Salkantay Trek Peru

Woman hiking up to Mount Salkantay trek 4 day Trek Peru

With so many Peru treks available in Peru, it is not easy to decide which hike to choose. The Salkantay Trail Peru takes you through the most iconic and highest mountain range in the Peruvian Andes before reaching the 7th wonder of the ancient World. After hours of investigation, I knew that the Salkantay Trek Peru was the ideal Peru trek.

National Geographic Adventure Travel magazine listed the Salkantay Trek as one of the top 25 Treks in the World. Machu Picchu. Not only is the Salkantay Trek Peru the best alternative route to experience the original path of the Incas to Machu Picchu, but it also offers other gems and promises an unforgettable experience.

Couple at start of Mount Salkantay trek Peru
Salkantay Trek Peru

The 5- or 4-Day Salkantay Trek Map

Salkantay trek length

Choose between the 5-Day Salkantay Trek or the 4-Day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. We were trekking up the epic glacier peak of Salkantay Mountain, which, at 6,271m, is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba Mountain range in the Peruvian Andes. More than Nevado Salkantay, one passes through scenic valleys with turquoise lakes, cloud forests, and the tropical Jungle before entering the Machu Picchu Inca ruins.

Inca Trail vs. Salkantay Trek

The most frequently asked question hikers ask is Salkantay trekvs.s Inca trail; which should I book? The Salkantay Machu Picchu Trek and the Inca trail treks start in the snowy, cold Andes Mountains and finish in the humid forest.

Let’s closely look at these famous treks to assist you in choosing.

  • Although the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is iconic, it is costly and crowded.
  • The famous Inca Trail is only doable with an Inca trail permit, whereas you don’t need a ticket for the Salkantay Trek.
  • Besides that, the Inca trail is usually fully booked months in advance;
  • The Classic Inca trail hike, or the Camino Inca, is a 42 km trail passing through the Andes Mountains and subtropical Jungle before reaching Machu Picchu sun gate.
  • The Inca Trail costs more than the
  • Salkantay trek cost varies between 550$ – 650$

Reasons to Hike The Salkantay Trek Peru

The Salkantay Trail Peru will take you through the most iconic and highest mountain range in the Peruvian Andes before reaching the 7th wonder of the ancient World, Machu Picchu. With the Salkantay trek’s highest point at 4 635 meters (15 200 feet), one must spend at least two days in Cusco or the Sacred Valley to acclimate.

Hiking Checklist Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu at Wayramachay
  • The Machu Picchu Salkantay Trek is less crowded,
  • Diverse adventures are waiting around every corner.
  • Classic Salkantay trek distance is 74 km.
  • Besides the picturesque Humantay and Salkantay Lake, water streams, snow Mountain peaks, glaciers, and the humid Jungle.
  • Salkantay Trek altitude 4 630m is almost 200 meters higher than the Classic Inca Trail.
  • Salkantay altitude at 15090 ft.
  • Altogether, the unique view from Llactapata to the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
  • We found the Salkantay trek 5 days better value for money.
  • Salkantay Trek’s difficulty due to its high altitude makes it more challenging.

Trek Salkantay Itinerary

The most popular way to travel from Cusco to Mollepata is by Minibus. It is about a two-hour drive from Cusco to Soraypampa in the Mollepata district at 2 801m.  

  • Day 1: Mollepata to Salkantay Pampa – 14 Km (about 7 hours),
  • Day 2: Salkantay Pampa to Apacheta Pass to Huayra Machay Collpapampa is 22 Km and doable in less than 9 hours,
  • Day 3: Collpapampa < Lluscamayo to La Playa – 16 Km (about 6 hours),
  • Day 4: La Playa < Llactapata to Aguas Calientes – 19 Km (6 hours),
  • Day 5: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu – 4 Km (3 – 4 hours)

Mount Salkantay trekking has a reputation for being more strenuous than the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Due to a few steep slopes on the Salkantay trek route and Salkantay pass, as well as the high altitude, onemusto be relatively fit with stamina.

No Permits are required for the Salkantay hike; hiking the Salkantay trek without a guide is possible with a Salkantay trek Map. However, I won’t recommend trekking without a guide if you’re not an experienced hiker. Salkantay trek difficulty is moderate to challenging.

Day 1: Soraypampa – Humantay Lake – Salkantaypampa

The tour Company in Cusco picked us up from our hotel between 4:00 am – and 5:00 a.m. and drove us to Soraypampa, where we arrived at about 8:30 am. Soraypampa’s altitude at 3900m was freezing. After a simple breakfast, we started our hike. The incredible scenery of the surroundings and the view of Mount Salkantay were so breathtaking that I wanted to pinch myself to ensure I was not dreaming.

Also called Nevada Salkantay, or Salcantay in Quechua, it means Savage Mountain. First, we had an elementary breakfast, whereafter, we started our four-day Salkantay trek up to Soyrococha (4400mts – 14430ft). Along the way, we saw a variety of flora and fauna like the Andean goose (the love birds), deer, and vizcachas.

We then arrived at the camp where our chef had prepared our highest lunch. After lunch, we continued climbing, and as we approached Mount Salkantay, we were amazed by the roaring sound of an avalanche. I stopped to admire the avalanche and took a short video clip. I wish we could go slower to appreciate it more, but our guide was hurrying to the summit.

Salkantay Pass and Lake Salkantay

We hiked up the Salkantay Pass and reached the summit at 4,650 m/ 15255 ft after about an hour, where we spent about half an hour at the beautiful turquoise Salkantay lake. After that, it was a 3-hour hike downhill to our campsite at Wayrac Machay at 3,800 m/12467 ft.

Couple at the Salkantay Lake Salkantay trek Peru
Salkantay Lake Salkantay trek Peru

Upon arrival at the camp, our horseman handed us a bucket with steaming hot water to wash and prepare for supper. Every night during our Salkantay 4-day trek, we had a comfy alpaca blanket on our sleeping bags.

After a tasty dinner, we went straight to bed. We sleep at Salkantay Pampa at 3900m, dropping below freezing point. We slept like babies dressed in layers with socks and a warm hat. Distance day 1: 14 km / 8.6 miles Duration: 7 hours

Day 2: Salkantay Pampa to Collpapampa

Before sunrise, we were awakened by the chef with cups of steaming Coffee. After Breakfast, we started our hike from Salkantay Pampa to Wayra Punku to Collpapampa. We were surrounded by the tallest peaks of the most extensive mountain range globally. Although the entire day was almost downhill, we had some short uphill sections.

The landscape throughout the day goes from the high Puna covered by Ichu grass to the warm and lush cloud forest. Along the way, one sees the most beautiful flora and fauna. Finally, after walking for four hours, we arrived at our lunch spot.

After that, there was a gradual downhill, and we could see how the climate changed to tropical, surrounded by coffee plantations and fruit vineyards such as passion fruit, oranges, bananas, and avocado trees—also, incredible sights of lush valleys and waterfalls. Finally, we arrived at the campsitein the early afternoon to explore the area.

  • Campsite Altitude: 2,400 m/ 7874 ft
  • The highest altitude on day 2: 3.800 m/ 12467 ft.
  • Distance: 22 -24 km/ 14.91 miles Duration: 9 hours
Red Peru flowers at Machu Picchu
Peru Flowers
pink Orchid Peru flowers

Day 3: Collpapampa to Lucmabamba to Llactapata

Waking up among coffee trees, coca bushes, avocados, yucca, and banana plantations in the subtropical area, we could sleep a little later. After Breakfast, the farmer took us around the coffee farm, where he showed us everything about producing Coffee, from the planting process to the final steaming espresso. Today’s lunch is exceptional as we will make a traditional Incan Pachamanca consisting of meat, potatoes, bananas, and other vegetables.

The farmer took us through the coffee plantation, where we were told all about the Inca Coffee farm and the process of planting, growing, roasting and brewing Coffee. After picking some coffee cherries, we were allowed to roast the beans ourselves. After that, we brewed some fresh Peruvian Coffee and then sat down to indulge in the tasty Pachamanca feast.

After the delicious Pachamanca meal, our chef surprised us with a freshly baked cake with chocolate icing and beautifully decorated with lemon slices. Then, it was time to move along narrow pathways in the humid forest beside banana plantations, all the way up. It wasn’t easy, especially with the humidity and after the big lunch. I nearly trampled on a snake, so be careful. This part was challenging, and we were happy to arrive at the top of the Mountain at Llactapata.


We arrived at Llactapata Lodge, a small citadel at the top of the Mountain at 2 750m with a unique view of Machu Picchu. Besides a restaurant, Llactapata Lodge offers accommodation. From Llactapata Lodge, the Valley and Machu Picchu view is spectacular. Regarding accommodation, one can camp or stay in one of the rooms with ensuite bathrooms and hot water, which is very welcome at this stage of your trek.

Llactapata, ideally situated only 4,4 km from the Inca bridge, is the perfect place to take the most amazing photos of the lost City from a different angle. Our room on the top of the Mountain had the most majestic view. After watching the sunset, we enjoyed a hot shower, especially after a few days of trekking. After that, we had supper at the restaurant and went straight to bed.

  • Altitude: 2,000 m / 6560 ft
  • Highest altitude: 2600 m / 8528 ft
  • Distance: 16 km / 8.6 miles, Duration: 5-6 hours
view over Machu Picchu from llactapata Peru
Llactapata Peru

DAY 4: Llactapata – Hydroelectric – Aguas Calientes

La Playa < Llactapata to Aguas Calientes – 19 Km (6 hours).

Rising early, we got a steaming hot coffee while admiring the surrounding mountains as the clouds rose from the valley, revealing the Incas’ sacred and lost City. Furthermore, besides Mount Salkantay’s view, we could see Veronica Mountain and the Vilcanota River. Some paths lead to Santa Teresa and the Hydroelectric.

After Breakfast, we continue further down the valley through tropical forests with various orchids, bird species, and other plants.

Aguas Calientes Hydroelectric

We reached the Hydroelectric station, where many visitors visit Machu Picchu or Agua Calientes’ town. Besides, there are many cafes and restaurants all along the train tracks. After walking a while, we stopped for lunch at one of the restaurants, where we spent about 45 minutes before we hit the road again.

This time for a bit boring three hours stretches to Aguas Calientes town. After that, the route along the Hydroelectric track gets boring except for the train to Machu Picchu. We eventually reached the cosy village of Aguas Calientes, surrounded by mountains.

Arriving at our Aques Calientes hotel, we showered and rested before exploring the town. And so our fantastic experience hiking the Salkantay Trek Peru ends in the lively small town of Aguas Calientes.

Aguas Calientes town
Aguas Calientes town

Aguas Calientes town

Located deep in the Mountain Valley, surrounded by lush forests, the village of Aguas Calientes is the perfect haven to visit the ancient ruins. Besides the many exciting shops, restaurants, and markets, I suggest staying in town before returning to Cusco.

The town has two main streets and is easily explored on foot, though you may need to get used to the thin air at this altitude first.

What to do in Aguas Calientes

  • Go to the main square in town to see the life-size statue of the Inca Emperor Pachacuti, an influential leader credited with expanding the empire.
  • Explore and shop at the large market near the train station, where one can pick up a few bargains. For example, at Aguas Calientes, we bought Johan a new wedding ring after he lost the previous two. Besides jewellery, you can purchase locally-made bags, rugs, and a tremendous variety of handicraft items.
  • Visit the Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón to learn about the rediscovery of Machu Picchu. Over 200 stone, ceramic, bone and metal Inca artefacts are also displayed.
  • See dozens of butterfly species at the Butterfly House, only 20 minutes from town on your way to Machu Picchu.
  • While out there, look out for the Mountains’ national bird, Aguas Calientes. The birds of Machu Picchu are Cock of the Rock, parrots, toucans, and hummingbirds.

Hot Springs Agues Calientes

Known for its thermal baths, the Hot Springs Peru, the Spanish name Aguas derives its name from Aguas, meaning water, and Calientes, meaning piping hot. The hot springs Aguas Calientes are most famous among hikers relaxing their tired bodies.

If you feel fit, trail to Putucusi, the jagged rock opposite Machu Picchu. The route starts just outside Aguas Calientes, and ancient stone steps and ladders lead partway up to the summit. A shorter and less strenuous hike is to the Mandor Gardens, an orchid-filled natural reserve with a waterfall.

Day 5: Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

Bus Machu Picchu

We woke up eaBreakfastreakfast to catch Breakfast in Machu Picchu, about 4 km from the town. Unfortunately, after we entered Machu Picchu, our guide Pepe misled us by telling us he first wanted to take us down to the ruins and that we could walk back to the sun gate for the best view over the Inca citadel Machu Picchu afterwards.

Unfortunately, he lied to us as he was hurrying to go home. So after entering Machu Picchu, continue straight to the sun gate, as you won’t be allowed to return.

Hike to Machu Picchu?

The hike to Machu Picchu will take about 60 minutes, depending on your fitness. I, however, recommend the Machu Picchu bus unless you want to arrive tired and sweaty.

  • Inca city of Machu Picchu’s altitude is 2 430m, 7 972 ft.
  • Huayna Picchu, the Sacred Mountain, altitude is 2,720 m, 8 924ft.  
Machu Picchu Inca city from Sun Gate  Inti Punku Sun Gate
Machu Picchu Inca city from Sun Gate Inti Punku Sun Gate

Best time to do Salkantay Trek Peru

The ideal time to trek the Machu Picchu Salkantay trail is from May to September, during the driest months. We went in May, the beginning of winter, which is also the rainy season.

Although the Salkantay weather temperatures drop below zero at night during these months, the days are warm and sunny. Due to occasional rains, always go prepared.

Can I do the Salkantay trek independently?

It is possible to Trek the Peru Salkantay trail on your own without a guided tour. However, without high-altitude trekking experience, it can become a problem should you get sick. Therefore, if it is your first high-altitude trek, I recommend booking a guided tour.

High Altitude Travel Insurance

The Salkantay is a high-altitude trek, making the hike very challenging. Therefore, ensure you are moderately fit and take out travel insurance covering adventure activities, like high altitude sickness. With World Nomads, one has 24/7 emergency assistance.

For more Treks in Peru, check out the following Hiking In Peru Guide.

Disclaimer: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. If you make a successful purchase, I might earn a small commission at no cost to you.

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