Salkantay Treks
Hiking the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu


Salkantay Trekking

The Salkantay Trek is one of the most spectacular trekking routes in the world. The Salkantay hiking trail goes deep in the snow capped Salkantay mountain range, visits the emerald Humantay glacial lake, an indigenous coffee farm, and travels through several microclimates. The unique glamping accommodations and private campsites are unlike any other tour: Glass Cabanas bring stargazing into full view, Hobbit Houses with outdoor jacuzzis and hot showers, and camping literally overlooking mystical Machu Picchu at Llactapata. Wow! All this, while you are hiking an ancient trade route right into the local town at the foot of Machu Picchu itself!

The Best Salkantay Treks Start with Indigenous Tour Operator Alpaca Expeditions

You are traveling with the award-winning, #1 tour operator in Cusco for all treks to Machu Picchu. Our Salkantay Trek stands out from all other companies with its unique glamping accommodations during your trek – our Glass Cabanas and Hobbit House. You will get top-quality camping equipment, exceptional, nutritious meals on the trail prepared by professional chefs, and leading safety procedures on every trek. We are a local, indigenous, and sustainable company – 100% Peruvian and the leader in supporting our local communities through social projects and porter welfare.

World Travel Awards 2022 Alpaca Expeditions

Salkantay Availability

All Salkantay Treks are available for daily tour departures, March – January. Optimal trekking season is April -October. No special permits are needed, unlike the Classic Inca Trail.

How Inca Trail Permits Work

1. How Challenging or Difficult Is The Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek is a challenging trek in the Andes Mountains range of Peru and offers trekkers the opportunity to experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country. Trekkers who prepare for 5 days of hiking from 12km to 22km (7.5 miles to 13.7 miles) daily, and are in reasonable physical fitness can accomplish this beautiful, remote trek.

The trek takes place at high altitude, which can be challenging for many individuals when not acclimated even just a few days in advance. High altitude can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. The hiking paths include rocky footpaths, steep mountain trails, uneven terrain, and depending on the season, deeply rutted, muddy paths.

This five-day trek starts at the height of 3,800 meters (~12,500 feet) and finishes at 4,200 meters (13,776 feet) at Machu Picchu. The trek’s highest point is the Salkantay Pass at 4,600 meters (15,092 feet). Trekkers will hike to the Salkantay Pass on the very first day of trekking. The typical Salkantay trek is five days, so day one is the highest altitude point on your trek. The night before your trek starts, your Glass Cabanas accommodations are at 3800 meters above sea level.

During the trek, trekkers will face a wide variety of weather conditions, including cold temperatures and strong winds in the Salkantay mountains on the first 2 days, and hot, humid rainforest conditions on the subsequent hiking days to Machu Picchu. This can make the Salkantay trail even more challenging. Having the proper hiking equipment and clothes for trekking is essential.

If you are fit and have trained for this trek, you should have no problems except possibly for altitude acclimatization. Note that altitude acclimatization is independent of physical fitness! If you are not an uber athlete, but are in reasonable physical condition, this is a very doable hike if you come prepared to spend up to 8 hours or more hiking, in order to complete the daily mileage. Fast hikers
may get to camp by mid afternoon, and slower hikers tend to get to camp by the very end of the day.

Acclimatizing to high elevation before you start your Salkantay Trek is really important, especially because the 5 day trek has all the highest elevation on days 1 and 2. You don’t have a chance to work up to the highest elevation over the first few days, as a result. We strongly recommend that you arrive in Cusco at least 2 if not 3 full days before your trek so you can better acclimatize to the high altitude. Cusco elevation is 3353 meters or 11,000 feet.

2. How does the Salkantay Trek Compare to the Inca Trail Trek?

The Salkantay Tour is more difficult than the Inca Trail tour because it has a longer average daily
hiking distance, is 5 days instead of 4 days (4 days of actual hiking versus 3 days of hiking on the
INca trail, with the last day spent touring at Machu Picchu) and goes to higher altitude. The
Salkantay total distance hiked is over 60 kilometers (37+miles) whereas the classic Inca Trail total
distance is about 40 kilometers (25+ miles).

With Alpaca Expeditions, the Salkantay Trek is five nights and five days, with 2 of those nights
camping in tents at private campsites where you will not see any other groups. The other 3 nights
are in unique glamping accommodations along the hike – Glass Cabanas on the first night and
Hobbit Houses on the 3rd night. The final night is at a hotel in Aguas Calientes, the local town at the
foot of Machu Picchu. It has become a busy town focused exclusively on tourism and travelers to
Machu Picchu. In contrast, the Inca Trail Trek is 4 days and 4 nights, and all found nights are
camping in tents at group campsites along the Inca Trail. Note that all the trekking companies use
the same group campsites, so hikers will be camping with many other travelers each night.

Here is a quick comparison of the Salkantay 5 Day Trek and the Inca Trail 4 Day Trek:

DISTANCE:

  • Salkantay 60+km/ 37+ miles
  • Inca Trail 40+km / 25+ miles

AVERAGE DAILY HIKING:

  • Salkantay 12-22 km/ 7.5 -13.7 miles
  • Inca Trail: 10-16 km/6.2-10 mi

MACHU PICCHU ACCESS:

  • Salkantay – Hike into Aguas Calientes town at base of Machu Picchu on Day 4. Walk
    or bus to Machu Picchu on day 5.
  • INca Trail: Hike into Machu Picchu on Day 4 through the Sun Gate

ACCOMMODATIONS:

  • Salkantay: 2 nights tent camping, 2 nights glamping, 1 night hotel
  • Inca Trail: 3 nights tent camping

COOKING CLASSES

  • Salkantay: YES
  • Inca Trail: YES

EMERGENCY HORSE for Tired Trekkers

  • Salkantay: YES day 1 (hardest longest day)
  • Inca Trail: no

HIGHEST ELEVATION

  • Salkantay: Salkantay Pass at 4,600 meters (15,092 feet)
  • Inca Trail: Dead Woman’s Pass 4,000 meters (13,200 feet)

3. Are there Facilities for Showers Available During the Salkantay Trek?

Typically yes, there are some showers on the Salkantay Trek. The availability of showers on
the trek depends, though, on what kind of Salkantay Trek you are doing: tent camping only,
glamping & traditional camping, or mountain lodges. If it’s an exclusively tent camping trek,
typically there are no showers at all. Alpaca Expeditions’ Salkantay Trek is a glamping
trek.Trekkers enjoy showers on night 1 at the Glass Cabanas, on night 3 at the Hobbit
Houses, and on night 5 at the hotel in Aguas Calientes before your final day touring Machu
Picchu. If you are trekking the Salkantay trail via a mountain lodge path, you will typically
showers at the lodges. Salkantay Treks options vary, so it’s really about your budget and
trekking style.

4. What are the Bathroom Options on the Salkantay Trek?

There are several minimalist bathroom facilities along much of the Salkantay Trek,
especially with how Alpaca Expeditions runs its glamping and camping 5 day trek.

Remember to bring your own toilet paper though, as you cannot be assured of TP in any of
these facilities! Along the trek, there is typically a public or private bathroom opportunity at
the lunch stop; otherwise, there are no bathrooms.

Night 0 – Pre Trek

  • The first night at Alpaca Expeditions’ Glass Cabanas has a bathhouse with flush
    toilets, and running water for sinks and showers. Note – this is the night before day

DAY 1 – Trekking

  • On the first day of trekking to the Salkantay Pass, there is a small and clean
    bathroom one-third of the way up the pass that costs one sol to use. It is maintained
    by local villagers who manage the small drink and snack station (and souvenirs)
    there beside it, as well.
  • Also on day 1 of hiking, right before the top of the pass, there is another public
    bathroom facility that you can use. It is really just a little shack with a flush toilet in it,
    and it is not regularly managed or cleaned. While it’s not in excellent condition, it is a
    flush toilet! You will want to remember to always carry extra toilet paper for your
    personal use on the trek.
  • This 2nd night on the Alpaca Expeditions’ Salkantay Trek is tent camping in the
    middle of the mountains. There is a small bathroom stall with a flush toilet, and initial
    toilet paper supplies. Remember to supplement with your own toilet paper.

DAY 2 – Trekking

  • During the 2nd day of the trek, you will have lunch at a little roadside picnic area with
    clean bathrooms with flush toilets. The bathrooms cost 1 or 2 soles to use, it’s worth
    it because they are well maintained!
  • In the morning and afternoon while hiking, there are no public bathrooms, so mother
    nature is it.
  • The 3rd night is at the Hobbit Houses with bathrooms with flush toilets and hot
    showers. Bring your own TP to be sure you don’t run out.

DAY 3 – Trekking

  • On Alpaca Expeditions’ Salkantay Trek, during this 3rd day of hiking you will hike along the river and then to a really cool indigenous coffee farm. Well maintained bathrooms with flush toilets are available there, and you’ll enjoy a wonderful lunch, cooking class, make your own roasted coffee beans, and also tour the coffee farm.
  • This is the 4th night of your 5 day, 5 night trek, and it is tent camping at Llactapata
    high up in the mountains and next to a closed lodge. Trekkers can use the two adjacent bathroom stalls with flush toilets and running water sinks there at the lodge facility.

DAY 4 Trekking

  • Hiking during the morning is down into Hydroelectrica. There are no bathrooms along the way in the morning – mother nature is it.
  • Clean bathrooms are available at the lunch stop, before the walk to Aguas Calientes
    along the train tracks in the afternoon.
  • THere are a few places along the train tracks route that have bathrooms, have your
    own toilet paper and be prepared to pay 1 or 2 soles. Otherwise, mother nature is it.
  • The 5th night is at a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

Day 5 – Machu Picchu Tour

  • Machu Picchu has a large restroom facility OUTSIDE the entrance gate. There are NO bathrooms inside Machu Picchu.
  • Be prepared, if you are hiking up Huayna Picchu during your Machu Picchu visit, the entrance to Huayna Picchu is at the very farthest side of the Machu Picchu complex, away from the entrance and only restrooms. You will be assigned a start time to do the steep, but intensely rewarding, hike up the peak, and you must make that start time or you may not get to climb. Plan accordingly if you want to use the bathroom before starting your Huayna Picchu climb and get to the entrance gate to use the restroom. You will need to show both your Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu tickets in order to get back into the Machu Picchu complex. There are no bathroom facilities on Huayna Picchu Mountain.
  • This is also true of hiking up Machu PIcchu Mountain – plan accordingly if you
    need/want to use the restroom before you start your hike up that mountain from your
    Machu Picchu tour. There are no bathroom facilities on Machu Picchu Mountain.

5. What is the Elevation of Salkantay Pass?

The Salkantay Pass is situated at an altitude of 4,600 meters (15,092 feet) above sea level.
Trekkers will hike to the Salkantay Pass on the very first day of trekking. The typical
Salkantay trek is five days, so day one is the highest altitude point on your trek. The night
before your trek starts, your Glass Cabanas accommodations are at 3800 meters above
sea level. This means you are hiking an additional 800 meters, or 2625 feet up and down in
one day.

Acclimatizing to high elevation before you start your Salkantay Trek is really important,
especially because the 5 day trek has all the highest elevation on days 1 and 2. You don’t
have a chance to work up to the highest elevation over the first few days, as a result. We
strongly recommend that you arrive to Cusco at least 2 if not 3 full days before your trek so
you can better acclimatize to the high altitude. Cusco elevation is 3353 meters or 11,000
feet.

6. What Does Salkantay Mean?

Salkantay comes from the Quechua Salka, which means “Wild.” This name is attributed to
the geography of the place; since crossing the pass, all the geographic space is a cloud
forest full of vegetation and a wide variety of trees and animals typical of the jungle.

Long before the Salkantay route was made available for tourism, this was a mule
track for the muleteers with horses that made frequent use of this route. They
transported different products such as vegetables, fruits, and other goods
brought from the jungle of Cusco. These muleteers were skilled in navigating the
treacherous terrain, and they used this route as a means of transporting goods
and supplies to different parts of the region.

The Salkantay Trek Magazine

The Salkantay Trek is an amazing alternative hiking trail to Machu Picchu than the popular
Classic Inca Trail. It is a favorite for trekkers, especially because it’s far less crowded, has extraordinary scenery in the Salkantay Mountain range, and traverses through several
micro climate ecosystems. We’re excited to share this beautiful trek experience with you.
Download our 44-page, full color Salkantay 5-Day/5-Night Trek Magazine and see for
yourself what it’s like!

salkantay trek to machu picchu inca trail

Get Your Salkantay Magazine here

See where The Salkantay Trek Trail is in Peru, and trace your hiking route to Machu Picchu
with these useful Salkantay Trek maps.

SALKANTAY MAP

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Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu 4 days 3 nights

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Cooking classes are on all our camping treks. Learn to cook traditional, delicious dishes in open air classroom of the magical Andes mountains!

Explore All Salkantay Hiking Tours: Classic 5 Day, Salkantay + Inca Trail 7 Day, and Humantay Lake 1 Day

Find the Salkantay tour that best suits your interests. Do you want to hike the entire Salkantay Trek away from the crowds of the Inca Trail? Then choose the classic 5 day Salkantay Trek. Want to also hike into Machu Picchu through the famous Sun Gate? Then choose the Salkantay + Inca Trail 7 Day tour! Are you short on time or not keen on hiking a lot but really want to see the beautiful Salkantay Mountain range in person? Then go for the Humantay Lake 1 day hiking tour.

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