Salkantay Trek is the most popular alternative trek to Machu Picchu, visiting the Humantay Lake, breathtaking views of the mountain glaciers, and following in the footsteps of the Incas along the off-the-beaten-path to Machu Picchu.

Trek details

Duration
5 days 4 nights
Activities
Hiking - camping - Adventure
Difficulty
Challenging
Maximum Altitude
4630 m / 15190 ft
Destination
Machu Picchu
Group Size
12
Overview

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is Listed among the 25 best hikes globally by National Geographic Travel Magazine and is undoubtedly one of the best alternative treks in Cusco. You'll encounter lakes, glaciers, landscapes, orchids, and coffee farms, and venture into the dense cloud forest. The best choice, is if the Classic Inca Trail is sold out, and you want to be off the beaten path.

Highlights:

  • Follow the footsteps of the Incas along the Cordillera of Vilcabamba
  • Get off the beaten path and explore Humantay Lake and Llaqtapta
  • Enjoy a Pachamanca underground barbecue
  • Arrive at Machu Picchu before the sunrise

Salkantay Trek 5 Days at a Glance:

Day 1: Cusco — Soraypampa — Humantay Lake — Basecamp

Pick up from your hotel in Cusco at 4:30 am and journey to Soraypampa (3870 m / 12696 ft). After breakfast, You'll hike for 2 hours up to Humantay Lake. Explore the beautiful views. Then, another 4 hours to the Campsite at Salkantaypampa (4000 m /13123 ft).

Day 2: Basecamp — Salkantay Pass — Collpapampa

Wake up in your tent with a cup of coffee or tea. Then, hike for 2-hours to the highest point of the trek at Salkantay Pass (4630 m / 15190 ft); once reaching the top, you'll take some time to explore and enjoy the views of the snowcapped peaks. Descend for 2 hours from here to the second campsite at Collpapampa (2800 m / 9186 ft).

Day 3: Collpapampa — Lucmabamba — Llaqtapata

After breakfast, continue for 3 hours downhill through the Salkantay River Valley, passing waterfalls and varied flora and fauna. Lunch is a special Pachamanca underground barbecue followed by a coffee tour. After lunch, you'll hike for 3 hours up along an ancient Inca Trail to Llaqtapata. Camp in front of Machu Picchu.

Day 4: Llaqtapata — Hidroelectrica — Aguas Calientes

Today, you'll wake up, open your tent and see Machu Picchu. After breakfast, You'll start an easy 2 hours downhill to Hidroelectica and then head to Aguas Calientes. Along the way, you'll visit the Sundial, and Mandor farms, and hike around Machu Picchu. Spend the night in a hotel.

Day 5: Machu Picchu — Cusco

Discover Machu Picchu with an exclusive guided tour of the citadel before the crowds arrive. Your expert tour guide will take you to the most beautiful places in Machu Picchu for about 3 hours. In the afternoon, board the Expedition train back to Cusco.

Optional hikes after Machu Picchu guided tour:

  • Huayna Picchu Mountain: Needs to be booked far in advance, takes 2 hours round trip, $75 extra per person.
  • Machu Picchu Mountain: Needs to be booked in advance, takes 3 hours round trip, $75 extra per person.
Full Itinerary
Day 1: Cusco — Soraypampa — Humantay Lake — Basecamp

Pick up from your hotel in Cusco at 4:30 am and drive for three hours by bus to Soraypampa (3870 m / 12696 ft). Upon arrival, the chef will prepare the first breakfast with a view of the Humantay and Salkantay snowcapped mountains. After breakfast, you'll meet your trekking team and start the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. The hike starts with a 4-hour up to Humantay Lake (4200 m / 13779 ft); you'll arrive at this amazing place before the crowds, explore the surroundings, take a lot of pictures in the turquoise water lake, and start descending for another 2 hours to the lunch place. After lunch, continue hiking for two more hours to the campsite near the base of Salkantay Mountain. Along the way, you'll see endemic flora and fauna like the Andean goose (love birds) and vizcachas. Upon arrival at the campsite at Salkamtaypampa (4000 m /13123 ft), you'll find the tents ready, warm water to wash, tea time, dinner, and spend the night under a clear sky view.

  • Campsite Altitude: 4000 m /13123 ft
  • Highest altitude: 4200 m / 13779 ft
  • Distance: 12 km / 7.4 miles
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Meals: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Day 2: Basecamp — Salkantay Pass — Collpapampa

Before the sunrise, your team will knock on your tent with a hot cup of coffee or coca tea for an excellent start to the day; once you come out, you will have the spectacular views surrounded by the snowcapped. After breakfast, you'll start the longest and most challenging day of the trek. The day begins with a 2-hour climb to the expedition's highest point, The Salkantay Pass (4630 m / 15190 ft). Once you reach the top, take some time to enjoy the fantastic vistas of the mountains. From here, descend for 2 hours to Wayrajmachay (3905 m /12812 ft), where your chef will be waiting with another delicious meal prepared with fresh products. Next, continue downhill for 4 more hours to the second campsite in the village of Collpapamopa (2800 m / 9186 ft); throughout the day, the landscape goes from the high Puna covered by Ichu grass to the warm and lush cloud forest. Along the way, you'll see a variety of flora and fauna, including orchids and hummingbirds.

  • Campsite Altitude: 2800 m / 9186 ft
  • Highest altitude: 4630 m / 15190 ft
  • Distance: 18 km/ 11.1 miles
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Meals: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Difficulty: Challenging
Day 3: Collpapampa — Lucmabamba — Llaqtapata

After breakfast, start an easy 3 hours along the Salkantay River Valley; you'll hike along the cloud forest, where farmers cultivate coffee and different kind of fruits such as passion fruit, oranges, bananas, avocados, yucca, etc. There will be incredible sights of the lush valley and the fantastic waterfalls. Lunch is a Pachamanca underground hot stone barbecue where we put all kinds of meat and vegetables. You will also visit a local coffee farm to learn to plant until it becomes a steaming espresso. After lunch, you'll start a 3-hour hike up to Llaqtapata; the walk is along a portion of an original Inca trail, built in the XV century and connected Vilcabamba (the Last capital of the Incas) with Machu Picchu. We'll arrive at Llaqtapata and have the first views of the great Inca city of Machu Picchu. The Campsite is located in front of Machu Picchu with the best views of the entire trek to Machu Pichu.

  • Campsite Altitude: 2735 m/ 8974 ft.
  • Distance: 16 km / 9.9 miles
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Meals: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Day 4: Llaqtapata — Hidroelectrica — Aguas Calientes

Llactapa is a unique place from where we can take photos from a different angle of Machu Picchu. The sunrise is worth experiencing, so after waking up, you should make your coffee cup and sit around to observe Machu Picchu surrounded by mountains as the clouds rise from the valley revealing the sacred and lost the City of the Incas. After breakfast, you'll hike for two hours down the path with the tropical forest's sights until you arrive at the hydroelectric power station. Here, you'll have a box lunch to later hit the road for three hours to Aguas Calientes town. This path was used by the American professor Hiram Bingham III, who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911. Encountered different species of flora and fauna, and the Peruvian national bird called Cock of the Rock, parrots, toucans, and hummingbirds. Once you are in Aguas Calientes, you'll check-in in at the hotel, and enjoy a hot shower. Enjoy the last dinner with the group in a local restaurant at night and prepare for Salkantay Trek's next and most important day.

  • Aguas Calientes Altitude: 2,000 m/ 6560 ft
  • Distance: 14 km / 8.6 miles
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Meals: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner
  • Accommodation: Hotel
  • Difficulty: Moderate
Day 5: Machu Picchu — Cusco

On the final day, wake up early in the morning, have breakfast in the hotel, and take the first buses to Machu Picchu before sunrise. The hotel will keep your stuff that is not needed. Once in Machu Picchu, you'll have a guided tour for around 4 hours, visiting the most important places in Machu Picchu. We usually start with a short hike to Sungate or Inca bridge, then start exploring inside the citadel. After the guided tour, you'll have time to explore yourself or hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (different for the fortress and not included). After finishing with Machu Picchu, you'll take the bus down to Aguas Calientes, and have lunch (not included). Then take the afternoon expedition train back to Ollantaytambo, where our transportation will be waiting for you to Transfer you back to your hotel. Arrive at Cusco around 7.30 pm, where the Salkantay Trek ends.

  • Machu Picchu altitude: 2400 m/ 7872 ft
  • Duration of the tour: 4 hours
  • Meals: breakfast at the hotel
  • The Most Beautiful Day

Included: 

  • Pick up from your hotel in Cusco
  • Duffle bag for up to 7 kilos of your stuff.
  • Cargo mules to carry food and equipment
  • Professional Native tour guides
  • Second tour guide for groups 9+
  • Camping equipment (tents, tables, chairs, porta-potty)
  • First aid kit, satellite phones, oxygen tank
  • 5 Breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 tea times, 4 dinners
  • Sleeping foam mattress, pillows, hot water bags
  • Entrance ticket Salkantay
  • Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
  • One night 3-star hotel in Aguas Calientes
  • Round trip bus tickets to Machu Picchu
  • Expedition train back to Cusco
  • All taxes included

Not Included:

  • Sleeping bag, trekking poles, air mattress (can be hired)
  • Huayna Picchu tickets
  • Machu Picchu tickets (Different than Machu Picchu Citadel)
  • Last day lunch in Aguas Calientes
  • Gratuities (optional)
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended)
FAQs

What is the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek is a popular trekking route in the Cusco region of Peru that leads to Machu Picchu. It is considered one of the best alternative routes to the classic Inca Trail, as it offers stunning mountain landscapes, high-altitude passes, and a variety of ecological zones.

How long is the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek can be completed in various lengths, but the most common is the 5-day trek. It covers a distance of around 72 km (45 miles) and reaches an altitude of 4,650 meters (15,255 feet) at the Salkantay Pass.

Do I need a permit to trek the Salkantay Trail?

No, you do not need a permit to trek the Salkantay Trail. However, you will need to purchase an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu separately.

When is the best time to do the Salkantay Trek?

The best time to do the Salkantay Trek is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. The peak season for trekking is from June to August, but it can be crowded during this time.

What is the difficulty level of the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek is considered a challenging trek, as it reaches high altitudes and involves steep ascents and descents. However, it is suitable for anyone with a good level of fitness and no major health issues.

Do I need to hire a guide or can I trek independently?

While it is possible to trek the Salkantay Trail independently, it is recommended to hire a guide. A guide will ensure your safety and provide you with information about the trail and the surrounding areas.

What should I pack for the Salkantay Trek?

During the Salkantay Trek, you must have a daypack to carry always with you and a duffle bag provided by Ultimate Trekking during the briefing; the mules will take this. It's important to know that according to regulations, your backpack should not be larger than 25L to be allowed in Machu Picchu (if you have a more oversized bag, fear not, contact us)

In the daypack, always have it with you.

  • Original Passport for Machu Picchu
  • Student ID (if you booked as a student)
  • Sun protection, hats, and sunglasses
  • Rain Gear, jackets, rain ponchos
  • Warm clothes (fleece jackets, sweaters)
  • Sun cream, Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush and paste, face moisturizer
  • Personal medication, band-aids, moleskin
  • Camera, extra batteries, torch
  • Camel bags or water containers for at least 2 liters
  • Extra snacks, power bars, chocolate
  • Extra Money for Souvenirs, Drinks & Tips

What equipment goes in the Duffle bags for the Salkantay Trek?

During the Salkantay Trek, there is a briefing held the day before the trek at our office. Ultimate Trekking Peru will provide you with a duffle bag for your stuff. Remember that this must include sleeping bags (2 kilos) and air mattresses (1 kilo) if you need to rent from us. The duffle bags you'll only see in the campsites and not during the day.

  • Sleeping bag (can be hired from us)
  • Air Mattress(can be rented from us)
  • Hiking shoes, sandals, or snickers
  • Warm jacket, hats, and gloves
  • Five sets of clothing for the entire tour
  • 3-4 comfortable pants for hiking
  • Five sets of undergarments.
  • 5 sets of hiking socks
  • 1 Fleece or down jacket
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Soap or shampoo
  • Battery Charger
  • Plastic bags

Is altitude sickness a concern on the Salkantay Trek?

Altitude sickness is a concern on the Salkantay Trek, as it reaches high altitudes. Acclimatizing properly before the trek and drinking plenty of water throughout the trek is recommended.

What kind of accommodation is available on the Salkantay Trek?

Accommodation on the Salkantay Trek ranges from camping to basic lodges. Most trekking companies provide tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping mats, but you should check with your tour operator before booking.

Can I see Machu Picchu on the Salkantay Trek?

Yes, the Salkantay Trek ends at Machu Picchu, where you will have the opportunity to explore the ancient Incan ruins.