The Salkantay Trek is one of the most beautiful experiences that can be done in Cusco and visit Machu Picchu. During this walk that lasts 4 to 5 days, you will cross one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world: the Humantay Lagoon. This lagoon has crystal clear turquoise waters and the landscape that is formed is crowned by the presence of the snowy Salkantay. This snow is one of the highest in Cusco and Peru. It can also lead hikers to Machu Picchu as it later connects with the Inca Trail.
Facts about the Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is one of the most popular hiking routes to visit Machu Picchu. This hiking route allows you to see different and beautiful landscapes.Among them, the Humantay Lagoon stands out, which can be seen from the first day of starting the walk. Since it is only 1 hour and 30 minutes from the first camp in Soraypampa. Regarding the Salkantay Trek, we have to mention that it lasts 4 or 5 days. The number of days varies depending on the kilometers to walk and the presence of transportation; In the case of the 4-day Tour, you have to board a minivan from Sahuayaco, Santa Teresa until you reach Hidroeléctrica. Arriving at Machu Picchu faster without losing, at all, the essence of a hiking route, since like the 5 days, you reach Aguas Calientes on foot.
Another interesting detail of the Salkantay Trek, in any of its variations, is that it allows you to appreciate the change in geography. During the third day, in both cases, you can already see how the abundant vegetation integrates between the mountains, it is also possible to appreciate fruit trees. Meanwhile, the humidity and warmth of the environment allow you to enjoy the environment differently. The heat can force you to wear lighter clothing and it will also be necessary to use mosquito repellent to avoid being bitten. Some mention that the second day of the trek is the most tiring because you have to cross the Salkantay pass. From this height, the landscapes are incomparable and the Humantay Lagoon next to the snow-capped peak takes on another meaning, it is also possible to appreciate the entire mountain range typical of the Andes Mountains.
The Humantay Lagoon during the Salkantay Trek
It is possible to visit the Humantay Lagoon during the first day of the Salkantay Trek. As we mentioned above, this lagoon is only 1.5 kilometers from Soraypampa, which can be reached in just 1 or 2 hours of walking. If they are expert hikers, this time could decrease, but always take care not to push yourself and suffer the symptoms of altitude sickness. This is because the walk will start from a considerable altitude of 3800 meters above sea level. or 12467 ft. From this altitude, you gradually ascend until you reach the altitude where the Humantay Lagoon is located, which is 4,200 masl or 13,780 ft. As for the altitude, you only have to have adequate acclimatization a few days before in Cusco.
When the Salkantay Trek is done, the Humantay Lagoon is visited in the afternoon, after making the corresponding visit, taking photographs of the case, and more. You return to the Soraypampa camp, where, in case you have contacted a tourism agency, they will wait for you with the camp ready to spend the night and also a delicious dinner, hot drinks, and a space to socialize with the other tourists. It is advisable to try to go to bed early since the activities the next day will start early. To do these routes for several days, it is recommended that you do this type of walk with a tourism agency since they will take care of the camp, food, transportation, and tickets to all destinations, including Machu Picchu.
It is said that Salkantay, before becoming snowy, belonged to a tribe with his older brother Ausangate. Both left in search of fertile lands since their people could not do anything to eradicate the famine. Salkantay arrived in the jungle and fell in love with her, but this prevented her return and given the impossibility of achieving it, he became snowy, while her lover accompanies her closer to the jungle. This other snowy peak is called Huacaywilque, which can be translated as “Tear or sacred weeping”. This refers to the narrated legend and also relates it to what happened during the Spanish conquest, being an allegory to the sad episodes that all of Tawantinsuyo went through.
The Humantay Lagoon
Tourists on the shores of the Humantay Lagoon
The main characteristic of this lagoon is that it has turquoise waters. The color it acquires is because it is very close to the snowy Salkantay. This detail also supports the idea that it is considered a sacred lagoon and of important value for the Andean worldview. Visiting the lagoon is not exclusive to the Salkantay Trek, it can be visited independently, either with travel agencies or. Getting there is easy since in Cusco you can find transportation to Soraypampa from where the walk would start. However, if you do not want to walk or have a health problem that may limit you from doing this journey, there is the possibility of renting a horse with the muleteer service that will facilitate your trip.
The travel time to Soraypampa from Cusco is long, it lasts approximately 4 hours. This tour usually starts at 4:00 in the morning, this is precisely because the trip lasts a long time. In any case, you can find restaurants in Mollepata to have breakfast or to have a nice lunch. These services will be made with ingredients and products typical of the Cusco region and revaluing Peruvian gastronomy. As for the entrance, the tours usually include this ticket within the prices, but in case you want to go on your own, the price is usually 10 soles.
The Humantay Lagoon is considered a sacred place; for this reason, it is normal to find people familiar with Andean mythology, doing the ritual of gratitude to Pachamama or what is known as “payment to the earth” or “Payment to Mother Earth”. The ceremony is carried out to show gratitude for all the blessings obtained, for this reason, coca leaves, wine, or some other drink and the necessary respects are usually offered.
Tips for the Salkantay Trek
Before making any type of trip, it is necessary to make an adequate preparation and at the same time plan the activities that you want to carry out. This is to act effectively when making the trip and comply with everything that can be proposed. Regarding what is necessary to carry out the Salkantay Trek, the main thing will be to pack a hiking backpack for the 5 days of activities. The essential thing for this trip will be to carry your passport or ID to validate your income.
Also, it will be necessary to bring clothes for the 5 days, in case you have medications that you cannot interrupt, you must pack them as well as personal hygiene utensils. As for the rest, hiking poles should be included. Some tourism agencies include the camp and sleeping bags. Other objects that you cannot forget are sunglasses, sunscreen for skin care, and a cap or hat. It is also recommended to include plastic bags, to deposit some waste or to isolate other objects from humidity or rain.
Finally, it will be necessary to emphasize that during this journey you will need to wear comfortable and resistant footwear, as well as comfortable and light clothing. A garment that can help you both in the cold and the heat. These garments can be made of polyester cotton. Also, you can wear comfortable pants, a windbreaker jacket, a waterproof jacket, or a poncho.
By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 23-06-2023
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