Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trek is a popular alternative route to the Inca Trail for those looking to reach Machu Picchu. The trek takes you through diverse landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, cloud forests, and subtropical jungles, offering a unique and challenging experience. Here is an ultimate guide to help you prepare for the Salkantay Trek:

Humantay Lake


  • Duration: The trek typically takes 4 to 5 days to complete, covering a distance of approximately 74 kilometers (46 miles).
  • Altitude: The trek's highest point is the Salkantay Pass, at 4,600 meters (15,091 feet) above sea level.
  • Difficulty: The Salkantay Trek is considered moderately difficult, with some steep ascents and high altitude challenges.

Best Time to Go:

  • The dry season (May to September) is the best time to undertake the Salkantay Trek, as the weather is more stable, and there's a lower chance of encountering rain or muddy trails.
  • The shoulder months of April and October can also be suitable, but with a higher likelihood of occasional rain showers.

Permits and Regulations:

Unlike the classic Inca Trail, obtaining a special permit for the Salkantay Trek is unnecessary. However, you will still need to purchase an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.

Trekking Options:

  • You can choose to join an organized group tour or arrange a private tour with a licensed trekking company. These tours typically include transportation, camping equipment, meals, and entrance fees.
  • For experienced trekkers, it is also possible to undertake the Salkantay Trek independently, although it is essential to have excellent navigation skills, be well-prepared for high-altitude trekking, and arrange your own transportation and camping logistics.

Packing List:

  • Clothing: Waterproof hiking boots, breathable trekking clothes, a warm jacket or fleece, waterproof outer layers, thermal base layers, gloves, and a hat.
  • Gear: A backpack with a rain cover, trekking poles, a headlamp, and a refillable water bottle.
  • Personal items: Sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, personal medications, a first aid kit, toiletries, and a camera.
  • Documents: Passport, a copy of your Machu Picchu entrance ticket, and any necessary travel insurance documents.


Spend a few days in Cusco (3,399 meters/11,152 feet) or the Sacred Valley to acclimatize to the high altitude before starting the trek.

Route Highlights:

  • Day 1: Start at the village of Mollepata or Soraypampa, and gradually ascend towards the base of Salkantay Mountain.
  • Day 2: Hike to the Salkantay Pass, the highest point of the trek, and then descend into the cloud forest towards the village of Chaullay or Colpapampa.
  • Day 3: Trek through lush subtropical vegetation and visit the Llactapata archaeological site, which offers a unique view of Machu Picchu from a distance.
  • Day 4: Descend to the hydroelectric plant and either hike or take a train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.
  • Day 5: Visit Machu Picchu early in the morning, explore the site with a guided tour, and then return to Cusco by train and bus.

The Salkantay Trek is an incredible experience that combines stunning landscapes, physical challenges, and the rich cultural heritage of the Incas, culminating in a visit to the iconic Machu Picchu. With proper planning and preparation