Salkantay Explorer: Backpacker Edition 2025
Salkantay Trek Machu
Sustainable Tourism Operator
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Salkantay Explorer: Backpacker Edition

Salkantay Explorer: Backpacker Edition

Salkantay Trek Backpacker is one of the most interesting and important alternative trekking to Machu Picchu, a trail less traveled but equally, if not more, mesmerizing than the famed Inca Trail. This trek seamlessly weaves together cultural wonders and natural splendors, leading you to the heart of the Andes and unveiling a tapestry of biodiversity, diverse ecosystems, and breathtaking vistas of Mt. Salkantay and the Machu Picchu Inca sanctuary.

Your ascent takes you to the pinnacle of Salkantay Pass (4,600 meters/15,000 feet), where adrenaline meets admiration. At the summit, marvel at the commanding presence of Mt. Salkantay, revered as the 'guardian spirit of the jungle' by the Andean natives. The descent leads you through a narrow valley adorned with colossal stones, transitioning from sparse vegetation to the subtropical realm, lush with flowers, trees, and crops.

The trail culminates in Aguas Calientes, nestled at the base of the iconic Inca citadel, Machu Picchu. On the final day, an early morning exploration of Machu Picchu promises a sunrise spectacle and an intimate encounter with this UNESCO World Heritage site. Delve 'deep into the Andean mountains,' traversing one of Peru's most scenic landscapes and engaging with local communities in their daily rhythms.

Before you go

Tour Overview

Service Level: Budget Travel – Basic camping equipment such as a double tent and foam mattress.
Physical Rating: 3 – Moderately strenuous but accessible to most healthy travelers.
Age Requirement: 4+ / All travelers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Tour Operator: Local Tour Operator.
Crew: A Salkantay Trek Machu Representative in Cusco, a professional English-speaking tour guide, trekking chef, and horses. Accommodation: 3x campsites, 1x Hostel.
Meals: 4x breakfast, 4x lunch, 4x dinners.
Transportation: Tourist transportation to the trailhead.


Quick Itinerary:

Day 1: Bus journey to the trailhead Cruzpata, hike to Soraypampa and Lake Humantay, campsite in Soraypampa.
Day 2: Hike to Pass Salkantay (4,600m/15,090ft), down to lunch, then continue to Colpapampa campsite (3,100m/10,170ft).
Day 3: Leisurely hike to La Playa Sahuayaco (2,067m/6,781ft). After lunch, bus to Santa Teresa (1,550m/5,085ft) and soak in the hot springs.
Day 4: Hike to Hidroelectrica town (1,890m/6,200ft) and then to Aguas Calientes (2,000m/6,561ft).
Day 5: Visit the historical sanctuary of Machu Picchu, and return to Cusco by train.


Highlights of Salkantay Machu Picchu:

  • Scenic Andean views.
  • Picturesque villages and Inca sites along the way.
  • Guided tour of Machu Picchu.
  • Hike the best alternative trek.

Salkantay Trek Backpacking: Your Journey Back to Cusco

In our Salkantay Trek Backpacking package, the train return to Cusco is not included, giving you flexibility and options for your journey back. You can either secure your train ticket independently or allow us to assist you in the process. There are two reliable train companies, Perurail and IncaRail, operating from Machu Picchu to Cusco, offering various schedules for return service to Ollantaytambo, Poroy, or Cusco.


We recommend choosing a train departing between 02:30 PM or 07:00 PM for a convenient return. Opting for the 02:30 PM train ensures you'll be in Cusco by 06:00 PM, while the 07:00 PM train will have you back by 10:00 PM.


Economical Return to Cusco Options:

Train from Machu Picchu to Hidroelectrica: Take the train for U$ 30 and then catch a bus to Cusco.


Scenic Walk to Hidroelectrica: If you prefer a more adventurous route, embark on a 3-hour walk to Hidroelectrica. From there, catch a tourist bus to Cusco, making the return journey approximately 8 hours. This budget-friendly option typically costs U$ 20 per person.


Choose the return option that suits your preferences, ensuring a memorable and personalized conclusion to your Salkantay Trek Backpacking experience.


Salkantay Trek Tours:

Additional Information:



Day 01: Cusco - Cruzpata - Soraypampa

Day 01: Cusco - Cruzpata - Soraypampa

You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the starting point of the hike in Cruzpata (3,700m/12,139ft). The bus journey takes you northwest of Cusco to the agricultural town of Mollepata (2,800m/9,186ft). After a breakfast stop in Mollepata, the bus continues to the Cruzpata trailhead, offering scenic views of the snow-capped Humantay mountain.


Upon reaching the trailhead, you will warm up, meet the rest of the crew—including the chef and mule drivers—and have a final chance to buy snacks or water from local shops. The trail gradually ascends and descends to Soraypampa, allowing you to appreciate the natural beauty of the Andean region. After a steady 3-hour hike, you'll reach the first campsite, Soraypampa (3,900m/12,795ft).


Following lunch at the campsite, embark on a short hike to Lake Humantay (4,200m/13,780ft), where you'll enjoy a spectacular view of the bright blue lake with the snow-topped Humantay mountain in the background. Back at the campsite, you can relax until dinner, after which you'll receive a briefing on the itinerary for the following day.

Day 02: Soraypampa - Pass Salkantay - Collpapampa

Day 02: Soraypampa - Pass Salkantay - Collpapampa

You will be nicely awakened with coca tea or coffee served in your tent. After a nutritious and hearty breakfast, the trail gradually slopes up to pass Salkantay (4,600mt/15,141ft). As you ascend the views of the Mt Salkantay are more imposing. Arriving at the pass, you will learn how ancient cultures gave offfering to the mountain using coca leaves. Afterwards, the trail descends to Wayaracmachay hamlet for a well-deserved rest. Then, it narrows and descends to Collpampa. On the way down to campsite, the vegetation gradually becomes lush with flowers such as begonias, orchids,  lillies, trees with moss and liquen on them, pampas grass, food crops, etc. and also the temperature becomes warmer. Campsite at Collpapampa (3,100mt/ 10,200ft).

Day 03: Colpapampa - La Playa Sahuayaco - Santa Teresa Hot Springs

Day 03: Colpapampa - La Playa Sahuayaco - Santa Teresa Hot Springs

You will wake up sipping coca tea or coffee served in your tent. The trail goes undulating to  La Playa town and as it drops in altitude the temperature increases suitable for other different crops such as coffee, banana fields and avocado trees, etc. After 5 hours hiking through lush ecosystem, you will arrive to La Playa town  and have lunch. After resting, you will ride to Santa Teresa and set up campsite. In the afternoon, there is an optional activity to go to the hotsprings of Cocalmayo, this an arranged in diffferent sizes and temperatures you can jump in and recover from the previous hike. During the night, we will have dinner, the instructions for the next day, time to share with the group and rest.

Day 04: Santa Teresa - Hidrolectrica - Aguas Calientes

Day 04: Santa Teresa - Hidrolectrica - Aguas Calientes

The day starts with breakfast to face the hike to Hidroeléctrica with energy. We will continue seeing the diversity of landscape, already traveling altitudes between 1700 and 2000 m, where it is possible to appreciate the jungle landscape to our destination. On the other hand, there is the option (no include) of taking a zipline during the morning, which involves several meters of cable between the hills, to finally arrive at Hydroelectric for lunch. After lunch, and the group has already gathered, we will walk along the train line for 3 hours to Aguas Calientes. Here, we will settle in our hostel until dinner time in a restaurant in the city. After lunch, we will receive the guide's instructions for the next day, as well as a snack for the road between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, before going to rest.

Day 05: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Day 05: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco

Wake up early to explore the Inca sanctuary of Machu Picchu, you can go either by foot (1h:30min)  or bus(20min).On arriving at the entrance of Machupicchu, you will meet your guide and have a 2hour guided tour of the largest and holiest Inca town of Machupicchu. Then, you will have free time to explore the site by yourself, or, climb one of the sacred mountains (Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu, please book them in advance). Afterwards, you will bus down to Aguas Calientes for lunch and enjoy a well-deserved rest the return to Aguas Calientes. Finally you will board the train to Ollantaytambo and then change for a bus back to your hotel.

What is included in ths trek?

  • Pre-trek briefing (Our guide will visit your hotel a day before the trek for your briefing);
  • Early morning transfer by tourist bus to Cruzpata - the initial point of the trek;
  • Accommodation: Campsites (3 nights) and a Hostel in Machu Picchu (1 night);
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu circuit 1 or 2;
  • Meals: 4x breakfast, 4x lunch, 4x dinner and Hot drinks in the evening (please advise us in advance if you are a vegetarian; this option is for NO extra additional cost);
  • Professional bilingual Tour Guide (a group of up to 8 participants receives 1 Guide, a group over 8 persons receives 2 Guides);
  • Trekking chef;
  • Horseman and horses to carry food, camping and cooking equipment and 5 kg of each passenger's stuff; 
  • Camping tent: Personal double tents;
  • Sleeping roll mattress;
  • First aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle.

Not Included:

  • Breakfast on day 1 and lunch on the last day.

  • Entrance fee to Salkantay (U$ 8).

  • Entrance fee to Cocalmayo hotspring.

  • Entrance fee to Huayna Picchu (U$80).

  • Shuttle bus between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu (U$12 - one way, U$ 24 round trip).

  • Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Cusco (U$ 68)
  • Inflatable mattress (Term-a-Rest Mattress) U$ 25.
  • Sleeping bag (for temperatures as low as -5°C) U$ 20.

  • Hiking poles (U$ 20).

  • ZIP Line in Santa Teresa (U$ 45).

  • Emergency horses (U$ 100).

  • Transportation from Playa Sahuyaco to Santa Teresa.

  • Tips for local staff (please note: tipping is customary in Peru but not obligatory).

  • Other extras not mentioned.


Trekking Chef and Muletter

In the Salkantay trek, on the 3rd day, our muleteer and horses will complete their work and return to the initial point. Our trekking chef finishes work at Hidroelectrica on the fourth day, where they will provide the last lunch. Afterward, the trekking chef will return to Cusco.


On the fourth day, you will need to carry your duffel bag from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes.


Meeting Point & Departure

Departure Point: Cusco - You will be picked up from your hotel.
Departure Time: 04:00 - 05:00.
Briefing Point: Our guide will brief you on the hike at your hotel lobby 2 or 1 day prior to trek departure.
Briefing Time: Between 18:00 - 19:00.
Return Point: Cusco - Our driver will drop you off near the main square, then you can take a taxi to your hotel.

What to take on the Salkantay?

  • Original passport (+ copies for a case of lost),
  • Original ISIC (an international student card if applicable)
  • Pocket money in Nuevos Soles,
  • A backpack
  • A small rucksack,
  • Rain gear (a rain-jacket and a waterproof trousers or a rain poncho - this can be purchased in Cusco),
  • Resistible footwear, waterproof trekking shoes are recommended,
  • Sandals (for a higher comfort while at a campsite),
  • Warm clothes such as a jacket, a fleece (thermal clothing is also recommended for cold nights during camping),
  • Hat or a cap (to protect you against the Sun, rain as well as cold),
  • Sun cream or sun block,
  • After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body,
  • Insect repellent – recommended minimum is 20% DEET (please note that no malaria cases have been reported during this trip!),
  • Camera and its charger/batteries (please note that batteries are consumed quickly under cold conditions),
  • Flashlight/headlamp + batteries,
  • Handkerchiefs and toilet paper,
  • Small towel and toiletries,
  • Sufficient reserve of underwear,
  • Swimsuit (to visit the thermal baths of Aguas Calientes),
  • Snacks (biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, raw fruits, muesli, etc.)
    Please note: we do provide a daily morning snack and our meal service is very complete and well supplied. The recommendation of taken own snack applies only for customers who like a specific snack that might not be in our menu.
  • Bottled water for the first morning and a water bottle to be refill.
  • Optional: walking sticks; you can also rent it from us,
  • Please note: we provide with filtered boiled water during the entire trek, but if you like to use water from streams along the trail, you need to take some water-purifying tablets with you.

Frequent Asked Questions:

What is Salkantay Trek

Salkantay Trek links the city of Cusco with the Citadel of Machu Picchu. The start of this 5-day pedestrian excursion is from the town of Mollepata, a few kilometers from Cusco, and is done in one direction, from Cusco to Machu Picchu; the return is always made in a motorized way in train. 


Who will participate in Salkantay Trek with me? 

We propose 2 types of Trek: in private or in groups. In private, only your friends and our staff will be part of Salkantay Trek; although it is the type of Trek preferred by some, it is the most expensive. However, most prefer, by their own wishes and for budget reasons, a group Trek; that is, you would do the Trek accompanied by other hikers. As it is impossible to know in advance (in addition to questions of confidentiality) who will be part of your group, it is impossible for us to respond accurately. Generally, it is a group of hikers of different nationalities and ages. We can summarize by saying that it is a small group of hikers with guides, pack horses and muleteers. It should be noted that, as far as possible, (tourists without a fixed travel date, etc.) we try to group a maximum of people of the same nationality and age range on the same trek.This is the cheapest option.  


What are the dates of departure? 

It would not be pleasant or prudent to do this Trek in the rainy season; that is why we only propose it when the weather conditions are favorable. These conditions may vary from year to year and there are departures during all year but we preffer to do the trek on these periods, which are generally from April to September. During these periods, we offer departures every day of the week, including holidays. 

I've heard about a "local" train, can I take it? 

Indeed, there is a train called "local" for the route Cusco - Aguas Caliente, but by decree of the government is reserved for Peruvian residents, upon presentation of an identity document. No tourist can take it.  

Can I do the Salkantay Trek by myself?

It is not recommended. The Trek of Salkantay is only accessible to hikers accompanied by certified expert guides, who know the way very well.So it is imposible to hike Salkantay without a tourism guide.

What to do with my luggage during Salkantay Trek

Most of the places where you will be staying (hotel, hostel or lodging houses) can store your luggage for free during the Trek. But we also, gladly, can keep it; All you have to do is bring it to our agency on the eve of the Trek. 

Do you practice an ethical trade? 

Ethical trade aims, let's remember, to make a trade that respects social conditions (rights and guarantees of employees, decent wages, etc.) and the environment (respect and protection of the environment, places, flora and fauna ). As it is a very important point for us, we can say with great pride that we respect the employees in general and the porters in particular (because they are very numerous and surely make the job more difficult). We always work with the same carriers, which is a guarantee for them, for us and for our customers. We do not choose porters based on their availability (many are independent) because we have ours. Regarding respect for the environment, we can mention as an example that during the Salkantay Trek we carry garbage bags for the classification of waste, we also carry biodegradable portable toilets, we keep the waste throughout the Trek to be discarded at the exit, 4 days later, etc. Finally, the answer is yes, not out of necessity but out of conviction and ethics.


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