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Salkantay Trek difficulty

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Salkantay Trek difficulty

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an alternative route to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is a 5-day and 4-night hike to the Inca Citadel by accessing the town of Aguas Calientes, located at the foot of the Wonder of the World. On the route you can see landscapes even more impressive than the Inca Trail. Places like the snowy Salkantay, whose summit is 6,721 m.a.s.l. and whose slopes the tourist crosses to 4,572 m.a.s.l. You can also visit places such as the beautiful Mollepata Valley, the ruins of Llactapata and tropical territories where flora and fauna abound. The last section is parallel to the Vilcanota River, until arriving at Aguas Calientes. From there, one ascends on foot or by bus to the entrance gate to the Inca City. The Salkantay Trek was chosen by the National Geographic magazine as one of the 25 best hiking trails in the world. 



Salkantay or Sallqantay (in Quechua) is the highest peak of the Vilcabamba mountain range. It is located in the Cusco Region, about 60 km northwest of the city of Cusco. The proximity of Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu makes the trekking around it an alternative to the Inca Trail.


This is the Salkantay trek with tour:

Day 1 (16 kilometers of walk):

The tour starts in the city of Cusco. The agency picks you up by car from your hotel along with the other hikers to the town of Mollepata. Then you will ascend for about 7 hours to the Soraypampa camp passing through the Huamantay lagoon. There the tours organize the food and the tent so that the tourists rest.


Day 2 (22 kilometers of walk):

The walk starts after breakfast. You travel the highest point of the trip in the 'Salkantay Snowy Mountain'. Then continue downhill to the town of Chaullay, where the cold weather begins to change to tropical. That day is considered the most difficult.

Day 3 (16 kilometers of walk):

The trek that day is easy. It starts with a descent to the so-called 'Playa Sahuayaco'. After lunch, the walk begins again until the town of Santa Teresa. In this tourist town you can enjoy the Thermal Baths of Cocalmayo.


Day 4 (16 kilometers of walk):

That day is one of the most fun trek. It starts with a walk of a few kilometers to the Hydroelectric station. After lunch, the journey continues parallel to the Vilcanota River (and the train track) until you reach the town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the Machu Picchu mountain.

Day 5 (ascent by bus to Machu Picchu):

That day starts very early with a bus trip to the entrance gate to Machu Picchu. Another option is to walk the 9 kilometers of ascent to the mountain. The rest of the day is dedicated to enjoying the Wonder of the World. The return to the city of Cusco is with a trip by train and bus.

The 'Apu' Salkantay:


The Salkantay or Salcantay (6,271 m.a.s.l) is a snow mountain belonging to the Vilcabamba mountain range. It is the second highest mountain in Cusco after the Ausangate (6,384 m.a.s.l). Its name means wild mountain. Due to its imposing and isolated appearance, it was much appreciated by the Incas. They put before him the denomination 'Apu' which means 'lord' or 'sacred'. This snow was considered as one of the most powerful in the region. They paid veneration to the point that they built Machu Picchu in view of its summit. According to the Andean cosmovision, the mountains provided life and decided on plantings, harvests and even natural disasters. Because of this, the apu should be given respect and offerings. Today, the inhabitants of the Andes still consider the mountains as important spirits. In Cusco, Salkantay is as much appreciated as the Incas were.

View of the Salkantay mountain

  • The 'Apu' Salkantay
  • Name: Salkantay Trek.
  • Duration: 5 days / 4 nights.
  • Kilometers: approximately 72 kilometers.
  • Climate: minimum of less than 0 ° C in the 'Salkantay Pass'.
  • Maximum height: 4,572 m.a.s.l. in the 'Salcantay Pass'.
  • Minimum height: 1,800 m.a.s.l in the town of Santa Teresa.
  • Difficulty: challenging.
  • How to do it ?: with a tour or on your own.
  • When to do it ?: in dry season (from April to October).
  • Places you visit: Mollepata, Soraypampa, 'Salkantay Pass', Chaullay, Santa Teresa, Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
  • Physical conditions: advisable to be in good physical condition.

Tips for the Salkantay trek:

  • Acclimatize one or two days in the city of Cusco before performing the Salkantay trek.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages or foods with a lot of fat. Altitude sickness or soroche in Salkantay and Machu Picchu is one of the greatest difficulties.
  • Perform a little exercise prior to the Salkantay trek. You do not need to be in excellent physical shape but a little exercise will help.
  • No matter what part of the year, wear warm clothes during the Salkantay trek. The nights are especially cold in the first two days.

Alternative treks to Machu Picchu:


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