Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, is a popular alternative to the very-crowded classic Inca Trail. It offers more distance, more mountains, more scenery, and a wider variety of landscapes, but still concludes with a visit to the iconic city of Machu Picchu. As the route does not have as many regulations as the Inca Trail, this also means that it can provide a “back door” trek to Machu Picchu when Inca Trail permits are sold out. This trip is a more condensed version of our 5d/4n trip, perfect for strong hikers with tight itineraries.
The itinerary below is a sample. Hiking times are an average and will vary depending on the group. Additionally, lunch and camp sites may change to meet the needs of the group and conditions.
Before the trek, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an in-depth briefing. This provides an opportunity to ask questions and do any last-minute shopping before leaving Cusco.
We leave Cusco early in the morning and take the Panamerican Highway through the province of Anta, Cusco’s dairy region. Following steep-sided river canyons, we descend into the rich and fertile valley of Limatambo before climbing again to the town of Mollepata, where we will stop for breakfast. We continue on to Soraypampa (3700m) where we meet our wranglers and pack animals and begin our trek. After an hour’s walk our first stop will be Laguna Umantay where we will have lunch. From here we continue across Salkantaypampa, just below glacial moraines, before starting a fairly steep section of switchbacks known as the 7 vueltas, which will take us up to 4300m. From here the path is almost flat to Soyroccocha, where we will camp just below Salkantay mountain. This campsite offers spectacular views of the glacier and, if the weather is clear, an unparalled view of the southern sky, but is high and usually very cold.
After an early breakfast we will conquer the Salkantay Pass at 4600m. As you take in the panorama you will be able to see not only Salkantay but also the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, Pumasillo, and the Huayracmachay valley. There is also the option to do some alpine scrambling and to visit a second lake near the base of the Salkantay glacier. From the pass we start our descent into the valley alongside a stream. As we travel, the vegetation changes from the sparse grasses of the puna and mountain passes to lush cloud-forest home to butterflies, hummingbirds, and a wide-variety of flora. After lunch we will veer away from the standard trekking route and head down to the river before climbing the ridge on the other side. From here we can look down on the Santa Teresa valley before an easy walk to our campsite at Unuyuq.
Today is a more relaxing day. We start with a small descent and then walk along a newly built road. Here we will get a look at rural life in the valley, and, if in season, we can harvest some granadilla, a member of the passion fruit family, or maybe some of the region’s incredible avocados. After a few hours’ walk, we arrive at the town of Sahuayaco, also known as La Playa. Here we will take a minivan for a 45 minutes ride to the train station at Hidrolectica and catch the train to Aguas Calientes. In town you can visit the hot springs, visit the many restaurants, discos, and other tourist attractions before relaxing for the night in a hotel.
The day begins early as we catch one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu in time to watch the sunrise over the ancient city and the mountains. After enjoying the views, will have a two hour tour of the Machu Picchu. Afterwards, you have free time to explore the ruins, hike up Huayna Picchu, go to the Temple of the Moon and Inca Bridge, or simply relax and soak in the atmosphere. In the afternoon we will return to Aguas Calientes to catch the train to return to Cusco. Practical Information For more information on trekking with Apu Andino, see Trekking with Apu Andino.
Much of this trek is isolated and rugged. It is advised that trekkers acclimate by spending a few days at Cusco (3400m) or similar before attempting the trek. Trekkers should be in good physical condition and be experienced hikers. Additionally, weather and trail conditions can vary. Temperatures range from warm and humid to below freezing.
Trekkers should be prepared for changes to the itinerary and to meet unexpected challenges with an open-mind and sense of adventure. Climbing Huayna Picchu is an excellent addition to a trip to Machu Picchu. It offers superlative views, but is a steep climb that can take about three hours. Entrance to Huayna Picchu is limited and at scheduled times; visitors must sign up for a spot in advance.
If you would like to consider doing the climb, it is important to book it in advance. Salkantay is becoming increasingly popular. A more challenging and less crowded alternative route goes along the eastern flank of the mountain and down to Ollantaytambo, ending with a train journey to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. Alternatively, trekkers can follow part of this eastern route to Huayllabamba and join the classic Inca Trail, a route known as the High Inca Trail.
US$730.00 per person
Bookings of 4 people or more will get a US$20.00 discount per person or a free Day Apu Training Hike*.
*More details will be available if you are interested in talking advantage of this offer.
Train will be according to availability and Peru Rail schedules, if train route ends at Ollantaytambo, we will be there waiting for you in order to go to Cusco City. (Our service ends once you are at your accommodation at Cusco City)
For treks that include accommodation at Aguas Calientes, we stay at La Pequeña Casita which is a very nice place to rest after several days walking! In comparison to other companies, we will not be staying in basic shared rooms or sharing showers.
However, if you would like to have a better accommodation just let us know the accommodation of your preference and we will let you know how much the extra fee will be.