The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an alternative to the Inca Trail. It is considered by most to be the best alternative route. We think it’s the best route! Not only because of the rampant beauty you will encounter, but also because of the lack of people. Because it is more rugged and remote, the Salkantay Trek is significantly less populated than the Inca Trail. With formidable views and awe-inspiring vistas, this path less traveled has an unquantifiable value. It is truly, as deemed by the Inca, sacred.
Our five day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is perfect for adventurers who are looking to experience Peru’s ever-changing landscapes. Day by day you will travel through changing ecosystems and scenery: from sweeping, magical landscapes and snowy mountains to a tropical jungle paradise. Along the way, you will see a wide variety of wildlife, medicinal plants, and flower varieties. Witness, with your own eyes, a living, and ancient, culture in remote villages hardly ever visited by foreigners!
We will be hiking through the Cordillera Vilcabamba. This is an impressive mountain range that runs for over 260 km. The snow-capped mountain, Salkantay (or Salcantay), rises to 6271 MASL (20574 FASL) in height. Salkantay’s prominent peak is located less than fifty miles northwest of the city of Cusco in south-central Peru. It is viewed as a sacred mountain by many locals and has been climbed by professional mountaineers since 1952.
Due to her high altitude and steep slopes, you will need a reasonable level of fitness to complete the Salkantay Trek. But age shouldn’t be a barrier! The most important thing is to be well-acclimatized to the altitude. The highest point you will reach on the trek is (4, 650 MASL – 15092 FASL). We recommend at least two days of acclimatization before your journey. This is an ideal time for visiting the city of Cusco, its nearby Inca ruins, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
We start the day by picking you up from your hotel at approximately 04:00 AM. After the first two hours of driving, we will stop in a small town called Mollepata for a quick optional breakfast. Then, we will continue for another hour to Challacancha, the starting point of our trek. As we drive, and as the sun begins to peek over the mountains, the white, snow-capped peaks of Apus Salkantay and Humantay, two colossal gods of the Incas, will start to materialize.
After arriving at Challacancha we will meet our support staff. The support staff consists of a head chef, a sous chef, and horseback riders. Day to day, they will strap all the luggage and equipment to mules and ride ahead of us to set up camp and prepare the food. At around 09:30 AM, we will begin trekking to Soraypampa (3850 MASL – 12631 FASL), the first campsite on our journey at the base of the Humantay and Salkantay Mountain.
Besides, at the very beginning, the first section of the path is relatively flat and snakes through a deep glacial valley. Much of the trail follows a restored Incan aqueduct, which still supplies water to farmers in the lower valleys. For the next three hours, we will travel 7 km (4.35 miles) to Soraypampa, where we will have our lunch at the base camp of Salkantay. After lunch and a short rest, we do the climb up to the unforgettable Humantay Lake (4200 MASL – 13779 ft). This is a 5 km (3.1miles) round-trip hike, which will take a total of 3 hours. Humantay Lake is one of the most beautiful locations in all the Andes with unbelievably blue-green water, which reflects the mountain glacier of Apu Humantay. It’s truly like something out of a fairy tale! After we enjoy dinner back at 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, is located far from the hustle and bustle of any city lights, at night the pitch-black sky lights up with thousands of stars, constellations, and comets. As you lay in bed, gazing at the expanse that is unfolding before you, you will be overcome by feelings of peace and tranquility as you are humbled by the glory of all the beauty that has been created for us to enjoy.
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.
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.
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 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!
We want to make your trip to Peru as memorable and as easy as possible. In this section, you will find speedy answers to all those questions you had about Salkantay Trek 5 Days in one place. Please read the following information carefully – it will help you with any questions about our services.
Has another question that we haven’t answered here? Drop us a line, and we will get back to you asap!
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.
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