The best alternative hike to the traditional Inca Trail is the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, ranked as one of the most scenic hikes in the world. It boasts a wide range flora and fauna and striking scenery. During the hike, you will learn about how local people live off the land, practice their old traditions and the best is that you can share their daily activities with them. Salkantay Mountain (6,271 m/20,700 ft) considered a mountain god (Apu) meaning protector god and "Guardian Spirit of the Jungle".
Traverse the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu in 5 Days/ 4 Nights, considered one of the most scenic and biodiverse routes, boasting many different types of ecosystems such as Alpine area, tropical high jungle, cloud forest, and eyebrow of the jungle. Admire striking views of snow-topped Mt Salkantay towering at the head of the valley, and learn traditional culture being in remote andean villages inhabitted by farmers, and appreciate the view of Machu Picchu from the Inca site of LLactapata located at the back of Machu Picchu.
Day 01: Cusco - Mollepata - Challacancha - Soraypampa
Day 02: Soyrapampa - Collpapampa - Challway
Day 03: Collpapampa - La Playa/Aobamba
Day 04: La Playa/Aobamba - Santa Teresa/Llactapata - Hidroelectrica - Aguas Calientes
Day 05: Santa Teresa/Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Cusco
After collecting you from your hotel in the morning, we leave Cusco and after about 4 hours on the road, we arrive at the small village of Mollepata. Upon arrival, we have a delicious breakfast to be able to start hiking this Machu Picchu trek. On the way, we hike through valleys and along snowy mountains observing in the distance the most significant of them: Humantay and Salkantay. This day also brings us the opportunity to explore the beauty of the Humantay Lagoon! In the end, we ascend to Soraypampa where we spend the night in a camp.
With recharged forces, we continue on our way through the Andean "Puna" (highland tundra). During the second day, we reach the highest point of the route: the Salkantay Pass, which is located at an altitude of 4,600 meters above sea level. From here, we descend through a subtropical forest while admiring the transformation of the landscape from Andean highland to subtropically abundant and diverse biodiversity. Eventually, we arrive at the Challway camp, where we spend the night after being served dinner.
We begin the third day leaving behind Challway and crossing paths of subtropical forests. During the tour, we can feel the heat and mosquitoes typical of this area, but we also see a big variety of orchids and bromeliads that turn this part of the route into pleasure for the senses. Later, we visit the town of Wiñaypoco to later arrive at "La Playa", a village and place where we are given the chance to choose from 2 options:
1. Hiking to Santa Teresa on the following day.
In this case, you set the next campsite in La Playa to be later served a buffet dinner and spend the night there.
2. Hiking to Llactapata the next day.
If you choose this option, you keep walking for 2 hours from La Playa to Aobamba, where you camp and have dinner.
During the fourth day, we either trek to the archaeological complex of Llactapata or hike towards Santa Teresa depending on our group. Anyway, we begin the day by having breakfast.
1. If you are in the group heading to the town of Santa Teresa, you descend to a valley and walk until you get to Santa Maria town. There you get on a bus (for additional 10 soles) and ride to Santa Teresa where you enjoy its thermal baths (hot springs), likely the best in the whole Cusco region!! You spend the night at a hostel in Santa Teresa.
Optional activity: ZIP Line in Santa Teresa for an extra US$ 40.
2. If you are in the group towards Llactapata, then you hike for 4 hours to the hidden archaeological complex of Llactapata (2,840 m) located at the confluence of the Cusichaca and Urubamba rivers. Here, you receive a guided tour and you can observe the mystical mountain of Machu Picchu in the distance. Afterwards, you descend for 4 hours to Hidroeléctrica (a hydroelectric plant and a same-named railway station). At Hidroeléctrica, we walk again, this time along rails, to get to Aguas Calientes town after 2 hours. (Optional: you can take a train). In Aguas Calientes, we accommodate ourselves in a comfortable hostel and then we can relax at the local thermal bath (hot springs). We spend the night in the town and get ready for the last day of the Salkantay Trek 4 day adventure.
Today is the most important day of this Machu Picchu trek!
1. If you are at the group in Santa Teresa, you are picked up from your hostel after a very early breakfast and taken by private vehicle to Hidroeléctrica (a hydroelectric plant and a same-named railway station) where you board a train to Aguas Calientes (then, the program is same as for the second group below).
2. If you are in the group already in Aguas Calientes, then you wake up at around 04:30 am and start climbing up after breakfast towards Machu Picchu. We climb up for 2 hours till we arrive at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary at 06:00 am to begin our guided tour of approximately 2 hours. Our professional guide takes us through the most important places of this archaeological complex. After the tour, we are given free time to be spent either at the site or by a visit to the mountain of Wayna Picchu or the Machu Picchu Mountain (both are optional and must be booked in advance!). In the afternoon, we return to the town of Aguas Calientes where we board the return train to the town of Ollantaytambo. This is where our transport awaits us to bring us back to Cusco City, where we finish this Salkantay Trek 4 days tour.
An emergency horse can be ridden in case you feel ill.;
Meal budget: Please allow USD 20-30 for meals not included.
Many people include Cusco Peru in their “Things to Do” list. The main reason is they would like to trek the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. But it is a pity that they do not know there are various authentic Inca Trails Trips to Machu Picchu in the Cusco Region. The difference lies in what kind of an experience you like, whether hiking in the mountains, enjoying subtropical areas, visiting Inca sites; or how difficult your trek would like to be.
Usually, the Inca Trail needs to book many months beforehand. However, if it is fully booked, we suggest other excellent alternatives to reach Machu Picchu:
There are also other alternative treks leading to other not less interesting sites such as:
Salkantay Trek Machu is an experienced, established, and dynamic tour operator. We run Salkantay Treks to Machu Picchu. We have been providing tours for more than 8 years! Our reliable, friendly and personal service is the reason why our customers return year after year. We count on staff who are highly prepared and always ready to offer personalized services. Salkantay Trek Machu operator offers adventure trips with a wide range of diverse styles to suit any person's needs. We would like to welcome you to our Salkantay family and make your trip an unforgettable reality.
Generally speaking, you should pack as lightly as possible! The horses carry your luggage from Soraypampa (1st day) to La Playa camping (3rd day). On the 4th day, your chef takes your luggage by bus to Hidrolectrica. From there to Aguas Calientes, you are expected to carry your own luggage (2-3 hours). We advise keeping the weight under 7 kg/14lb. You need to carry clothes as well as a sleeping bag. It is also advisable to take a cover of your backpack because the weather on the Salkantay Trek might change very quickly. If you do not have it, we recommended you to put your clothes and sleeping bag inside the plastic bag.
It is very important to take some EXTRA MONEY. You should take at least 200-300 Soles with you in case of urgency/need. You might need, for instance: