Salkantay Trek 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 new itinerary includes many of the highlights of other Salkantay trek, but avoids many of the areas that are becoming crowded with other trekkers.
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 morains, before starting a fairly steep section of switchbacks known as the 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.
3 hours walking, 3700-4300m
After an early breakfast we will conquer the Salkantay Pass at 4600. 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 relaxing day. We start with a small descent and then walk along a newly built road to the house of Don Paulino. 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. If we are lucky, Doña Presentacion will prepare a local specialty for lunch. After lunch, we cross the river and head through the upper edges of the rainforest. After about a 2 hour walk we will arrive at the town of Sahuayaco, also known as La Playa. We will either camp here or further down the trail at Lucmabamba.
We start early to avoid the mid-day heat with a walk through coffee plantations and past an artisan coffee mill on the way to Lucmabamba. Here we follow a wide, well-preserved Inca road which once ran to Quito. Following the trail up the side of the ridge, we may see a multitude of butterflies, citronella, rocky streams, and stunning vistas of the Santa Teresa valley. From the pass there is a view of Machu Picchu just a fabulous as that from Intipunko, the famed Sungate. From the pass it is a short walk to Llactapata. We will explore the site, still covered in vines and jungle vegetation, before descending to the Rio Aobamba and on to the train station at Hidroelectrica. From there, we will catch the train to Aguas Calientes and check into our hotel. In the evening, there are plenty of restaurants, markets, and the hot springs to enjoy, or simply relax in your hotel. 5 hours walking, 2150-1900m
We will get up early in order to catch the bus up to Machu Picchu in time to watch the sunrise over the mountains. After enjoying the views, we will have a two hour tour of the city. Afterwards, you have free time to explore the ruins, hike Huayna Picchu, climb to the Sungate, 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.
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$810.00 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.