While the Inca Trail is deservedly one of the most famous in South America, the Salkantay Trek offers a wilder and perhaps more authentic approach to the Incas’ most famous monument. No trip to Peru can be considered complete ...

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Salkantay & Humantay Lake Eco-Dome Experience 2D/1N

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2 day trekking tour visiting Cusco in Peru. Read More
  • Tour Type Group Tour
  • Operator Bamba Active 12 hours ago Premier This operator is consistently delivering tours which receive customer ratings above 4.5 on average.
  • Activities Trekking & Adventure
  • Age Range18+ years old
days02 From US$ 474
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Salkantay & Humantay Lake Eco-Dome Experience 3D/2N

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3 day trekking tour in Peru, visiting Cusco, Soraypampa and Salkantay. Read More
  • Tour Type Group Tour
  • Operator Bamba Active 12 hours ago Premier This operator is consistently delivering tours which receive customer ratings above 4.5 on average.
  • Activities Trekking & Adventure
  • Accommodation Camping
  • Transport Bus
  • Age Range18+ years old
days03 From US$ 789
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  • Jun 21 10+ seats left
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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

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8 day trekking trip to Cusco, Soraypampa and 6 other destinations travelling through Peru and peru. Read More
  • Tour Type Group Tour
  • Operator Alpaca Expeditions
  • Activities Trekking & Camping +2 more
  • Accommodation Camping, Eco Lodge, Hotel, Lodge & Tent
  • Transport Bus, Private Vehicle & Train
  • Age Range10+ years old
days08 From US$ 855 View Tour
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  • Jun 19
  • Jun 20
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Salkantay & Humantay Luxury Eco-Dome Adventure to Machu Picchu 4D/3N

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4 day trekking tour in Peru, visiting Cusco, Challhuay and Aguas Calientes. Read More
  • Tour Type Group Tour
  • Operator Bamba Active 12 hours ago Premier This operator is consistently delivering tours which receive customer ratings above 4.5 on average.
  • Activities Trekking & Adventure
  • Accommodation Hotel
  • Transport Bus & Train
  • Age Range18+ years old
days04 From US$ 1,175
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  • Mar 07 10+ seats left
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Salkantay Trek 4 Days to Machu Picchu

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4 day trekking tour through Humantay, Lucmabamba, Aguas Calientes and 8 other destinations in Peru. Read More
  • Tour Type Group Tour
  • Operator Andean Path Travel
  • Activities Trekking & Active and outdoor +2 more
  • Accommodation Camping, Hotel & Tent
  • Transport Private Vehicle, Bus & Train
  • Age Range6+ years old
days04 From US$ 650 View Tour
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Salkantay Tour Reviews

5 - Excellent
Based on 30 customer reviews
Excellent Reviewed Tour: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 4D/3N
5 - Excellent
  • Anonymous
  • From Australia
“Such a great trek to Machu Picchu! The scenery of the snow-capped montains is spectacular and finishing the trek with Machu Picchu was unbelievable. The team was great, very nice! I definitely recommend this trip.”
Excellent Reviewed Tour: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 4D/3N
5 - Excellent
  • Anonymous
  • From United Kingdom
“What a beautiful adventure among the Andean mountains. The scenery is breathtaking and the trek is worth it. Our guide was amazing and passionate about the Inca ruins and the nature. Food and the tents were great. ”
Excellent Reviewed Tour: Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 4D/3N
5 - Excellent
  • Anonymous
  • From United Kingdom
“Great trek among the Andean mountains with a wonderful day in Machu Picchu. Highly recommended.”

Salkantay Trek - Facts, itineraries and best time to visit

While the Inca Trail is deservedly one of the most famous in South America, the Salkantay Trek offers a wilder and perhaps more authentic approach to the Incas’ most famous monument. No trip to Peru can be considered complete without a visit to the mystical mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu, but more intrepid travellers are now looking for alternatives to the overcrowded experience of the Inca Trail. The Salkantay trek being of the many alternative treks to Machu Picchu besides the Inca Trail. 

Overview

The Salkantay Trek is a less crowded alternative to the Inca Trail and is the only trekking route that affords views of Machu Picchu even though the trek doesn’t actually finish at the ruins of Machu Picchu. It includes crossing the Salkantay Pass at 4600 m on the second day while the Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail is 4200 m. So, the altitude on this trek is higher than the Inca Trail. Salkantay trek offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, among which stands Salkantay mountain itself, before descending through cloud forests that are rich in wildlife. On the final day, trekkers are usually taken to Machu Picchu for a tour of the ruins before returning to Cusco.

Highlights

  • Spectacular scenery including views of Salkantay mountain (6271 m)
  • Crossing the Salkantay Pass (4600 m) with stunning views
  • Views of Machu Picchu nestled in surrounding forests below the trail
  • Less crowded than the classic Inca Trail
  • Visiting Machu Picchu on the final day

Lowlights

  • High altitude trek, proper acclimatisation necessary to avoid altitude sickness
  • Temperatures can plummet during the night at high altitudes
Map of Salkantay trek
Overview map of Salkantay trek

Trek Facts

  • Difficulty: Challenging. 5 days of walking for up to eight hours a day through tough, mountainous terrain.
  • Trek Duration: 5 days for the standard itinerary 
  • Remoteness: Remote. The route passes through remote villages, desolate mountain scenery and 15 distinct ecosystems. While some of the settlements at either end of the trek have road or rail connections, most of the trek is on mountain paths inaccessible except on foot or horseback.
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,600 m
  • Accommodation Type: Tents on the mountain campsites. Although some hikes include stays in luxury lodges on the trail.
  • Best Season: April to October
    • The dry season is from around April to October and it is best to attempt the Salkantay trek during these months since the wet season (November to March) sees the trail muddy and wet with an increased risk of slipping.
    • The Salkantay trail is busiest from June to September but the weather is at its best during May and October when it is also less busy, meaning these are possibly the two best months to go.
    • Salkantay trek can be attempted year-round, the coldest months are during the dry season. For the best trekking experience, plan your trek around May - July which coincides with the best time to visit Machu Picchu.
  • Start / End Locations: Mollepata or Soraypampa - Aguas Calientes 
  • Permits Required: No for the trek. If you plan to visit Machu Picchu, you should reserve your tickets in advance and you will need your passport to enter the site.
  • Fitness Level Required: Good

5D/ 4N Salkantay Trek: Standard Itinerary

  • Day 1: Mollepata (2,900 m) - Soraypampa (3,850 m) 

The trek starts at Mollepata  and includes a steady climb of around seven or eight hours through verdant, rugged mountains as the peak of Mount Salkantay rears its snow-topped head in the distance. Camp is made at Soraypampa, where temperatures can be very cold, especially at night.

  • Day 2: Soraypampa – Collpapampa (2,800 m)

This is the most gruelling part of the trek as the trail leads up to the vertiginous Salkantay Pass at 4600 m, from where there are spectacular views if the weather is clear. Having crossed the pass, the trail descends into the mysterious cloud forest on the way to Collpapampa, where camp is set for the night.

  • Day 3: Collpapampa – La Playa (2,200 m) 

The trekkers will follow the Lluskamayo River through an area rich in wildlife down to the jungle town of La Playa, at an altitude of 2200 m.

  • Day 4: La Playa – Aguas Calientes (2,040 m) 

The day starts with the ascent to the Inca ruins of Llactapata (2650 m), affording spectacular views of Machu Picchu nestling on a mountaintop below. From here, it is possible to hike either to Santa Teresa or to the hydroelectric station, the second option being the more demanding but also more rewarding. There is a train connection to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo), from where visitors can access Machu Picchu itself. 

  • Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu (2,430 m) 

This is the big day of visiting Machu Picchu! Start your journey on foot or by bus from Aguas Calientes for a visit to the world-famous ruins. From here on, you can either catch a bus or a train back to Cusco. 

7D / 6N Salkantay Trek: An Alternative Itinerary

A seven-day option is also available, with a drive to Soraypampa on day 1, a trek out to Lake Humantay on day 2 and the crossing of the Salkantay Pass on day 3. Trekkers arrive at Llactapata on day 6, before heading to Aguas Calientes by train and making the ascent to Machu Picchu on the final day.

Safety Considerations

  • This trek is not particularly dangerous if participants are fully prepared but it should not be taken lightly. At no point does the trek descend below 2000 m, and at its highest point, it reaches well above 4000 m. At these altitudes, it is easy to become fatigued and trekkers should not push themselves to do more than they can manage.
  • The weather in the mountains is unpredictable and at the highest parts of the trek, including the camp at Soraypampa, it is certain to be cold, so trekkers should ensure they have the proper clothing and equipment.
  • It is possible to walk the trail without a guide or porters and those who do so are free to choose their own itinerary – it is even possible to finish in four days. Attempting the Salkantay Trek without a guide is only recommended for experienced trekkers and should only be undertaken with the proper equipment and supplies.

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness while trekking at altitudes of above 2,000 m - 2,500 m can be a problem. It is highly recommended to spend two days in Cusco to acclimatise before attempting the trail. Early symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache and dizziness, and anyone displaying these symptoms should immediately descend to a lower altitude to recover.

For those looking to escape the crowds of the Inca Trail – or for those who do not manage to book a place on the more famous walk – the Salkantay Trek offers a challenging and rewarding alternative. The sight of Mount Salkantay looming above as you traverse the Salkantay Pass or the view of the magical ruins of Machu Picchu perched on a ledge far below as you reach Llactapata will be some of the sights that far fewer visitors to Peru are fortunate to experience.