Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
Best option for nature lovers!
Salkantay TrekIf you want to do a beautiful and demanding trek, consider doing the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. In our view – and according to most guidebooks – the Salkantay Trek is the best alternative to the classic Inca Trail.
This trek is in some ways even better than the Inca Trail. The nature you will see is incredible, so we especially recommend this trek if you are a real nature lover. You climb from the Andean highlands to an icy pass at 4600 meters. After this it goes down hill. You will see banana trees, coffee plantations and a wild river. You can take your fleece sweater off after you enter the high altitude cloud forest. Due to the big difference in altitude during the Salkantay Trek, you can say there is a different world every few kilometers.
An advantage of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is that you encounter less tourists than on the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail has the advantage that you visit a few ruins on the trail. You do not have any on the Salkantay Trek. In addition, you do not end directly in Machu Picchu; you spend your last night in Aguas Calientes, the town near Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay Trek program (5 days)
On the first day, we will pick you up from your accommodation early in the morning and drive to the village of Mollepata in a few hours. Here we stop to have breakfast (not included) and pay the entrance fee. After breakfast we continue another hour by car to Soraypampa where we will meet the muleteers and the horse who will take our luggage. We start with a 2-hour uphill walk to Humantay Lake. When you arrive at the lagoon, you will have plenty of time to explore this beautiful place and take photos. After some time at the lake, we begin a 2-hour hike to our exclusive Quiswarniyoc camp for a healthy lunch.
After lunch you will have free time to explore the beautiful surroundings and if you would like to do some more walking, you can go to Mirador of Salkantay. From there you have a panoramic view of the entire region. When you are tired, you can rest in the Mountain Sky Hut. These are cabins with glass roofs. In the evening you can enjoy the stars from your cabin. Inside you will find a pillow and a sleeping mat. You need your own sleeping bag. You can also rent one for the entire trek for US$15. Please indicate this when making your reservation.
The second day of the trekking is the toughest day of the Salkantay. You walk 20 km and pass the highest point of this route. In the morning the chefs wake you up around 5 a.m. with a cup of hot coca tea. After tea you have time to pack your things again and have breakfast. After this it is time to go for a walk. We go up for 3 hours until we reach the highest point of the Salkantay trail, namely 4630 meters. Once you reach the highest point, you will have time to enjoy the mountains and take photos. The guide will explain to you about the mountain gods and we will do a small Andean ritual for the mountain gods. Then you walk 2 hours down to the lunch spot to rest and enjoy a delicious lunch. After this you walk further downhill for another three hours until we reach the second camp, Chaullay. There we provide camping equipment, tea and dinner. You can also take a hot shower with the locals for 10 Soles and buy some drinks.
The third day is nice and warm as you have reached the jungle area. We will wake you up around 6:00 am with a cup of coca tea. Then we will provide a delicious breakfast. After breakfast, around 7:00 am, we will start a walk of approximately 5 hours to La Playa Sahuayaco. We walk through the Santa Teresa Valley, formed by the Salkantay River. You will see plantations such as coffee, bananas, avocados, coca, passion fruit and much more. After 5 hours of walking you will arrive in La Playa Sahuayaco, from where you will take local transport for an hour to Santa Teresa, the third campsite. Once at the camp you will be served a delicious lunch and there will be plenty of time to get ready for those who want to go to the beautiful Colcampayo hot springs, a 15-minute drive from the camp. The hot springs are outdoor, natural and clean water, which is a great place to relax. After this we return to the campsite where we welcome you with tea and a hot dinner.
On the 4th day you will visit Llactapata. This is the only Inca ruin you will pass during your Salkantay trek. From Llactapata you have a beautiful view of Machu Picchu. For this beautiful trek, we started very early with breakfast in Santa Teresa, around 5:30 am. After breakfast we go to Lucmabamba in 45 minutes by local transport. Here begins the 3-hour uphill walk on the original Inca trail that leads you to the Inca ruins of Llactapata. You will have enough time to enjoy the views of Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and you can see Salkantay Mountain one more time if you are lucky with the weather. After this, you will start a 2-hour downhill walk to Hidroelectrica to have a nutritious lunch and take a break. Then you start the last part of the walk to Aguas Calientes of another 3 hours along the track. Once you arrive in the small town we will take you to the hostel where you will have time to rest and shower. Around 7:00 PM the guide will organize the last dinner at a restaurant in Aguas Calientes. After dinner it is time to go to sleep because the next day you have to leave very early to go to Machu Picchu.
Day 5 – Machu Picchu
We prepare to climb to Machu Picchu around 4:00 am, the tour follows an ascending path through the high jungle. Make sure you arrive in time to see the spectacular sunrise. After passing through the control entrance around 6:00 AM, our group will have a private 2-hour guided tour of the Inca Citadel. Depending on the departure time of the train, the group will descend on foot to Aguas Calientes to take the train back to Ollantaytambo. The group must be present at the train station at least 30 minutes before departure. Everyone is picked up in Ollantaytambo and taken to Cusco. The Salkantay Trek ends in San Francisco Square, in the center of Cusco.
- Transport as described
- Briefing at 7pm, the day before the start of the tour
- Professional bilingual (English and Spanish) official tourism guides.
- Machu Picchu entrance
- Hotel in Aguas Calientes
- All taxes
- You’ll receive a duffle bag (at the briefing) to pack up to 7 kilos of your personal gear. These duffle bags will be transported on horses throughout the entire trek, and you’ll have access to them at the campsites. This allows you to hike comfortably with just your daypack.
- Cook and all meals (5 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners + 3 snacks or tea time). The cooks are proficient in creating vegetarian or vegan options when preferred and will be attentive to any allergies or specific dietary restrictions you may have.
- Horse driver and horses that transport the tents, kitchen utensils, equipment, sleeping bags and duffle bags.
- Train ticket back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and transport back to Cusco by car.
- Camping equipment, such as tents and mattresses
- Kitchen and dining tent, with chairs and tables
- Medical assistance, first aid supplies, oxygen
- Entrance to Humantay Lagoon (20 soles, payment in cash at the entrance)
- Baños termales from Santa Teresa (optional on 3rd day)
- Sleeping bag (you can rent a bag for $10 USD. The sleeping bags we offer are specially designed to withstand the low temperatures of the Salkantay Trek, up to 10 degrees below zero)
- Walking sticks (optional, you can rent them for $10)
- Drinking water for refilling bottles. Water for hot and cold drinks at each meal ia provided. For bottle water, you can buy mineral water at small shops along the Salkantay Trail or carry a filter or purification tablets for mountain water.
- Wayna Picchu and Mount Machu Picchu entrance fee is not included. If you want to visit, please book well in advance (US$60).
- The bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and back. This is optional, you can also walk this part.
- Tip for the guide, porters and cooks
- There is no cell signal from 9 am on the first day until reaching the second camp. At this camp, you can access Wi-Fi for 10 soles. After the third day, you will generally have cell signal and internet access.
- Toilets are available at the campsites at no cost, but locals may charge 1 sol for using theirs along the way. As for showers, the second camp offers hot showers for 10 soles, while cold showers are free. You also have the option to visit the hot springs on the third day or use the hot showers at the Aguas Calientes hostel on the fourth day.
What to take with you on your Salkantay Trek
- Backpack with rain protection
- Sleeping bag (you can also rent this)
- Clothing for warm and cold climates, such as a waterproof jacket
- Rain pants and lightweight pants
- Trekking shoes
- Flip flops or sandals (for showers and hot springs)
- Woolen or synthetic socks and a sweater
- Polos/T-shirts with long and short sleeves
- Rain poncho and a hat Swimwear + towel (for the Hot Springs in Aguas Calientes)
- Sunscreen, insect repellent, disinfectant alcohol and gel, water bottle and sterilization tablets, toiletries and toilet paper
- Camera or phone
- Headlamp: A must-have for visibility during early or late hours.
- Possibly some snacks such as chocolate bars and dried fruit
- Original passport!
- The weather can be very cold and damp. If your clothes get wet, they won’t dry overnight. So take some extra clothes with you.
Check out the other treks and trails to Machu Picchu:
Or check the opening hours, access rules, restrictions and entrance prices of Machu Picchu here: