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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu Best Inca Trail Alternative

Salkantay trekking to machu picchu.

The famous Salkantay Trek (or Salcantay Trek), named among the 25 best Treks in the World by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine, is a trek open to everybody, with no limitation on spaces or permits (at least for now).

Connecting the city of Mollepata, Cusco with Machu Picchu, the Salkantay Trek is an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail where massive snowcapped mountains collide with lush tropical rain forests.

Located less than fifty miles northwest of the city of Cusco in south central Peru by the Cordillera Vilcabamba and rising to 6271 meters above sea level (20574 ft) Mount Salkantay is an outstanding glacier-capped summit worshipped for thousands of years by locals.

The name Salkantay is a quechua word meaning "Savage Mountain".

Our classic Salkantay Trek is a custom-designed alternative to the traditional Inca Trail.

Off the beaten path, this is a cutting edge experience for adventure travelers looking for a little more privacy and authenticity.

With more spectacular vistas, the Salkantay to Machu Picchu Trek offers the solitude and quiet contemplation such a sacred path deserves.

Is it The Best Machu Picchu Trek?

Crossing the rugged Andes and extending across undulating terrain before winding through lush hillsides, the Salkantay Trail is a unique entrance into the Inca’s historical and cultural beauty.

If you’re planning to tackle Salkantay, there are a few things to keep in mind. Please consider the following information as a starting point:

Why Hike the Salkantay Trail?

What is the route, how long does it take to hike to machu picchu, top highlights on the trail, planning your trip.

Everyone has a different reason for embarking on the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and here lies the trail’s unique appeal.

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For many, Machu Picchu is the trip of a lifetime - a journey to one of the most enigmatic places on earth.

For others, the sense of self-discovery and achievement that a walk along the Salkantay Trail can bring, offers an undeniable allure.

Yet for all, the extended stretch of incredible food, beautiful landscapes, fantastic emotions, expert support, and camaraderie are what make the Salkantay Trek one of the most legendary hikes in the world.

With a grand finale at the end of the road, the Salkantay Trek is for hikers of all skill levels, genders and travel experience.

Winding its way along the majestic Andes, the Salkantay Trail starts in the small district of Mollepata before passing through Soraypampa, Challway and Santa Teresa.

The path is accentuated by dramatic cliffs, rugged mountains and tiny andean villages.

The most impressive sight you’ll witness along the trail is the imposing Salkantay mountain and the glaciers that surround it.

Salkantay Pass Elevation

Passing through the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, the 37-mile Salkantay hike is not Everest or Annapurna but hill climbing through rough weather and terrain is all but guaranteed—even in the so‑called dry season.

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The Salkantay Route crosses the Abra Salkantay Pass at 4630 meters or 15190 feet above sea level , going down into the cloud forest, ascending to the Inca ruins of Llactapata for a great view of Machu Picchu and finally relaxing at the hot springs of Cocalmayo before heading to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

Normally it takes 5 days to hike to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail, considering that the last day could be a 2 hours hike from Aguas Calientes town up to the citadel entrance.

Salkantay Trek Distance

The Salkantay Trek covers roughly a distance of 60 kilometers or 37 miles and depending on your level of fitness, the estimated trekking time per day is around 6 to 7 hours the first three days and 3 hours the last stretch from Santa Teresa to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

It is possible to modify the total distance of the Salkantay trek by covering the part from Sahuayaco to Santa Teresa by car and from Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes by train.

Return to Cusco

Trains depart from Machu Picchu Pueblo station regularly.

Depending on which train you select, the ride takes 90 minutes to Ollantaytambo station and 3 hours to the Poroy Station

It takes 90 minutes from Ollantaytambo train station to Cusco by car.

If you arrive to Poroy train station, it takes 30 minutes to get to Cusco by car.

If you have not visited Ollantaytambo, it is advisable to stay here for the night and enjoy the Sacred Valley and more ruins the next day.

Each day on the Salkantay Trail is a new adventure, whether it’s revealing an amazing view or resting your muscles on the superb hot springs. While some experiences will stick out above the rest, here are a few stops that can’t be missed along the Salkantay Trail.

Humantay Lagoon: The unbelievable turquoise-water lagoon surrounded by the impressive Humantay and Salkantay Peaks offers one of the most gorgeous views in Peru.

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Abra Salkantay Pass: You will be face to face with the sacred Salkantay mountain upon reaching this point at 4630 meters or 15190 feet above sea level. A jaw-dropping vista as Salkantay elevation reaches 6271 meters or 20574 feet above sea level.

Llactapata Inca Ruins: Some would say that no Inca ruins are visited during the Salkantay Trek, but we visit these archaeological remains discovered by Hiram Bingham himself. An amazing view of Machu Picchu is enjoyed from this point.

Cocalmayo Hot Springs: With important healing properties and reaching 45 ºC, these natural thermal baths are ideal to relax and recover your sore muscles after a long hiking day.

Machu Picchu: The Inca citadel is the perfect ending for your adventure. A detailed tour is offered on the last day and free time is available for you to explore the World Heritage site by yourself.

Best Time to Visit

The North American or European summer and South American winter is the best time to visit Machu Picchu because it is the dry season.

While Machu Picchu is open all year round, the months of April, May, June, September and October are optimal months for experiencing the Salkantay Trek.

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For those wanting to beat the crowds and don't mind some heavy rainfall, opt for the months of November, December or March but note the Andes mountain chain can experience inclement weather in rainy season. We advise to avoid the months of January and February.

July and August are peak season and have high visitor numbers, meaning an influx of hikers on the Salkantay trail.

Remember to note Peru’s Inti Raymi in the month of June, as many pilgrims try and align their trips with this week long Inca celebration.

How to Prepare

“Am I out-of-shape for a Machu Picchu Hike?” It’s a common question you might be asking yourself.

If you love the outdoors, nothing can stop you from the hiking adventure of a lifetime regardless of your fitness level. But remember to give yourself time to prepare, at least three weeks before the trip will make it more enjoyable.

Try these 5 fitness tips to trek Salkantay and give yourself the confidence to accomplish a good performance on the trail.

Focus on your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength.

Get involved in aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling, brisk walking or jogging. Add a short period of more strenuous exertion into your routine.

Jumping jacks, squats, lunges, leg and calf raises, hops, and even plank-jacks are great bodyweight exercises that require no special equipment or skill.

Get a strong back and core.

Strap on your pack with a few bottles of water and practice “step ups”. This will get your back ready for the weight you’ll be carrying on the hike.

Push-ups, crunches, bridges, and planks are some of the best exercises to build a strong back and core.

Stop eating those extra calories

Choosing healthier foods and drinks can make you look and feel better as well as making a big difference to your health.

Eat more fruit, load up on vegetables, keep your carbohydrates limited, drink plenty of water and you will for sure get fit for your hike.

Try local hikes.

Look for places with variable terrain and take yourself out for a walk two or three times during the week. Let your body know you’re going to be pushing it beyond your daily routine.

Be sure to wear the same shoes that you’ll be wearing on your hike. Improving your balance can prevent injuries.

Mental preparation is important, try yoga and meditation.

You will notice a huge difference in how you feel prior to your hike if you incorporate a consistent yoga routine.

Combat fear by visualizing success and realizing why you’re taking an adventure trip and knowing you will have the best support available.

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Important: Even if you’re in pretty good shape, it’s important not to push yourself too hard at higher altitudes.

What to Pack

Footwear: This is the most important piece of gear for your trip to Machu Picchu. Assess your own needs, whether that be arch support, breathability or weight. Finding what makes your feet happy is critical.

Socks: Much like your footwear, the socks you wear on the Salkantay hiking trail can also have a significant effect on your comfort. Good ones will reduce pain, blisters, pressures and moisture.

Underwear: Choose moisture-wicking, quick-dry, tagless waistbands, odor resistance underwear.

Backpack: A 40-liter backpack should be more than enough. Needs to feel comfortable on your shoulders and if it includes a hydration system you are off to the races. Request an additional horse for excess weight if needed.

Other essentials include: Your passport (this should be first), a good camera, a headlamp, lightweight waterproof jacket, long sleeve base layers, sunglasses, sunblock, sunhat, rain poncho, trekking poles with rubber tips, gloves and bug repellent.

Regardless of the season, Machu Picchu is said to have two types of weather: rainy or hot. Be prepared for anything.

Salkantay Booking

If hiking to Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, you might want to consider the Salkantay Trek as a great option to reach the Inca Citadel.

Please read important information about Salkantay bookings and contact us with any question or requirement you may have. We are rated as one of the best salkantay trek companies.

No permit limitations exist to hike the Salkantay Trail, access is available all year round, but we recommend making a Salkantay reservation now so we can handle all the logistics and you can focus on the important tasks like booking the international flight or getting fit to hike to Machu Picchu.

Key Useful Phrases to Know

Good morning: Buenos días

How much does it cost?: Cuanto cuesta?

Where is Machu Picchu?: Donde está Machu Picchu?

Thanks my Friend: Gracias Amigo

Trek Packages

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  • Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 4 Days
  • Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 2 Days
  • Inca Trail to Machu Picchu 1 Day
  • Salkantay trek + Inca trail 7 Days

|Inca trail 2 days to Machu Picchu


  • Machu Picchu Tour by Train – 1 Day
  • Machu Picchu Tour by Train – 2 Days
  • Machu Picchu Tour by Car – 2 Days
  • Machu Picchu Tour by Car – 3 Days
  • Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu Tour – 2 Days
  • Cusco city Sacred Valley + Machu Picchu 3 days
  • Machu Picchu by Car & Train 2 Days




The Inca Jungle trek is a popular and adventurous alternative route to reach Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel located in the Peruvian Andes. This trek involves a combination of hiking, biking, and optional activities like ziplining and hot springs, making it a unique and exciting experience for adventurous travelers.

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salkantay trek permit



Choquequirao is an Incan archaeological site located in the Vilcabamba mountain range of Peru, near the city of Cusco. Often referred to as the “sister city” of Machu Picchu, Choquequirao is believed to have been built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti in the 15th century.

salkantay trek permit



salkantay trek permit

Salkantay Trek, Permits and Usefull Information for Hikers

salkantay trek permit

Also known as Salkantay, snowy peak of Peru located in the department of Cuzco; it is one of the main elevations of the Vilcabamba mountain range, an extension of the Eastern Cordillera, mountainous branch of the Peruvian Andes. It reaches an altitude of 6,271 meters. It has two snow-capped peaks, known as China Salkantay and Salkantay hembra, separated by a pass that opens into the Santa Ana valley in the province of Urubamba. Both the mountain pass and the river that originates there are called Salkantay. This river pours its waters into the Urubamba on its left bank.

Our travel agency offers the Salkantay Trek, a hike that will take you to Machu Picchu.

From where the name of the Salkantay snow-capped mountain comes from: The name of this mountain is a contraction that comes from Salga = sullen or wild and Antay produce celajes or avalanches. It is usually preceded by the name Apu, which in Quechua language comes to mean lord, thus defining the great mountains that mean something sacred above the valleys. For example Apu Salkantay in the Vilcabamba mountain range.

The great white Apu. A little bit of stories between ropes and crampons:

The Salkantay is one of the highest mountains in the region of Qosco (Cusco) the highest mountain is the Gran Agusánate with 65 meters above in the Vilcanota mountain range located further south. Nevertheless and without doubt, it is the most grandiose in its splendid isolation and the grandeur of its two-headed mass, with the added bonus of being one of the mountains of this magnificent Andean region that present greater technical problems for all its slopes. This is attested to by the six routes opened to date on the different slopes of this white giant.

Its conquest dates back to 1952 by the Swiss team composed of Bronimann and Marx.

This first ascent, like so many others in the history of mountaineering, is involved in several contradictions, since a few days later it was climbed again by a French-American expedition that included the well-known and relevant mountaineer of the time, Claude Kogan.

Modern statistics give the merit of being the first woman on the summit to the Italian Consuelo Bonaldi who on August 4, 1978 climbed Cresta Este accompanied by G. Marconi, A. Mangononi, F. Nodari, S. Castellani, Augusto Zanotti and M. Quatrinni, evidently this is wrong, since Claude Kogan did it 26 years before.

The summit of Salkantay has two summits, the East and the West, formerly the West, more slender and attractive than the East was slightly higher as it was crowned by a serac. After the passage of time and the collapse of this serac, as noted by the prestigious Pyreneanist Louis Audoubert, the height is practically identical in both summits.

What happened on those two consecutive “first ascents” gave rise to the controversy of which was really the authentic first ascent.

The Swiss ascended in foggy conditions to the East summit (the lowest in those days), the Americans, however, climbed to the West, which was somewhat higher, so that statistics, always implacable, want to deny Bronimman and Marx their absolute first ascent.

As a culmination to cement its well-deserved reputation as a difficult summit, in 1953 it was climbed for the third time by the prestigious Alpine guide Lionel Terray, who together with the Dutchman T. de Booy and the Swiss Raymond Jenny conquered the summit following a route along the North spur, known today as the Terray spur.

Years later a German expedition attempted the summit following the dangerous N.E. ridge which with its overhanging cornices does not favor transit… a relevant team composed by Tony Mazenauer and Fritz Kasparrek (the latter conqueror of the North face of the Eiger) disappeared on this ridge and the expedition had to retreat.

Today there is a plaque under the Palcay pass (the usual base camp for the mountain) and on a visible rocky block, a commemorative plaque of that unfortunate event.

On August 23, 1975 it was the turn of an Australian-New Zealand expedition composed of Peter Jennings, Wayne Barton and Michael Andrews to climb the long and rugged S.E. ridge. This was the ninth ascent to the summit.

Note: There is, in my opinion, a controversy about the paternity of the first ascent of this S.E. ridge, since there is evidence of the previous performance of a powerful group of Japanese who achieved the ascent by this route. Unfortunately the only reference found about this Japanese ascent dates from a magazine Iwa to Yuki, written, of course, in Japanese, so without a translation of the text there is no concrete data.

The West ridge of Salkantay is a route that remains virgin over the years due to the complexity of its route and the remoteness of the traditional points of approach, which requires additional portages based on backpacking.

According to the prestigious Pyreneanist Louis Audoubert, who climbed the summit on the North slope in 1977, the West ridge is feasible, but it will certainly be a problem to solve at the Andean level.

This ridge was attempted in 1975 by a group of Catalan climbers from Mataró composed of Manuel Punsola y Mitjans, Miquel Sala y Roy, Xavier Varela y Pinart, Ramón Armengol y Carbó, Antoni Sors y Farre, Antoni Rosa y Olivera and Vicente Aris y Julta.

On August 5, 1975, three members of this expedition approached the ridge by an additional buttress on the North slope that had been previously recognized. They climbed for a good part of the day until they reached a point with two possibilities that seemed unfeasible. The logical one was to approach the ice ridge, which was impossible given the lack of material resources. The other option would be to flank the slopes of the ridge to look for the col between the two summits of Salkantay.

At a certain point of this great flanking, which they calculate will take a whole day, they decide to abandon because of the large number of avalanches that detach from the ridge and that evidently are an objective danger of the first order. The Catalan Andinists consider that the difficulties up to this point have not been important and not dangerous, but departing from the obvious route of the ridge, which would require greater human and material equipment, notoriously increases the risk.

Coming from Mollepata the first vision that we will have of the Salkantay is on its overwhelming south face an enormous wall that closes the bottom of the valley with its vertical seracs hanging on enormous rocky spurs, this wall could not stop attracting the attention of those that try to complicate the life a little bit for pure personal satisfaction, thus in 1970 a powerful group of Germans of the DAV of Munich composed by Walter Welsh, J. Vogt, H.Koebrich, H.Haver and M.Olzowy made a meritorious attempt on the left side of the wall leaving quite high on the ridge that descends the West summit of Salkantay.

In 1986 an English group led by J.Lowe managed a new route on this slope attacking the rocky base to the right of the German attempt in 1970. Once they gained the snow zone they continued on a slight diagonal to the right until they reached the East summit of the mountain.

In spite of being a little frequented mountain in 1978 it received the visit of five expeditions in the short period of two months. On June 15, 1978 a powerful Slovenian expedition of the Planinska Zveza, composed by Libor Anderle, Zoran Breslin, Marjan Brisar, Edi Torkar, Jure Zvan and Jure Ulcar, accompanied by the doctor Borut Pirc and Matjaz Derzaj as coordinator opened in a week of exploration and climbing an intelligent route on the East face of the mountain, the Slovenian route that without detracting in difficulty is the most feasible option to try to reach the summit successfully.

The second ascent of this route was made by the Mexican Roberto Morales Puebla and a companion on June 17, 1978 and the third by the Basques from San Sebastián, Íñígo and Jesús Mª Barandiarán, José Luís Conde and Jesús Mª Rodríguez accompanied by Alberto Cabezón and José Antonio Fernández de Aranguiz on July 3 of the same year, constituting the first ascent by mountaineers from Spain.

The Salkantay has been visited by climbers from all over the world, French, Swiss, North Americans, New Zealanders, Poles, Austrians, Germans, Mexicans, Slovenians, Spaniards (Asturians, Basques, Andalusians, Catalans)… that have crossed its always steep slopes… some lived the light of the reward of the summit… others, a great majority, had to retire when the occasion of triumph escaped between the overhanging cornices.

Location of the Salkantay snow-capped mountain:

The Salkantay Route, also known as the “New Inca Trail”, is located north of the city of Cusco, following the Cusco – Limatambo – Abancay – Lima highway, making a detour past Limatambo until reaching Mollepata.

Climate of Salkantay:

It is very sunny during the day, but bitterly cold at night. The temperature drops below 0°C at night during the months of June to September. In the season from December to March it is very rainy, which is why it is not recommended to go during these dates.

The best time for the weather to do this hike is during the months of March to September.

Altitude of the Salkantay snow-capped mountain hike

This hike reaches an altitude of 4,600 meters above sea level at its highest point on the slopes of the snowy Salkantay. Enter to Ausangate Snowy Trek 5D to do this trekking.

How to get to Salkantay

The buses from Cusco to Mollepata leave very early 4 Am to 5 Am and pass through Limatambo, from Mollepata is where the hike to the snowy Salkantay begins, after going up a high pass it is possible to have an impressive pyramidal view of Salkantay, one of the most beautiful snowy peaks of Cusco.

From Mollepata itself it takes two days to descend to Huayllabamba and join the second day of the Inca Trail.

What you will see on the trail

On the way you will see herds of cattle and sheep, orchids, bears with glasses, medicinal plants of the Inca eponca, small variety of birds, fruit trees such as orange, papaya, bananas, etc..

Note: The spectacled eye to see it you have to have a little luck.


It is very important that the traveler. It is very important that the traveler carries his original passport for the respective controls.


  • March: (some rain)
  • April to October : (optimal travel)
  • October to November: (a little rain)
  • December to February: (a lot of rain)

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Salkantay trek and Inca Trail to Machu Picchu


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The Sacred Valley, The Perfect Place to Prevent Altitude Sickness

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a region in Peru that stretches from the village of Pisac to Ollantaytambo, located approximately 20 kilometers northwest

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ADDITIONAL OPTIONS TO ADD TO YOUR INCA TRAIL PACKAGE: Additional Options for the Inca trail Tour: You can add various additional options to your Inca Trail

Discover the Timeless Majesty of Machu Picchu: Your Ultimate Guide to the Lost City of the Incas

Embark on an unforgettable journey to Machu Picchu, a world-renowned wonder nestled in the heart of the Peruvian Andes. This comprehensive guide unlocks the secrets

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Essential Tips for the Short Inca Trail

Altitude Sickness Prevention: Experiencing altitude sickness can hinder a successful journey on the Inca Trail. To avoid it, it’s crucial for your body to acclimate


After your visit to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, we provide two options for your return journey to the city of Cusco. You can

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Why do the Salkantay trek?

Along the route you will also be able to visit incredible places. No one wants to hike to Machu Picchu without seeing other Inca ruins.

ADDRESS: Portal nuevo 270 plaza regocijo Cusco – Peru

Days to Come

Travelling Without a Passport

salkantay mountains

The Ultimate Guide to the Salkantay Trek (What to Bring, How to Do It, What to Expect)

salkantay trek permit

As one of the new seven wonders of the world with its alluring scenery and majestic ruins, Machu Picchu has become an extremely popular destination in South America. The landmark’s overwhelming demand has made the road less travelled (the Salkantay Trek) ever more enticing compared to the busiest route: the Inca Trail.

(discover here the training for Machu Picchu )

The Salkantay Trek will take you on a journey through the flora and fauna of the Andean Jungle to the sacred Salkantay Mountain before reaching the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Travel to: Machu Picchu

Since it can be challenging to discover information on this lesser known route, we have gathered everything you need to know about taking the Salkantay Trek. In particular you will find the perks of choosing Salkantay over the Inca trail, tips for booking your trip and detailed trail information.

Guide to the Salkantay Trek

Perks of Opting for Salkantay over the Inca Trail:

What can you expect from salkantay tour.

While the Inca Trail may be the most well-known route to Machu Picchu, this does not necessarily mean it is the best trail. The Salkantay Trek has many benefits over Inca that are unrealized by most adventurers.

1. Booking Flexibility

In order to get a permit for the Inca trail, it is advised to book 6 months in advance, which certainly puts a hitch in the plans of spontaneous travelers. This is because the Inca trail only authorizes 500 hikers to enter the trail each day. Salkantay has no permit limitations, which allows for decreased booking lead time and more flexibility.

See Also: What You Need to Take and to Know About Trekking to Machu Picchu

2. Less Crowds

Despite permit limits, the renowned Inca trail can get quite crowded. This can paint the experience with frustrating shades of touristy. The Salkantay trek allows you to go off the beaten path for a more secluded adventure, which means increased space to embrace your inner Inca.

3. Mountain and Jungle Scenery

While the Inca trail offers additional ancient ruins, the Salkantay Trek will allow you to discover some of the most remarkable features of Mother Nature’s beauty. Over the course of the Salkantay Trek, you’ll dip your feet in the beautiful glacial lake of Humantay, traverse past the Salkantay Mountain (the highest peak in the Willkapampa range), descend into the lush, subtropical cloud forest, and harvest and roast your own coffee from the region’s local coffee farm. These nature-rich experiences boast a wide variety of scenery, with the best Inca ruins left as the final reward at the end.

Do you want to travel through Peru as part of a small group tour? Check our options here .

4. Bonus Excursions – Ziplining or Hot Springs

Whether you are an adventure junkie or rejuvenation fiend the Salkantay Trek has the excursion for you. On the fourth day of your journey, you can opt to go ziplining at Cola de Mono (the highest zipline in South America) or to be transported to an oasis where you can get a well-deserved soak in the hot springs of Colcamayu. These excursions are unique to the Salkantay Trek.

5. Cost Effectiveness

Because the Inca trail is in such high demand, it is easier to find a budget-friendly tour via the Salkantay route. Additionally, the money that you do spend will likely go a longer way on the Salkantay Trek.

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Guide to the Salkantay Trek: How to Book the Trek

The Salkantay Trek is open all year round, but note how much rain (and mud) you are willing to handle before booking. The Peruvian Andes has two seasons: wet season and dry season.

  • Dry Season : late April to mid-October
  • Wet Season : mid-October to late April
  • Rainiest months : December, January and February
  • Peak Season : May to September
  • Shoulder Season : mid-March to May; October to mid-November
  • Off Season : mid-November to mid-March

The Salkantay trail will be busiest during May to September, but it will still be less crowded than the Inca trail during these times. Consider booking your trip for late April or early October to avoid both rain and trail congestion.

Travel to: Trekking in Peru

Info on Hiking Permits

Hiking permits are not required for the Salkantay Trek, however, you do need a ticket to enter Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel. If you plan on hiking Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain once you reach the final Inca ruin at the end of the trek, a permit for these mountains are required. The Huayna Picchu hike is the more popular trek, restricted to 400 permits per day, so be sure to book well in advance.

Tour or Solo Trek

Note that the Salkantay Trek (unlike the Inca trail) can also be done without a tour. This requires a lot of extra preparation and separate bookings for buses, trains, excursions, Machu Picchu entrance tickets and more. If extensive trip planning, trail meal preparations and negotiations with local are your forte, then the solo trek is for you.

That being said, most people opt for the tour so they can spend less time organizing the trail and more time enjoying it. Either way, choose the option that best suits your trekking style.

Booking Lead Time

It is recommended that you book your tour for the Salkantay Trek as soon as you have decided upon your dates. However, if your plans are subject to change (as is often the case), you can book this trail with many tour companies merely a few weeks in advance or even when you arrive in Cusco (not recommended).

Additional excursions and hikes require more lead time than the Salkantay Trek booking itself (such as the Huayna Picchu hike). If Machu Picchu is the focus of your visit in Peru, do not leave booking until the last minute as spots aren’t guaranteed. Regardless if you decide to book a tour or go solo, we recommend booking your trip as far in advance as possible .

Packing List

  • Passport (you need it to enter Machu Picchu)
  • Layers of clothes (to account for cold nights/mornings and very warm days)
  • Clean outfit (for your day in Machu Picchu after a shower in Aguas Calientes)
  • Bathing suit (or clothes to soak in if you opt for the hot springs excursion)

Download the Complete Machu Picchu Packing List Here

See Also: What You Need to Take and Know About Trekking to Machu Picchu

hikers salkantaytrek

Guide to the Salkantay Trek: Trail Details

Number of days.

The Salkantay Trek is typically completed in 5 days and 4 nights . It is also possible to do it in 4 days and 3 nights if you opt out of certain sites and are willing to go at a faster pace.  

Trail Specs

Difficulty : Medium to Difficult

Maximum Altitude : 4,600m (15,090ft)

Total Distance : 74km (45.98 miles)

As you ascend from Cusco to the peak altitude, you will be moving from warm climate at low elevation to temperatures near freezing. Be prepared for changing and sometimes unpredictable weather.

Dry season temperature :

  • Day : 20ºC – 25ºC (68ºF – 77ºF)
  • Night : -1ºC – 7ºC (30ºF – 45ºF)

Wet season temperature :

  • Day : 17ºC – 22ºC (63ºF – 72ºF)
  • Night : 4ºC – 10ºC (39ºF – 50ºF)

salkantay mountains

Guide to the Salkantay Trek: Trek Overview

Your typical lares trek itinerary.

Travel to: Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trail

The Salkantay Trek begins in Cusco. Be sure to arrive a day or two before your journey begins to acclimatize yourself with the high altitude.

Day 1 – Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Salkantaypampa

From the city of Cusco, a 3 hour drive by bus or car will take you to the town of Mollepata. From here you will either hike or take another transport to Sayllapata before trekking to Soraypampa. The first day will end at Salkantaypampa. Day 1 is the gentlest day of hiking, which allows you extra time to adjust to the altitude.

Day 2 – Salkantaypampa – Soyrococha – Abra Salkantay / El Passo – Huaracmachay – Colpapampa

Prepare yourself well for day two as it includes some of the most challenging parts of the entire Salkantay Trek. After hiking from Salkantaypampa to Soyrococha, you will encounter multiple switchbacks that increase in steepness as you climb. This zig-zag trail is called the 7 culebras (7 snakes).

The view of Salkantay from the top of the Culebras is remarkable. While ascending to reach Soyrococha, you may notice the cool, thin air due to the high altitude, be sure to pace yourself and dress appropriately. After continuing upwards, you will finally reach the peak at the Salkantay pass then begin the descent.

Here the scenery will change from the mountainous vista to the dense forest jungle as you go from the Salkantay pass down to Huaracmachay and then to Colpapampa.

Day 3 – Collpapampa- La Playa

Day 3 offers majestic waterfalls, the Ceja de Selva jungle zone, and a wide variety of plants, flowers and birds. The morning will begin with 3 hours of comfortable trekking from Collpapampa, along the Salkantay river to La Playa. La Playa is a small town offering one of the largest lodging on the trail. Depending on your tour, you may spend time on a coffee plantation where you can harvest and roast your own coffee.

Optional : Hot Springs in Colcamayu (in Santa Teresa)

This option is available on either day 3 or day 4

Day 4 – La Playa – Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes

Day 4 offers a number of route and activity options for getting to Aguas Calientes, with the Llactapata (Inca Ruin) being the most common. These are typically agreed upon with your tour group before departure.

Option 1 : Hot Springs in Colcamayu

Option 2 : Llactapata (Inca Ruin)

Option 3 : Zip-lining at Cola de Mono

Whichever option you choose, day 4 will end in the town of Aguas Calientes where you will get to stay in a hostel or hotel for the first time on the trip. Be sure to take advantage of the shower before your day at Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu Cusco

Day 5 – Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

There are two options to get from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu.

Option 1: Take the Steps

The stairs up to Machu Picchu has over 2,000 steps and can take a good 1.5 hours. If you choose this option, be sure to depart early to avoid long queues at Machu Picchu and be prepared to arrive very sweaty.  

Option 2: Take the Bus

The first bus departs around 5:30am with queues beginning at 5am during peak season. The journey takes 30 minutes and tickets cost around USD$20. This is a great option to save your time and energy for the day viewing Machu Picchu.

While in Machu Picchu, there is the option to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain. Recall, both treks require a permit, so be sure to book well in advance. The more popular Huayna Picchu has only two climbing times (7am and 10am). If you have a permit for this hike, plan your schedule for day 5 accordingly.

After exploring Machu Picchu, you can either walk (1.5 hours) or take a bus (0.5 hours or longer with queues) back down to Aguas Calientes. From there a combination of downward trekking and transportation will be required to return back to Cusco.

Tour group travelers will likely have train tickets booked to Ollantaytambo where you will then catch a mini-bus or car back to Cusco. Solo travelers may trek down to take the bus from Hidroelectrica Station to Cusco. This is a longer, but cheaper route than getting a train.

cusco peru woman sitting

As the trek finishes back in Cusco on day 5, be sure to plan accommodations and a well-deserved day of rest to recover after your Salkantay journey.

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all of the difference."

- Robert Frost

Featured Image by: Marco Havnanian

salkantay trek permit

Tiana is a travel enthusiast from Canada, passionate about discovering the Earth's beauty through excursions in nature. Over the past year alone, she has completed the West Coast Trail, gone spelunking in the Capital of Caves: Budapest, and went snowshoeing in the Alps (to name a few), with more adventures to come!

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Salkantay Trek

  • Inca Trail, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Permits

Availability for Inca Trail, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Circuits 2024 & 2025

We strongly recommend you to -Act NOW with your online bookings for 2024 & 2025

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu will be closed the month of February by disposition of the Ministry of Culture , because maintenance, upkeep and cleaning will be performed. The entrance to the Inka Trail will be re-enabled from March 1st. Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu circuits is opened all time

In this section you can check the availability of the Inca trail , Salkantay Trek , Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Circuits , it is provided by the Ministry of Culture .

Updated on Wednesday, March 20th, 2024 17:29:10

Here some information should take into account:

  • The month of February is rainy season so the Ministry closes the  Inka Trail , but Machu Picchu y Huaynapicchu is opened.
  • The availability we use is the same to any other agency, because this information is directly provided by the Ministry of Culture.
  • The number of spaces is very variable. Agencies usually book up to 30 spaces, do not be surprised if in a moment the available spaces are sold out.
  • The spaces shown are for either route be it Short Inca Trail in 2 days or 1 day , Classic Inka Trail in 4 days , Machu Picchu or Huaynapicchu .
  • Availability is exclusively administered by the Ministry of Culture . Only they can manage and authorize the access to the Inka Trail.
  • The Inca Trail is enabled only for 500 spaces per day, within which includes staff (porters and guides) spaces.

Note : Availability is updated every day (Please press Ctrl + F5 to refresh the availability). First you must choose the Inca Trail Route , Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu , followed by the month and year of your visit. The number shown per day is the number of places available to the selected date. “ 0 ” means that there is no longer any space available.

Ministerio Cultura Peru

This information is provided courtesy of the INC National Institute of Culture .

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Salkantay Trek To Machu Picchu (Expert Guide)

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Hikes , Machu Picchu , Peru , South & Central America


Welcome to MountainIQ’s guide to hike The Salkantay - one of many great treks to Machu Picchu  located in South America's picturesque mountain ranges .

Here you will find an overview of the Salkantay trail and learn about various options for a typical day-to-day itinerary, the best time of year to do the hike.

You will also find detailed information on what level of fitness is required for the hike, how to train, what to bring on the trek, and how much you should budget for a budget, mid-range or private Peruvian Andes adventure.

Salkantay Trail Overview

The Salkantay trek is the second most popular trek to Machu Picchu, after the  Classic Inca Trail .

Some of the advantages of the trek are its accessibility from Cusco , the physically manageable climb and the diverse, impressive scenery the pathway passes on your way to Machu Picchu.

While most trekkers enjoy the help of a guide company, it is possible to complete this journey on your own. Guidelines for this more daring adventure are also detailed below.

There are several route variations that each add a different flavor to your experience.

Typically, the hike is concluded over a 5-day/ 4-night expedition. Although, it is possible to squeeze the mission into 4 days and 3 nights.

There is also the option of combining the Salkantay trail with the Classic Inca trail, which are outlined further below. 

Mount Salkantay (or Nevada Salkantay/Salcantay), the mountain after which this trek is named, is one of the most iconic mountains in the area surrounding Cusco.

It stands at 6,271 m tall and the Quechua name  Salkantay  literally means  savage  or  wild  . Therefore, it is not conquered by any but the most intrepid mountaineers.

Although the Salkantay Trail fortunately doesn't entail summiting its breath-taking peak, trekkers will spend much of their hike with an impressive view of Mount Salkantay on approach and while scaling the Salkantay Pass.  

The mountain is located 60km North-West of Cusco and is directly south of Machu Picchu.

Although invisible from the Citadel, Salkantay was auspiciously located and was believed to be one of the deities that determined the weather in the region. 

Typical Salkantay Itinerary

Below is the most common 5-day/4-night itinerary used by most tour companies. Although slight variations on this standard itinerary is possible. We have also given extra information for those planning on trying the hike unassisted.

Day 1: Cusco to Salkantaypampa via Mollepata and Soraypampa

  • Total distance: ~12 km
  • Total time walking: ~ 5- 7 hours.

After an early morning departure from Cusco (3400m), you will drive for about 3 hours to the town of Mollepata for breakfast. If you are hiking without a tour company, you can either organize a private car or use the public bus for this drive.

Some may start the trek from Mollepata but the roads aren’t ideal and most tour operators skip these extra miles and transfer you on a 4 X4 to start from Sayapata (Sayllapata) (3200m).

From Sayapata, you start a gradual 3-to-4-hour climb towards Soraypampa (3850m), where you will probably stop for lunch. Some tour groups set up camp here, while others continue on to reach Salkantaypampa (3900m) in another 2-3 hours.

Day 2: Salkantaypampa to Collpapampa, via Soyrococha, Abra Salkantay and El Passo – Huaracmachay

  • Total distance: ~15 km
  • Total time walking: ~7-10 hours

Day 2 is going to be the most challenging of the Salkantay trek – so buckle up!

The trek from Salkantaypampa to Soyrococha (4470m) is about 2.5 hours long. The gradient slowly increases, and after about an hour you will reach the windy 7 Culebras (7 snakes), a zig-zagging pathway heading towards Soyrococha. You will probably reach Soyrococha at around 10 am, and you will be feeling the effects of the high altitude by this point. But this is just the start of the challenge. After continuing upwards for about an hour you will reach Salkantay Pass (4600m) with amazing vistas of the mountain. From here you will descend for 3 hours to Huaracmachay (3750m) where you will enjoy a well-deserved lunch. Some tour companies settle down here for the night, but most tours plan to continue for a 3-hour descent to Collpapampa (2850m) to end an impressive day.

Day 3: Collpapampa to La Playa

  • Total distance: ~10 km
  • Total time walking: ~6-7 hours

After a slight ascent in the early morning, your day will be spend walking down towards La Playa (2050m).

Day 3 might be a little more crowded with fellow trekkers than the previous days. If you are hiking alone it is a good idea for you to leave Collpapampa with another tour group to avoid getting confused by the subsidiary trails which lead off the main path which leads to La Playa.   

La Playa is a small town, so many tour companies keep walking to Lacmabamba to avoid the bustle of locals and tourists.

Day 4: Colcamaya/La Playa - via Lucmabamba - Aguas Calientes

Option 1: colcamaya to aguas calientes.

Day 4 marks the end of the official hiking, but your adventure is not over yet. There are a number of options available to you to be discussed with your tour group beforehand.

If you are really exhausted from a long week of hiking, spending some time relaxing in the Hot Springs in Colcamaya near the town of Santa Theresa.

Here, you can spend the morning soaking your deserving feet, looking out at the scenic jungle. You will then be transported to Hidroelectrica Station from where you can either hike or catch a train to Aguas Calientes.

Option 2: La Playa to Aguas Calientes, via Lucmabamba

Another option for Day 4 is the most popular, means a quick early morning hike from La Playa to Lucmabamba. This option requires a up to 7 hours of trekking.

You will then spend about 2 hours hiking up to Llactapata, an Incan ruin discovered by Hiram Bingham on the same mission that Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911.

This site has not been restored as Machu Picchu has been, so it has the same overgrown appearance that Machu Picchu would have had if left to its own devices.

From here, you will catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu itself. You will then hike down to the Hidroelectrica Station and catch the train or keep walking on to  Aguas Calientes . 

Finally, you have the option of riding South America’s highest zip-line which rests 150m off the ground in Cola de Mono. Hereafter, you either hike or train to Aguas Calientes.

Day 5: Machu Picchu

After rejuvenating overnight in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, you can take a bus up to Machu Picchu for a day of culture. We recommend heading up as early as possible to make the sunrise and avoid heavy crowds.

You can of course walk to Machu Picchu, but be prepared for a good 90-minute trek is ahead of you. Importantly, remember to bring your passport with you to enter Machu Picchu.

We also recommend either hiring a tour guide, or taking a good guide book alone because an informed walk around the ancient ruins improves the experience exponentially.

Some people also squeeze in a hike of Huayna Picchu, a mountain to the North of the citadel. This is amongst  the craziest hikes in the world !

After your day in the Incan ruin, you can either walk or catch a bus back to Aguas Calientes, train to Ollantaytambo and finally train to Cusco.

If you’re hiking without a guide and are looking to cut costs, you can trek back to Hidroelectrica Station and bus all the way to Cusco via Santa Theresa and Ollantaytambo.


Photo by  Tierras Vivas

Pro Tip:  There is the added convenience that permits are not required to hike the Salkantay Trek as they are for the Inca Trail.

Salkantay / Inca Combo Itinerary

This trek has the beautiful scenery of the Salkantay Trail as well as the historical importance of the Classic Inca trail. The route is longer and tougher than the classic Salkantay Trail, taking 7 days and 6 nights as well as an Inca trail permit.

Day 1: Cusco to Ichupata via Mollepata and Soraypampa

After acclimatising in Cusco for at least 2-3 days, you’ll take a morning drive to Mollepata (3 hours) for breakfast and on for another 2 hours to Soraypampa. From Soraypampa you will hike for ~3 hours to Ichupata.

Day 2: Ichupata to Sisaypampa over the Incachiriasca Pass

Day 2 is tough, starting with a steep hike over the Incachiriasca Pass (4900m) and then a descent down to Sisaypampa (4100m) where you will likely spend the night.

Day 3: Sisaypampa to Ayapata

You will continue downwards to the small Pampacahuana community (3,300m).

You will then continue towards Paucarcancha, an Incan fortress, and then on to Wayllabamba where you will join the Classic Incan trail.

After lunch, you will head up from Wayllabamba towards Warmihuañusca Pass (aka Dead Woman’s Pass).

You will reach half way before setting up camp in Ayapata.

Day 4: Ayapata to Chaquicocha

The climb up Dead Woman’s Pass continues on Day 4, before the descent into Pacaymayo valley (3600m).

You will then traverse a second, easier pass called Abra Runkurakay (3,970m).

After passing the Runkurakay ruin, the Yanacocha Lake and the Sayacmarca ruin (3,624m) you will reach your campsite at Chaquicocha (3,600m).

Day 5: Chaquicocha to Wiñaywayna

Your fifth morning will begin with a climb up Abra de Phuyupatamarca Pass (3,700m).

 After admiring the scenery and historical ruins, you will hike down to Wiñaywayna (2,650m) campsite for the night.

Day 6: Winaywayna – Machu Picchu

Day 6 is the typical “visit Machu Picchu day” and starts early in the morning to catch the sunrise.

You will generally trek to the Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) and thereafter experience a tour of the city, as explained above. 


Photo by  nonodelbosque

Best time to go on the Salkantay Trek

When deciding what time to hike the Salkantay trail, you must decide whether you want to prioritize good weather or relatively empty trails.

The dry months are generally between the end of April and the start of November.

While the Salkantay trek is never quite as busy as the Classic Inca trail, during the dry season some of the crowds do overflow from the Classic Inca trail to the second most popular alternative, the Salkantay Trek.

For this reason, we recommend hiking during the shoulder dry months of March/April and October/November to optimize the hiking conditions.

However, it is possible for you to enjoy you hike at almost all times of the year. Although we would strongly advise against going in the months of December, January and February when the rainfall is high. 

The temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year, with the average daily highs resting around 21°C and the night-time lows around 5°C.

It is common for temperatures to fall below freezing during the evenings though. So, you must be sure to be adequately prepared by packing layered clothing. See our packing list for advice on how to beat any bad weather. 

If you decide to do a combined Salkantay-Machu Picchu trek, you can see more details about  the best time of year to hike to Machu Picchu .

Salkantay Trail FAQ

Am i at risk from altitude sickness on the salkantay trail.

There is always the risk of getting  altitude sickness  on the Salkantay Trail. Its effects are felt by most at any point above 3,000m above sea level. 

You will spend almost your entire trek to Machu Picchu above this point, reaching 4,600m (for the classic Salkantay Trek) or 4,900m (if you do the Salkantay/Inca combination).

Thus, you can expect to feel some degree of the symptoms with include fatigue, nausea and headaches.

It is impossible to predict your reaction to altitude sickness as it doesn’t have a correlation with your age or fitness level. So being wary of the effects and treatments is essential for a safe climb.

Some of the most important tips that will help in your efforts to avoid altitude sickness is to spend adequate time in Cusco (at least 2 days) or even some time in lower Sacred Valley.

It is important that you drink enough water – at least 2 liters per day, avoid drinking or taking drugs (including sleeping pills), and remember not to hike too fast. 

What should I include in my Salkantay packing list? 

There are a number of essential gear items that you might need to purchase to bring along on your Peruvian adventure along the Salkantay trail. 

See more in our  detailed Classic Inca Trail packing list  as you'll need the same  hiking equipment for the Salkantay trail too. 


Do I need to do any training for the Salkantary Trek? 

You definitely need some training for the Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay and Inca/Salkantay Combo treks are both considered moderate to challenging (particularly the latter).

To ensure that you are in the best possible condition to undertake this adventure, you must be relatively aerobically fit, training about 3 times a week in the gym in the months leading up to your hike.

Exercises like cycling, running and swimming will be great to get your cardiovascular fitness up.

It is also a good idea to go on a few day-long hikes in your own country to harden your muscles, break in your boots and give you a feel for what you should be expecting. 

How much does the Salkantay Trek cost? 

The cost of your Salkantay trek varies hugely depending on the quality of experience and touring company you choose.

You can of course undertake to do the trek alone, but this is not advisable to for an inexperienced trekker. Otherwise, there are tours which cost as low as $450 per person, all the way up to $1,300 per person. 

See more details in our article on Machu Picchu trekking costs .

Do you recommended reading any guidebooks before hiking the Salkantay?

It never hurts to do some light reading on the region you're about to travel to. The Lonely Planet Peru Travel Guide is one of the most detailed, yet easy to digest guidebooks on the Peruvian Andes and has most of the Salkantay treks and routes in it. 

Other Hiking Articles:

  • Hiking the Inca Jungle Trail
  • Permits for hiking the Inca Trail
  • Hiking the Vilcabamba trail
  • Trekking the Lares
  • South American Hikes
  • South American Mountains


About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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A Girl From Texas

Hiking the Salkantay Trek: Everything You Need to Know

On the top of my list for the longest time (and on the top of everyone’s list I am sure) has been hiking my way to Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trek, the lost Incan city. As soon as travel started to open back up in 2021, we found ourselves some affordable flights to Peru and decided to look into the hiking trek along the Salkantay, and wanted to share with you everything we learned from our research!

What This Guide Covers: The Basic Outline Know Before You Go Breakdown of Daily Hiking What To Know About Machu Picchu Packing List of What To Bring



The Basics About the Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek has long been known as a less-busy alternative to the famous Inca Trail, the original trail created by the Incan people to Machu Picchu. With the limited number of permits available for the Incan Trail, and with how hard it is to snag one of those spots, this is an incredible alternative. It’s a beautiful 4 to 5 day pass through the Salkantay Mountains in the Andes Range, about 40 to 60 miles depending on which trek you choose to take!

The Key Pieces to Know:

  • Time Needed: Two options are available, a 4D 3N short trek (what we did) or a 5D 4N long trek
  • Distance Covered: The shorter 4D trek is 37 miles total vs the 5D trek is 44 miles total
  • Difficulty: Absolutely difficult, even our 25 year old in shape selves DEEPLY struggled
  • Altitude: Reaches up to 4.6k meters or 15,000 feet! It’s a brutal altitude
  • Prices: We opted for a $290 trek with AmericanInca , but prices can go up to $600
  • What’s Included: Most tour company have all inclusive treks! Which means your sleeping arrangements, meals, and all transportation is included. Does not include alcoholic drinks or tips!

For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to break out our four-day trek with American Inca Trail ! I highly highly recommend them as a company, and cannot say enough incredible things. They absolutely blew us away with having the best food, great accommodations, and an incredible guide who has lived his whole life in the region and never left our side.


Know Before You Go // Prepping for the Trek

Pick Up is in Cusco and you will need to arrive AT LEAST TWO DAYS before your trek. Not required, but you’re 100% going to appreciate the time to adjust to the altitude. Plus the city is beautiful, and we shared our favorite spots on our One Week in Peru guide to help you out!

Getting to Cusco when they tell you to get to the airport 2 hours early, listen. We almost missed our flight from Lima to Cusco because we tend to be arrive-late people. Do not make that mistake, as there aren’t THAT many flights!

Avoid eating fruits & veggies Before your trek, you should ensure you’re careful about what you’re eating. The middle of a mountain is the last place you want to have stomach issues. Trust me.

Don’t drink the water and don’t even brush your teeth with it! Stock up on water bottles and only use those.

You Get One Duffel Bag to carry your trek clothes with you. Pack wisely, and don’t bring what you don’t need. We have a full packing list at the bottom of this blog post!

Keep Your Backpack Light because the weight on your back is going to be one of the hardest parts. Heavy items in your duffel, and lightest must-haves go in your pack but that is IT.

HYDRATE because that’s the best way to handle a four day trek in that much altitude!!!!


Day One: Hiking The Salkantay Pass

Quick TLDR: You’re hiking about 8 hours and 14 miles total up a mountain and then back down. Wear layers as the top of the pass is ice cold, but you’ll be overheating. Pack about 2-3 liters of water and shoes that can handle ice and snow on the ground. Also, pack snacks!!!!

Before I type this up, please know that this is the hardest day and every following day will be easier. But this day just about killed me. You’re going to finish this trek feeling 1) on top of the world which you basically are at 15k feet and 2) like your entire body is going to give up on you. As long as you’re mentally prepared for this and aware YOU CAN DO IT then that’s part one.

Pick Up in Cusco

Your day begins with a bright and early 3AM-4AM wake-up call in Cusco! Your guide will pick you up on a bus and drive you 2-3 hours to the starting point. Relax, you’re going to be in for a WILD RIDE.


If You’re Doing the 5 Day Trek…

Your day begins before our 4-day trek people! You’re driven to Mollepata and will start off with breakfast before heading to your trailhead. You’ve got a full morning of hiking on varying terrain for 3-4 hours, followed by lunch, and then another couple hours for 8 miles total.

At the end of the day, you have an optional trek up to the below Lake Humantay, and let me tell you DO THIS HIKE IT’S BEAUTIFUL. I will also note it just about killed me because I get insane altitude sickness

Once you hit this point, everything about the 4 and 5-day hikes is the same. The only difference is the 4-day hikes drive you through this 8-mile portion!


Hiking Laguna Humantay

At the end of Day 1 for the 5-Day hikers and the start of Day 1 for the 4-Day hikers is the option to get to Lake Humantay.

It’s about a 5k trek each way, but the view from the top is simply one of the most amazing views you will ever see in your life.

The 4-Day Trek Day One (and 5-Day’s Day 2)

Your day will begin with the above hike to Laguna Humantay, and then you’ll start the main portion of the trek. Your morning will begin with a 2-3 hour trek straight up the mountain pass. This is going to be one of the hardest parts of the entire trip. We were exceptionally unlucky and it ended up snowing heavily during our walk up the mountain, but that’s apparently pretty rare! Your trek begins with light gravel hills and eventually turns into switchbacks up the main mountain.

They will offer you the option to ride a horse at the base, up to the lunch spot. If you had trouble with the altitude of the Laguna Humantay hike, take the horse because it only gets SIGNIFICANTLY HARDER. I was on the verge of passing out from altitude during the Laguna hike, and had to take a horse to the lunch spot in order to save my health!


Just an hour from the peak, you’ll stop for lunch and get a moment to warm up and relax! Appreciate that, because you still have another one-hour hike up to the Salkantay Pass. This is going to be the most brutal portion as you’re at the highest altitude of the entire trip, and it’s a pretty straight shot!

Once you’re at the peak, YAY YOU DID IT! You’ve survived the hardest portion of this entire trek! It’s all downhill from here!

You’ll now have about 3 hours of downhill hiking from the top of the Salkantay Pass to the base of the mountain where you’ll be setting up camp for the night. You’ll get to enjoy a delicious meal (again, cannot say how DELICIOUS the food made by our American Inca Trail cooks was) and then a campfire and drinks before heading to bed! You’ll be passed out early from how exhausting the trek was.

Pro Tip: Fill up a plastic water bottle with some boiling hot water and stick that in your sleeping bag to keep warm. It’s around 30 degree during the night and that water bottle is going to save you!


Day Two: Hiking Down the Jungle Pass

Quick TLDR: You’re hiking about 4 hours and 6-8 miles total downhill through the jungle. It’s humid but water, wear leggings and a rain jacket to protect from mosquitos. Pack about 1-2 liters of water and use hiking poles to go downhill.

Time for another hiking day! This day is entirely downhill, so while your knees are going to hate you I promise it’s better than that first day. You kick off the day with breakfast and then climb down the rest of the jungle trek called “Ceja de Selva” where you’ll see some incredible variety of tropical plants compared to your mountain trek. It’s about 6-7 miles long and then you get to stop for lunch in the jungle.

Machu Picchu Salkantay Trek Guide Hot Springs

The Hot Springs of Santa Teresa After your morning jungle hike, you can either opt to hike more of the trip OR you’ll take a drive about 2 hours to Santa Teresa for the night and spend some time enjoying the Santa Teresa hot springs.

We absolutely loved the Hot Springs! This is not entirely your choice and your guide has some say over which you do. But if you can, we totally would go for the hot springs again!

After lunch, you have two options: hiking more OR taking a car to the Hot Springs. We totally think the hot springs are the way to go! After that, you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner at your next campsite and more time by the fire. We loved that this campsite actually allowed us to meet hikers from other groups too!

Machu Picchu Salkantay Trek Guide

Day Three: Hiking the Train Tracks to Aguas Calientes

Quick TLDR: You’re hiking about 2-3 hours and 6-8 miles total on flat ground. It’s warm and humid but mosquitos are aggressive so wear a rain jacket against them. It’s an easy day, so relax!

The easiest hiking day of the whole trip! Your day kicks off with an option to go on the Ziplines over the Andean mountains. This costs about $25 per person, and I will say while it was fun it really was a mid-tear zipline compared to some I have been on in Hawaii and in Mexico. So if you’re meh about it, then instead you can visit a coffee bean field or just relax at the campsite!

After the ziplines, you’ll take a car for about 30 minutes to Hydroelectric where you’ll stop for lunch before you start your 8-mile hike along the train tracks to get to Aguas Calientes. This is a very easy hiking day as the terrain is flat the entire way through.

Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, you’ll have time to relax at your hotel/hostel before you get dinner with your hiking group! We visited a couple of bars and our favorite was Supertramp on their rooftop bar! The best cocktails, prices, and games there.


Day Four: Machu Picchu!

Quick TLDR: You can take the bus for minimal hiking or take the stairs. Shorts are fine, you’ll sweat a ton on the stairs.

GOOD MORNING! Get ready for a 4AM wake up call as you begin your trip to Machu Picchu. You have two options to get to the top of Machu Picchu.

Option One: Taking the Stairs from the base of Aguas Calientas. We thought this would be so much hardest than it was! It takes about 1 hour of climbing up the stairs to the entrance of Machu Picchu and is free. It truly was worth it, and was an easy climb compared to that first day of the trek!

Option Two: Taking the Bus from the base of Aguas Calientas which is $12 per person, each way. We opted to hike and bus down, and have no regrets about that move (someone in our group had a hurt knee, so climbing down stairs was a no).

Once at Machu Picchu, you’ll be given a tour by either your trek guide (our American Inca trek guide was certified so he could be the one to show us around) or by a Machu Picchu guide if your trek guide is not certified. Walking through the Incan ruin takes about 2 hours, and is just truly stunning.


From there, you have the option to hike to the top of Huaynapicchu Mountain (Hard) or Machu Picchu Mountain (Very Hard) which are both another hour of straight stairs and significantly more difficult than the main stair climb. The tall peak behind Machu Picchu village in this photo is Huaynapicchu!

Plus, they’re not for the faint of heart as they’re right over a cliff! You do need to pay extra for these (worth it though) and they are currently closed until Fall 2021 due to COVID.

Machu Picchu Salkantay Trek Guide

Getting Back to Cusco

It’s important to ensure that your trek includes your train ticket back to Cusco (ours did) and if not you will need to purchase your train ticket home. I would absolutely recommend doing this in advance and cost is about $90 one way, but the line to purchase was QUITE long.

Our train ride took about 1.5 hours and dropped us off in Ollantaytambo, and then a car picked us up and drove us all the way back to our hotel in Cusco!


What to Pack on Your Salkantay Trek // Machu Picchu Trek

All are items I myself packed AND used during the trip! Also this does include affiliate links, but these are all products I own.

What You’ll Wear on the Salkantay Trek

  • Warm Hat // You really only need during the first day if you expect colder temperatures! Either a hat or a headband for your ears is good
  • Gloves // Nothing fancy needed, just cheap gloves from Target will do the trick. Anything to keep your fingers warm on Day 1 and at night!
  • Sun Hat or Sunglasses // Days 2-5 are going to be ones where you want to protect your scalp from sunburns with just a regular ‘ole cap
  • Rain Jacket // You’re in the mountains and in the forest so you absolutely can expect rain! Get a GOOD raincoat, waterproof not just water-resistant or you’ll end up extremely wet and never able to dry off
  • Warm Jacket // You DO NOT need a ski level jacket, but you DO need a warm jacket for the cold mornings and colder nights. I would say sweatshirt level thickness is gonna do the trick!
  • Layers of Shirts // I packed 2 tank tops and one long sleeve! I basically rotated these throughout the four days. They smelled like death by the end, but I wanted to save my space for other items! Layer it was!
  • Underwear // Is this obvious? Yes. But HEAR ME when I say pack one per day. You won’t get to shower, and changing into clean underwear is going to be the closest thing you can get to clean!
  • Thick Water Resistant Leggings // If you’re a gal reading this, I did my entire trek in leggings. I packed two pairs and wore those throughout the trip. If you don’t want to purchase a new pair of hiking pants, then leggings truly are fine. My ONE NOTE is to make sure they’re thick so if they snag on something or you slip and fall, they won’t rip! These Amazon ones are my FAVORITE pair I own and I wore them on the trek!
  • OR Light Hiking Pants // These REI hiking pants are an investment but they’re heaven since you can feel less constricted but also protect your legs from the sun and mosquito bites.
  • OR Shorts (Optional) // I’m the only person in our group who opted for shorts on the last day! I just knew I was going to swear insane amounts hiking the 2k stairs to Machu Picchu and it was a hot day, and I had no regrets. But honestly, shorts are not super needed and you WILL get bit up.omens
  • Hiking Socks // PACK COMPRESSION SOCKS. Oh my god your feet and ankles are going to swell from the hiking, and these are heaven. They also protect you from those blisters. Trust me. Do it.
  • Hiking Boots // If you’re thinking of doing this trek in regular sneakers, just mentally prep for pain. You’re going through a lot of terrain and a lot of rocks so you REALLY should bring hiking boots for you. Get something WATERPROOF, something BREATHABLE. These boots are honestly great and timeless and everything you need!
  • Sandles // Just one pair of flip flops is great for when you’re at camp! You’re so sick of the hiking boots and those feet need to breathe
  • Swim Suit // If you know that the Hot Springs aren’t an option on your hike then it’s no big deal, but of course bring one if you want to do the springs!

Hiking Gear to Pack for the Salkantay Trek

  • Thermal Sleeping Bag (Optional) // you can rent one for about $25, or bring your own! I opted to rent one, but this is the link to the one I do own
  • Thin Backpack // Just something lightweight to keep your water and snacks with you on the hike! You’ll have a duffel to hold your spare clothes and goods, but this is something light and easy for when your bag is on the mule.
  • Biodegradable Toilet Paper // I got this little pack from Amazon and used ALL of it. Almost no establishments in Peru have toilet paper, so it’s using your own or suck it up. Personally, I find toilet paper to be a non-negotiable so I brought my own.
  • Reusable Water Bottle OR Hydration Pack (Optional) // I packed both with me! I had my hydration pack in my backpack for the hiking, and then also kept the useable bottle to fill up and potable water tablets to turn my yuck water into drinkable water. HOWEVER, you have plenty of opportunities to buy water bottles there so no stress with needing this!
  • Pee Cup (For Women) // Listen. I do not squat. I cannot squat. I brought a pee cup and I have no regrets.
  • Small Towel // You don’t need this unless you plan to hit the springs, but I have a cheap foldable towel I love and always take on trips! It takes almost no space at all, and it’s just so nice to have on hand.
  • Cash // In general, you’ll find few places take credit cards in Peru so I would ALWAYS have more cash than you think you need. We brought 400 soles each on the hike and used almost all of it.
  • Snacks // Think of little hiking snacks for your trip and pack those! Granola bars, KIND bars, beef jerky, even a cookie if you know it’s going to bring you joy. You get your three meals a day and the snacks are so nice during the hikes!

Medical / Bathroom Gear to Pack for the Salkantay Trek

  • Sunscreen // Literally if you ignore everything else on this list, do not ignore this. Nobody wants skin cancer.
  • Bug Spray // Again, seriously pack this. The mosquitos are no joke in Peru and you will get bitten.
  • Advil // We literally brought an entire bottle for four people and we used every single pill. Between the altitude headaches, the sore body parts, and the exhaustion it was truly needed.
  • Hand Warmers // It’s not needed but with the snow we had during day one I used the four that I packed in my bag!
  • Hairbrush // I’m the only girl in the group that brought a hairbrush and everyone borrowed it daily. It was so nice to feel somewhat clean and detangled!

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Worldly Adventurer

The Salkantay Trek: How to Hike to Machu Picchu

By Author Steph Dyson

Posted on Last updated: 20th February 2024

Hiking to Machu Picchu is a bucket-list destination for many. But what many visitors to Peru don’t realise is that there are far more options than just the Inca trail for reaching this world-famous Inca city tucked high into the Andes – such as my new favorite, the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. 

The Inca trail is the most famous of all the hikes to Machu Picchu and follows the route of the Qhapaq Ñan or Royal Road. This Inca stone pathway weaves through valleys and across mountains to arrive at the Sun Gate, a doorway into Machu Picchu that sits high above the city.

But, for me, a fan of beyond-the-beaten-path destinations , it is the Salkantay trek that I’ve been long waiting to experience. 

I’d been bewitched by the idea of hiking to Machu Picchu via this alternative route ever since I first lived in Cusco back in 2015. However, life got in the way and I never stepped foot on the path. 

But this year, when Alpaca Expeditions asked me to join them on the Salkantay trail, I jumped at the chance. With the country now fully open to tourists (albeit numbers down to 30% of pre-pandemic levels), there has probably never been a better time to go to Machu Picchu, particularly as there are far fewer hikers on the trails than you would traditionally find. 

Machu Picchu as seen at dawn as mist clings to Huayna Picchu

Whether you’ve been dreaming about reaching Machu Picchu via this lesser-known route or have had to switch up your plans because the Inca trail is fully booked, here’s everything you need to know about hiking the Salkantay trek. 

Click to navigate this article:

Key facts about the Salkantay trek

How many miles is the salkantay trek.

Steph Dyson at the Salkantay Pass on The path on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay is a roughly 66-kilometre (41-mile) hike that starts in the sleepy hamlet of Soraypampa and ends at Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. There are various different routes that you can take, depending on how many days you want to walk and which company you’re hiking with. 

The most common route is the five-day, four-night route, whereby you leave Cusco around 4 am and start on the trail around 8 am, scaling the Salkantay Pass on day one and arrive in Aguas Calientes on the evening of day four to spend the final day at Machu Picchu. 

Alpaca Expeditions, like a handful of other companies, have their own glass-roofed huts at Soraypampa, where the trek begins. This means that they take their groups to the trailhead the day before (departing at 3 pm from Cusco) to allow you to start early and beat the other hikers to the trailhead. As a result, they advertise their trek as a five-day/five-night Salkantay hike . 

Their hikes also include the route up to Lago Humantay, which adds an extra three hundred metres of ascent and descent to the first day’s hike, plus the incredible scenery of this turquoise lake. 

What is the elevation of the Salkantay trek?

The Salkantay trek starts at Soraypampa at an elevation of 3,900 metres above sea level. The elevation profile for the rest of the hike is as follows:

Day One: Soraypampa (3,900 metres) – Humantay Lake (4,200 metres) – Soraypampa (3,900 metres) – Salkantay Pass (4,620 metres) – Wayramachay (3,800 metres)  Distance covered: 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) Total elevation gain: 1,020 metres Total elevation loss: 1,120 metres

Day Two: Wayramachay (3,800 metres) – Loreta (2,200 metres) Distance covered: 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) Total elevation gain: 200 metres Total elevation loss: 1,600 metres

Day Three: Loreta (2,200 metres) – Llactapata (2,700 metres) Distance covered: 12 kilometres (8.7 miles) Total elevation gain: 600 metres Total elevation loss: 400 metres

Day Four: Llactapata (2,700 metres) – Hidroelectrica (1,820 metres) – Aguas Calientes (2,000 metres) Distance covered: 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) Total elevation gain: 180 metres Total elevation loss: 880 metres

The first night sleeping at altitude you’re inside a cabin, with a sleeping bag (either your own or rented) and it’s pretty cosy. The second night was also at altitude and despite the sleeping bag, extra blankets, two sleeping mats and hot water bottle that Alpaca provided, I was still a bit cold and ended up sleeping in my down jacket. 

I highly recommend bringing a down jacket (mine is this one from Jack Wolfskin but you can find plenty of down jackets at REI ) plus a waterproof coat (mine is this one from Patagonia ; for men from Patagonia | REI | Backcountry ).

They did give us rain ponchos but frankly, any sort of plastic coat is a recipe for sweaty hiking, so I much prefer to have a breathable, lightweight coat that’s great as a windproof layer at high elevations and also as protection against any downpours. 

How fit do I need to be to hike the Salkantay trek?

Mountains above Humantay Lake on the Salkantay trek, an alternative route to Machu Picchu, Peru

The Salkantay trek is a moderate hike. The challenge comes from the amount of ascent and distance you’re required to cover on day one, as well as the altitude at which you’re hiking. 

The toughest day by far is day one. Not only do you gain 300 metres to reach the dazzling waters of Lago Humantay, but you lose them again as you drop back off the mountain and then climb a further 720 metres to reach the Salkantay Pass. Because you’re hiking at altitude, it won’t be long until you realise how thin the air feels (and how little of it seems to be going into your lungs). If you’re relatively fit and can cope with covering 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) in a day, you shouldn’t have any issues. 

Many of my group who had flown straight from home to Peru and hadn’t had time to acclimate beforehand in Cusco for a couple of days really struggled with the first day of the trek. 

Therefore I strongly recommend spending at least two days in Cusco before the hike for acclimatisation purposes and also speaking to your doctor to get a prescription for Diamox – tablets that help your body cope at high altitudes. You’ll want to take the tablets once per day, starting 24 hours before you start the trek and continuing until day three when you won’t need them anymore. 

How can you prepare for the high-altitude Salkantay trek?

While being moderately fit and physically able to walk at least 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) at lower elevations is essential, preparing for high-altitude trekking is challenging. This is because you can’t predict how your body will react when it’s faced with these conditions – particularly as it’s not impacted by how fit, young or healthy you are. In fact, even the fittest people can suffer horrible altitude sickness.

As a result, the best preparation for hiking the Salkantay trek is to arrive in Cusco at least two days before the trek begins to give your body time to acclimate. Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated and be sure to get some Diamox to help your body adjust. 

Do I need to book the Salkantay trek months in advance like the Inca trail?

Unlike the Inca trail, where there is a limit of 400 trekkers per day and so tickets can be sold out up to six months in advance, there are no limits for the Salkantay trek. This makes it an excellent alternative if you’d been hoping to hike the Inca trail but have found that there isn’t any space. 

The only restriction you’ll face is on the availability of entry tickets to Machu Picchu, so it’s still worth trying to book at least a few weeks in advance, particularly if you’re travelling between June and August. As a result, you’ll find it a good idea to book your trek in advance before you arrive in Peru; you can also check out what we think are the best times to visit Machu Picchu  before deciding when to travel.

Better still, while an unlimited number of hikers allowed on the trailhead doesn’t sound fun, if you trek with Alpaca Expeditions, you’ll likely not see anyone else. This is because they schedule the trek to avoid all of the other tours leaving from Soraypampa. Through this wizardry, during the entirety of the five-day trek, we met only six other hikers.

The five-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

The Inca trail is famous for taking you along a stretch of the Qhapaq Ñan or Royal Road, a path used by Inca royalty as well as pilgrims and other administrators to travel between Cusco and Machu Picchu. 

However, what you probably didn’t know is that the Salkantay actually travels along a stretch of Inca road on day three, allowing you to have a little bit of the same experience, just without sharing it with anyone else.

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The path on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

The scenery is also spectacular and involves a little bit of each of the microclimates that are found surrounding Cusco, and which pay host to everything from spectacled bears (the inspiration for Paddington!) to llamas, alpacas, condors and vizcachas (chinchilla-like rodents).

You travel from high mountain passes to lush cloud forest in just over a day, while you’re always far enough away from towns and villages to have gorgeous starry skies at night. 

Sunrise at Machu Picchu, Peru

Want a cheeky 5% discount on the Salkantay trek?

Alpaca Expeditions  are not only one of the most sustainable companies offering Salkantay and Inca trail treks to Machu Picchu, but their guides, porters and chefs are the ultimate hosts.

They’re now offering Worldly Adventurer readers a 5% discount on all of their hikes – use discount code WorldlyAdventurer when you enquire!

Best of all, unlike on the Inca trail, you don’t share campgrounds with other groups. In fact, we saw only six other hikers from when we started the hike to when we reached Hidroelectrica and began the final trek along the railway line. Therefore, if you’re like me and prefer hiking in destinations where you aren’t surrounded by others, this is the perfect route for you. 

But what’s the hike like day by day? Here’s an itinerary of what you can expect on the Salkantay trek. 

Day Minus One: Pre-trek information session

  • Distance hiked: 0
  • Total elevation gain: 0
  • Total elevation loss: 0
  • Time on the trail: 0

I started my Salkantay trek experience two days before we actually started hiking. This is because Alpaca Expeditions invited all of my group to their office in Cusco for a short information session to go over everything we needed to know before we started the hike. 

Mules carrying luggage on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, peru

It was a quick, 15-minute meeting with our guide, Isao, where we were given our lime green duffel bags (for up to seven kilograms of clothes and other items for the hike that would be taken on mules), bright green rain ponchos and rucksack rain covers.

We were also able to reserve a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and trekking poles at this stage, while they made recommendations for essentials we needed to bring (bug spray – bring plenty!).

If I’d been sensible and brought some with me, I would have started taking Diamox this evening or on day zero to help prepare my body for the altitude. Don’t be like me: I highly recommend discussing Diamox or similar with your doctor if you’re planning a short trip to Peru to hike the Salkantay. This is because going directly from sea level to an altitude of up to 4,620 metres (15,157 ft) can be extremely dangerous – trust me: you don’t want to feel as shit as those people in my group who did this.

Day Zero: Cusco to Soyrapampa

On day zero you’ll have time for a relaxed morning and lunch in Cusco, before you’re picked up at your hotel by the Alpaca Expeditions team around 3pm. The minibus will head directly out of Cusco for the spectacular drive through the Andes to the first night’s accommodation.

It’s three and a half hours of serpentine roads with sheer, vertiginous roadsides and lush valleys lined with avocado plants. Keep your eyes peeled for the first glimpses of Nevada Salkantay; we saw it sink into darkness as the sun set behind its snow-laden peak before our van began gaining altitude quickly.

Night time photography at the Soraypampa cabins on day zero of Dawn views from the Wayramachay campground on the The path onthe Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

After about two and a half hours you’ll stop in Mollepata, a tiny town en route, to use the toilets and then stock up on any remaining items you might have forgotten, before an hour later reaching the first night’s accommodation: Soraypampa and its glass-roofed cabins. 

If luck’s on your side, the stars should be bright and your chef, sous chef and their merry band of porters will quickly rustle up a delicious two-course meal, giving you plenty of time to head to bed and sleep beneath the stars before an early wake-up call the next morning. 

Day One: Soraypampa – Humantay Lake – Salkantay Pass – Wayracmachay

  • Distance hiked: 20 kilometres (12.5 miles)
  • Total elevation gain: 1,020 metres (3,346 feet)
  • Total elevation loss: 1,120 metres (3,674 feet)
  • Time on the trail: Around six hours, plus lunch and breaks 

Day one starts early. At 4.30 am, you’ll be woken up by a knock at the door. For us, it was by Juan Carlos, our second guide, bearing coca tea (coca leaves infused in water) to help settle heads and stomachs from any potential altitude sickness. 

While there are flushing toilets at this accommodation, showers there are not, but your guides will ensure you have hot water for washing hands and faces at every mealtime along the trek.

The whole group on day one of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

There will be time for a filling breakfast – omelettes, pancakes, cereal and bread – and to pick up snacks and water ready for the day. Today will be the hardest of the entire trek – there’s no gentle first day to ease you into it – so eat plenty and stay hydrated. You’ll need all the energy you can get. 

At this stage, your body, with the help of Diamox, should be starting to acclimatise to the altitude and be ready for the two-hour climb up to Lago Humantay. Mine felt ok, but as we began the trek, climbing a gentle gravel road that became a steep trail as it emerged out of the valley and up to the shores of Lago Humantay, my lungs were burning and the effort of hiking was already beginning to feel like a challenge. 

Humantay Lake on the Salkantay trek, an alternative route to Machu Picchu, Peru

At the top, there’s time to relax, take copious photos and dive into your snacks, before you head back down the way you came, joining the main Salkantay trail back at the bottom of the valley.

For us, we began the ascent to the Salkantay Pass around 10 am, relieved to discover that the other groups of hikers for that day’s walk were long gone, leaving us the trail to ourselves as we passed meadows filled with llamas and then the barren slopes of Nevada Salkantay. 

salkantay trek permit

Keep your eyes peeled for stone-coloured vizcachas hiding in the rocks alongside the trail; these chinchilla-like rodents live in this otherwise empty landscape. 

After a further 4.5 hours, and about an hour from the top, you should arrive at your first lunch: prepare to be amazed by what your chef and porters can put together, despite being miles from civilization. 

Our chef, Sergio, his sous chef and porters had prepared us an extensive lunch of roast chicken, salads, rice and plenty of vegetables to help give us enough energy to get over the pass. If you’re lucky and well acclimatised, you’ll be feeling extremely hungry right now, so fill your boots and also have a good few cups of coca tea – they’ll help stave off any incoming headache. 

Making offerings of coca to the gods at the Salkantay Pass

From lunch, it’s a thankfully short final hour to reach the Salkantay Pass. At 4,620 metres above sea level (15,157 feet) and in the shadows of snow-capped Salkantay,  it’s the highest point on the trek and you deserve to celebrate here.

We followed Quechua traditions and made an offering to the Apus (the Gods of the mountains) of some coca leaves given to us by our guide, Isao, while making three wishes. I’m fairly certain at least a few members of the group were wishing to get out of there quickly!

After the pass, it’s a long, two-hour hike down the camp, through the quickly changing scenery that passes from barren rock to become a verdant river valley flushed with powder blue lupins. It’s a dramatic contrast between the hike up and the scenery as you come down. 

Lupins on the Salkantay trek, an alternative route to Machu Picchu, Peru

When you arrive, finally, at Wayracmachay, your first camp on the trek, your camp fairies (aka the porters, chef and sous chef) will have been busy preparing the camp. Our tents had been filled with our mats and sleeping bags, plus the welcome addition of fluffy alpaca blankets and, when it was finally time for bed, some extremely welcome hot water bottles. You’ll find flushing toilets, but no showers, here, too. 

Dinner will be another feast of hearty, filling Peruvian food that’ll put you to sleep early, ready for another pre-dawn start.

Day Two: Wayracmachay – Colpapampa – Loreta 

  • Total elevation gain: 200 metres (656 feet)
  • Total elevation loss: 1,600 metres (5,249 feet)
  • Time on the trail: Around seven hours, plus lunch and breaks 

Today, you’ll rise before dawn again, ready for a big breakfast of pancakes, omelette, bread and the obligatory coca tea to help you start the day. 

While day two of the Salkantay trek is as long as day one, the vast majority of the trail is downhill, so you’ll find it much less taxing. 

Dawn views from the Wayramachay campground on the The path onthe Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

From Wayracmachay, it’s a gentle downhill hike along a gravel path. As a group, we had decided that downhill sounded too boring for the day (!) so Isao and Juan Carlos took us off-piste to climb another hill (just a 100 metres of ascent this time).

By this stage, the scenery had changed dramatically, and we’d dropped far enough down to find ourselves in thick, lush cloud forest, filled with butterflies and bromeliads suspended from the trees. 

salkantay trek permit

If your guides offer you this detour, I strongly suggest taking it. The payoff for climbing this extra hill is some seriously incredible views back across the valley towards Salkantay and then down into the next valley, where lunch and your accommodation for the night are located.

Posing in front of mountains on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

The views change by the second; the clouds move rapidly as the valley and the mountains beyond appear and disappear in turn. 

From this incredible vantage point, it’s a steep downhill – through cloud forest thick with orchids and hummingbirds to finally hit the road beneath and lunch at Colpapampa. For us, it was mango ceviche followed by mountains of lomo saltado , vegetables, salads and rice.

Lush cloud forest on the Salkantay hike, Peru

The final few hours to reach your accommodation are along a flat gravel road that follows the Rio Salkantay as it weaves through the valley.

Finally, you’ll descend down an incredibly steep path to reach your home for the night: Alpaca Expeditions’ very own hobbit holes, complete with lime green, round front doors and comfy beds. There are even hot showers available and, the pièce de résistance : jacuzzis. 

Hikers in the jacuzzi at Alpaca Expeditions' hobbit houses on the Salkantay trail

We saluted a long but incredible day with some cervezas (beers) and even a small pisco sour prepared unexpectedly for us by our chef, Sergio. It’s fair to say we slept like babies – you will too. 

Day Three: Loreta – Lucmabamba – Llactapata

  • Distance hiked: 14 kilometres (8.7 miles)
  • Total elevation gain: 600 metres (1,968 feet)
  • Total elevation loss: 400 metres (1,312 feet)
  • Time on the trail: Around five and a half hours, plus lunch and breaks 

Day three starts with a gentle walk through a clutch of villages tucked into the cloud forest, where you’ll meet the resident dogs, chickens and any other livestock that’s wandering around.

Steph Dyson from Worldly Adventurer sits in front of a hobbit house on day three of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

Today will be a fairly relaxed day and give you the opportunity to hike a stretch of the Inca trail that clambers up through lush forest and coffee plantations and, for some parts, still consists of worn stone steps. 

A stretch of Inca trail on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

As you climb this five-hundred-year-old stone staircase into the mountains, you’ll realise quite how relieved you are that you didn’t do the Inca trail. It’s tough going on your thighs (perhaps even more so than the climb up to the Salkantay Pass), but a fairly gentle incline up to lunch at a coffee farm, where you’ll also have the chance to pick, toast and grind your own steaming cup of Joe alongside the owner, Paulina.

Support sustainable tourism, porters’ rights and female empowerment by booking the Salkantay trek with Alpaca Expeditions and get a 5% discount on the cost of the hike by using discount code WorldlyAdventurer!

Your chef will also give a demonstration about cooking a traditional Peruvian dish (in our case lomo saltado , with fake meat for the vegetarians), before you dine again like kings, with incredible views across the valley. 

Paulina, the owner of a coffee farm in the Peruvian countryside

In the afternoon, it’s a tough, sweaty climb up, up and up, although you’ll take plenty of breaks and have the chance to enjoy the pretty flowers and picturesque valley views that characterise this part of the hike.

After around three and a half hours of walking, you’ll finally reach the brow of the hill, from where it’s a short hike down to Llactapata.

A spider seen along the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

An Inca site, it sits across the valley from Machu Picchu – the Inca liked to be able to see this city from other parts of their Empire – which you can see in the distance. It’s here that you’ll suddenly realise just how far you’ve come and how close you are to the end of the hike. 

After half an hour learning a little about this site, which would have acted as a waystation for the chaskis (the messengers of the Inca, who ran along the Inca roads delivering messages across the Empire), it’s a 20-minute hike down the mountain to reach perhaps the most surreal of you campsites.

Views across the valley of Machu Picchu from the Llactapata campground on the Salkantay trek

Offering even closer views of Machu Picchu from its lofty position, the campground below Llactapata is the most remarkable of the whole trip. It’s possible to spend hours here, watching as the sun slips away past the mountains in the west and bathes the Cordillera de Vilcabamba in which Machu Picchu lies in gentle evening light. 

If you can tear yourself away from the view, you’ll be delighted to learn that after a sweaty day’s hike there are hot showers at this campsite (costing around S/10), and mountains of food to help you sleep soundly. 

Because you’re still far away from any towns, there’s very little light pollution, so if the skies are clear, you can expect a sensational view of the Milky Way and the night’s sky. 

Day Four: Llactapata – Hidroeléctrica  – Aguas Calientes

  • Distance covered: 15 kilometres (9.3 miles)
  • Total elevation gain: 180 metres (590 feet)
  • Total elevation loss: 880 metres (2,887 feet)

You’ll wake early again today in time to eat breakfast as the sun’s rays climb above Machu Picchu and bathe you in their glorious light.

Dawn from the Llactapata campground on day four of the Salkantay trek

There will be time to enjoy the views while your team packs up camp and you should be on the trail by about 7 am, for a snaking, tough-on-the-knees, steep climb down the mountain and along the Río Ahobamba to reach Hidraelectrica, the hydropower station that produces electricity for Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu itself. 

Here you stop for a final leisurely lunch with your porters and cooking team, before it’s time to bid them farewell and continue along the side of the railway line that connects Hidroeléctrica with Aguas Calientes and beyond, Ollantaytambo. 

The path on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

While the hike itself is hot and sweaty and feels like you’re starring in the film Stand By Me (yes, you do need to keep an eye out for trains as it’s a functioning railway line – although they do tend to make an awful lot of noise on the approach to allow you to get out of the way), it takes you through the deep mountain canyon that is the Urubamba Valley, with the dramatic steep valley sides rising high above you. 

Along the way, you’ll find the occasional shops operated by those who live in houses dotted along the railway line, where you can pick up snacks of fresh watermelon or ice-cold drinks. 

Walking along the railway line to Aguas Calientes on day four of The path on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

It’s around 10 kilometres (six miles) along the railway line and a three-hour hike. Finally, you’ll reach the edges of Aguas Calientes, the small but picturesque town that sits beneath the Inca city.

Here, you’ll be checked into your hotel and have some downtime to explore the town or just take a long, hot shower, before heading out for dinner with your group. 

Day Five: Machu Picchu

  • Distance hiked: Depends; the path around Machu Picchu is a couple of miles 
  • Total elevation gain: Roughly 10-20 metres (32-65 feet)
  • Total elevation loss: Roughly 10-20 metres (32-65 feet)
  • Time on the trail: Depends; around three hours if just exploring the site. Add a further two hours if hiking to Huyana Picchu. 

Today’s the day you’ve been waiting for: Machu Picchu. To get on the first bus up to Machu Picchu, you’ll wake around 4.30 am and aim to be at the bus stop by 5.30 am, read when it leaves.

It’s a 30-minute drive up to the entrance and definitely worth taking the bus (the tickets are included in the cost of your tour): the walk looked exhausting and takes at least two hours. 

Steph Dyson standing at Machu Picchu, Peru

At the top, your guide will show your tickets and you’ll climb the final few steps of Inca stone up into Machu Picchu, a former summer retreat for the Inca emperor and a remarkable example of Inca architecture.

At the viewpoint at the top of the site, if the weather’s clear, you can watch as the sun rises over the mountains, showering the stone buildings and Huayna Picchu, the mountain that sits behind, with morning light.

If it’s not clear, don’t worry: when we arrived, it was cloudy, but the weather came and went quickly, giving us good opportunities for capturing photographs and absorbing the surreal feeling of standing above Machu Picchu. 

In total, you will have around three or four hours in Machu Picchu, which will involve a guided tour by your guide to learn more about life in Machu Picchu, the architecture and the key buildings dotted around.

Since the pandemic, they’ve introduced a very strict route around the site, so you don’t have as much opportunity to explore as you once had. However, it definitely felt like plenty of time for visiting and learning more about the Inca Empire. 

A vizcacha lying on a wall in Machu Picchu, Peru

If you want to hike up Huayna Picchu, this will take around two hours and you can expect an alternative view of the site from the top. As my tour was booked quite last-minute, I didn’t manage to get these tickets (it’s recommended to buy them at least a couple of months in advance as they sell out; book them here selecting “Circuito 4 + Waynapicchu”), but other members of my group highly recommended it. The path up is very steep, so definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Around noon, you’ll catch the bus back down to Aguas Calientes for a final lunch. This wasn’t included in our tour, but there are plenty of restaurants within the town. I recommend Chullos Craft Beer & Homemade Food for great local food and beautiful views of the river. 

Early afternoon, you’ll board the train to Ollantaytambo, a stunning, two-hour journey that takes you along the Urubamba Valley and, thanks to the train’s large windows, gives you dazzling views of the surroundings. 

At the station in Ollantaytambo, a bus will be waiting to take you back to Cusco, a final two-hour journey through the mountains. Be sure to have your accommodation booked ready for you when you in the town. You’ll be exhausted but still reeling from an incredible six days!

Preparing for the Salkantay trek

When to travel to cusco and machu picchu.

Unlike the Inca trail, which needs to be booked at least six months in advance, the Salkantay is a trek that can be organised with a lot less advance notice. This is because permits are not required to hike along this trail; instead, you’ll just need to make sure you’ve got a ticket for Machu Picchu.

That said, if you’re planning on visiting between the peak months of May and September, you’ll likely need to reserve this trek at least a few weeks in advance to ensure that there’s time for the company to book Machu Picchu tickets for your dates. 

View of Machu Picchu, Peru from the east of the site

It’s possible to hike the Salkantay trek all year round, but for the best conditions (and to get those iconic views at Machu Picchu on the final day), try to avoid the rainy season, which is between November and February. 

Alpaca Expeditions do run this trek from the start of March through the middle of January, but as someone who has lived in Cusco and knows how hard it can rain here, I imagine trekking during the rainy months would be a very soggy experience. 

Choosing a sustainable and ethical tour company

One of the main reasons I chose to hike with Alpaca Expeditions is because of their attitude towards their staff. They pay some of the highest wages for porters and guides; the minimum wage for porters by law is S/44 per day, while Alpaca pays them S/180 per day.

As many of their staff come from indigenous and often poor Andean villages scattered across the region, Alpaca Expeditions have also built a house in Ollantaytambo where their staff can stay the night before or after a trek, with its own resident doctor offering them healthcare. 

An Alpaca Expedition porter picking up rubbish along the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

What’s more, due to limits on entering Machu Picchu, porters who accompany groups of hikers aren’t allowed to enter the site, and many can’t afford the expense of visiting Machu Picchu on their own dime. This means many have spent years hiking to Machu Picchu but have never actually gone in.

To address this injustice, Alpaca Expeditions take groups of their porters, chefs, guides and their families to Machu Picchu twice a year, ensuring that all of their staff can experience the culture of their ancestors and learn about their own history. 

Alpaca Expeditions are also leading the way when it comes to female employment. They were the first tour company to introduce female guides (2017) and then porters (2018) onto the Inca trail and now have women working in every role on the trek and in their office, with an aim to employ an equal number of men and women in the future. 

They’re also doing some amazing work to allow local communities to visit sites such as Machu Picchu, as well as the archaeological sites of Pisac, Ollantaytambo and others in the Sacred Valley .

To achieve this, every Sunday they pay to take a group of 15-17 local children from Cusco or surrounding villages to visit some of these sites and learn more about their heritage, ensuring that they have the same access to their history as the thousands of tourists who explore the region each day.

I followed along for one of these days and it was wonderful to see the kids soaking everything in and even getting to experience the incredible Alpaca Expeditions outdoors lunch, too!

An Alpaca Expeditions guide poses with a flower on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

All in all, I found the experience on the trail with Alpaca Expeditions to be even better than I had expected. Their staff are absolute heroes: our guides were good-humoured and extremely supportive when the going got tough on the first day and the rest of our team of chefs and porters ensured that every single meal and camp felt like we’d stepped into our own private resort, no matter how remote the location. 

The cost of hiking the Salkantay trek

The cost of the trek varies depending on the company with whom you go. Alpaca Expeditions isn’t the cheapest and nor is it the most expensive. They offer the five-day/five-night tour that I did at a cost of just $650 USD per person and you can potentially have a group size of up to 16 people. We had nine in ours and it felt like a really comfortable size.

They also commit to running a hike even if they just have two people signed up, which means you’re less likely to get your tour cancelled if they don’t manage to sell other tickets. 

The path on the the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

To secure your place on the trek, you will need to make a deposit of $400 USD per person either through PayPal (who’ll charge a 5.5% PayPal fee) or by wire to Bank of America or Citibank (free if you bank with either of these companies). Therefore, it’s worth being aware that the trek may well cost a little more when you’ve factored in the transfer cost. 

Alcohol isn’t included in the cost of the hike but there are places en route where you can buy beers, ranging from a cheap S/5 to a more eye-watering S/20. If you think you’ll want a cold cerveza to celebrate a long day’s hiking, then bring extra soles (small notes preferably as change can be an issue) with you.

Tipping on the Salkantay trek

Before departing for the trek, it’s important to budget into your trip the cost of tipping. While it’s certainly not obligatory, tipping was brought up quite a few times during the hike and our guide made recommendations for the amount of money we should consider tipping per person.

This worked out around S/50 soles per porter (we had four for a group of nine people), $20 USD for both the chef and sous chef, and $40 USD each for our guides. 

An Alpaca Expeditions chef serving up dishes on the Salkantay trek, Peru

It’s worth bearing in mind that there’s often a limit of around S/750 soles (around $200 USD) per day that you can withdraw from ATMs in Cusco, so it might be sensible to bring dollars with you for tipping purposes if you also need to withdraw cash to pay for your tour when you arrive.

Another area to consider when it comes to hiking costs is whether your travel insurance covers hiking up to 4,600 metres.

My travel insurance with World Nomads * required me to pay for additional coverage up to their level three (camping up to 4,500 metres and hiking up to 6,000 metres), which cost an additional $75.33 for my two-week trip to Peru. 

Packing for the Salkantay trek 

If you book before you arrive in Cusco, you should get sent a packing list covering what they recommend you bring. In short, it includes:

  • Your passport. You will need to show the original document to get into Machu Picchu. Don’t forget it, otherwise the hiking will have been in vain!
  • A day pack. I brought my Osprey 40-litre pack ( REI | Amazon | Osprey ), which comfortably fitted my camera, down jacket, waterproof coat and a couple of other bits and pieces for the day. You could comfortably get away with carrying a 25-litre or 30-litre pack, as the majority of your belongings go into your duffel bag that’s carried by mule. 
  • A cosy sleeping bag. You can actually hire one of these for $25 USD for the duration of the trek, so unless you’re particularly attached to your own, then it’s probably easier to just pay this cost. I found the one I rented to be warm and comfortable. I generally recommend the Nemo Disco 15 for women ( REI ) and men ( REI ) if you want to buy one.
  • Air mattress. Again, this can be rented for $25 USD. If you want to buy your own, I recommend this one from Therm-a-Rest ( REI | Amazon | Backcountry )
  • Trekking poles. I made the mistake of turning these down when I was offered to rent them. Don’t be like me. They’re really helpful for the first day in getting you up the Salkantay Pass and absolutely ESSENTIAL in helping you get back down. Rent them for $25 USD or buy these lightweight ones ( REI | Amazon | Backcountry ). 
  • Well-broken-in hiking boots. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you wear hiking shoes that you’ve used before on this trek. Days are long and there’s absolutely nothing worse than getting a bad blister on the first day. All of the downhill can also wreak havoc with your toenails, so they need to be comfortable. I’m a convert of Salomon (women’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry ; men’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry )
  • Five pairs of walking socks. Seriously, you need a clean pair for each day. I recommend Darn Tough socks (women’s: REI | Amazon | Darn Tough ; men’s: REI | Amazon | Darn Tough )
  • Sandals. These are for the evenings when you’ll want to allow your feet to breathe. I love my Teva sandals (women’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry ; men’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry )
  • Warm clothing. A down jacket (I wear this one from Jack Wolfskin; you can find plenty of others at REI ) and a lightweight waterproof coat (mine is this one from Patagonia ; for men from Patagonia | REI | Backcountry ) are essentials for this trek. I also had a midweight walking jumper and a fleece jumper (women’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry ; men’s: REI | Amazon | Backcountry ). 
  • Two or three pairs of hiking trousers. You want lightweight trousers that won’t be too hot for the warmer days. I like these ones from prAna ( REI | Amazon | Backcountry )
  • Long-sleeved hiking tops. I didn’t bring any of these and it was a mistake. Not only do they protect you from the sun (which is fierce at this altitude) but they can protect you from the mosquitos, too. We only really encountered these a little bit in the evening at Loreta (day three) and during the hike through the cloud forest on day four. 
  • Headlamp. This is essential for the camps, as many of them don’t have electricity. You don’t want to trip over and injure yourself when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I recommend this one .
  • Camera. This hike is incredibly photogenic, so make sure you’ve got a couple of spare batteries for your camera. I travel with the Sony A7iii , an 18-135 lens and a spare battery. 
  • Phone charger and adapter plug. There is electricity on days zero, three and five. I use this universal adapter plug .
  • A sunhat and sunglasses. Don’t burn your head or hurt your eyes. 
  • Mosquito repellent. You will want this for evenings on days three onwards and at Machu Picchu. I use Sawyer insect repellent ( REI | Amazon )
  • Dry sacks. While Alpaca did give us plastic bags that we could put our clothes into to protect them from the rain in transit, I prefer to travel with a couple of dry sacks ( REI | Amazon ), as they’re reusable and more environmentally friendly!

Other options for hiking to Machu Picchu

Still not sure which is the right hike for you? Here’s a round-up of the other treks that can get you to Machu Picchu. 

The Inca trail

  • Length: 48 kilometres (29.8 miles) 
  • Hiking time: Four days/three nights
  • Cost: From $695 USD

The best-known trek of all, the classic Inca trail is a four-day, three-night trek up and down the stone pathway of the Inca, stopping at a handful of other Inca sites before arriving at Machu Picchu at dawn on the fourth and final day through the Sun Gate.

This is the only trek that allows you to approach the site through this entrance and have the first dawn views of Machu Picchu.

Read all about the Inca trail to Machu Picchu for more information about this trek. 

Sunrise over one of the buildings in Machu Picchu, Peru

It’s also possible to extend this trip to five days/four nights to allow you to take a slower approach to the hike (perfect if you’re travelling with your kids), or do a shortened version of the Inca trail if you’ve got less time but still want to hike this fabled road.

You can even combine a bit of Salkantay with the Inca trail for a seven-day/six-night adventure . 

The Inca Jungle trek

  • Length: 89 kilometres (55.30 miles) 
  • Cost: From $450 USD

Keen to visit Machu Picchu but want to get your adrenaline pumping even more? The Inca Jungle trek is a route that combines mountain biking, rafting, hiking along sections of the Inca trail, and even ziplining.

It’s not a trip organised by Alpaca Expeditions but there are other companies based out of Cusco who do. 

The Lares trek

  • Length: 33 kilometres (20.5 miles) 
  • Cost: From $600 USD

Perhaps the least-known of the three main treks to Machu Picchu, the Lares is another alternative route that takes you through Andean villages around the Sacred Valley, where you’ll soak in natural hot springs and climb up into the mountains to a 4,680-metre (15,354-foot) pass.

Llamas on the Salkantay trek, an alternative route to Machu Picchu, Peru

Considered a little easier, slower-paced and much shorter than the Salkantay and the Inca trail, it’s a good option for families, as well as those who aren’t sure about their fitness levels! Alpaca Expeditions have a four-day/three-night itinerary . 

The Choquequirao trek 

  • Length: 100 kilometres (62 miles) 
  • Hiking time: Nine days/eight nights
  • Cost: From $1,250 USD

For the really adventurous, the trek to Machu Picchu via Choquequirao is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taking you first to the archeological site of Choquequirao, a mountaintop series of Inca buildings that is only visited by a handful of tourists and where you can camp just beneath, you then continue to Machu Picchu, combining two of the region’s finest Inca cities. 

Choquequirao, the

The hike has plenty of uphill to reach Choquequirao and is a long slog: 100 kilometres (62 miles) in total.

We’ve got information about hiking it independently in this guide to hiking to Choquequirao , while Alpaca Expeditions offer a shortened six days/five nights version of the trek .

I was a guest of Alpaca Expeditions  on this tour, but the experiences, opinions and unfettered enjoyment of the trip are my very own. I don’t promote tours or experiences that I don’t believe to be 100% sustainable, ethical or high-quality.  

* World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Wednesday 4th of October 2023

Thanks for the article Steph! I would like to give a tip to your readers. If you buy the 5-day Salkantay trek online you pay anywhere between $500 - $700. On the other hand, if you simply walk in to the many tour agencies around Cuzco's Central Plaza (Plaza de Armas), you can get the same trek for between $250 - $300. Everything included. I walked into a few agencies and they were all around the same price. Seriously. I'm not trying to be an A-hole, just trying to save your readers some money. And you don't even need to wait for a spot. I walked into the tour agency and I was on the trail two days later. So my advice is...don't buy it online. Wait until you get to Cuzco and buy it in the agency. Just saying :)

Steph Dyson

Thursday 23rd of November 2023

Hi Gabriel, yes that definitely is an option. However, there's no guarantee the quality of the company you're travelling with and there are some pretty rubbish companies in Cusco who go for low prices and high tourist numbers without any consideration towards quality. Steph

Taylor Nelson

Saturday 3rd of June 2023

Great article Steph! Stoked we were part of your group and you captured the experience magnificently. Arriba, abajo, al centro, sexy movimiento, ADENTRO!

Monday 5th of June 2023

Thanks so much Taylor! I think I captured a lot of photos of the pair of you in the distance as you marched on at incredible speed😉It was great to share the experience with you! Steph

Mountain IQ Machu Picchu Guide

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  • Huchuy Qosqo Trek
  • Ausangate Trek
  • Vilcabamba Trek
  • Choquequirao Trek
  • Huayna Picchu
  • Altitude Sickness
  • Packing List
  • Humantay Lake
  • Lake Titicaca
  • Nazca Lines
  • Rainbow Mountain
  • Get A Trek Quote

A Solo Salkantay Trek – How To Hike The Salkantay Unguided

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The Salkantay Trail is one of Peru’s most spectacular multi-day hikes. It is seen as the wilder and longer alternative to the classic 4-day Inca Trail .

As the trail grows in popularity each year, so does the number of Salkantay tour companies selling it. There are definite perks to joining an organized tour. However, experienced backpackers may prefer a more rugged experience. No permits are needed for this route which makes hiking the Salkantay a lot easier to organize.

After hiking the Salkantay trail myself, I have written this article and compiled this list of info, tips, and advice for planning your solo hike. With a little preparation, you should have no issue taking on the Salkantay Trek unguided.

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A Solo Salkantay Trek - Hiking Advice for the DIY Backpacker

Can i hike the salkantay trek without a guide.

The answer to this is 100% yes. The trail is very clear and the local people are friendly and helpful. You can easily find accommodation and food along the way. This means that, with minimal planning, you can embark on this trail without booking a tour.

You can’t throw a rock in Cusco without hitting a tour office selling the Salkantay trek. If you enquire at these offices, you may well be told that it is too remote or dangerous to hike solo. Of course! Tour operators are not about to promote their biggest seller as a DIY hike.

It will benefit you greatly to speak some conversational Spanish. Speaking some local lingo will (literally) open doors when you are trying to find accommodation, directions, or a place to eat.

Looking for a day tour? Here are my 5 favourite day tours around Cusco: 

  • Rainbow Mountain day trip (with meals)
  • Moray and Salt Mines Quad Bike Tour
  • Sacred Valley day tour
  • Humantay Lake day tour
  • Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu entrance tickets

See more Cusco day trips .

Is It Safe To Do A Solo Salkantay Trek?

As far as safety goes, you will be fine walking without a group. As the trail has grown in popularity, so have the facilities around the route. You seldom go more than 3 hours without stumbling across a rest point with a snack store and toilets.

During my Salkantay trek, I met a handful of solo hikers, including solo female travelers like myself. None of these unguided hikers had any complaints. In fact, most were happy with the freedom to rise on their own schedule and set their own pace.

Also, there are multiple other people on the trail at any given time. If you get into a sticky situation, help wouldn’t be far off. Make sure you pack a first aid kit with the essentials as well as your prescribed medication.

You may also like...

  • Can I hike the Inca trail unguided
  • Inca trail dangers and safety

solo salkantay trek

Where do I sleep on the Salkantay trek?

Imagining hauling a tent up the mountainside is what initially put me off hiking the Salkantay unguided. But in reality, you have a whole range of options for accommodation on the Salkantay Trek.

You will end each day in a set camp or small town. It is very easy to find somewhere to sleep. You can usually pay for a homestay or dorm room in the small towns on route. It is also possible to find campsites where tents, mattresses and sleeping bags are provided. Some towns have fancier options like glass domes too.

There is a variety of choices depending on your budget. You may have to hunt around a bit for a place that isn’t booked up by a tour company. On my third night hiking the Salkantay Trek, I was offered accommodation while strolling around Santa Theresa with a beer in hand. It’s really that easy to find a place to rest your head!

Cold showers and toilets are usually included in the price you pay for accommodation. If you ask around, you can sometimes find hot showers for an extra 10 soles.

I haven’t tried this option, but I doubt you could book some of these places in advance. I recommend arriving early to secure your sleeping arrangements for the night.

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

  • Sonesta Hotel (great 4 star hotel)
  • Antigua Casona San Blas
  • El Mariscal Cusco (very good value)
  • Hotel Paradis (good 3 star hotel)
  • Quechua Hostel Recoleta (cheap and cheerful)

See more Cusco accommodation options .

What do I do for meals when hiking the Salkantay trek unguided?

Have no fear, you do not need to plan and prepare 5 days' worth of meals for this hike. The villages and campsites along the trek have restaurants and ‘snack bars’.

You will be able to buy a plate of food or sandwich for almost every meal. Provided you are not too picky about where you eat, you can usually pay a little extra at hostels or guesthouses to include meals.

I recommend stocking up on some snacks before you hit the trail. Prices are a lot higher along the trekking route. There is an amazing variety of dried fruit and nuts cheaply available in Cusco’s markets . San Pedro Market has the biggest variety of trail-friendly food and snacks.

Kiwichi bars also make perfect lightweight trail snacks. You will see these cereal bars in every corner shop around Cusco. They sell for around 1 sole each ($0.25c!)

You can of course go hardcore-outdoorsman (or woman) and cook for yourself. In this case, you will need to have cooking gear. Here are some good examples of camping cookware and camping gas stoves you can use during your solo Salkantay Trek.

How much does it cost to hike the Salkantay Trek on your own?

It is possible to do a solo Salkantay Trek for around $175-$200 per person. This price includes food, accommodation, basic transport and Machu Picchu entrance tickets.

This price varies depending on the type of accommodation and meals.

Whether or not you hire hiking and camping equipment will also factor into the overall cost. If you are hiking as a couple or a group, you will be able to share certain costs.

Packing for your Solo Salkantay Trek - Some DIY Backpacking Tips

If you are doing a solo Salkantay trek, you will need to carry your own gear. You can find accommodation along the way, but you may want to bring a tent. This is only if you plan on camping in more remote campsite locations.

Pack light and avoid taking too many duplicate items on the packing list. For example, take only one pair of trekking trousers instead of two.

You will be able to buy meals and snacks along the way. Just to be safe, you should pack some ramen noodles, trail mix, and energy bars.

Try to keep your pack under 15kg; any more weight will make the trek very tough. If your bag is too heavy to carry, consider acquiring the services of an arrieros (horseman) in Mollepata. They charge between 30-40 Soles per mule per day and an additional 30-40 Soles per day for themselves.

Solo Salkantay Trek: Day by Day Route Information

Day 1 of unguided salkantay trek: cusco to soraypampa.

From Cusco, you can hire a private car, taxi or public bus to take you to Mollepata or Challacancha. You can also find transport from the Sacred Valley areas of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo.

Costs vary depending on the mode of transport and departure town. Budget between 200-400 soles for a private car or taxi. It is much cheaper to take a collectivo from Cusco, which costs about 16-20 soles.

From Mollepata or Challancancha, follow the trail to Soraypampa camp. Here, you will quickly be able to find accommodation as well as lunch. A tent here costs as little as 20 Soles ($5).

You can leave your bag at camp to trek up and visit Humantay Lake. Hundreds of tourists visit the lake every day, but most of the crowds leave by 1 pm.


Day 2 of Unguided Salkantay Trek: Soraypampa-Chaullay

Rise early at Soraypampa to start your trek up the pass to Abra Salkantay. If you get going just after 6, you should be ahead of most tour groups. The trail up the pass is easy to follow.

It should take 2-3 hours to get to the top. This is a good spot for a snack break and for taking some beautiful photos. From Salkantay Mountain , you will descend about 1-1.5hrs to the village of Wayramachay.

On the left of the trail, glacial streams flow off the mountain. This is a good spot to refill your water bottles. I’d still recommend using a filter to play it safe though.


Wayramachay is the first village you pass in the catchment below Mount Salkantay.

Wayramchay is a small, rural settlement below Mount Salkantay. You should arrive here around lunchtime. There are a few small restaurants where you can stop for something to eat (expect to pay 10-15 soles).

From Wayramchay, the surrounding landscape changes to a mixed tropical forest. Temperatures increase significantly and there are biting insects (so, remember to carry bug spray!).

The path is very easy to follow. It is a fairly gentle descent on a dirt track all the way down to Chaulley. Be sure to move out the way for horses and mules coming up the path simultaneously.

Chaullay (2,860m / 9,383ft) has a good variety of backpacker accommodations. Most of these camps have restaurants and small shops selling snacks and beer.

You will have no problem finding food and accommodation for the night. Budget around 30-40soles ($8-$10) for a room for two people. You can also find electricity here to charge your phone.

Day 3 of Unguided Salkantay Trek: Chaullay-Lucmabamba / Santa Theresa

From Chaullay, you will walk a short distance along the road and through another town called Collpapampa.

If you are trekking unsupported, you may get a little confused on the trail out of Collpapampa. There are many subsidiary trails that lead off the road. Generally, these are shortcuts that lead the same way down into the valley. It’s best to follow the road or an organized tour group.

Just before the road crosses the river, you will see the trail veer off to the left bank. There is a green safety railing, making it easier to spot. In case your powers of navigation fail you, it’s a good idea to follow this single-track trail. You can walk along the road, but it will make your route a lot less interesting.


A view of the river when you descend from Collpapampa. From here, hikers are able to see the trail on the left.

When you follow this trail, the path soon reaches a steep section through the forest. When you get to the fork at the top, KEEP RIGHT. You will gradually get back to following the river course.

The trail takes you past a waterfall which is another good spot to refill your water bottles. From there, you will pass by Maracuya plantations and rest areas selling fresh juice.

As you approach La Playa, the trail splits. If you stay on the left bank of the river, which most tour operators do, you will cross a bridge. From here, the trail takes you straight into La Playa Lucmabamba (2,008m / 6,587ft above sea level).


Crossing the river to the road up the right bank.

You can also cross to the right along the riverbank and across a small suspension bridge. From here, the trail goes back up to the road. Follow the road to La Playa. If you are tired, you could try to catch a ride to town with a van from here.

You can find accommodation in La Playa, but it is nicer to walk a few extra kilometers to Lucmabamba or Santa Theresa. These quieter sites have good camps and accommodations on coffee plantations.

Please Note: It is worth stopping in La Playa to do a short coffee tour. There is one particular cafe with a machine for serving cappuccinos. Look out for a double-story, wooden restaurant with ‘Coffee’ signs. It is almost the first structure on the left as you enter the town.

Day 4 of Unguided Salkantay Trek: Santa Theresa / Lucmabamba- Llactapata-Hydroelectrica-Aguas Calientes

On the fourth day, you will go up the mountainside through the coffee plantations. There are signs off the road to the trail. I recommend asking the accommodation owners or locals to point you in the right direction so you don’t get lost.

Some of this trail is on the original, stone Incan stairway. Once you are on the path, it zig-zags upwards and you can’t really go wrong. It takes around two hours at a good pace to reach the top.

When the trail flattens out in the bamboo forest, you will see some more signboards. From here, the trail splits again. To the left is a shortcut to Hydroelectrica and views of Machu Picchu. I recommend walking for about 3 minutes and spending some time at this viewpoint. The first sight of Machu Picchu in the distance is pretty good motivation.


Viewpoint of Hidroelectrica and Machu Picchu. If you are trekking with a tent, you can also camp at this amazing spot.

There is also a shop selling sandwiches, juice, and coffee at this lookout. It is worth holding out until here for a late breakfast.

After spending some time enjoying the view, backtrack onto the main path and take the right fork. It is a short walk down to Llactapata ruins. After the ruins, there is around 1.5-2 hours of a steep trek downhill to the river valley.


Bridge to Hidroelectrica

Cross the bridge and follow the road to Hidroelectrica. There is a checkpoint here where you will need to present your passport. You can either have lunch in Hidroelectrica or continue to Aguas Calientes.

It is possible to buy a train ticket to Aguas Calientes, which costs about $30. You can book your ticket on the Peru Rail website or take a chance and buy it at the station when you arrive.

Alternatively, the 10km / 6 mile walk to Aguas Calientes is completely flat and quite pretty. In Aguas Calientes, you will have a whole range of hotels and backpacker accommodations to choose from.

Aguas Calientes' accommodation can be booked in advance, which I highly recommend doing. After around 22km / 13,7mi of hiking, you are not going to feel like searching for a hostel.

Day 5 of Unguided Salkantay Trek: Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu-Cusco

From Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), you either need to catch a bus (which costs about $12 each way) or walk up the 1700+ stairs. I found the stairs to be a fitting way to reach the citadel after the 4-day trek.

It is most important that you book your Machu Picchu ticket well before arriving in Aguas Calientes. Tickets sell out up to two months in advance for the busy season (June - August).

Personally, I like buying the early tickets (6 AM). This allows you to explore the ruins before they become too crowded with other tourists later in the afternoon.

You can acquire the services of a registered guide outside the gate. Expect to pay 40-50 Soles per person for two or more people, or 80-100 Soles if you are doing a solo Salkantay trek. You can also do some reading in advance or take a good guidebook ( here are some great recommendations ) on your travels.

Don’t walk around uninformed. Your experience will be immeasurably heightened if you have good information to draw on as you walk through the city.

For DIY trekkers, it is possible to trek back to the Hidroelectrica Station. Here, you can get a bus that will take you all the way back to Cusco, via Santa Theresa and Ollantaytambo. This is a longer, but cheaper route than taking the train.

If you would like more information on the solo Salkantay Trek, you can read our full Salkantay Trek Guide . This complete guide includes information on elevations, the best time to hike and more.

We also have some helpful information on altitude sickness and how to deal with it in this article.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Alison Macallister

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With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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Hi, thanks for the ultimate guide about solo trek Salkantay. It is very useful! I have a question. Is there a tax for entry the Salkantay and it is included in that count: "It is possible to do a solo Salkantay Trek for around $175-$200 per person. This price includes food, accommodation, basic transport and Machu Picchu entrance tickets."

Greetings, Rebecca

Hi Rebecca, there is no tax that I’m aware of, but you will need to purchase tickets for Machu Picchu.

A question I have; when catching the collectivo out of Cusco to go to Mollepata, where do I find that bus station at in Cusco?

thanks- Renae

Hi Renae, I think you can take a collectivo to Curahuasi (marked like this on Google Maps) and ask to climb off at Mollepata. I think there are also big buses to Curahuasi. You may need to climb off at Limatambo and then take a collectivo to Mollepata.

Thanks so much, Mark!

Another question about the collectivo to Mollepata, approx how many soles is the going rate for that? Thanks! Renae

Hi there, thank you for the detailed explanation! A few questions: How common is it to find a place to feel in water? do you have a map where it's possible to see the trail with day distribution? How much Km it's for each day? Is there a good signal for the phone in case of emergency?

Thanks a lot!

Hi Arik, glad you found it helpful! You can full day-by-day in this article . There is a also a nice map. Basically Day 1= 12km, Day 2=22km, Day 3=18km, Day 4= 17km. Day 5 depends if you walk the 2km up to Machu Picchu or take a bus.

As far as water goes. It’s best to take a bottle with a filter. On the first day, there was no real place to fill up but the walk is very short. There are a few spots to refill on all the other days.

I honestly didn’t check my phone too often but I did notice there was signal on some of the trail as well as around most camps. It’s not completely isolated and there are a lot of other people on the trail which makes it feel safer.

Hope that answers your questions

Thanks for this great Blog.

I'm just wondering which year you did it.

And if I hike the whole trail alone and will not be able to share the accommodations with a second person, do you think I will not pay more than 200$?

Hi Sena, I did this hike in 2022. I think it is still completely possible to do it alone for under $200 so long as you are prepared to hunt around a bit more for cheap accommodation options. This will be much easier if you can ask around in a little Spanish. There are a few campsites but honestly, I’d pay a little more not to carry a tent. Take at least some of your own food and definitely a water filter as prices are heavily inflated on the trail. My best advice would be to get onto a Peru Facebook travel group (I was on Backpackers Peru) and find someone who has a similar plan to you. Enjoy It!

I'm wondering which circuit of Macchu Picchu you did? I'm reading good things about hiking Macchu Picchu mountain, but I just think I won't feel like it after doing the whole Salkantay trail.

FYI: this post was so useful, thank you!

Thanks! Juliette

Hi Juliette

Glad to hear you found this helpful! I did circuit 4 with Huchuy Picchu (a very small peak that is relatively newly opened). This is a pretty standard circuit but, like you, I figured I wouldn’t be up for another climb and I wasn’t too phased about the ‘classic’ photo spot or Inca Bridge. Honestly, I was perfectly happy with my choice. It’s only about 10 minutes up Huchuy Picchu and we had a pretty amazing view of Huayna Picchu. The circuit you choose depends what your priorities are to see on the site.

Hello, thank you for this post, the information is very helpful as my wife and I are thinking of doing this trek in a few weeks.

I have some questions though…

1 – Is it possible to get an arrieros at Challancancha?

2 – Would we need to get different arrieros along the way or would one go the whole distance? If just one, would we need to provide food/accommodation and is that included in the cost?

3 – Can you tell us which village campsites provide tents? For instance Wayramachay? As we may split day 2 and other long days up.

Great to hear!

I’m not 100% sure about the arrieros (muleteers) as I didn’t try to hire a mule. It seems most of them work with trekking companies and solo hikers tend to carry their own gear. You could approach one of the trekking companies and ask if its possible to only hire a mule/ horse (to be honest, I doubt they would be helpful).

1. I didn’t see any ‘freelance’ arrieros hanging around Challancancha.

2. I only saw mules on the trail on the first and second day. There was an option to ride a horse/ mule up the steepest pass to Salkantay mountain. I’m sure you could pay for your bags to be taken up (note that the animals don’t go all the way to the top). From Salkantay pass, it’s all downhill to the second camp/ hostel. Companies use vehicles to transport luggage from this point. With a little negotiation, you may be able to find a driver with a group and get your bag dropped at Santa Teresa or Hydrolelectrica. Just be sure you are clear on where you can meet/ pick up later (and what you are paying).

3. I saw campsites at Wayramachay but there didn’t seem to be tents available. Its an easy (if long) downhill to Chaullay where there’s a few more accommodation options. Day 4 was the toughest for me, unfortunately, it would be difficult to split unless you carry a tent and camp at the top (an ‘unofficial’ site above the Llactapata ruins).

I hope this helps!

Thanks so much for your quick response Alison!

This may make it a bit too tricky for us unfortunately but we'll see if we can find a work around or two.

Thank you so much for this informative guide! I live in the Sacred Valley and am planning a Salcantay trek in Aug/Sep this year. This post is so detailed, I feel so much more at ease about doing this trek solo. Love the tips about food and accommodation too. Thanks again!

You are most welcome Ellie, Enjoy it!

Thank you a lot from this post! I downloaded it to my phone and used it as a ”map” in the salcantay trek. I had zero problems doing the trek alone and I met a lot of others who were doing it alone aswell. The prices have went a bit up since your post but I managed to spend around 140€ in total in 5 days. I’m truly thankful that you made this post so clear and easy to follow!

Hi Toni That’s great to hear, thanks for that feedback regarding the prices. I’ll update the post when I get a chance.

Just wanted to say thank you for posting something so helpful. Really cleared my concerns when if comes to finding accommodations.

Hi Christopher, glad this helps you out

big greetings 🙋🏼‍♀️in January I am planning a solo sankatrai trek. how far in advance do I have to buy a ticket to enter Machu Picchu. thanks

Hi Marija, depending on the season I recommend getting your permit for Machu Picchu as early as possible. At least a few weeks before you travel.

If I understood it correctly you decided to walk the stairs the last part from Agua Calientes to Machu Picchu. Also, I understood it as you bought the 6AM ticket. When does that mean that you started the last hike up to Machu Picchu? I also have the 6AM ticket and thinking about if I should take a bus or hike the last bit.

Hi Andre, yes that’s right. After hiking for 4 days it seemed like cheating to catch the bu! I was pretty exhausted at that time plus you need to start early (just after 5 am) to get up in time. You walk out of town, past the bus stop and a permit check point and then start to climb the 1700 (or so) stairs. There are usually others doing te same thing so it shouldn’t be hard to follow the crowd or ask directions beforehand. It was dark for most of the way but pretty tough. Still, felt rewarding to reach the site on foot. Hope that helps!

Thank you for this informative post, Alison! I have a question about Llactapappa. In your post it seems that only "unofficial camping" is available, but there seems to be a lodge there. At least that is what their website indicates. ( ) Am I mistaken? My family will be walking this unguided in December and we were considering staying in Lucmabamba (or Santa Teresa) one night, and then having a short day to Llactapappa for the next night.

We are planning to end the trek in Hidroelectrica because we will have already spent two full days at Machu Picchu prior to this trek. Would we be missing much by skipping the walk to Aguas Calientes?

Hi Erik, glad you found this post useful!

Yes, that lodge is just below the ruin site. We made a brief rest stop there and it does have a great view of the valley.

If you have already visited Machu Picchu, I wouldn’t worry about skipping the trek to Aguas Calientes. It is all along the railway with a lot of other hikers doing the same thing. Not really a highlight of the route.

Hope that helps!

Hi, is it possible to hike the trail in February?

Hi Annalena, yes, it is possible to hike the Salkantay in February. Only the Inca trail closes in February. I wouldn’t recommend hiking in this month though as it gets pretty wet and visibility isn’t great. There is also landslide risk during the wet season so I recommend taking a guide.

Hi Alison! If you wouldn't mind, I just have one question:

Where did you store your hiking gear while you were in Machu Picchu? I'm specifically asking because I'm taking expensive camera equipment (including a gimbal – which is basically a fancy selfie stick and those are not allowed) and I don't want to leave it in the bag check bc I don't want my things getting stolen. Do you know how safe the luggage storage is? Is it lockers where I get a key or a passcode and only I can get in? Are there cameras? If the luggage storage at Machu Picchu is not fully secure, is there a more secure place to leave my things?

Hi Paula. I left my main bag at the accommodation where I was staying it in Aguas Calientes. Most of those accommodations have a lock up room / safe which I felt secure leaving things in. Unfortunately I’m not sure about the storage at Machu Picchu itself as I only took a small backpack up and could bring it in. Generally I think it would be fine there but yeah, if you are worried best to leave it locked-up at your accommodation in town. Hope that’s a little helpful:)

Hello Alison! I want to say you thanks a lot for your detail description of Salkantay trek.We have never been in South America but this part of earth time to time reminds us about itself Hopefully we will make it next year! wish you all the best in your traveling!

Hi Olga. Fantastic to hear! It’s a beautiful part of the world, I hope you get to experience it!

Thank you for your post. Very informative. I have a question about the accommodation. I don’t want to carry a tent but will I still need to carry a sleeping bag?

Hi Christian, yes, I’d strongly recommend bringing a sleeping bag. Some of the accommodations may have bedding but you will have more options if you are prepared to stay in places that only offer a mattress. Hope that helps!

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Ultimate Guide to the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The 5 day Salkantay Trek is one of the best alternative trails to Machu Picchu in Peru.

It takes you to stunning glacier lakes and across snow-capped mountain passes. Along the way, you’ll enter cloud forests, walk ancient Inca pathways, and reach Peru’s most famous landmark, Machu Picchu.

I did the Salkantay Trek in July 2023 and was blown away by its beauty.

Yes, it’s a challenging hike. But it’s also incredibly rewarding.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Salkantay Trek, including what to expect along the way and how hard it is. I also share why I chose the Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail and whether it was really worth it.

a mother and daughter sitting at Machu Picchu after finishing the 5 day Salkantay trek

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Salkantay Trek overview

  • Total distance: 74 km
  • Time needed: 5 days (the 5th day is at Machu Picchu)
  • Highest point: 4,630 m at the Salkantay Pass
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Starting point: Cusco

What is the Salkantay Trek

The classic Salkantay Trek is a 5 day hike to Machu Picchu. Named after the Salkantay Mountain, it’s one of the most scenic trails through the Peruvian Andes.

It’s easily accessible from Cusco (I recommend staying here in Cusco before the trek), but the trailhead officially starts in Soraypampa, a 3-hour drive away.

The Salkantay Trek lies in the shadow of the more famous Inca Trail. But the two offer a very different experience.

a landscape image of day 2 of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail

The Salkantay Trek is a popular alternative hike to Machu Picchu.

Below are a few differences and why I chose to hike the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (instead of the Inca Trail).

1. The scenery & archaeology

The Salkantay Trek is said to be the most beautiful of the two hikes. It takes you over the mountains and crosses diverse landscapes.

It’s also a higher altitude trek that reaches 4,630 m above sea level. However, you only see ruins and authentic Inca pathways on day 4 of the Salkantay Trek.

2. Tour costs & availability

There are no restrictions to the number of hikers on the Salkantay Trek. This makes it a great option for travelers who don’t have fixed dates yet or who missed out on the Inca Trail.

A woman walking on the side of a mountain with a river beneath her

3. Difficulty

The Salkantay Trek is known to be harder than the Inca Trail.

This is due to the higher elevation, the challenging mountain terrain, and the total walking distance, which is 74 km on the Salkantay Trail vs 42 km on the Inca Trail.

4. Arrival at Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trek does not actually end at Machu Picchu. Instead, you finish in Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu.

Your last night is at a hotel in this town, and you’ll visit Machu Picchu the next day. You can either take a bus or walk to the main entrance. But regardless, you’ll be joined by every tourist going to the famous site.

With the Inca Trail, you follow the Inca’s route to the iconic Sun Gate before hiking down to the lost city of Machu Picchu.

But there’s a lot more to consider when deciding which to choose. I recommend reading my blog post comparing the Inca Trail to the Salkantay trek.

How hard is the Salkantay Trek

How long is the Salkantay Trek

There are two options for doing the Salkantay Trek: a 5 day tour or a 4 day tour.

With both of these, you’ll spend the last day exploring Machu Picchu.

5 day Salkantay Trek

The most popular Salkantay Trek itinerary is a 5 day, 4 night hike. I chose this option and recommend you do the same.

This classic route takes you to all the iconic locations, including Humantay Lake, Salkantay Pass, and Llactapata Ruins.

During the 5 day Salkantay Trek, you walk the entire journey from the starting point in Soraypampa to Aguas Calientes town.

Top tip: From my experience, day 4 of the 5 day trek was extremely difficult but 100% worth it. This is the section you’ll miss if you do the 4 day tour. It’s the only day you actually walk parts of the Inca Trail, and the views from Llactapata are incredible.

Train tracks in a forest with a restaurant on the side

4 day Salkantay Trek

If you’re short on time, you can opt for the 4 day tour instead.

This is not the ideal option, but it’s still a fantastic tour if you don’t have much time in Peru.

Like the 5 day Salkantay Trek, the 4 day tour starts in Soraypampa and ends at Aguas Calientes.

So what’s the difference?

On day 3, you’ll walk most of the Salkantay Trail. At lunchtime, you’ll separate from the 5 day tour and take a bus to Hidroelectrica Train Station. From here, you’ll walk to Aguas Calientes.

This means you skip the Cocalmayo Hot Springs as well as the hike to Llactapata Ruins.

Sunrise view on a mountain

Things to know about the 5 Day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning on doing the Salkantay Trek.

Salkantay trek difficulty

The Salkantay trail is a difficult hike, but it’s achievable for most people.

So, what makes it difficult?

Firstly, the high altitude at the Salkantay Pass, which sits at 4,630 m.

The ascent up the pass is the hardest part of the trek. This is because there’s less oxygen in the air, and it’s a struggle to breathe.

As a result, you’ll walk very slowly, and you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness. The freezing cold temperatures don’t make it any easier.

Secondly, it’s a long distance to walk.

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is a 74 km trail, and you’re averaging 19 km per day over 4 days (because the last day is at Machu Picchu).

This, combined with the hilly terrain, only adds to its difficulty.

Here’s my post on how difficult the Salkantay Trek really is . It covers everything you need to know to get through the 5 day trek.

A girl standing on a ledge overlooking a beautiful valley

Best time to hike the Salkantay Trek

It’s possible to do the Salkantay Trek all year round.

But most tour operators don’t offer tours in February. This is because the route is often closed due to maintenance.

Here’s when you should plan your trip.

Dry Season: Best time to do the Salkantay Trail

Hiking season in Peru is from April to September.

During this time, you can expect clear skies and warmer temperatures. It’s a great time of year to be on the trails, and I recommend doing the Salkantay Trek during these months.

July and August is high season and the busiest time to visit Peru. The trails will be teeming with people, and Machu Picchu will be extremely crowded.

However, don’t be put off by this.

I did the Salkantay Trek in July and had a great time. But make sure you get to Machu Picchu early in the day to avoid the crowds.

Is the Salkantay trek Dangerous

Rainy Season

The wet season is from December to March. The weather can be unpredictable during this time, and you should be prepared for a few days of rain.

This makes the Salkantay Trek more dangerous, especially as you go up the Salkantay Pass. There is also a greater chance of last-minute cancellations due to bad weather.

Packing for the Salkantay Trek

The most important thing to pack for the Salkantay Trek is your Passport. You need this to enter Machu Picchu and will not be allowed in without it.

In terms of hiking gear, most tour companies provide a small duffel bag to trekkers.

This will allow you to store up to 7 kg of your clothing and personal items for the trek.

Yes – there’s a 7kg weight limit, which includes you’re sleeping bag. This is not a lot, considering it’s a 5 day trek, so you need to pack lightly and smartly.

Two people walking up a hill to Humantay Lake

Accommodation along the Salkantay Trek

The accommodation along the Salkantay Trek differs between tour operators.

This ranges from basic and luxury camping to glass domes and cabins. Your last night is spent at a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

For most tours, there are no showers on the first night. But from night two onwards, you can treat yourself to magnificent hot showers.

My mom and I did the Salkantay Trek with Inkayni Peru Tours , and I highly recommend them.

We camped for the first three nights, but it was more like a glamping experience, and we were extremely comfortable.

Each day, we arrived at our campsite with our tents already set up and offered snacks and hot chocolate as a reward for getting through the day.

One positive about camping is that you have the option of staying higher up the Salkantay Pass on night one. This was a huge advantage as we got a head start to the day and had the Salkantay Pass all to ourselves for sunrise the next morning.

What to wear Salkantay Trek

Salkantay Trek highlights

If I haven’t convinced you to do the Salkantay Trek, this next part will!

Here are some of the highlights – most of which you won’t experience on the Inca Trail.

Humantay Lake

The first day of the Salkantay Trek starts with a bang!

After driving a few hours from Cusco, you’ll be dropped off at the trailhead in Soraypampa. Shortly after, the uphill hike to Humantay Lake begins.

Humantay Lake is a stunning turquoise glacier lake that sits at 4,200 m.

It’s a popular day trip from Cusco, so this part of the trek will be busy. But after returning from the lake, you’ll have the trail to yourself.

Humantay lake on day 1 of the Salkantay trek

Salkantay Pass

With an elevation of 4,630 m, the Salkantay Pass is the highest point of the Salkantay Trek.

Getting to the pass takes a lot of mental and physical energy. But standing at the top and looking on to Salkantay Mountain is a feeling you’ll never forget.

From here, the trek only gets easier (well, until day 4) .

Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

On the third day, you’ll reach your campsite at lunchtime. This gives you a free afternoon to explore the nearby attractions.

You can either visit the Cocalmayo Hot Springs or do a coffee tour. There’s even zip-lining!

I visited the Cocalmayo Hot Springs, and it’s just what my body needed.

There are four natural pools here with water of varying temperatures. We spent an hour relaxing in them, and it was a great break from the long trekking days.

Outside the hot springs, you’ll find kiosks selling refreshments and snacks.

Most people doing the Salkantay Trek congregate here, and it’s a great place to enjoy a few beers and meet other hikers.

I nearly didn’t visit these hot springs because of what other people said.

Yes, the water isn’t boiling hot.

Yes, it can get crowded on weekends.

But after three days of hiking the Salkantay Trek, your body will not care!

You’ll love the warm waters and will want to sit back and relax.

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

Llactapata archeological site

Llactapata is an important archaeological site near Machu Picchu. It’s less explored than other Inca sites and offers unspoiled views of Huayna Picchu Mountain.

To get to Llactapata, you follow the same trail the Incas did. This is the only part of the Salkantay Trek that includes the Inca route.

It’s a strenuous uphill hike from Lucmabamba to Llactapata. After exploring the site, you’ll descend the other side of the mountain, which is equally as challenging.

If you do the 4 day Salkantay Trek, you will skip this section of the trail.

Llactapata archaeological site

Machu Picchu: The Highlight of The Salkantay Trail

And finally, the most iconic site on the 5 day Salkantay Trek: Machu Picchu.

This wonder of the world completely blew me away. I had heard so much about Machu Picchu and thought it might be overrated.

But I can confirm that it is not!

Machu Picchu is a fascinating place, and our exceptional guide, Percy, played a big part in my experience of visiting it.

Over the past 5 days on the Salkantay Trek, Percy had taken us on this incredible journey through time and nature that culminated with the history of Machu Picchu.

He shared stories of Pachamama (mother nature), the Incas, their mystery, and Peruvian culture.

His passion for his country and its people was one of the most beautiful things, and I learned so much from him.

You can visit Machu Picchu without a guide, but you’ll be missing out on so much.

A girl standing at a photo spot overlooking the lost city of Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek itinerary

Below is an outline of the itinerary we followed.

  • Day 1: Cusco – Soraypampa – Humantay Lake – Soyroccocha
  • Day 2: Soyroccocha – Salkantay Pass – Wayraqmachay – Chaullay
  • Day 3: Chaullay – Lucmabamba – Cocalmayo Hot Springs – Lucmabamba
  • Day 4: Lucmabamba – Llactapata – Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes
  • Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes – Ollantaytambo – Cusco

Salkantay trekking tours

I booked my Salkantay Trek tour through Inkayni Peru Tours after reading all these positive reviews , and they were fantastic.

Inkayni is a local tour operator specializing in smaller group tours and personalized services. And that’s exactly what I got.

I did the Salkantay Trek with my mom, who is in her 60s. It was a tough hike for both of us, but we made it to the end – and I have no doubt that you will too.

Our guide was patient and kind and offered all the support and encouragement we needed.

Inkayni took care of absolutely everything for us, from the Machu Picchu entrance ticket to the scenic train ride.

This was a special mother/daughter trip that was made extra special thanks to the team at Inkayni Peru Tours.

Salkantay Trek tours

Other Salkantay Trek tours

Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek doesn’t need to be booked months in advance.

You can arrive in Cusco and book a tour for the next day. That’s how easy it is.

But I do not recommend this.

Every tour offers a different experience and itinerary. So don’t book with the first operator you come across.

If you’re worried about your fitness levels and the high altitude. Or if you’re questioning whether you will be able to finish the hike, I recommend opting for a smaller group tour like the one I did with Inkayni. You’ll enjoy the experience a lot more as you won’t feel rushed or pressured to walk faster.

Some Salkantay tours cater specifically to backpackers. This means you’ll be one of eighteen people in your group, the food won’t be anything to write home about, and you will have less one-on-one time with your guide.

If you’re doing the Salkantay Trek on a budget, this might be your best option.

Salkantay trek chef

Do your research

But I cannot stress the importance of researching before booking your tour.

I met a few travelers along the route who complained nonstop about the quality of their food and camping gear provided by their tour company. They also moaned that their guide’s English was not perfect.

I soon realized that they had paid next to nothing for their tour. I’m surprised they were even given food!

I don’t know how their guides and porters are expected to live off that measly amount, and I felt sorry for their trekking team.

If you’re paying for the cheapest tour, you cannot expect a five-star experience. I understand that not everyone has the budget, but you need to be realistic about what you’ll get from a cheaper operator.

Tips for the 5 day Salkantay Trek

  • Check whether your tour includes Machu Picchu entrance tickets. If not, book this in advance and choose Circuit 2.
  • Spend at least two nights in Cusco to acclimatize to the higher altitude.
  • Rent hiking poles, as there are a lot of uphill and downhill sections.
  • Tip your trekking team at least 10% of your total tour cost. While tipping is not mandatory, it is expected and means the world to the team.

Salkantay Mountain

How long does it take to hike the Salkantay Trek?

The classic Salkantay Trek is 5 days and covers a distance of 74 km. Trekking time is 6 to 7 hours per day, except on the last day when you’re exploring Machu Picchu.

Is the Salkantay Trek worth it?

Yes! The Salkantay Trek is a magnificent trek through the Peruvian Andes to Machu Picchu.

Is the Salkantay Trek harder than the Inca Trail?

The Salkantay Trek is harder than the Inca Trail as it is a much further hike and reaches a high altitude on day two.

Is the Salkantay Trek dangerous?

No, the Salkantay Trek isn’t dangerous. But you need to acclimatize properly to ensure you don’t get altitude sickness as you ascend the Salkantay Pass.

What’s the difference between 4 and 5 day Salkantay Trek?

On the 4 day Salkantay Trek, you take a bus to Hidroelectrica instead of walking. This means you skip Llactapata, which is an archaeological site overlooking Huayna Picchu Mountain.

Salkantay Trek route

My Salkantay Trek review

I loved the 5 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

It has everything you want from a multiday trek. Beautiful scenery where you’re immersed in nature. Challenging sections that will push you to your limits. Incredible archaeological sites that take you back in time. What more do you want?

The Salkantay Trek was one of the best things I did in Peru, and I highly recommend adding it to your itinerary.

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Travel Guide to hiking Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru

Do you have any questions about the 5 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu? Drop me a message in the comments section below!

Looking for more Peru travel inspiration? Check out my other posts!

  • The Best Place to Visit the Amazon in Peru
  • Laguna 69: Guide to The Best Day Hike in Peru
  • How to Get to Laguna Paron in Huaraz
  • Ultimate Guide to Laguna Llaca in Huaraz

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Hi, I'm Carryn. I’m an adventure travel blogger trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel guides and tips for life abroad. Find out more about me here .

Salkantay Trek Packing List: 60+ Things you need to pack

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The Savage Mountain Trek to Machu Picchu

The salkantay trek.

Discover a world surrounded by magical moments while experiencing Peru’s real outdoors and its rugged elements.

salkantay trek permit

Explore the Salkantay Trek

The more scenic & lesser-trodden trail to machu picchu.

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the best alternative routes to the world famous Inca Trail . Long the way you’ll see some of the most incredible landscapes as well as enjoy the adventure of a lifetime. You’ll walk through the Andean mountains surrounded by snowy peaks to the warm and humid jungle.

There are plenty of different species of wildlife and some beautiful flora for you to see, in addition to witnessing Andean life in small villages.

The snowy peak of Salkantay itself is sacred and appreciated by all who live in the area. It’s 125km northeast of Cusco and sits at 6,264 masl. Professional climbers have been hiking the mountain since the year 1952. This is because it’s very easy to access from Cusco.

Locally Owned & Operated

We are the operators! We are a licensed Tour Company. There is no middleman on a trip with us!

Expert Local Guides

Chosen for great knowledge of their country, and a passion to make your trip extraordinary.

Fantastic Meals

Our owner and all of our staff are local to Peru and care about its environment, people and culture.

Eco-Friendly Tours

Education and conservation are our passion. We aim to create lifelong ambassadors for the protection of all wilderness areas.

Small Groups

Average groups of 10; solos, couples and friends, united by a desire for authentic experiences.

An adventure travel company you can trust

Our best seller.

If you have a love for adventure and enjoying some of the best hiking routes in the world, our Salkantay Trek 5 Days is for you. It combines the most exciting trekking trails with the most incredible scenery you can imagine. Join us on your own, in a couple, or as part of a group.

The Classic Salkantay Trek

After spending some time in the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, join us on the Salkantay Trek to the World Wonder of Machu Picchu. The best alternative route to the Inca citadel will take you to the stunning Humantay Lake, the imposing Salkantay Mountain, through the fascinating cloud forest, and then to the edge of the Peruvian jungle.

You’ll spend each night in comfortable accommodation and enjoy some of the tastiest food around - in the middle of the mountains! Experienced guides will be with you all the way to teach you about the history and nature of the region. Enjoy this route in comfort and great company.

Sky Camp

Salkantay Trek Tours

With the Salkantay Trek being so popular, you’ll find there are many different lengths available. These range from 3 days and up to 7 days, which includes a part of the Inca Trail as well. If you don’t want to end at Machu Picchu, you can also go on a 2 day trip to hike to the Salkantay Pass. Here you’ll find all the tours on offer:

The Best Adventure Combinations in Peru

Every journey we design is carefully curated and completely bespoke, fine-tuned to your passions and interests. Experience jaw-dropping natural wonders, mysterious ancient civilisations, diverse indigenous culture and unique wildlife with some of the best trek combinations in Peru and South America.

Salkantay Honeymoon Trek 5 Days

Hey there love birds! They say that your honeymoon should be an experience you’ll never forget, so why not pair it with the most unforgettable adventure in the world?

The Salkantay Trek is listed as one of the 25 best treks in the world by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine and is the best alternative route to the New Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu.

We guarantee that you and the person you love most in the world will have a life-changing experience as you hike amongst the mountains and celebrate with some of our beloved Andean wedding traditions. We’ll do everything we can to accommodate you to ensure you receive all the comfort and privacy you desire!

The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu is one of the best ways to reach the Inca Citadel and takes you through a range of incredible landscapes. The ecosystem offers a wide range of biodiversity, and you’ll get to witness some outstanding mountain scenery, unique flora and fauna, and rural communities that reside in this region.

On this incredible journey, you’ll pass through the snowy mountain tops and then descend through the fascinating and unique cloud forest to the Peruvian jungle. With each step, you’ll be making your way closer and closer to the New Wonder of the World and Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu.

Along the way, you’ll stop at some amazing destinations, including Humantay Lake, the Salkantay Pass, Llaqtapata archaeological site, and, of course, Machu Picchu. Your knowledgeable guide will give you the ultimate tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site before you and your love get to explore by yourself or embark on one last hike up Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime, unique experience for you to remarry the love of your life below the sacred mountain god of Salkantay, surrounded by the magic of the mountains and the stunning Humantay Lake.

The Salkantay Premium Trek to Machu Picchu 5 Days

The salkantay premium private trek to machu picchu 5 days.

After spending some time in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, join us on the Salkantay trek to the Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. The best alternative route to the Inca citadel will take you to the impressive Humantay Lagoon and the imposing Salkantay Mountain through the fascinating cloud forest, and then to the edge of the Peruvian jungle.

Each night you will spend in comfortable and exclusive lodges where you can enjoy the tastiest meals in the middle of the mountains. Experienced guides will accompany you all the way to explain the history and nature of the region. Enjoy this route with excitement and great company.

Salkantay Trek + Short Inca Trail 6 Days

The Salkantay Trek and Short Inca Trail is one of the best routes that you should do at least once in your life. This program will take you out of the routine to transport you to wonderful places that only the Peruvian Andes have for you. You will visit several tourist attractions, including the magical turquoise waters of the Humantay Lake and the imposing Salkantay snow-capped mountain. Around the mountains, you will explore the tropical forest and appreciate its diverse flora and fauna. Finally, you will visit Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the modern world, and learn about the ancient history of the Incas. Without a doubt, this is a complete itinerary to recharge your energy and enjoy it to the fullest.

Salkantay and Rainbow Mountain Trek 6 Days

After spending some time in Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, join us on Salkantay and Rainbow Mountain trek, also known as Rainbow Mountain, Seven Colors Mountain, or Vinicunca.

This is the best route to explore the magical Humantay Lake, the imposing Salkantay Mountain, the majestic Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, and the authentic Rainbow Mountain. The best tourist attractions of Cusco are in this itinerary. You´ll also witness the immensity of the highest sacred mountain in the Cusco region, Ausangate (6,372 m / 20,905 ft).

Salkantay Trek & Inca Trail 7 Days

Are you finding it hard to decide between the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail? Well, twiddle your thumbs no more. Our Salkantay and Inca Trail 7 Days trek combines the two routes to Machu Picchu in one awesome trip. Both treks are considered in the top twenty-five treks in the world by National Geographic and put together form one of the most epic journeys of all.

It’s no surprise that this combo will challenge you to the max and test your limits. However, when it all comes to a climax at the astounding Inca Citadel, Machu Picchu, you’ll realize all your efforts were worth it. You’ll feel a huge sense of achievement and fulfillment as you wander among the ancient city and look out over the beautiful panorama that is Peru’s dense jungle.

Our Salkantay and Inca Trail 7 Days trek is the perfect choice for those pondering over the two routes. You get the best of both worlds and can enjoy following in ancient footsteps on the Inca Trail and witness some of the most epic views you’ve ever seen on the Salkantay route. Enjoy this ultimate experience by yourself, as part of a group, or as a couple.

You’ll begin your adventure on the Salkantay trail and visit the stunning Humantay Mountain that sits like a jewel among the white mountain peaks. Next, you’ll make your way to see the imposing Salkantay Mountain before diverging and joining the ancient Inca Trail.

Along this ancient path, you’ll learn all about the fascinating, innovative Inca culture from your knowledgeable guide and stop off at some of the most important Inca archaeological sites that played a huge role in their empire.

To top it all off, you’ll end your challenging trek with a visit to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu.

Salkantay Imperial 8 Days

If you’re looking for the ultimate vacation in Cusco that includes everything, our 8-day Imperial Salkantay is the best choice. Come and explore the historical city in the company of our knowledgeable guides and venture on the exciting Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu with like-minded travelers from across the world. This package is an excellent option whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or in a group.

Cusco is a beautiful city that was once the capital of the Inca empire, which means it has a lot of history and many interesting sites to visit to learn all about ancient cultures. The city boasts an eclectic mix of Inca and European architecture and you’ll want to see as much as possible while you’re here. Most visitors come to Cusco to visit Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The Andean Explorer 9 Days

Discover the greatest in Cusco's architectural design on our 9-day Salkantay & Rainbow Mountain tour. This journey takes you to Machu Picchu, one of the World's New Seven Wonders, and Peru's Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca. Before beginning the Salkantay Trek, you'll also have the chance to take a guided tour of Cusco and a one-day journey to the Sacred Valley of the Incas to adapt to the high altitude.

Why Travel With Us?

We are dedicated and commited to our clients, to the environment, and to our fellow compatriots

Our Horsemen & Horses

All of our horsemen are from Mollepata, which is the starting point of our trek. We make sure to employ responsible people that are serious about what they do. This way, they do an excellent job at transporting everyone’s items along the trail with mules and are in charge of getting your gear safely to each campsite where it will be waiting for you.

Our horsemen are very content with us receiving a good salary and benefits at the end of each season. Salkantay Trekking provides all the mountain gear and uniforms to the horsemen. These guys can be of great help in an emergency because they know the area and trail like the back of their hand.

In addition to the trekking and camping equipment, each horse carries 40kg of the trekkers’ belongings. You’ll have 7kg of allowance for your gear.

salkantay trek permit

Knowledgeable Tour Guides

Salkantay Trekking relies on an extensive network of highly trained guides and expert ambassadors as a premise to guarantee excellence in our services. We are fully conscious that an excellent guide is key to making your trip a memorable experience, which is why we are extremely demanding when recruiting and regularly training our guides.

In all of our trekking trips, the chef ensures high-quality meals on time, an adequate diet both in its quality and quantity. The secret lies in the careful selection of our team of chefs, whose top-quality restaurant background, creativity and passion for their jobs provide an unequalled touch to all of our meals. We do not have set menus since we wish to give our chefs the chance to create, innovate and surprise our clients through delicious dishes in every trip.

The Best Trekking Food in Peru

We do not have set menus since we wish to give our chefs the chance to create, innovate and surprise our clients through delicious dishes in every trip. We provide general guidelines, guest information on dietary restrictions and preferences and, most especially, the tools for a constant updating of our cooks’ knowledge in both Peruvian and International cuisine through specialization courses and training.

Exclusive & Private Campsites

Salkantay Trekking has created the most amazing exclusive campsites for our trekkers to relax in after a long day on the trails. On the Salkantay route, you’ll stay in our Sky Camp under the stars, our Andean Huts in Chaullay, and our Jungle Domes in the middle of nature in the jungle.

On other routes, you’ll find we have private campsites away from other groups and in some instances, homestays with local families for a truly unique experience.


Knowledgeable, tour guides, andean chefs, best hiking meals, exclusive & private, find the perfect destination in peru.

With astonishingly varied landscapes, stunning scenery, compelling history, and a legacy of fascinating cultures, there is truly something for everyone. Our expeditions in Peru are designed to showcase all that this country has to offer.

Our expeditions in Peru are designed to showcase all that this country has to offer.


Rainbow mountain, salkantay trek travel guide.

Before You Go, What You Should Know

We hope that this Peru & Salkantay Trek travel guide will serve as a reference for you to prepare for and undertake an exceptional and seamless journey through this “Empire of Hidden Treasures.”

Salkantay Packing List

Salkantay weather, salkantay frequently asked questions, salkantay highlights.

Here are the top highlights that you’ll enjoy on the excursion:

  • Conquer the trail of the 7 snakes to reach the Salkantay Pass and take in the glorious view.
  • Spot some of the most beautiful Andean flora and fauna along the way.
  • Hike through the Andean mountain range and see some of the best landscapes you’ll ever see.
  • See the incredible Humantay Lake that sits like a turquoise jewel in the middle of the snowy mountains.
  • Make new friends along the way from across the globe.
  • Try local dishes prepared in the middle of the mountains by great cooks.
  • End your trip at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu.

What to Expect on the Trail

When booking a trek like Salkantay, you want to be as prepared as you can be. To help you, we’ve come up with a few of the things you should expect when taking this tour.

Feel the Altitude

You’ll be hiking at very high altitude, and going up to a little over 4,600 masl. This can mean you feel light-headed, tired easily, nauseous, headaches, and more. To avoid feeling like this, you should take the proper precautions, which we’ll go over below.

Find Some Parts a Challenge

This trek is relatively moderate overall, and most people can complete it if relatively fit, however day 2 is a real challenge. The steep and winding climb up to the Salkantay Pass takes a lot out of you. The rest of the day is downhill but can take its toll on your knees and ankles as you endure a full 10 hours walking this day.

Enjoy Your Surroundings

The Salkantay Trek is one of the top choices for many hikers because of the beautiful landscapes and views you see throughout. From snowy mountain peaks to thick jungle, you’ll get to enjoy a whole range of sights. Don’t forget to take a good camera to capture all the flora and fauna.

Experience Different Climates

You’ll need to be well prepared when it comes to clothing as you will experience very cold temperatures during the first day and a half, but will then get very warm as you head down into the jungle. You may also see some rain.

See Plenty of Trekkers

This is the second most popular trail to Machu Picchu, and there’s no limit on numbers like there is for the Inca Trail, so, as you can imagine, it can get busy. This is particularly true during the dry season from May to October.

You need a lot of energy to keep your strength up at such high altitude. Thankfully, a full team of cooks will join you and you’ll be amazed at the food they whip up in the middle of the mountains. There’s no doubt you’ll eat plenty of delicious food on the trek.

Learn a Lot

Your guide will be informing you all along the way about the history and more regarding your surroundings. Be prepared to come away knowing a lot about the Incas as well as the Andean flora and fauna.

Where is Salkantay?

Salkantay is the highest of the peaks in the Vilcabamba mountain range in the Andes. It’s in the region of Cusco and sits about 60km from the city to the north-west.

Difficulty Level

The Salkantay Trek is rated moderate to challenging. You’ll find some days easier than the others, but it can be difficult. To make sure you’re well prepared you should do some training beforehand and make sure you’re in good shape. You’ll also need to prepare for the altitude so it affects you as little as possible.

Salkantay Facts

To help you know more about this trek, we’ve got some interesting facts to share with you.

  • The locals call the mountain Apu Salkantay, which means ‘Holy Lord above the valleys.’
  • The highest point of the trek is the Salkantay Pass at 4,600 masl.
  • The trek starts in Mollepata and ends at Aguas Calientes.
  • The classic trek that lasts five days is over a distance of 74km/46 miles.
  • The Salkantay Trek is the second most popular hike to Machu Picchu after the Inca Trail.
  • You don’t need a special permit for this trek.
  • The average altitude along the trail is 3,000 masl.

Salkantay Tips

To save you from asking too many questions about your trip, we’ve put together some tips to help you with preparation.

  • Get to Cusco 2-3 days before your trek. This way, you can adjust to the altitude and take it easy before you head out on the trail.
  • Do some exercises daily before you come to strengthen and prepare your muscles.
  • To make sure you’re ready for the altitude, you should speak with a doctor at home for advice and see about getting pills to help you.
  • Check out a packing list to make sure you pack as efficiently as possible. You will have a weight limit and need clothing for different climates.
  • When you get to Cusco, try to limit your alcohol intake, or better yet, don’t drink any at all. The effects are strong at high altitude and it could make you very sick.
  • Walking poles are a good idea to help your joints throughout the trail.
  • Remember that the trek is not a race, and you should go at your own pace. Everyone is different, and you will never be left behind. Going too fast can make you feel ill and make the rest of the trip difficult.
  • You need to stay well-hydrated because of the altitude and the distance you’re walking. Take plenty of water each day.


Finally, we share with you some recommendations, to make sure your trip goes smoothly and you don’t come up against any issues later on.

Plan Ahead of Time

pointing-left, some travellers book the trail once they arrive to Cusco, but this sometimes means there’s no space left or that they don’t get to go on the day they had planned. This can be really disappointing when you were looking forward to the trek.

If you plan and book the trek ahead of time, it will give you more time to relax in the city. Your vacation will also be less stressful as everything is already taken care of.

Check Which Season You Want to Travel In

In Peru, we enjoy a dry season and a wet season. Dry season is from May to October, and November to April is wet season. It can rain a lot in those months, so keep that in mind if you want to come during wet season. The temperature tends to be warm from November to April, however.

In the dry season, you see less rain, but it does get very cold at night. You can also expect to see more hikers on the trail. Consider these facts when booking your trip.

Be Careful When Packing

As we mentioned before, there are weight limits to your luggage. Make use of a packing list so you bring the right amount of each thing to not go over the weight and to ensure you have everything you need.

Take Out Travel Insurance

Many agencies and operators won’t let you on the trek if you aren’t insured. If they do, they probably aren’t very reputable. If anything does happen to you and you aren’t insured, the health care in Peru can be very expensive.

Take Extra Snacks

You’ll get snacks along the way and plenty of food, but it’s always a good idea to take extras, like dried fruits and nuts, as you never know when hunger will strike.

Consider Tipping

Most trekkers will tip the guides, cooks, and horsemen. Consider their work and how tough it is when thinking of an amount. It’s up to you.

Quality Service

For us quality of experience is only second to safety.

We are committed to providing world-class trekking experiences for our guests that go way above and beyond the mass-produced tours so common today.

I had the most fantastic trek with my family. It was one of the best experiences in the mountains, hiking to Machu Picchu. The weather was with us, and we all had a great experience with unique landscapes.

Inspiring Stories

Get a glimpse of what you can experience.

Here you will find useful tips, travel news and experiences that will make from your experience in Peru more enjoyable and complete.

Humantay Lake & Salkantay Pass

Salkantay trek experience in the rainy season, the mountains are calling in cusco, and i must go, how to prepare for the salkantay trek, travel associations & certifications.

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  • Hiking/Trekking
  • 56 km (34.787 mi)

Salkantay Trek 4 days

The Salkantay trek 4 days is perfect for those who love to see a wider variety of landscapes from rain forest to snowcapped peaks. You will pass by snowy mountains, see a sacred Inca mountain, sub-tropical jungle below Machu Picchu, and of course we will visit pristine, bright-blue Humantay lake. Since the Salkantay route has fewer restrictions rather than the classic Inca Trail, it can provide a “back door” trek to Machu Picchu.

  • The Salkantay hike is definitely one of the best adventures that you are going to have in Peru. Not only you can witness the ancient Inca trails, but you will also enjoy amazing views and hike through the rainforest.
  • After the Classic Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek is the second most popular route to Machu Picchu and lesser-trodden. Here you can have your own fun and experience in the Andes. You take your backpack and explore these vast mountain ranges, meet new courageous people, and have cool campsites under a beautiful night starry sky with the Milky way.
  • The hike alongside the splendid Salkantay Mountain, Humantay Mountain, and the arrival at the Llacta of Machu Picchu is one of the best experiences known to mankind.
  • The hike is ideal for nature explorers, couples, friends, nature lovers, and intrepid travelers.
  • See natural bridges, orchids, hot springs, glaciers, waterfalls, wildlife, and rain forest.
  • Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu has been chosen as one of the 25 best Treks in the world, by the National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine
  • Camping with fewer travelers to make your own trip and have the best look at these unbelievable mountains.

salkantay trek 4 days

Why you hike Salkantay trek 4 Days with us?

  • The best itinerary . We organize our trip differently than the conventional Salkantay Trek tour companies, our groups spend the night in a proper tent in remote areas to enjoy nature much better.
  • The best campsite on the first night. Our first campsite is close to Salkantay Mountain so you will see the sunset over the Salkantay Mountain.
  • We are a practical, punctual, reliable Travel company, welcoming individuals or groups. Check out our reviews on trip advisor.
  • Satellite phones. Our guide brings the satellite in our Salkantay 4 day hike. We want you to stay in touch with your loved ones at all times.
  • We don't overload our pack horses. We stand as the only Travel Agency offering Salkantay Trek 4 days, distinguished by our commitment to preventing the mistreatment of animals. In practice, this translates to our pack horses bearing a load that does not exceed 50 kilograms (equivalent to 100 pounds).
  • Our horsemen are treated with respect. They receive all their equipment for free from our Company AB Expeditions to work on the Salkantay trek 4 days. We provide them a fair salary, a decent tent with a pad, proper meals, trekking shoes, hiking pants, and a Winter hut. We care for their health, well-being, and the health of their families, and we are committed to social projects to improve their lives.
  • Top-notch equipment. We provide you with Eureka Tent, Mountain wear Sleeping bags, Black Diamond trekking poles, and sleeping pads. We only use top brands and quality to guarantee ache-less nights up in the mountains.
  • We don't share our group of Salkantay trek 4 days with other companies.
  • Small groups. 2 to 8 people maximum. This fact sets us apart from other tour companies that take bigger groups.
  • Locally owned. AB Expeditions is A 100% locally owned Travel Company and fully licensed Salkantay trek operator.
  • Highly Trained Guide. Our Tour Guides pride themselves on being up-to-date and have a comprehensive program of continuing professional development. We love showing what a fascinating and amazing Salkantay trek is.
  • We offer a group discount. If you are more than 3 people, we will give you discounts. Send us an email.
  • We pay on time. At AB Expeditions, guides, driver, horsemen, and Cooks receive their salaries as soon as they finish their job.
  • Your return train ticket on day 4 is at 02:55 pm from Aguas Calientes. Therefore you arrive at Cusco early so you will sleep enough to do any tour the next day.


Day 1: cusco – mollepata – humantay lake –  salkantaypampa.

We will pick you up at your hotel around 05:00 am. We proceeded to drive nearly 4 hours to Anta–Mollepata. During the bus ride, you can observe the white snowcapped mountains of Salkantay and Veronica: the Holy Gods of the Incas.   Also, you will glimpse the spectacular views of the upper part and lower valleys with colorful landscapes.

After 4 hours of driving, we will make the stop in Soraypampa town, where there are toilet facilities and we will have breakfast. There we will meet with our support staff, organize all the equipment, horses, and mules and we will have an introductory meeting. At approximately 9:30 a.m. we will start our trek to Humantay Lake (4200 m.a.s.l). It takes 3 hours of hiking round trip. 

Once we reach the lake, we can observe the Humantay glacier, Humantay Lake. We will spend about an hour there and come back to Soraypampa where we will have our lunch prepared by our cook. After our meal, we will keep hiking to Salkantaypampa where we will spend the night. Salkantaypampa is located in the middle of the glacier so during the night it is so dark with no ambient light making it a perfect spot to appreciate the constellations in the sky.

  • Walking Distance : 10km/ 6,21 miles.
  • Hiking hour : 5 hours roughly.
  • Trailhead Elevation: 3,920 meters / 12,860 feet.
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult.
  • Campsite Elevation: 4,220 meters / 13,779 feet.
  • Accommodation: Tents.

DAY 2: Soraypampa – Salkantay Pass – Huayramachay – Ccollpampa

Early wakeup call at 5:00 am with coca tea brought to your tent. Afterward, we pack up our belongings, enjoy our breakfast, and immediately begin hiking up to the highest point of the Salkantay trail (4620 masl – 15,255 ft).  The distance is 3 km, and we should complete it in 3 hours. During the ascent through the rocky valley, we can observe the magnificent Salkantay peak and may even see chinchillas on the trail (6217 masl – 20,341 ft). Once we reach the top of the trail, we will enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and the imposing snowy peaks of the Salkantay, Humantay, and Pumasillo.

Salkantay is considered the second-highest mountain in the Cusco region and one of the main Inca Gods known as “Apu Salkantay”. Hiking to the top is the most difficult part of the entire trek.  You will feel so accomplished!  The next  3 hours are spent heading downhill on the serpent trail along gravel and rocky paths to reach Huayracmachay, our lunch spot. In the afternoon we will arrive at the upper part of the rain forest, also called a “cloud forest”.  We will cover 9 km in 3 hours until we to get Challway Village (2900 masl – 9,514 ft) our base campsite.   During the second half of the day during the descent, we will observe the thick forest which is decorated with colorful orchids and native plants. The majority of the year the weather is warm and pleasant in this area.

  • Walking Distance : 19km/ 11,80 miles.
  • Hiking hour : 10 hours roughly.
  • Trailhead Elevation: 4,220 meters / 13,779 feet.
  • Highest Point: 4,650 meters / 15,235 feet.
  • Campsite Elevations: 2900 meters/ 9,514 feet.

DAYS 3: Collpapampa – Lucmabamba – Aguas Calientes

Around 5:30 am wake up call with coca tea!  Next, we have breakfast and afterward, start hiking straight to la Playa; walking through the thick jungle and following the riverbank of the Salkantay River on a gradual trail. On the route, we stopped at several family hamlets to enjoy the local fruit and vegetables (passion fruit, banana, coffee, avocado, mango, orange, and papaya).  If we are lucky, we will be able to observe the famous bird called “the Cock of the Rocks”.

The trail distance is 16 km and the hiking time is 7 hours until we reach Lucmabamba where we will have our delicious lunch and then try the fresh coffee. Lucmabamba is a small town surrounded by coffee trees and can provide the basic facilities (toilet, electricity, shopping, and souvenirs) After having lunch, we will take a local van for an hour to Hydroelectric from there, we will the train all the way to Aguas Calientes.  Once in town, we check into our hotel, go out to dinner then overnight.

  • Walking Distance : 14km/ 8,699 miles.
  • Hiking hour : 6 hours roughly.
  • Trailhead Elevation: 2,900 meters / 9,514 feet.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Accommodation: Hotel of 3 stars in Aguas Calientes
  • Train from Hidro to Aguas Calientes: 45 minutes.

DAY 4: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Ollantaytambo – Cusco

Day four is the most magical day: Machu Picchu. We will wake up early to take the bus to Machu Machu Picchu. Upon arrival at the Mapi checkpoint, we will show our Passports at the entrance. Then hike straight to the guardhouse which is located in the classical picture place. We will take a postcard picture of Machu Picchu and then follow Circuit 2.  

Your guide will spend around 2 hours explaining the highlights of Machu Picchu.   Afterward, you can hike Huayna Picchu if you have booked this option. (This is a separate entrance ticket that costs $65 per person). Finally, you will return to Aguas Calientes and take a train back to Ollantaytambo, and then a bus back to Cusco.  Once in Cusco, we will transfer you back to your hotel around 7:30 pm. 

  • Satellite Phone. Salkantay is a remote área where you will not find a signal so in case of emergency, our guide uses our satellite phone.
  • Hotel of 3 stars in Aguas Calientes.
  • Entrance fees to Salkantay Mountain.
  • Machu Picchu ticket with circuit 2.
  • Private van from your hotel in Cusco to Challacancha (the starting point of hiking).
  • Private van from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
  • Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. (Expedition Train Service 14:55 or 15:20).
  • Train ticket from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes. 
  • Round trip bus ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. 
  • English-speaking guide with radio communication.
  • Pre depárture briefing which will be carried out in our Office 1 day prior to your departure.
  • Professional cook.
  • Wake up tea every day. It can be Coca tea, Coffee, chocolate, or any type of tea.
  • Horses which carry all of our trekking gear.
  • 7 kilograms of your personal belongings.
  • Large duffel bag provided by the company, for your 7 kg personal belongings.
  • Wáter every day. We boil water and cool down to refill your bottle.
  • Happy hour. Every afternoon our cook will prepare hot tea, and you will drink it with popcorn and biscuits.
  • A cloth bag for your snack.
  • Snacks for every single day.
  • Entrance fees to Humantay Lake.
  • Large Dining tent, table, stools, all cutlery, and kitchen tent.
  • Tents to overnight, and Thermarest. Three-person tents are provided for 2 people to provide you with plenty of space for personal gear.
  • Meals: 4 Breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 3 dinners with options for vegetarians, Pescatarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerance.
  • Foam Mattress.
  • First aid kit. Every February our guides receive training about first aid kids. They carry in their backpack basic medications to face diarrhea, altitude sickness, any injuries, etc.
  • A metal tank of Oxygen. Our guide will have a tank of oxygen at all times.
  • Hygiene Product. We will provide you with a bowl a wáter and towel paper to clean your hands at every campsite.
  • Plastic Poncho. When it rains a lot, your jacket will be very wet that's why we give the plastic Poncho to protect you from the heavy rain.
  • Rain cover for your backpack.

Not Included

  • Lunch on the 4th day in Aguas Calientes.
  • Personal trekking gear including, backpacks, trekking poles, and sleeping bags. However, they may be rented from us.
  • Gratuity for guides, cooks, and horsemen.
  • Trekking poles. 
  • Sleeping Bag.
  • Emergency Horse.  

Additional Items

  • Huayna Picchu Mountain: $70. 
  • Machu Picchu Mountain: $70. 
  • Vistadome Train: $50. 


  • Original Passport and Original Green ISIC international student cards if you are students.
  • Water-resistant trekking shoes and sandals.
  • Warm clothing (thermal underwear, fleece, hat, gloves, socks).
  • Waterproof clothing (poncho).
  • Synthetic or cotton clothing (socks, trousers, shorts, t-shirts).
  • Sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Sun cream and insect repellent.
  • Water bottles such as Nalgene.
  • Basic medications.
  • Walking sticks.
  • Swimsuit and towel.
  • Personal items.
  • Personal snacks.


Things to know.

  • During the peak season, from May through August, it is advisable to secure your reservation for the Salkantay trek 4 days at least two months in advance.
  • Throughout the entire four-day journey, bottled water is available for purchase; however, it's important to note that prices tend to rise as you progress further along the trek.
  • This 4-day trek to Salkantay is not recommended for travelers with back problems
  • We dont organize Salkantay trek 4 days in Januay and in February due to the landslides. Since the second day in the afternoon, we will hike in the hillside and you see very oftern landslides blocking the path. Also the trail is very muddy, slippery and dangerous to hike.
  • Make sure your trekking shoes are broken in before you Salkantay trek 4 days.
  • Spend at least 2 days in Cusco before your Salkantay 4-day hike to get used to the altitude.
  • You must remember to trim your toenails super short before your Salkantay Peru Tours! Toenails that are too long may rub against your hiking boots on the descent section and could be painful or even result in your nails popping off.
  • Place your clothing within your sleeping bag while sleeping. This way, if the morning is cold, you can put on warm clothes. This practice significantly simplifies your morning routine by ensuring your clothes remain at a comfortable temperature.
  • Consistently be prepared for rain, even during the dry season of the 4-day Salkantay hike to Machu Picchu. Unforeseen rain can transform your journey into an unpleasant experience if your cloths become thoroughly soaked without any opportunity for drying.
  • Additionally, consider bringing sandals or comfortable leisure shoes to wear after a strenuous day of hiking in your trekking boots.

We will provide you with duffel bags at our office following the conclusion of your briefing. These bags will be transported by your horses and will be accessible only at designated campsites. Use them to store clothing and personal items unnecessary for hiking. Essential items such as water, snacks, a first aid kit, and rain gear should be packed in your day pack.

Ensure that the weight of the duffel does not exceed 7kg, with only 4kg allocated for your personal belongings. The remaining 3kg should be reserved for your sleeping pad and sleeping bag

Strikes and roadblocks are a common occurrence in Peru and have the potential to disrupt our scheduled Salkantay trek four days, as well as the rail service to and from Machu Picchu.  We will do our best that your hike to Salkantay continues as planned with some changes.

  • In the event of a strike happens on the initial day of your Salkantay four-day tour, we will arrange for your transportation to the trailhead on the evening preceding your scheduled start date.
  • If the strike happens the day that you finish your Salkantay 4 day hike. We will send our vans to Hidrolectrica. So you will need to hike an extra 2 hours from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectric. Then we will drive in a van to Cusco. We will drop you off at your hotel.


Returning from  Machu Picchu to Cusco needs a lot of logistics. But it is already organized by us.

Bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes. You will take a bus down to Aguas Calientes for about 30 minutes. Buses run every 15 minutes. Then Train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or Poroy train station. Our guide will give you your train tickets. Make sure to get to the train station 30 minutes earlier.

  • The estimated time on the train is 1 hour and a half from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.
  • The estimated time on the train is 3 hours and a half from Aguas Calientes to Poroy.

Once at the train station, our transfer will wait for you with the AB Expeditions logo. He/She will then transfer you back to Cusco and then to your hotel.

  • The estimated time from Ollantaytambo to Cusco is 1 hour and a half.
  • The estimated time from Poroy to Cusco is 40 minutes.


Salkantay trek located is the Andes, Therefore the weather is unpredictable, so you need pack for both warm and cold temperatures, and rainy and dry conditions. There are two main seasons in the Peruvian Andes, the rainy season (November-March) and the dry season (April-October).

During the rainy season, the weather is rainy and wind at the campsite and Salkantay Pass, the temperatures is around 15°C / 60°F during the day and 5°C / 40°F at night. When it is raining the temperature decrease and it is very cold.

During the dry season the weather is sunny and clear, and the temperature is 20° C / 70 °F during the day but much colder at night, around -7 °C / 19 °F.

Those temperatures are applied to the first and second day. After the second day, as we will hike through rainforest, the weather changes to a more humid and warmer climate and the temperature start increasing.


We advise obtaining travel insurance as it serves as a safeguard in case you need to cancel your 4-day Salkantay tour unexpectedly. This insurance can provide reimbursement for your pre-paid, non-refundable Machu Picchu permit. Additionally, in the event of illness or injury during your travels, particularly when you are far from home, the insurance can offer reimbursement for medical expenses incurred as a result of a covered emergency.


This hike is difficult, it’s highly recommended to be in good physical condition; The Salkantay trek elevation changes make the hike tough.


If you are in the process of renewing your passport, kindly proceed by sending us a digital copy of your current passport via email to initiate the reservation of your Salkantay 4-day permits. If you no longer have your old passport, any government-issued ID will be accepted, as long as the name is the same. Once you receive your new passport. Please email us a copy of your new passport ASAP to change the information on your permit.


On the Salkantay trek, individual adventurers will be matched with a fellow solo traveler of the same gender to cohabitate in a shared tent, while couples will be accommodated in a dedicated tent for their exclusive use.


There is a pre-departure briefing at our Cusco Office at 06:00 p.m. one day before your departure. If you are not able to make this time, you should coordinate another time with the AB Expeditions team by email. Briefings last 30 -45 minutes roughly. At the briefing, you will meet your guide and He/she will give you detailed information about your Salkantay trek 4 days: for example, a list of what to bring, rental equipment, or questions in general. Our office is located at Marquez Street 250, Second Floor. Office 03. Cuzco, Peru.

Tipping is common on Salkantay tours 4 day. On the third day in the morning, we will say goodbye to our amazing horsemen. This is the time that you will give a tip to all of them, please. We will say bye bye to our cook on the third day in the afternoon after our lunch. Anything extra is always really appreciated. Please know that tipping is not Mandatory and that you should never feel forced into this.

Usually, our customers pool their tipping money together for the chef and horsemen. For your tour guide, you tip after your guided tour at Machu Picchu. You decide the amount of money based on your experience with them. Soles is better for Our Horsemen and Chefs. Guides can receive U.S. dollars or Soles without any problem.

  • Tips could be for our horse:  30 – 70 soles per porter.
  • Tips could be for our Cooks: 120 – 150 soles per cook.
  • Tips for the tour guide would be more than the cook.


Group tours consist of a diverse range of travelers, each varying in physical condition and age. When booking group services, it is important to acknowledge that some individuals may move at a different pace than you. Therefore, it is understood that each traveler will proceed at their own speed.In case the group decide to modify the tour, the guide will consult the whole participant, then we can modify if possible.


We train our cooks every year during the low season to provide you with the best-tasting meals on the mountain, with specialty menus and the freshest local ingredients available on all of our Treks to Salkantay. Here is an idea of what you will be eating during your trek.

*Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and more Options are Available Upon Request (please let us know at the time of booking).


Hot porridge, quinoa or oats, fried eggs, omelet or pancakes with fresh bread, fried bananas, Thick oatmeal with large fresh chunks of sweet apples. and boiled water for hot teas, coca tea, coffee, chocolate, and milk.

Lunch & dinner:

First Course: Quinoa, corn, noodle, asparagus, mushroom or vegetable soup, stuffed avocado, or potatoes.

Second Course: Chicken breast, beef stew, quinoa, fried rice, fried chicken, spaghetti bolognese, typical dishes: aji de gallina (chili pepper chicken), escabeche de Pollo (marinated chicken), or ajiaco de ulluco (spicy ulluco stew).

Fried plantains, chocolate pudding, chocolate or vanilla cake, peach.

candies, cookies, juice, crackers, and a variety of Peruvian fruits such as Banana, Chirimoya, Granadilla, Apples, oranges, Mandarine,


How to book the salkantay tre 4 day trek with ab expeditons.

In order to book your Salkantay 4 days with us, Click on the BOOK NOW button, then select the day of your departure, then fill out all your personal information of each participant and the last step is the payment which you can do with your Credit card or debit Card.

On the booking platform, you will also find the extras. The Huayna Picchu mountain, Machu Picchu Mountain and the Vistadome train. Those options have to be booked in advance please because also as the Machu Picchu tickets are sold out fast. However, the sleeping bag, and walking sticks can be rented here in Cusco 2 days before your trip.  

Once your Machu Picchu tickets are in our hands, we will send you a confirmation that everything is 100% organized. All start dates, once confirmed, are guaranteed.


Acclimating to the altitude is crucial for a rewarding experience during your Salkantay trek. We strongly advise arriving in Cusco at least 2 or 3 days prior to your scheduled departure. This early arrival serves as a proactive measure to mitigate the effects of altitude sickness. Even if you have previously visited other regions in Peru, we recommend allocating an additional day in Cusco before embarking on your journey. This extra day allows for a more gradual adjustment and recovery from any travel-related fatigue.


We buy Machu Picchu ticket with circuit 2. This circuit is most complete and allow you to visit the upper part of Machu picchu to take the classic picchu of Machu picchu.


There are many season why our price is more. Here are some reasons:

  • We transport all our equipment using horses, resulting in a higher number of horses involved. In contrast, companies with established campsites tend to leave their equipment at each site, consequently limiting employment opportunities for local individuals engaged in horse-related work
  • Cheaper companie dont pay fair salary to their staff thats why the guides will try to force to take a horse on the second day. On the third day they will try to convince you to take the zipline. This is the only way how they get a comisión to compensate their salary. In contrast, our commitment to fair compensation ensures a different approach, prioritizing integrity in our services.
  • Also, when we have only 2 people, we dont pass you to another company, we organize the tour only for 2 of you. Cheaper companies pass their groups when they only 2 customer.
  • Another reason is, we take máximum 8 people in the group so you will have personalized service. Other companies take more than 20 people in the group so their service is cheap.


The best time to hike Salkantay trek is from April to October. This timeframe aligns with the dry season in the Andes, ensuring clear skies and minimal chances of rainfall during your hike.


Yes, you need to book in advance because the Machu Picchu ticket with good circuit run out quickly.


There is no specific permits to hike Salkantay, the only reason we ask you a deposit is to buy Machu picchu ticket and return train ticket.


The salkantay trek 4 days is moderatly difficult. This hike rquires many hours of hiking and there are ascents and descents with steep inclines. Physical fitness is essential to fully enjoy and successfully navigate this trek.


Yes, it is included. You will visit  Humantay lake at midday.


Yes! During your Salkantay 4-day trek to Machu Picchu, you can store your luggage at our office. Please bring what you will only need during your hike.


The Outstanding balance should be paid 2 days before your trip in our office in cash in USD or soles. Our office hour is in the morning from 9 to 1 pm and in the afternoon from 3 to 7 pm. Also, you can pay us with a Credit card (a 5% service fee applies).  Please let us know what you prefer. Cash payment MUST be paid 2 day prior to your trip.


According to Peruvian Law, you have to be under 18 years old at the time of your hike to the Salkantay trek 4 days (if you are 18 or over, you need to have valid student cards).

  • Students with valid student card from 18 to 24 years old have a discount of $20 USD.
  • Hich School students from 11 to 17 years old have a discount of $30 USD.
  • For children from 2 to 11 years old, a discount is $40 USD.

Students from 18 to 24 years old have to send us a copy of their passport and valid student card at the time of their booking to get the student discount. Below you will find a sample of a valid student card.


Yes it is possible. However we have to buy another Machu Picchu ticket for your new desire date and we have to pay a penalty to change train ticket. So The extra cost to change your departure date is $100 per person.

Note: If you want to change your departure date, you have to see first availabity for your new departure date. If there is not availability for your new departure date, then it is not possible.


Yes! You must bring your original passport and it is very important that it should be the same passport you sent us to reserve your  Salkantay trek 4 days. Your passport will be checked 2 times. The first day in Mollepata Check point, seond in  Machu Picchu citadel, and when you board the train.


For our customers who hike the 4-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, we will always book the 9 – 10 a.m. Schedule for Huayna Picchu Mountain. You will get to Machu Picchu at 6 a.m. on day 04. So you will have a guided tour of Machu Picchu citadel from 06:30 until 08:30 am. Then you will enter Huayna Picchu at 09:00 a.m. This hike takes around 2 hours and a half. Therefore You will finish this hike at 12:00 roughly. Then you will take the bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes which takes around 30 minutes. So you will be in Aguas Calientes at 12:30 pm. You will have time to eat your lunch until 02:50 p.m.

When you hike Huayna Picchu, we always book the 15:20 train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. Therefore you will get back to Cusco around 19:30.


We usually book return train tickets at 14:55 pm or 15:20 for our Salkantay guided tour on day 4, so you arrive in Cusco at 07:30 pm and you have enough time to sleep and do any tour the next day, like Rainbow Mountain.


You can stay in Sacred Valley, but it is not recommended. By staying in Sacred Valley, you will pay extra $30 in total for the tranportation. Also, the pick up will be 1 hour earlier than Cusco.


In case our country closes its borders, we refund you all the deposit. But if you don't make our country for whatever reason, you get sick or miss your flight or there is a strike or natural disaster. You will lose USD $150 automatically. Once the Machu Picchu is bought it becomes non-refundable or transferable, The entity in charge of issuing the Machu Picchu Ticket is the Ministry of Culture of Peru and Peru Rail which is charged with train tickets. They don’t provide any refund.

We understand that nothing is for granted and things may change in a minute, therefore we will do our best to be reasonable and charge you only for things that we have already spent.


Our groups get to Machu Picchu at 6 am.


You will need to buy 2 liters of water only for the first day. Since the second we will provide you with boiled water 3 times a day, after breakfast, at lunch, and at dinner.


There is not any age limit for the salkantay 4-day hike. We at AB  Expeditions recommend that the minimum age should be 8 because there are some sections that would be difficult for Little Legs.


The first night, we will sleep in a remote área so there is not any electricity to charge your devices. The second night, we will find the electricity of local people where you can charge your phone. The last night, you will sleep in Aguas Calientes in a hotel so you will have


We rent mummy-style sleeping bags that are usable at -15° C / 5° F. The brand is Mountain Hard Wear.


Yes, it is possible to see the sunrise in Machu Picchu. Our groups arrive to Machu picchu for 6 am.


It is highly recommended walking sticks for people who have knee problems because they protect your knees from the impact of walking, especially when hiking downhill. Also, we recommend them for people who don't have much experience hiking because they help with the stability of uneven trails. However, if you have experience hiking without them, then you don't need them.


If someone cancels the Machu Picchu ticket, this ticket will not be backed up online for new purchases. So it is not possible to take that space. That's why the Machu Picchu ticket are not refundable.


Yes, it is possible. You will still use things that it was already in your Salkantay 4-day packages, your Machu Picchu ticket, bus ticket from Mapi to Aguas Calientes, hotel in Aguas Calientes, train ticket from Aguas Calientes and transportation from Cusco to Ollanta. However if you want to go earlier, it is not possible because the tickets are bought for day 04. 

In order catch up the group, you will need to buy an extra train ticket from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Also the tranportation from Cusco to Ollantaytambo.

Our Salkantay Trek 4 days video

Here is our full 4 days/3 nigths Salkantay trek 4 days video, with unseen footage! Hope you enjoy…

sakantay hike 4 days

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  • Sunday 5 PM - 7PM
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  • Marquez Street 250, Two Blocks from the Plaza de Armas (upper floor of the market, third door on the right)


  • Monday through Saturday 8AM - 1PM & 4 PM - 7 PM
  • Sunday is closed

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    The Salkantay trek is a high altitude 74km/46 miles hike in the Cusco region, Peru. The route starts at Mollepata, a small town 100km from Cusco. It takes you through some incredible nature areas of the Andes with breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife. Trekking includes a visit to two Inca sites; Llactapata and Machu Picchu both history and ...

  7. Inca Trail, Huayna Pichu and Machu Picchu Permits 2024 & 2025

    Availability for Inca Trail, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Circuits 2024 & 2025. We strongly recommend you to -Act NOW with your online bookings for 2024 & 2025. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu will be closed the month of February by disposition of the Ministry of Culture, because maintenance, upkeep and cleaning will be performed.

  8. Salkantay Trek To Machu Picchu (Expert Guide)

    The route is longer and tougher than the classic Salkantay Trail, taking 7 days and 6 nights as well as an Inca trail permit. Day 1: Cusco to Ichupata via Mollepata and Soraypampa. ... While the Salkantay trek is never quite as busy as the Classic Inca trail, during the dry season some of the crowds do overflow from the Classic Inca trail to ...

  9. Hiking the Salkantay Trek: Everything You Need to Know

    The Basics About the Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay Trek has long been known as a less-busy alternative to the famous Inca Trail, the original trail created by the Incan people to Machu Picchu. With the limited number of permits available for the Incan Trail, and with how hard it is to snag one of those spots, this is an incredible alternative.

  10. A Guide to Hiking the Salkantay Trek, Peru

    For a long time, Salkantay Trek in Peru was known as an alternative trek to the famous Inca Trail, which leads travelers from all around the world to the mysterious lost Inca's city, Machu Picchu.But don't be fooled. Salkantay Trek is no longer an overlooked brother of Inca Trail and definitely not only an alternative for those who can't afford it or who cannot plan their holiday several ...


    SALKANTAY TREK & INCA TRAIL SHORT TO MACHU PICCHU. 4.95 (3110 reviews) Book Now. Moderate to Challenging. Up to 12 people. 7 Days / 6 Nights from US$ 1100.

  12. Salkantay Trek: Independent Hiker's Guide

    Permits & Fees: No permits are needed to hike the Salkantay Trek. However, you will need to purchase an entrance ticket to the Machu Picchu archeological site and Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu peaks. Independent hikers can organise these in advance through the official Peruvian Ministry of Culture website. Alternatively, if you are going with ...

  13. Salkantay Trek, Peru: The Complete Hiking Guide (2024)

    The Salkantay trek starts at Soraypampa at an elevation of 3,900 metres above sea level. The elevation profile for the rest of the hike is as follows: Day One: Soraypampa (3,900 metres) - Humantay Lake (4,200 metres) - Soraypampa (3,900 metres) - Salkantay Pass (4,620 metres) - Wayramachay (3,800 metres)

  14. A Solo Salkantay Trek

    Day 5 of Unguided Salkantay Trek: Aguas Calientes-Machu Picchu-Cusco. From Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town), you either need to catch a bus (which costs about $12 each way) or walk up the 1700+ stairs. I found the stairs to be a fitting way to reach the citadel after the 4-day trek.

  15. 5 Day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu: ULTIMATE Guide [2024]

    March 10, 2024. By Carryn. The 5 day Salkantay Trek is one of the best alternative trails to Machu Picchu in Peru. It takes you to stunning glacier lakes and across snow-capped mountain passes. Along the way, you'll enter cloud forests, walk ancient Inca pathways, and reach Peru's most famous landmark, Machu Picchu.

  16. How To Hike The Classic Salkantay Trail To Machu Picchu: 5-Day Guide

    Getting to the Start of the Salkantay Trek. To get to the trailhead for the 5-day Salkantay Trek in Peru, you'll need to head to Mollapata. From Cusco, buses start running from around 4am from the Arcopata bus terminal in Cusco. The price is around S/30 ($8USD) and the journey time is around 3 hours.

  17. Custom, High-End Salkantay Trek

    Highest Mountain Pass 15,090 ft (4,600 m) Climate The Salkantay Trek traverses a remarkable diversity of ecozones in the Andes. In the highlands of Peru, daytime temperatures may reach up to 68°F (20°C) and nighttime temperatures drop ranging from 14 to 23°F (-10 to -5°C). After crossing over the Salkantay Pass, the trail descends over into ...


    The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the best alternative routes to the world famous Inca Trail. Long the way you'll see some of the most incredible landscapes as well as enjoy the adventure of a lifetime. ... You don't need a special permit for this trek. The average altitude along the trail is 3,000 masl. Salkantay Tips. To save ...

  19. Salkantay Trek 4 Days To Machu Picchu

    The Salkantay trek 4 days is perfect for those who love to see a wider variety of landscapes from rain forest to snowcapped peaks. You will pass by snowy mountains, see a sacred Inca mountain, sub-tropical jungle below Machu Picchu, and of course we will visit pristine, bright-blue Humantay lake. Since the Salkantay route has fewer restrictions ...

  20. Forms & Applications

    Fire Alarm/Sprinkler Permit Application (PDF) Lawn Sprinkler Application (PDF) Residential Dwelling, Addition, & Remodel Application & Plan Review Checklist (PDF) Residential Quick Application--No Plan Review (PDF) Sewer/Water Application (PDF) Land Use Applications.

  21. Community Forestry

    Licensed contractors must carry appropriate insurance and certified tree workers are required to pass an examination prior to issuance of their certificates. A list of currently licensed tree service contractors is available, or contact Moscow Parks and Recreation at 208-883-7084. Moscow's community forestry program strives to encourage the ...

  22. Form Center • Catering Permit

    Approvals will not start until authorization signature is received and the fee payment has been made. Permit fees are $20 per day and shall not be refunded per State Statute IC§23.934A (4). You can also pay by check or cash in person at City Hall, third floor. For questions please email [email protected].

  23. Moskvarium

    Moskvarium lets everyone get to know the amazing fauna of the world ocean and find out about marine life in the farthest places on earth. Here you can spend all day: take a walk around the Aquarium, see a fantastic water show, have a bite at one of the many cafes and restaurants. Besides, it is not only a good place to entertain yourself, but ...