Allow us to show you the Imperial City as you acclimatize to the altitude! Cusco sits at nearly 3,400 meters above sea level, many need a couple of days to adjust before embarking on the strenuous Salkantay Trek. We are itching to show off our and our ancestors home to you before we hit the trail! From Cusco we will head to the sacred valley to explore ancient ruins, remote villages, and begin our trek to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek is a secluded hike. Less people means better views of the mountains and more autonomy over your trip!.
The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an alternative to the Inca Trail and considered by most to be the best alternative route (and maybe even better!). This magnificent trail is perfect for adventurers who wish to become personally integrated in changing ecosystems from one day to the next. You will walk through sweeping, magical landscapes of a snowy mountain paradise to a tropical jungle where you will find a wide range of animals and medicinal plants and flower varieties. Witness with your own eyes a living, but ancient, culture in remote villages hardly ever seen by foreigners!
The Cordillera Vilcabamba is an impressive mountain range extending over 260 km. The snow-capped mountain Salkantay rises to 6271 MASL– 20574 FASL in height. It is an outstanding snowy peak, located less than fifty miles northwest of the city of Cusco in south-central Peru. Because of its proximity to the city, it is easily accessible by car and it has been climbed by professional mountaineers since 1952.
In order to complete the Salkantay Trek, you need to have a reasonable level of fitness, but age shouldn’t be a barrier. The most important thing is to be well-acclimatized to the altitude. The highest you will trek the entire time is (4650 MASL – 15092 FASL). Two days of acclimatization before the trek is ideal for visiting the city of Cusco, plus the four the nearby Incan ruin sites and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Welcome to the imperial, Inca capital city of Cusco, also known as the cultural capital of Peru! Upon arrival, we’ll take you to your hotel to check in, drop off your luggage, and freshen up. You’ll have some time to rest before you find somewhere for lunch.
After lunch, and once you’re ready, we’ll take you on a laid-back half-day tour of this stunning city to help you acclimate at the high altitude (3,400 masl/11,155 fasl).
You’re in for a treat as you learn all about this historical place, which is the oldest continuously inhabited city in all the Americas. People have lived in Cusco since around 1,000 BC, and they regarded it as the center of the surrounding culture, which was known as Qosqo back then. It’s been a place of great importance and played a big role in every civilization that lived in the area throughout history, beginning with the native people of Peru, long before the Incas who we often associate the region with nowadays.
Once the Inca empire arrived in Peru and beyond, Cusco became the hub of the powerful and far-reaching reign. After the Incas, the Spaniards also used the city as a colonial and regal capital.
On your half-day city tour, you’ll learn a lot more about the history of Cusco and see some of the most important landmarks and archaeological sites in the city. The attractions you’ll visit on the tour include:
The Cusco Cathedral: One of the most iconic landmarks in Cusco is the cathedral that sits in the main square and boasts incredible artistic value. It’s a colonial monument and was built on top of the Wiracocha Inca Palace. Inside the cathedral, you’ll find many detailed and refined carved wooden works, such as the choir, pulpit, and altars. There are also many beautiful paintings from the Cusquenian School of Art (including a Last Supper painting in which Christ and His disciples eat cuy – guinea pig!) and stunning pieces of embossed silver.
Qoricancha Temple and Santo Domingo Convent: This religious center was of great importance to the Incas and was built to worship the sun, which was the ultimate deity to the ancient civilization. Inside the temple, you’ll spot smaller temples dedicated to various celestial bodies, including the sun, moon, and stars. As you step outside, you’ll see beautiful regal gardens and fountains. What really catches your eye is the combination of outstanding Inca architecture and Spanish colonial architecture. There are also more pieces from the Cusquenian School of Art on display.
Sacsayhuaman: 2km from the city center is this fortress that was built with enormous carved rocks that join together harmoniously. You’ll notice there are three overlapping platforms that have an average length of 360 meters. Some stones tower over you at 9 meters tall! Take some time to walk around and appreciate the fantastic architecture while enjoying the most spectacular view of Cusco city below and the surrounding mountainous landscape.
Q’enqo: Another 1.4km from Sacsayhuaman is Q’enqo, which was an Inca ceremonial center. The most prominent feature of this complex is an open space known as the amphitheater. Hundreds of years ago, you’d have found Inca mummies in the various niches around the site. The amphitheater is only half its original height today.
Puka Pukara: The name of this site means ‘red fortress,’ mainly due to the reddish tint, which is a result of a large amount of iron in the rocks. Many believe that the fortress was perhaps an old storage area (Tambo) that served both as a resting and guarding spot to protect Tambomachay. In this complex, you can appreciate impressive architecture, fountains, aqueducts, and several Inca enclosures.
Tambomachay: The last stop on the afternoon tour is this fascinating complex where you can observe finely carved stones, waterfalls, and aqueducts to carry water coming from nearby springs and hot springs. For this reason, Tambomachay is associated with the water cult. In front of this construction, there’s a tower that’s believed to have served as a guarding post and communication tower.
Today, you will have the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful and historically rich towns of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We begin the day by picking you up from your hotel in Cusco at 8:30 AM and heading toward the town of Pisaq. Before reaching Pisaq, we will stop at both the Qorao and Taray lookouts so you can admire the beauty of the Sacred Valley from afar and take pictures. Once in Pisaq, we will visit both Pisaq archaeological site and famous market. For lunch, we will drive to the town of Urubamba, where you will enjoy a delicious buffet lunch of traditional Peruvian dishes.
Continuing on, we will drive to the classic Incan town of Ollantaytambo and visit the town´s amazing and extensive archaeological site with its royal baths, high terraces, temples, etc. surrounded towering mountain peaks and colorful valleys (plus a view of a faraway glacier)! This town is the most well-preserved layout of a typical, Incan-built city with its narrow, cobbled streets and stone walls. Its conservation allows for the enduring legacy of the Incan people to live on for us today!
To finish our day, we will visit Chinchero and meet some of the town´s talented women in a textile-making presentation. The Cusco region is known for its amazing, colorful textiles, and here you will learn how each color of wool is naturally dyed, how the intricate cloths are woven, and the symbolism held by the traditional designs you find in their beautiful creations. Here, you will also visit an archeological site and a colonial church. After your tour, you will be brought back to Cusco and dropped off at your hotel at 6:45 PM to rest up for tomorrow’s exciting activities!
Today’s Highlights: Walk from Challacancha to Soraypampa with very few tourists. Relish in an afternoon visit to the absolutely whimsical Humantay Lake nestled at the base of Apu Humantay mountain. Take in your first views of the enigmatic Apu Salkantay. Spend the night in our glass-topped Sky Camp, and stargaze from your bed in our exclusive campsite!
We start the day by picking you up at your hotel at approx 04:00 AM. We will drive for around 4 hours, crossing Anta and Mollepata and ending up at Challancha. Through the windows of the bus you can clearly see the white, snowcapped mountains of Apus Salkantay and Humantay: two colossal gods of the Incas. You will also see spectacular scenery of high peaks and low valleys in a colorful and contrasting panorama filling every direction you turn your eyes! After the first two hours of driving, we will stop quickly in Mollepata to take advantage of the toilet facilities, souvenir shops, and an optional, short breakfast. We will then continue to Challacancha, the starting point for our trek. We will meet our support staff, and they will organize all of the equipment and cargo mules. Around 09:30 AM, we will begin trekking to Soraypampa (3850 MASL – 12631 FASL), the first campsite on our journey.
The first section of the path takes us over a few deep valleys along the side of a mountain. At some parts of the trail, an old aqueduct can still be seen which still supplies water to farmers in the lower valleys. We will travel 7 km (4.35 miles) in 3 hours to Soraypampa where we will have our lunch at the base camp of Salkantay. After lunch and a short rest, we hike up to the unforgettable Humantay Lake (4200 MASL – 13779 ft). This is a 5 km (3.1miles) round-trip which we will walk in a total of 3 hours. This place one of the most beautiful sights in all the Andes with unbelievable blue-green water reflecting the mountain glaciers of Apu Humantay. It seems like something out of a dream or fairy tale! Back at our camp, the background of the valley at sunset creates the most peaceful scene with an energy that can only be felt and not described! Because Soraypampa (our camp) is located in the middle of the glacier valleys, the sky is so immensely clear at night that you can truly appreciate the stars, constellations, and even comets shooting across the pitch blackness, uninterrupted by the hustle, bustle, or lights of the city. Take a moment this night to re-center your spirit and consider all the deep things of life in the profound silence and tranquility of Soraypampa!
Today’s Highlights: Hike along the winding Salkantay trail with the mountain’s tallest peak in front of your eyes all morning! Challenge yourself as we make our way up some steep slopes while looking out on the valley far below until we reach the base of Apu Salkantay. Around midday, you will be standing in the middle of the Andes mountain range! In the afternoon, we make our way into the incredible cloud forest and tropical jungle around Chaullay. This is your most challenging day but also your most rewarding!
After an early wake-up with the first daylight at 05:30 AM and a quick but energizing breakfast, we will start trekking up to the highest point of the trail: the Salkantay Pass (4650 MASL – 15255 FASL). The distance is a 7 km (4.34 miles) of difficult ascent in 3 hours between the rocky valley base and the magnificent Salkantay Mountain (6271 MASL– 20574 FASL). When we reach the top of the pass, we will appreciate the spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and the imposing snowy peaks of Salkantay, Humantay, Tucarhuay and Pumasillo mountains. Salkantay Mountain is the second highest mountain in the Cusco region and one of the Inca gods called “Apu”. Continuing from this climax of today’s trek, there is a 5 km (3.1 mile) downhill walk to the site for lunch. The walk downwards is on a serpent-shaped, rocky, gravel path which leads to the Huayracmachay lunch campsite. To rest on the way down, there is a perfect valley outlook that is absolutely stunning! In the afternoon after our meal, we will enter the upper part of the Amazon jungle, which is also called “the cloud forest”. This is a 10 km (6.2 mile) hike completed in 3 hours on a wide trail in the thick and magical tropical forest. During this part of the trek, you will notice a dramatic change in landscape and the earth’s energy as we move from Andes to Amazon! This hike is truly beautiful; the hills are decorated with colorful scenery, wildlife, and native plants. The forests are warm and tropical most of the year with temperate climates. At the end of this outstanding hike, we arrive at Chaullay Village (2900 MASL – 9514 FASL) for a much-deserved reward of rest from our long day of trekking! This is our base camp in the jungle as we continue to make our way to Machu Picchu.
Today’s Highlights: We leave our camp early today to enjoy a serene and empty trail and appreciate landscape, scenery, and wildlife, including the roaring river below us in the valley us for much of the day. While trekking through the luscious jungle, you will find countless wild fruits such as banana, avocado, passion fruit, and granadilla. There are also waterfalls and streams where you can refresh your feet and cool off! After having lunch in the small town of La Playa, we will take a short hike to our base camp at Lucmabamba and visit organic plantations of coffee, oranges, and avocados!
At 06:00 AM, we will start our trek to the small town of La Playa through the Santa Teresa valley. You will be able to soak up this new, lush landscape during our 6 hours of hiking today! During the hike we will see rivers, waterfalls, wild orchids, and plantations of coffee, banana, and avocado. You can taste the famous passion fruit and granadilla fruit along the way! We will see a village called Colpapampa, also called the “brow of the cloud forest,” where waterfalls, birds, hot springs, fruit-bearing trees, and flora and fauna can be observed. If we are lucky, we will even be able to see the beautiful bird called “The Cock of the Rocks,” the national bird of Peru! After a hearty lunch at La Playa, we will hike for approximately 1 hour to our base camp called Lucmabamba (2400 MASL – 7874 FASL). We will explore the tropical forest for a little while and visit at an organic coffee farm. If you are a coffee lover, this will be especially heavenly for you – you can taste coffee freshly prepared by the local people! If not, you can still enjoy the decadent aroma of freshly roasted and ground coffee wafting through the air! Coffee is the main farming industry of the local people here in the jungle, and they farm many acres of coffee to export to the USA, Asia, and Europe. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, but it wasn’t until the Spanish invaded Cusco that it was brought to this region. We will also explore an orange plantation and an avocado plantation this afternoon.
Today’s Highlights: Today something particularly special happens – we get to travel along part of the famous Inca Trail! On this path, we will come to the impressive archeological site of Llactapata right in front of its more well-known big brother, Machu Picchu. You will meet some of the native people who live their day-to-day lives in the area. Along the path you will have the opportunity to harvest several fruits while relishing in one of the best views of the Urubamba valley! Don’t forget to turn around and see Apu Salkantay again in the background before you look forward to have your first glance at the glorious Machu Picchu!
Like previous mornings, the chef of the trek will wake you up early with a hot cup of coca tea served in your bed. You will get ready for today’s activities while enjoying your last prepared breakfast by the talented trek chef. We will begin the hike early, and you will have the opportunity to enjoy a small part of the famous and highly-acclaimed Inca trail! After a climb of 2 hours with amazing views of the Santa Teresa valley we will arrive at the Llactapata Inca site right in front of Machu Picchu. This will be the first archaeological site we will see of the mysterious Lost City of the Incas! It is a very special place to enjoy together and spend time learning a bit more about this land’s roots and history. We will be able to see not only the ruins of Machu Picchu from this spot, but also Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. We will explore this Inca site with the guide, and he will continue telling the history of the Incas who used and worshipped this land. Of course, you will have plenty of time to take as many photos as you want to capture these memories and share with your friends back home!
After the Llactapata ruins, we will continue our trek with a 2-hour downhill hike. On this part of the trail, you are always able to view Machu Picchu until we arrive at the Hidroelectrica train station to have lunch. One of the most impressive sites in this area is the 300-meter-tall natural waterfall which generates electricity for the entire region of Cusco! After lunch, we will arrive at Intiwatana, a famous ancient rock used as a sundial in the Incan era. According to history, Intiwatana worked together with the famous sundial stone in the Machu Picchu site.
The people used these two stones to measure and read the winter solstice, which was the beginning of the new farming season for the Incas. After passing this interesting Inca site, we will reach train tracks which lead to the town of Aguas Calientes. Here you will have two options: 1) If you are exhausted, you may take the train to Aguas Calientes ($34.00 extra). 2) If you are still eager to hike, you may walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes for about 3 hours along the train track. Next to the tracks, there is a nice path we will through the warm paradise of the cloud forest. This is the same trail used by the American professor Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu after centuries of it being lost to the outside world!
Note: During the rainy season, the hike up the Llactapata Trail is not 100% guaranteed due to safety concerns. When heavy rains are frequent, this trail becomes very dangerous.
Today’s Highlights: Your excitement for our rendezvous at Machu Picchu will rise as we are hiking early in the morning through the forest to reach the site before most other tourists – even the Inca Trail trekkers!! You will have plenty of time to explore this truly magnificent World Wonder while you enjoy the beautiful sunrise from this once-in-a-lifetime viewpoint. Your group will learn about this mystical place in a two-hour guided tour of the ruins. Afterwards, you can opt to climb Huayna Picchu or Machupicchu Mountain (if you have pre-booked tickets) or walk to the Sun Gate (without extra tickets).
Today we arrive at the long-awaited finale of our trek, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Machu Picchu! We will wake up early after a refreshing night at our hostel to beat the crowds to the top of Machu Picchu and enjoy its serenity in the soft morning light. The Machu Picchu entrance check point is open from 06:00 AM until 17:00 PM. We will hike up to Machupicchu (a bus ride is optional for $12.00) and enter the hidden Royal Citadel of the Incas. Here we will have a 2-hour guided tour through this incredible ancient city to visit temples, terraces, palaces, priest’s houses, the sundial, the industrial sector, and the farming fields. Be amazed at the engineering ingenuity of the Incas which was so far ahead of their time and still partially a mystery today! Without having modern tools or even steel and iron to work with, the people who built this city were genius in organizing this community in a sustainable and beautiful way on the side of a mountain, even bringing water in canals through its streets for the people to use. When a Peruvian guide showed this site to Hiram Bingham, it was almost unrecognizable, covered in thick vegetation and in a state of disrepair. It has since been cleaned and restored and is now protected and treasured by the world at large!
After this tour, you are free to climb up to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (Be sure to book in advance to get tickets for these!). Each mountain takes approximately 3 hours to hike up and down. Another lower-impact option for which you do not need an extra ticket is to trek to the Sun Gate, the main entrance from the Inca Trail (this takes about 2 or 2.5 hours round-trip). Another option is walking to see the Incan Bridge. You will be able to stay and enjoy this magical city for more than 7 hours before hiking back down to Aguas Calientes for the train ride between 01:37 PM and 06:20 PM (subject to availability) to Ollantaytambo. A private bus will pick up our group and drop you off at your hotel in Cusco at about 20:00 hrs. Rest your feet and your body now, but we can assure you your heart will still be soaring for weeks and years to come!
On day 3, 4 and 5, cargo mules carry all the camping equipment and your baggage allowance (7 kg / 15.4 lb).
All information meetings are held in your hotel at 6:00 p.m., one night before the tour begins. If you cannot attend, you must coordinate another time at the Peru Hike offices. These meetings last approximately 30 to 45 minutes and there you will be given a small duffel bag, in which you’ll put all the belongings you intend to bring on the trek that won’t be in your day pack.
ou’ll receive a canvas case or duffel bag during your briefing. The porters will take them on the way and will deliver them to you when you get to each camp. They measure 66 cm / 2 ft. Long x 36 cm / 1 ft. Wide.
A maximum of 5 kg is allowed for each duffel bag that includes the weight of your sleeping bag, mat, clothes and other personal items.
The trek has to be paid for in full by at least 7.30 pm two days before departure. For example, if your tour departs on a Wednesday, then you must come to our office before 7.30 pm on Monday.
It would be much appreciated if you pay the trek balance in cash US dollars or local currency. You can withdraw some money from several ATMs along Avenida Sol (either in US dollars or local Peruvian Soles). You can pay by credit card or PAYPAL online, but you will have to pay an 8% service charge, charged by VISA and PAYPAL. We do not accept bank checks or payment of the balance by traveler’s checks.
Of course! During the travel, your main luggage can be stored at our office(you can organize briefing day or by email) or at your hotel, both free of charge.
Any equipment that you are not going to need on the trek can be stored safely in your hotel. Nearly every hotel will provide this service. Don’t leave items of value with your bags, put them in the hotel safe and obtain an itemized receipt (In the unlikely case of theft many insurance companies require that you have a copy of the receipt itemizing all the items). Best put items such as credit cards inside a sealed, signed envelope for extra peace of mind.
Peru Hike can pick you up from your hotel, as long as it’s in the Historic Center of Cusco. The pickup time will be coordinated with your guide in the briefing. The pickup time may vary between 30 and 45 minutes due to traffic. Cusco is a very old city, therefore, it has many narrow cobbled streets. Some hotels and Airbnbs may be located on streets without access to cars or on long, steep slopes, making it difficult to transport luggage. We strongly recommend that you book accommodation with good access.
Returning from Machu Picchu requires quite a bit of logistics, but don’t worry. Everything is included in your tour!
Group tours are made up of different types of people. Physical conditions and ages can vary. By agreeing to be part of a group tour, you also accept that some people may be faster or slower than you. Therefore, each person can go at their own pace on the route. It may be the case that a group wishes to modify the tour; however, it will be the guide who decides, after consulting with all the participants, if said modifications can be made.
Strikes and demonstrations are usually frequent in Peru and this may interrupt some of our tours. Roads can be blocked and train tracks can be taken over. However, we will try to keep your excursion as planned, even if it means leaving the night before the scheduled date. Under these circumstances, tours may also be cancelled. In case of changes or cancellations, all situations will be coordinated with you by our operations department. Your safety is our highest priority and our decisions will be made to protect it.
You’re responsible for your objects during the tour. Please pay attention to where you leave your things and remember to take everything once you leave our trucks, tents, or restaurants.
Here are some other options that will suit your needs
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? We did the 8 Day Salkantay Trek. This is an amazing trip with an amazing company and crew. Just book it already! You will not regret it. I couldn’t believe the value we got for our cost and we tipped generously and I still feel like we should have paid more for what we got. Shout out to Frank and Johan for being great guides and giving us the trip of a lifetime.