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descanso en el Salkantay

The Salkantay Trek is one of the routes to Machu Picchu that is beginning to have more followers. Over the years, people have been inclined to do trekking routes for the motivation generated by their encounters with nature. Several people of different ages decide to take this route to reach the wonder of the world. Surely, because it is a similar option to the Inca Trail. However, the Salkantay Trek, on the other hand, offers other types of landscapes and activities along the adventure. At the same time, it can connect an alternative route of the Inca Trail, which we refer to as the Lucmabamba route. Here we explain more about the Salkantay Trek, as well as some details for your safety and recommendations that we hope will make your adventure easier.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trek is one of the hiking tours best suited to reach Machu Picchu. This is because it allows visitors to make a tour through different types of geography. To begin with, the tour will start in Cusco, which is located at 3399 meters above sea level. There the geography is very different from other places you have probably seen before arriving. For example, most foreign tourists arrive in Peru first to Lima, a mandatory destination, and then make the trip to Cusco. Between these two places, many geographical differences can be established.

The Andes Mountains, on the other hand, offer a very different geography from that found in Europe, Asia, or any other continent in the world. The Andes Mountain Range is very different from the North American Cordillera, which, although it is very extensive, does not have altitudes higher than 2500 meters above sea level. On the other hand, in a large part of South America, different microclimates were created that vary greatly the climate throughout this region, which is why the best way to understand the microclimates is through the altitudinal floors. In Peru, there are 38 types of microclimates, according to Warren Thornthwaite – SENAMHI.

At the time of doing the Salkantay Trek, it is possible to take a tour through different geographical areas, all of them with spectacular landscapes. Everything will begin in Cusco with landscapes surrounded by mountains. From there, the journey begins heading north, where the change of geography will be more evident because the climate is more frigid. The mountains will have little vegetation and you will feel an icy atmosphere due to the proximity to the glaciers of the high mountains. From Soraypampa, the hike begins at more than 3,900 meters above sea level. The road will take us up to 5400 meters above sea level approximately. At this altitude, we can appreciate the splendor of the Humantay Lagoon and we continue until we pass the Abra Salkantay. During all this journey the climate is completely frigid due to the presence of snow-capped peaks and the high altitude.

After this tour, we begin to make the descent. The descent will be until you reach Lucmabamba, where the altitude is 1811 meters above sea level. For some people, this whole descent is quite tiring, but when you reach Lucmabamba you can appreciate the total change of geography. When descending you can distinguish the presence of mountains covered with abundant vegetation, birds, and even plantations of fruit trees. The hike will end when you reach Machu Picchu Pueblo also known as Aguas Calientes, just at the end of the fourth day. In this sense, the fifth day is the ascent to the archaeological site of the Llaqta of Machu Picchu.

Salkantay Trek Variations

First view of the ascent
This is how the Salkantay Trek begins

Three variations of the Salkantay Trek can be considered. Two of them are done with the help of a travel or tourism agency. The travel agencies usually provide everything necessary to make the trip. On the other hand, there is a way to do it on your own, which will depend more on your abilities to make this adventure. Nevertheless, it is a more economical option.

  • Salkantay Trek 4 days – This tour allows you to shorten sections just on the third day. Although it also includes small variations in the route. This is in the sense that on the third day, the tour goes through Chaullay and Playa Sahuayaco. From this place, you board a transport until you reach Hydroelectric (the main difference from the 5-day Salktantay Trek). In Hydroelectric we make a brief stop and prepare our belongings to start the trek again. This way, on the third day you can reach Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo, where travelers can spend the night in a hotel and even have dinner in the restaurant of their choice. The fourth day will be used to make the tour of the wonder of the world and, in the afternoon, return to Cusco.
  • Salkantay Trek 5 days – This is the classic route to reach Machu Picchu through the Salkantay Pass. It is considered one of the most rewarding and sacrificed routes, as well as, it allows us to know more of all the geography that surrounds this route. Beyond beautiful landscapes, it is also possible to see part of the flora and fauna that will vary along with the landscapes. This tour is done through more than 70 kilometers on foot. The difficulty is moderately high and will require that those who dare to do this route, have physical preparation and preferably experience in hiking routes.
  • Salkantay Trek on your own – The Salkantay Trek, not being a route regulated by the Peruvian state, allows anyone to do it. That is, there is no legal restriction as such. However, it will be necessary for those who dare to do this trek without an agency or on their own, to take into account some factors. It will be necessary to plan their food, the type of camp they will use to spend the night, and especially to plan the luggage they will carry. The route of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu has many slopes, both ascending and descending, so having adequate weight control in the backpacks will be essential to avoid injuries or physical overexertion before time. For this reason, doing the trek on your own is recommended for experts on the route.

Safety in the Salkantay trek

vista del salkatay
The hike near Aguas Calientes passing Hydroelectric

One of the main reasons to do the Salkantay Trek is to free yourself from the stress of the city or everyday life itself. However, some people may feel some concerns during the realization of this route, especially if it is done alone. However, we must say that this is a safe tour. There are no assaults or similar things, and the communities offer security by guaranteeing maintenance on the routes and at the same time offer some services to travelers such as food and lodging.

In this sense, the safety of the Salkantay Trek will depend basically on the equipment you carry and how well-informed you are about the challenges of the route. Getting lost is unlikely because there is good signage and during the trek, it is likely to meet other hikers or groups of tourists doing the route. It is not advisable to talk closely with strangers, but you can be guided by them so that you feel safe on the route. Another important factor in having a safe trip is to take into account the difficulty of the route and the climatic changes that you will go through during these 5 or 4 days of adventure.

Something essential so that the trek is not so complicated is that the tour is done by a travel agency. They are in charge of prioritizing everything necessary for the trek, such as camping, and food for which they accompany chefs during the tour. There is also a team of porters and muleteers, who can help you with luggage or heavy things. On the other hand, if you wish to make the trip without an agency, it is possible to make a trip with light luggage, i.e. without carrying a tent and even food for the 4 days. Thanks to the fact that the tour is becoming popular, some accommodations allow you to spend a more comfortable night. Likewise, you will be able to find food in these places or at least recharge your supplies needed for the route.

Recommendations for the Salkantay Trek

The most important recommendations for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu are those that have to do with comfort on the trek. It is also important to know how to choose the ideal weight of the backpack, food, and where to spend the night. It is also necessary to know other factors to reach Machu Picchu without any problem.

  • Try to wear comfortable footwear, preferably ideal for hiking.
  • Wear warm clothing, the passage through the Salkantay Pass is quite cold.
  • Use a backpack according to your physical capacity.
  • It is important to get rid of luxuries and take only what you need for the hike.
  • Use and carry what weighs less or causes less discomfort.
  • You will be able to access the service of muleteers, who can carry your luggage or backpack.
  • To purchase any service on the route, you will need cash.
  • During the Salkantay Trek route, you will not find an ATM or other place where you can withdraw money.
  • When you arrive at Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo you will find banks and ATMs available.
  • Bring cash if you think you will need any extra services. For example, the minimum price for accommodation can be 50 PEN.
  • Prepare yourself physically and mentally to take this tour.
  • Remember to bring water during each day of the excursion. It is essential to hydrate.
  • Likewise, you must pay importance to food.
  • Remember to control the weight of your luggage. Before taking the excursion, weigh it to avoid mistakes.
  • Remember to carry an emergency kit of any kind.
  • You can help yourself with Google Maps to know your location. Use it with the pre-trip map download.
  • Mentalize your destination and transmit positive energy to your companion. It is essential to be optimistic, especially on ascending routes.
  • Don’t forget to acclimatize in Cusco two days in advance or more if possible.
  • In Cusco, you can do different activities to acclimatize.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 26-02-2024

Interested in the Inca Trail? Know more about Salkantay Tour!