The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular and spectacular trekking routes in Peru! It is an alternative to the classic route of the Inca Trail and offers a unique experience for lovers of adventure and nature.
The tallest mountain in the Cordillera Vilcabamba at 6,271 meters/20,569 feet and the second highest in the Cusco area. There are several ways of doing this, I will explain the most popular. It is more of a nature trek than a way to see ancient ruins. You pass high mountains and sweltering jungle, all in very desolate areas. you own, without an agency or even a guide. The trek generally starts in the town of Mollepata in the Apurimac Valley to the northwest of Cusco. It is reachable by an early morning bus.
From there, the trek will start through impressive and mountainous landscapes until reaching Soraypampa Peru, the first camp at an altitude of approximately 3,800 meters. The first night on this trek is cold, as cold a night as I have ever experienced. The camp is beside the snow-covered peak of Salkantay.
The second day of the Salkantay Trek Machu Picchu, is a direct climb for half a day. There is usually a great variation in time to complete this part of the route. Those with greater physical strength and determination can finish hours before the rest of the group. This day alone makes it more difficult than the normal trail, but don't let that stop you. I saw a group of four Germans in their 60s in great shape. They were moving slowly and were not embarrassed.
From this point on, there are several variations for the trek. Some take four nights overall, and some just three. Others take seven. Some will end in the town of Santa Teresa, a short walk from the train station at the Aobamba hydroelectric plant. It's a one-hour ride from there to Aguas Calientes. Another trek leads to Paucarcancha, Huayallabamaba, and then connects with the traditional Inca Trail.
Salkantay Trek - Soraypampa
Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek does not require a permit, making it a more flexible option for travelers who may not have been able to secure a permit in advance. The trek is considered moderately challenging, as it involves hiking at high altitudes and navigating steep terrain. It is recommended that trekkers have a good level of physical fitness and acclimatize to the altitude before starting the trek.
Along the Salkantay Trek, trekkers pass through diverse ecosystems, including cloud forests, alpine meadows, and barren mountain landscapes. Highlights of the trek include crossing the Salkantay Pass at an altitude of 4,600 meters (15,091 feet), visiting the turquoise-colored Humantay Lake, and soaking in natural hot springs.
The trek culminates with a visit to the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, where trekkers can explore the ancient ruins and learn about the fascinating history of the Incas. Some Salkantay Trek itineraries include a guided tour of Machu Picchu, while others may allow trekkers to explore the ruins on their own.
Overall, the Salkantay Trek offers a challenging and rewarding hiking experience for adventurers seeking a different route to Machu Picchu, showcasing the natural beauty of the Peruvian Andes along the way.
Whether the Salkantay Trek is better than the Inca Trail is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Both treks offer excellent experiences and have their own benefits and characteristics. Here are various factors to consider when comparing the two:
Scenery: The Salkantay Trek is known for its diverse and breathtaking landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, high passes, lush forests, and remote villages. The Inca Trail, on the other hand, features stunning views of mountains, cloud forests, Inca ruins, and the famous Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu. The scenery on both treks is spectacular, but they offer different types of natural beauty.
Difficulty: The Salkantay Trek is considered more difficult than the Inca Trail. It involves hiking at higher altitudes and crossing the Salkantay Pass at 4,600 meters (15,091 feet). The Inca Trail is shorter in distance and has fewer steep climbs. If you are looking for a more physically demanding trek, the Salkantay Trek might be a better choice.
Crowds: The Inca Trail is limited to a certain number of permits per day, which means it can get crowded during peak seasons. The Salkantay Trek does not have such restrictions, so it generally offers a less crowded experience. If you prefer a quieter and more secluded trek, the Salkantay Trek might be preferable.
Cultural Experience: The Inca Trail allows trekkers to follow in the footsteps of the ancient Incas, passing through their ruins and archaeological sites along the way. It offers a more profound cultural immersion and historical connection.
Availability: The Inca Trail requires a permit, and spots can be limited, especially during peak seasons. If you are unable to secure a permit or prefer a more flexible option, the Salkantay Trek is a great alternative since it does not require permits.
Ultimately, the decision between the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail depends on your preferences, fitness level, and the kind of experience you are seeking. Both treks offer incredible opportunities to explore the Peruvian Andes and culminate with a visit to Machu Picchu, so you can't go wrong with either choice.
The Salkantay Trek typically spans a distance of approximately 74 kilometers (46 miles) and takes around 4 to 6 days to complete, depending on the itinerary and the pace of the hikers. The route takes its name from the majestic Salkantay Mountain, which stands at an elevation of 6,271 meters (20,574 feet) and is one of the highest peaks in the region.
The trek usually begins in the village of Mollepata and traverses through diverse terrain, including snow-capped mountains, high-altitude passes, cloud forests, and lush valleys. Along the way, trekkers are treated to breathtaking views of the Andean landscape, glacial lakes, and the opportunity to spot native flora and fauna.
The highlight of the Salkantay Trek is reaching the Salkantay Pass, which stands at an elevation of 4,650 meters (15,256 feet) and offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains. From there, the trail descends into the tropical rainforest, leading to the final destination - Machu Picchu.
While the Salkantay Trek does not follow the original Inca Trail, it is still a rewarding and popular alternative, providing hikers with a diverse and challenging adventure before reaching the awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu.
This high-altitude pass is one of the most difficult sections of the route, as it involves ascending steep trails and dealing with low oxygen due to the altitude.
As the altitude increases, the percentage of oxygen in the air remains constant, but the atmospheric pressure decreases, which causes the air to become thinner, so there is less oxygen available.
The Salkantay Trek Packing List is essential for a successful and enjoyable journey through the breathtaking Andean landscapes. Proper gear, clothing, and essentials ensure you are well-prepared for this unforgettable adventure. Here's a concise guide to help you pack wisely and travel light during the Salkantay Trek.
Salkantay Trek Packing List
Distance: 74 km (46 miles)
Time: 5 days
Altitude: 4579 meters at the highest point
Things to do/see: Humantay Lake, Santa Theresa hot springs, Apacheta pass, views of Salkantay mountain, ziplining
Season: All year round
Distance: Approx 60 km (37 miles) biked, 38 km (24 miles) walking
Time: 3-4 days
Altitude: 4,318 meters at the highest point
Things to do/see: Abra Malaga Pass, downhill mountain biking, ziplining, whitewater rafting,
Season: All year round (if it is foggy the mountain biking will be canceled)
Distance: 41 km (27 miles)
Time: 4 days
Altitude: 4,214 meters at the highest point
Things to do/see: Authentic Inca pathways, Wayllabamba ruins, Phuyupatamarca, Valley of Llulluchapampa
Season: Closed for the entire month of February each year.