Although not as well-publicized as other tourist attractions in the province of Cusco, Salkantay trekking is considered the ideal alternative to the Inca Trail due to its outstanding views and its environment that shows the gorgeous local flora and fauna.
The Salkantay trek differs from the Inca Trail in that it is not required to book in advance or does not have a limited of daily visitors. The end of this tour (just like the Inca Trail) will take you to the small tourist town of Aguas Calientes and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Even though this ascent can be done by free, however (due to the difficulty of the route and the equipment that we must carry) we recommend hiring a specialized agency with guides and porters who know the terrain.
The variety of flora and fauna, along with the different villages that we will find through its 58 km has made that National Geographic Adventure Magazine place it among the 25 best trekkings in the world.
Do I need a good physical condition to perform this trek?
The answer is yes. We must also be acclimated to not suffer the known ‘altitude sickness’ or soroche on our ascent to Salkantay trail. For this it is highly recommended to chew coca leaves (which can be purchased in any market in Cusco) or coca candies. There are also some pills that can be purchased at any Peruvian pharmacy called sorojchi pills.
What should I pack? Salkantay trek packing list
The Salkantay Trek packing list is similar to the Inca Trail.
- Passport (necessary to control entry to Machu Picchu)
- Long pants (no jeans) / Trekking boots resistant to water
- Sleeping bag
- Thermal clothing that shelters at night
- Plastic rain poncho
- Hat or shade
- Swimsuit for the thermal waters of Aguas Calientes (although it can be bought in nearby stores)
- Toilet paper
- Sun block / insect repellent
- Medications or products for personal use as liquid for contact lenses
- Water bottles to hydrate during the tour
- Small amounts of cash and simple in Dollars and Soles
- Trekking poles
- Photographic camera
Salkantay Trek 5 days
The first day a transport will take us from Cusco to the small town of Mollepata (2,800 masl), where the ascent begins along an ancient Inca road that crosses the Apurimac River. The trek of this first day lasts 7 hours to camp in Soraypampa (3,900 masl), overlooking the Nevado Salkantay, twelfth highest peak in Peru (6,271 masl).
Follow the ascent for about three hours to the Apacheta Pass (4,650 masl) from where you can see several mountains that surround Salkantay. From this point will be a descent until the camp of Chaullay (2,020 masl) where we will spend the night.
From Chaullay we proceed on a quiet journey to Uscamayuc. Three hours later a cloud forest niche is reached. This is an excellent place to see flora & fauna of the area, with native species such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos Ornatus). At the end of the day we will arrive at the village of La Playa (2,400 masl). The walk on this third day will take about 8 hours at a good pace.
Departure from La Playa by local transport to Lucmabamba (2,764 masl). Then begins a climb of three hours to the archaeological site of Llactapata, from where you can finally see Machu Picchu. This is the last point before reaching Central Hidroeléctrica (Hydroelectric Power Station), from where a train departs to the small town of Aguas Calientes. It is also possible to walk those 10 km on foot on the tracks in a walk of about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Once in Aguas Calientes, visitors can relax in their well-known hot springs and find accommodation to spend the last night before taking the bus to Machu Picchu.
Take an early bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (6 Km). You can walk for about an hour and a half, although we do not recommend it as we will arrive tired and not enjoy our visit to the Inca citadel. The guided tour lasts 2-3 hours, discovering places like the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of Water, the Temple of the Condor or the Room of the Three Windows.
If you want to go to Huayna Picchu must be booked in advance, as there is a maximum capacity of 400 visitors per day. This journey takes just over an hour on foot.
After finishing our visit to Macchu Picchu we will return to Cusco by train from Aguas Calientes and rest in any of its accommodations.