Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Better than the Famous Inca Trail: More Rugged, More Challenging and Less Touristy

The Salkantay Trek is a 5-day hike through the mountains of Peru. You walk right through the Andes Mountains. Discover the best tips for the Salkantay Trek. With its location, route and information to spend the night. The latter can be done in several ways. This hike is a real challenge, but it is one of the best sights in Peru.

The Salkantay Trek is a good alternative to the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This five-day trek will take you through the Andes past the Salkantay mountain at 4,000 metres altitude. The Salkantay Trek is more rugged, more challenging, and best of all, less touristy. This is the Andes at its best.

You will hike over a narrow path, that can be very steep but also very flat. You cross through meadows and forests and rocky landscapes, through moraines, past lakes and also glaciers. The path takes you up, through mountains blanketed in mist.

Lodge or Camping?

You have the choice whether you want to camp or sleep in a luxury lodge. Believe it or not, both are available. The famous Mountain Lodges of Peru have set up lodges with campsites. It is clear that the prices differ enormously. The choice is yours.

The Route of the Salkantay Trek

Take acclimatization into account, because you hike a large part above 4,000 meters. This way you prevent altitude sickness. I first spent a few days in Cusco, which is at 3,430 meters.

Day 1

You can start in the town of Challacancha, but also a little further at the Salkantay Lodge at 3,869 meters altitude with a campground. From this lodge you can also hike to Humantay Lake, a beautiful mountain lake.

Day 2

You hike to Wayra Lodge at 3,906 meters. In the meantime, you take the infamous Salkantay Pass. This is located at 4,440 meters. Where you have the chance to hike in the snow. A sign on the way shows that you are passing the Salkantay, which towers above everything at 6,271 metres. He is regularly covered in snow and fog. From here the path descends again.

The beauty of the Salkantay Trek. ©Corno van den Berg

Day 3

The route leads to the Colpa Lodge at an altitude of 2,870 meters. Where you can also take a zipline through the mountains.

Day 4

You hike to Inema Lodge, which is located at an altitude of 2,135 meters. On the way you will come across an organic coffee plantation, which you can visit.

Day 5

You can finish the trek and travel to Lucmabamba by car. Or continue via the Llactapata Pass to the train station. You can also visit the Cocalmayo Hot Springs. These are wonderful hot springs, ideal for giving your tired muscles some rest. Dive into the water and look out over the famous Rio Urumbamba.

You can hike even further to Machu Picchu, but that part is not the most beautiful on this trek. Most people take the train to Aquas Calientes for Machu Picchu.

The Cocalmayo Hot Springs on the Salkantay Trek.

Hike with a Backpack or a Horse?

You can hike with your backpack yourself, but you can also bring a horse with you. If you get tired, you can take a small on tis back. It is a nice change, although walking is actually the best to experience this area optimally.

The route of the Salkantay Trek.

It’s intriguing to learn how the Incas and other peoples lived in these mountainous environments, as well as on the relatively flat lands near their capital Cusco. And the animals too. If you pay attention you can see Viscacha scampering about the rocks. These rodents are of the chinchilla family, and have impressive curly, fluffy tails.

You have to cross some small rivers. ©Corno van den Berg

Walking the Salkantay Trek will make you fall in love with the Andes. It’s so pure, and so great in all senses of the word. After hours of walking you can see the lodge up ahead. No roads, no cars. Just a view of glaciers and alpacas. Time to set up camp…

More information:

The Alternative Inca Trail

The Inca Trails are the ancient trade routes of the Incas. The most popular is the 39-kilometre Inca Trail. You can hike the whole trail or just parts of it. There's a big difference, you have to go with a guide.

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