VIII: LLAMAYOCC PLATFORMS
Andenería located on the west slope of Choquequirao, which has 129 narrow terraces decorated with mosaics representing twenty-eight patterns.
Camelids are represented, an anthropomorphic figure and zigzag geometric designs, for varying, in typical Chachapoyan style, very similar to those existing in Kuelap and Jalca grande.
In the area, there is also the old access road to the site (discovered in August 2005) and the large double jamb door that visitors and pilgrims had to cross to go into the ceremonial complex of Choquequirao.
Sector IX: PIKIWASI PEOPLE’S HOUSES
Located in the eastern slope of Choquequirao, corresponds to the popular housing. The constructions of collective use and family houses are located on artificial platforms created by retaining walls of style Chachapoyas. The plants of the constructions are of rectangular, square and oval forms; the passage from one platform to another is by stairs and narrow passageways.
Sector X: PARAQTEPATA PLATFORMS
It is a system of 18 agricultural andenerías ordered in three columns, with permanent irrigation. The cultivation platforms are divided by ladder boxes containing channels.
Sector XI: PHAQCHAYOC PLATFORMS
Located on the eastern slope next to the Chunchumayo stream, it is made up of a system of agricultural use platforms composed of more than 80 terraces, adapted to the topography of the land and distributed in 6 related columns by roadways, bleachers and water channels. You can see the excellent hydraulic system, which uses channels of various sizes, gates, siphons.
Here stands the house of “Chaqra Kamayoc”, priest responsible for the care of the fields, known as the House of Water Fall and made up of a temple, water fountains and environments of this house. The upper part of the walls is provided with protruding stone slabs, another typically Chachapoyan detail. Down the dwelling is a large flat rock, with a north-east-south-west orientation, pointing to the snow-covered Apu Ampay, located on the other side of the Huanipaca valley.
Sector XII: PINCHAUNUYOC PLATFORMS
Satellite sector of the main complex, located 7 kilometers away, road to Yanama.
It is formed by 57 terraces built in a gully produced by the waters of springs, which have permanent irrigation, due to the captures of said manantes. The retaining walls, which are in good condition, are in chachapoyas style, built with vertical rigging stone masonry. Above the upper and wider platforms are located buildings whose function was worship and residential. In the upper environment and to the north side are evidences of semicircular constructions.
More archaeological structures in Choquequirao
a) In the spaces covered by the native vegetation located between sectors III and II there are small constructions that correspond to another group of workshops-housing. They are quadrangular environments, some are isolated and others form urban kanchas, defining a small courtyard.
b) From the camping area of Choquequirao, en route to Huanipaca, there is another urban kancha made up of 05 constructions, enclosed by a wide rectangular patio. The walls are in the process of collapsing and covered by native vegetation.
c) In the upper part of the gully that is projected towards the platforms of Phaqchayoq, there is a cyclopean wall, showing at the base level a water dump that is captured by a channel that is deteriorated. The back of the wall is filled with layers of loose stone that allows to accumulate water that sums up the sub floor. It is possible that the waters accumulated behind this wall have been conducted for irrigation purposes to the platforms of Paraqtepata.
d) The platform of Sillapata is a small lomb that has been lowered to construct a two level andenería for ceremonial use; from here you can see the main square of Choquequirao. It is accessed from the hamlet of Marampata, arriving at the platform by means of stone steps that are to the Northeast side.
e) In the upper part of the Sunchupata andeneria, located where the road to Choquequirao passes, there are two kallancas in good condition.