The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is for purists, so for those who know that there is more than just the classic Inca Trail or the Short Inca trail with camping 2 days. If you are doing the Salkantay Trek then you will see that the Incas have made many beautiful paths and many roads leading to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek is not for the faint of heart. You must have some of that Salkantay courage in your veins. Do you think you are enough of Salkantay? Here we go! Either you came here to read this blog post because you already know that the Salkantay trek is the most beautiful trek in the Cusco region or you explore alternatives after you find out that there are no permits for the classic Inca Trail
What is the Salkantay Trek?
The Salkantay Trek is one of the many treks you can find in the Cusco region of Peru. At approximately 75km / 46miles and approximately 3,000m / 10,000ft, this hike is difficult compared to the other trekking opportunities in the area. A typical Salkantay trek begins in Cusco, from where you will be picked up from your hotel and then transferred to Mollepata or Soraypampa.
A big advantage of the Salkantay trek is that you can not only see Machu Picchu but also Llaqtapata. Llaqtapata is an archaeological site located about 5 kilometers from Machu Picchu. It is believed that Llaqtapata was a resting place on the way to Machu Picchu at the time of the Incas. Even today Llaqtapata is used as a rest stop on some walks. Make sure you choose the right itinerary if you want to stay here.
The Salkantay Tour is all about the Salkantay Pass. These 4,580m are the highlight of the Salkantay trek and one of the reasons why the Salkantay trek is no easier. Walking at this altitude may cause altitude sickness. Below, we’ll tell you what you can do to prevent that from happening to you.
The Salkantay trek was named after Salkantay Mountain, also known as Salcantay or Sallqantay, in Quechua. It is the highest peak of the Vilcabamba Mountains and is referred to as Savage Mountain. Because the word Sallqantay means something like uncivilized, savage, or invincible. Do you see now why we ask you if you are Salkantay enough?
How Difficult is the Salkantay Trek?
We hope that we did not scare you in our last paragraph. One might think that the Salkantay trek is extremely difficult. But do not worry, that’s not it. None of the routes for the hikes to Machu Picchu is for mountaineers. All offered routes are designed with a tourist background. This means that anyone with moderate fitness should be able to undertake these walks. The same goes for the Salkantay Trek. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely not too difficult for you.
However, when you look at the Salkantay Trek, you have to be aware of a few things. We will list them here for you:
- Spend at least one additional day in Cusco to get used to the altitude.
- The second day of the Salkantay trek is the hardest.
- Do not hound yourself. Enjoy it.
- Once you cross the Salkantay Pass, it will be easier.
If you have problems on the first day of the Salkantay trek, you can rent a horse for the second day at any time. This can help to reduce the hardship when climbing to the Salkantay Pass. You will not need any support for the rest of your trip, because then you can enjoy more descents and flat trails.
When is the best time to do the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu?
If you are thinking of going on a hike on the Salkantay Trek, it is good to know what you are getting into. The area of Cusco in Peru knows two different seasons. There are the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season lasts from April to October, the driest months are June, July, and August. This is also the busiest season of the year. Do not worry, you’re not doing the classic Inca Trail, so you do not have to worry too much about approvals.
The rainy season is from November to March and the worst months for trekking to Machu Picchu are December, January, and February. It’s not impossible, but you should ask yourself if it’s worth it. Oh, you like rain? Then do it! At least the Salkantay Trail, unlike the classic Inca Trail, is not closed in February.
How much does the Salkantay Trek Cost?
This is not an unimportant question. If you want to get as much out of your Euros, Dollars, or Sols as possible, you should consider your options carefully. Most people prefer to do the Salkantay trek with a trekking company, but of course, you can do it on your own. Below is a rough estimate of the cost of your upcoming Salkantay trek.
Guided Salkantay Trek
The cost of your guided Salkantay trek depends heavily on the trekking company offering your tour. There are many possibilities and therefore a lot of competition. But they do not just depend on the competition. For example, some trekking companies offer an extra night in Llaqtapata, while others simply stop there and hike directly to Aguas Calientes. Expensive is not always better. For example, some companies are more specialized in the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu or the Inca Jungle Trek and therefore have more costs to operate the Salkantay Trek.
The cost of a guided Salkantay Trek is between $600 to $700. That’s a huge difference, considering that every trek is pretty much the same route and ends at Machu Picchu. Depending on which trekking company, a 5-day hike at one company can sometimes be even cheaper than a 4-day hike at another company. See our offers for the Salkantay Trek and compare your options. The prices for your guided Salkantay trek are always without accommodation in Cusco. These costs must be added to your cost overview if the only reason for traveling there is trekking and visiting Machu Picchu.
Hike Salkantay Trek on your own
You do not necessarily need to hire a trekking company to start your Salkantay trek. Although you will not have the benefit of a tour guide, solid accommodation, cooked meals, and porters, you can definitely do it alone. If you think about crossing the Salkantay Pass yourself, the following costs may apply to you:
- 2018 – Price service per person US$640.00 (adults)
Private Group Price
- 2018 – Price service per person US$670.00 ( adults)
- Important: Price includes up to 7 kilos of your personal belongings to be carried by the mules (NO need of extra Porter hire!).
- Student Discount: US$20 (Requires ISIC Card to qualify)
- Under 18’s Discount: US$20
- Sleeping Bag US$20
- Hiking Pole US$15
- Inflatable Mattress US$20
- Single Tent Supplement US$35
Optional upgrade (Need to book in advance):
- Machu Picchu Mts climbing: USD 25.00 (Need to book in advance)
- Huayna Picchu Mts climbing: USD 25.00 (Need to book in advance)
- Vistadome Train Aguas Calientes-Cusco: USD50.00 (Need to book in advance)
- Extra Night in Aguas Calientes: Depends on the type of Hotel desired (Need to book in advance)
- Rainbow Mountain 1 Day
- Sacred Valley Tour 1 Day
How high is the Salkantay Pass?
The Salkantay Pass is your biggest obstacle during the Salkantay trek. The pass has a height of 4,600 m / 15,100 ft above sea level. On a typical Salkantay trek, you’ll probably cross the Salkantay Pass on the second day. It is important to relax while crossing the pass. If you’re prone to altitude sickness, that’s where it can happen. Fortunately, as soon as you cross the Salkantay Pass, you will descend fairly quickly. This helps with acclimatization and should eliminate the worst symptoms of altitude sickness.
Altitude Sickness during the Salkantay Trek
Mountain sickness (AMS) can ruin your trip to Machu Picchu. Often, people are in a hurry to make an Inca Trail like the Salkantay and fly over Lima, which is at sea level. Then they find themselves back in Cusco, which is located at an altitude of 3,399 meters. To give you an impression: Mountaineers like to climb so-called three thousand meter peaks, mountains at 3000 meters above sea level. You know that Cusco is already high. From Cusco it goes even higher, because the Salkantay Trek crosses the Salkantay Pass at 4,600 m. That’s a solid four thousand. The dangers of altitude sickness should therefore be taken seriously.
Our trekking experts recommend all those who are interested in the Salkantay trek to spend at least one day in Cusco. Ideally, you spend two days in Cusco. Why not? There is a lot to do there. It’s a great city and spending some time there will help you get used to the altitude.
Our trekking experts are aware of the dangers of altitude sickness. They have written extra blog articles about AMS trekking in Nepal and know that you should not top Kilimanjaro. Trekking up high has a
golden rule: Listen to your body.
Listen to Your Body
When your body needs rest, it will tell you. Listen carefully to your body. Be body conscious and talk about the symptoms of altitude sickness. When your body sends the signals, let your friends, your guide, and your wearers know how you feel and take a break. Do not let it get worse.
Eat as much as you can. Do not give up on your meals, even if you do not like what you have on your plate. Believe us; you will enjoy the food in Peru. Your body works hard and needs a lot of carbohydrates to create the distances and overcome the altitude during the hike. Forget about your diet and buy some extra sneakers. Trekking is hard work and can easily burn more than 4,000 calories a day. Actually, that is one of the reasons why you can love trekking! Eat, and your body will thank you.
Alcohol and Coca Leaves
If you drink alcohol, you will probably drink it during your Salkantay trek. Some trekking companies have a ritual on the Salkantay Pass to drink quick booze. Be careful though, as it will not necessarily help your acclimatization. You will need to increase your water intake. It’s a lot easier when it’s hot and you’re sweating, but at a high altitude, you have to be disciplined. Drink 3 to 5 liters per day and, if possible, some tea. You’re hiking and not celebrating – so let (most of) the alcohol be toasting after the trip. Alcohol stimulates mountain sickness, and not just because alcohol dehydrates you.
The Incas used coca leaves (or mate) as a remedy for diseases and physical problems. Even today, coca leaves are used locally to suppress the effects of altitude sickness. Do not tell your mother we told you that, but just give it a try.
Last but not least: Choose a longer itinerary. You can do the Salkantay Trek, but if you do it in 5 days, not only will you be able to enjoy the Salkantay Trek longer, but it will also help your acclimatization. Longer is always better.
Itinerary: 5-day Salkantay Trek
If you’re looking for a travel itinerary that covers everything you need to see, plus accommodation, tour guides and porters, you can opt for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 5 Days. Poppy from where’s Poppy did the same and even made some useful videos that give an idea of what awaits you on the Salkantay Trek. A video is worth a thousand words!
Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Humantay Lake
Your adventure begins with the pickup from the hotel or hostel. Prepare for a 4-hour bus ride. After half of the journey, a break of 20 or 30 minutes will be taken in Mollepata at an altitude of 2,900 m. Then head straight to the last bus stop in Challacancha, where you meet your porters and horses, who carry the equipment, and where the trek begins. When you arrive in Soraypampa at 3,900 meters, a base camp will be built from which you can enjoy the beautiful view of Sailant Peak. Here is a break to enjoy lunch. After lunch, you will visit Humantay Lake at an altitude of 3,459 meters before returning to base camp in Soraypampa around 5:00 PM. Here the camping team is waiting with a lovingly prepared dinner.
Day 2: Soraypampa – Huayra Pampa – Chaullay
In the early morning, you can enjoy your breakfast and fortify yourself for the first stage before starting the 3-hour hike to the highest point of the expedition, the Salkantay Pass (4600 m.). From there, the next stop is Wayracpunku (Huayra Pampa) for our next meal. Then on to the High Jungle, where you can see large trees with outstretched arms that tower far above the streams and are all full of bromeliads and orchids. This hike takes about 5 hours and you reach the camp in Chaullay at 2,900 meters. Here the dinner will take place.
Day 3: Chaullay – La Playa – Santa Teresa
After breakfast at 6:30 am, we head towards Sahuyaco (La Playa 2,080 m above sea level). This is a great place for lunch. You will then continue your journey in our transport to Santa Teresa at 1,550 meters, where the base camp will be built. Here you can look forward to a relaxing reward in Cocalmayo: The Hot Springs. Then you will be able to enjoy a traditional Peruvian dinner and take a break to prepare for the next day.
Day 4: Santa Teresa – Hydroelectrica – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu
The next morning, after a good breakfast, the bus is already waiting. Those who book in advance do zip-lining. The rest of the group goes to the Hydroelectric meeting point, where the whole group gathers after lunch activities. After a little relaxation in this place, the group continues along the railway, which leads through this large jungle, which the Incas knew by heart, to our final destination: Aguas Calientes. We walk for about 3 hours and you will see beautiful waterfalls, various organic farms, and possibly the diverse wildlife after your arrival in the area (arrival set around 16:00 clock). Here the group stays in a hostel. In the evening everyone meets in a local restaurant, for a great dinner and an informative session about the next trip to Machu Picchu. Then there is still time to visit the city, which offers a wonderful sight after sunset.
Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu – Cusco
At 4:00 in the morning, you will get ready for the ascent to Machu Picchu. The trek follows a climbing path through the high jungle, just in time to see the spectacular sunrise. After passing the control entrance at 6:00 in the morning, the group will make a private tour for 2 hours in the Inca Citadel, later everyone can enjoy Machu Picchu on their own.
In the late afternoon, depending on the departure time of the train, the group descends on foot to Aguas Calientes to take the train back to Ollantaytambo, where all are picked up and taken to Cusco. The group must be at the station at least 30 minutes before departure.
What do I have to wrap up on my trip to Salkantay Trek?
If you wander the Salkantay Trek on your own, you have to carry everything alone. When you make that decision, we trust that you are aware of what you are getting into, and know how to make it as comfortable as possible during the hike. You will need a lot of things; Things you do not need when traveling with a trekking company. This packing list is for those who have booked with a trekking company and are wondering what they need and what they do not need. Do not need? Quite right: This is one of the additional benefits of booking the Salkantay trek at a trekking company.
The most important
If you pack your things for a trip to Peru and the Salkantay Trek, there are some things that you should not forget. The following points are self-evident 🙂
- Valid passport (copies will not be accepted)
- Valid student ID (if you have booked as a student)
- Immigration Card (the important paper you receive when you arrive on the plane)
- Hiking boots (light, comfortable and broken in)
- A high-quality daypack (light, small, and with good wearing comfort)
- Water tank for at least 2 liters (eg Camelbak or bottles)
In your backpack
The advantage of booking at a trekking company is that you do not have to take all your belongings on the trails. All you have to do is wear your daypack and you can leave other things with the porters to make your trek more comfortable. Do not compromise on the quality of your day pack. It is important to note that the backpack should not exceed 25 liters due to local regulations. All larger backpacks cannot be brought to Machu Picchu and must be stored outside the gates.
- Headgear and sunglasses
- rain clothes
- Warm clothing (fleece, long-sleeved shirts)
- Sunscreen, insect spray
- hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Personal medication
- Camera + extra batteries
- Extra snacks, cereal bars, chocolate, etc.
Extra money for souvenirs, drinks, and gratuities (small change is useful to pay the villagers on the first day)
The trekking company provides you with a bag that you can fill with all the other stuff you do not need during the day. The maximum weight is usually 7 kg and includes your sleeping bag and the air mattress. We recommend that you bring the lightest things and definitely do not pack too much. Bring at least the following items:
- Sleeping bag (usually can be rented at the trekking company)
- Air mattress (usually available for hire at the trekking company)
- Lightweight shoes for the camp
- Warm jacket, headgear, gloves
- 2-3 T-Shirts (Breathable)
- 1-2 hiking pants
- 4 pairs of underwear
- 4 pairs of hiking socks
- 1 fleece
- 1 warm down jacket for very cold nights
- Quick-drying towel
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- Face cream (moisturizer)
- Charger, power bank
- Extra (plastic) bag for wet and muddy clothes
If you feel comfortable wearing some of the clothes for several days, you can definitely save some weight for the wearers. The excess baggage can normally be stored at your trekking company. This service is free or a small fee will be charged.
Getting fit for the Salkantay Trek
A sure way to become good at what you do is to exercise. The best approach to hiking is hiking. Since you are interested in the Salkantay trek, we assume that you already like to go hiking. Walk a bit more. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by hills or even mountains, it’s time to see them more often. When? If you are new, we recommend that you start six months before your scheduled departure. Just go one (or more) hours (s) a week. When you get the hang of it, after about three weeks, it’s time to increase your intensity. Take a package of 10 to 15 kg and complete your week with a longer hike of three hours. If this lifestyle is new to you, you will soon be able to feel the benefits of trekking.
After a good few months of solid hiking, it’s time to put your stamina to the test. Do long consecutive walks. You can simulate constant trekking for a few days by hiking for a few days at a time. That is quite easy. Plan a smaller trekking holiday or just keep it by hiking your favorite route repeatedly. If you can walk comfortably 4 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and carry a backpack of 10 kg to 15 kg, you will be fine on the Salkantay trek.
Moderate units in strength training
You have to get a little bit stronger. One way to get stronger is to complete some basic power units. You do not need a gym membership because using just your body weight can already deliver the results you’re looking for. Once or twice a week, depending on how you feel, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats, and 10 step-ups. If you want to push yourself a little bit more, you can try to add some pull-ups and make your routine a bit more challenging. However, extra exercise for your strength and fitness is not essential. You can enjoy trekking if you only stick to the basics. After all, it’s not a fitness contest.
That should make you fit!
Where can I book the Salkantay Trek?
You can easily book the Salkantay Trek in Cusco during your trip, but it is much better to book the Salkantay Trek in advance. The Salkantay Trek always includes Machu Picchu at the end of the journey. For Machu Picchu, however, you need tickets that need to be organized in advance. Trekking companies always need some time to book these tickets. It is therefore advisable to book in advance online
On andeanpathtravel.com you can easily compare and book local providers and hikes. In addition, we have the lowest price guarantee. Did you find the Salkantay trek of your dreams? In that case, you can proceed with the booking. At andeanpathtravel.com
Find all our trekking opportunities here in Peru and visit this page to get all our deals for the Salkantay Trek. Have you already seen our Peru travel guide?