Imagine having the freedom and flexibility of not having to worry about pre-booking non-refundable trail permits or being able to enjoy uninterrupted views of the Peruvian Andes all to yourself? If this sounds too good to be true, we promise it’s not. This is the Salkantay Trek, where you can embark on a journey through the Andean Jungle, alongside the glacial lake of Humantay past Salkantay Mountain and finally, to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
With Machu Picchu set in your sights as the end goal, it goes without saying that each and every trek through the Sacred Valley will be a rewarding experience filled with phenomenal views. But, if it’s a physically and mentally challenging journey that you’re after, look no further than the Salkantay Trek. Or, if you want the best of both worlds; the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trek, these two popular routes can be combined to create an unforgettable experience.
- The location:
In order to access the Salkantay Trek, most tour operators will pick up travellers in Cusco and drop off at Soraypampa, which is known and considered to be the formal starting point of the actual hike.
- Highest point:
The highest point for the Salkantay Trek can be found at the Salkantay Pass with an elevation of 4,600 m. Trekkers should be aware that altitude sickness is common and should aim to take the necessary precautions to reduce the change of any illness.
The Salkantay Trek covers a distance of 55 kilometres, and can be completed in 4-5 days which includes a day spent exploring the Inca Citadel, Machu Picchu before ending in Cusco.
- Trail conditions:
On the Salkantay Trek, travellers can expect to hike through lowland jungles, past glacial lakes and over high alpine regions.
- Trekking requirements:
There are no technical requirements for hiking the Salkantay Trek.
Salkantay Trek difficulty rating
On this particular trek, you’ll cross the Salkantay Pass which reaches an altitude of 4,600 m, so hikers should be prepared to contend with some altitude sickness. The trek can be done in 5 days, hiking 6-8 hours daily. The total length of the Salkantay Trek is 55km with daily ascents between 900m to 1000m, which means that previous hiking experience is highly recommended.
Salkantay Trek tips
- The Salkantay Trek is most certainly challenging however if you’re unsure of your ability to complete the journey, consider an itinerary that covers the Salkantay Trek over a greater number of days to allow more time to acclimatise and to ensure you have enough time to take the journey at your own pace.
- Don’t forget to pack a variety of snacks in your bag for those moments when you need a burst of energy.
- Hiking permits are not required for the Salkantay Trek, however, you do need a ticket to enter Machu Picchu.
- It’s difficult to predict how altitude sickness will affect you, so make sure you are prepared as possible by taking the necessary precautions including allowing enough time to acclimatise, by chewing coca leaves, drinking plenty of water and taking the appropriate medication if needed.
- Make sure you wear your hiking boots in before you hit the Salkantay Trek, as blisters could derail your entire journey.
Machu Picchu weather
How to climb Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
How do I prepare for Machu Picchu?
The best way to prepare for a trek to Machu Picchu is to participate in plenty of cardiovascular activity. Activities such as swimming, cycling, or long-distance running will place you in a strong position to complete the trek with ease. Remember; a happy heart makes for a happy hiker. Learn more.
When should I climb Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu can be climbed year-round, but travellers should be aware that the Inca Trail is closed in February every year for necessary maintenance. The most popular time to hike the Inca Trail, for example, is June-August and is known to be quite crowded. Learn more.
What permits do I need?
Only 500 permits are allocated per day for the Inca Trail due to the overwhelming popularity of the route and must be booked in advance. Other trails and routes in the area do not need a permit. Learn more.
Do I need a guide to climb?
From 2001, it is a compulsory requirement that travellers on the Inca Trail, in particular, must travel with a registered guide. Many of the alternative trails, however, do not require a guide, and you are able to hike as you wish unassisted. Learn more.
How do I get to Machu Picchu?
The best way for travellers to reach Machu Picchu is to fly into Cusco, Peru. Spending a few days in Cusco prior to embarking on a trek to Machu Picchu will help travellers acclimate, and reduce the impacts of altitude sickness. Learn more.
What should I pack and what equipment do I need?
Walking poles, hiking boots, waterproof clothing and plenty of layers are just a few of the essentials that you will need for your hiking adventure. As for tents and cooking equipment, be sure to check with your tour operator as this may be provided for you. Learn more.
Machu Picchu routes
- Inca Trail. Distance: 45 km, average duration: 4-5 days
- The Lares Trek. Distance: 33-45 km, average duration: 4 days
- The Salkantay Trek. Distance: 55 km, average duration: 5 days
- The Choquequirao Trek. Distance: 65 km, average duration: 8-10 days
- The Vilcabamba Trek. Distance: 62 km, average duration: 5 days
- The Huchuy Qosqo Trek. Distance: 20 km, average duration: 3 days
- The Quarry Trail. Distance: 26 km, average duration: 4 days