Exploring Peruvian Andes & Machu Picchu on the Salkantay Trek

24 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Salkantay trek is an incredible route that leads hikers through the Peruvian Andes, to lakes, glaciers, hot springs and to the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and Llactapata. This 74km traverse through the Andes is a longer and much less touristy hiking alternative to the popular Inca trail. The less traveled trail is filled with animals and incredible flora and fauna, both nature and history lovers are drawn to the Salkantay Trek. This is a moderately difficult hike that travels through high altitudes, the highest point on this trek is 4580m, and the best time of year to hike this route is between April and October. The Salkantay trek is a breathtaking adventure that showcases some of the most beautiful areas of Peru. 

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

When preparing for the Salkantay trek, pack lightly and research the types of accommodations that are offered in each town or are being organized by the trek operator. Along the trek route there are different options for camping or staying overnight, some of the villages have hotels and others only offer camping sites. Some towns have restaurants and shops to buy supplies at, however, bring all the necessary camping supplies such as proper clothing, a tent, a sleeping bag, food and cooking supplies. In many cases the operator helps in arranging these in Cusco. Be prepared for every type of weather, especially rain. It is important to bring clothes that can easily be layered because of the different climates and altitudes that you will be exposed to during the trek.  

When deciding whether to go on a guided tour of the Salkantay trek or to hike it independently, consider the cost, packing, and structure of the hike. If you decide to go on a guided tour of the Salkantay trek, it will be more expensive than hiking it by yourself, and there will be less opportunity to explore by yourself or create your own itinerary. The major benefits of hiking with a guided tour is being able to pack less, meet new people, and worry less about planning the trip. The average duration of this trek is between 5 to 8 days, depending on whether hikers en-route stop in the towns for extra days. 

Prior to beginning the Salkantay Trek, spend a few days in the quaint city of Cusco to give your body the time to acclimatize with the high altitude. Cusco is filled with culture and beautiful architecture and is the perfect city to rest before embarking on the 74km hike to Inca ruins.

To begin the trek from Cusco, take a bus to the town of Mollepata and start the trail to the first nights campsite in Soraypampa. This hike is between 2-3 hours and the altitude change between  Mollepata and Soraypama is ~1,000 m. It is better to take a bus to Mollepata early in the morning because the journey by bus and the subsequent hiking will take approximately 7 hours and there are many steep ascents. A short walk away from Soraypampa is the Humantay lake and glacier that offers stunning views. Hikers have the option of staying at a hotel or campsite in Soraypampa, where there is a restaurant and a shop to eat and purchase food from.

The second day of the hike is the most challenging, the route covers 21km between Soraypampa and the night’s campsite of Chaullay. During the day pace yourself as you will be reaching the highest elevation on the hike of 4580m. While there are incredible views from the Salkantay mountain and glacier, there are also a few steep ascents and descents. 

The third day of the trek from Chaullay to Lucmabamba covers 18 km, and the route leads hikers through lush forests filled with fruit trees and past coffee plantations. Near Lucmabamba there are natural hot springs outside of the town, which can be accessed by a bus. 

The fourth day of the trek covers 20km from Lucmabamba to Aguas Calientes and leads hikers through a steep ascent to the ancient Llactapata ruins. The ruins are less crowded than Machu Picchu but are very beautiful and worth seeing on the way to Aguas Calientes. 

The fifth day of the Salkantay Trek is 15 km and takes hikers to Machu Picchu, remember to bring your passport, tickets and arrive early for the 6 am entrance. Buy a ticket a few days before departing for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, especially during high season because only a limited number of people can enter the Inca ruins each day. Complete the Salkantay Trek by soaking in the incredible wonder of Machu Picchu before returning back to Cusco.

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