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Salkantay trek experience
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Photo at the foot of the Salkantay snow-capped peak

The Salkantay Trek is one of the variants of the Inca Trail route. The normal route consists of activities arranged in 5 days. However, there is the possibility of doing it in only 4 days. In this informative blog, we want to explain and tell more of the details of this activity, focusing more on the experience we had than on the itinerary itself. We will also give some tips or important information to make the experience of the route easier. On the other hand, we recommend that you read the whole blog so that you do not miss any details.

Salkantay Trek up to Machu Picchu

To complete the Salkantay Trek route to Machu Picchu you have to travel 70 kilometers. By opting for the 4-day option, which we will talk about today, you can cut distances with a bus trip. In this way, on the third day you will arrive at Hidroeléctrica, and from there begin the last stretch on foot until you reach Machu Picchu Pueblo. Here you can spend the night in a hotel and have dinner in a restaurant before we get ahead of ourselves in the details that we will mention later. It is important to mention that the hike is done following the route of Mollepata to the Salkantay pass, in that sense we will reach 4 650 meters above sea level.

In this sense, if you are planning to do this route, it is highly recommended to do a previous acclimatization. Acclimatization can take a day or two. Fortunately, in Cusco, you can do different activities, previous to a correct acclimatization. Take advantage of the options by getting to know more places or simply enjoying the best food that can be found in Cusco. It will also be important to have ideal hiking shoes. The ascent to the mountain, until reaching the Salkantay pass requires a high moderate effort, being probably the most complicated stretch.

The footwear will be very useful to avoid injuries and the stones, typical of the trail will not be a problem especially if the route will be done independently. That is, without the presence of a travel agency. One of the apparent benefits of doing the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu is that it is not regulated by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. In this sense, you can do the route alone or with friends and family. You only have to make the reservation of the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, in any of its 5 options. An excellent alternative is the entrance ticket to Huayna Picchu which offers a two-hour hike to the top of the mountain of the same name. There you can find more Inca constructions and spectacular views.

The 4-day route allows for one section by bus. So to do it this way it will be necessary to contact a transport agency. With this, we say that it is possible to find them, but they usually offer high prices. It would be advisable to hire the full service of the travel agency so that they can help you and have a better experience. Transportation has to be arranged during the third day, as we will see later on. Next, we will detail more about the itinerary of this 4-day activity.

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
Tourists making the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

Details of the Salkantay Trek 4 days

The hike will start in Mollepata, for this you must board a minivan in Cusco that can make this route without problems. Several people follow this route to this place to reach the Humantay Lagoon. So transportation will be easy to find. From this place begins the hike to reach the Salkantay pass. Being the highest altitude point in the whole activity.

For this first day of hiking and the following day, warm clothing should be worn. At the top of the site, the weather can be quite frigid. Normally during the first night you will spend the temperature can drop to 0°C (32°F). It will be important to dress warmly, especially during the first two nights. It is also important to eat properly, something that is usually offered by travel agencies.

On the other hand, the hike of these days will be ascending and it will be important to acclimatize before starting the hike. By doing this route you will reach the top of the Salkantay pass and from that point, descend to the high jungle of Cusco. In this sense, the weather conditions will change as the group descends and approaches Machu Picchu. At this point, it will be possible to walk with less clothing, but it will be necessary to use mosquito repellent. It is important to use it frequently especially if you sweat a lot. It is also recommended to use sunblock lotion during the whole activity.

The majestic view of the Salkantay snowy peak
The majestic view of the Salkantay snowy peak

The stretch by minivan or bus

During the first stretches on foot, that is, before boarding the minivan, you will reach Playa Sahuayaco, where you will wait for the bus or minivan to shorten distances and arrive at Hidroeléctrica. Travel time is approximately one hour. This trip covers a distance of 21 kilometers. Upon arrival at Hidroeléctrica, it is recommended to take a short break and begin the hike immediately if you have had lunch at Playa Sahuayaco.

The trip or section by bus will connect with Hidroeléctrica passing through Yanatile. In Yanatile, you can find a great amount of fruit trees where the avocado fruit trees stand out. But it is also possible to find pomegranates, coffee, and tangerines. After passing through Yanatile, the trip connects with Santa Teresa and continues with the route until reaching Hidroeléctrica. It is fortunate that this road exists because it also allows us to connect even with those who wish to reach Choquequirao. We will talk about it in another blog.

The trip will be made on a dirt road. Unfortunately, during the rainy season, it is possible to find more potholes and irregularities along the road. In this sense, the driver is advised to be attentive. When arriving at Hidroeléctrica, those who have not satisfied their hunger or want water or any other product can buy it. There are also some restaurants where you can eat something else if you wish. However, it is advisable to do the hike immediately. The walking route to Machu Picchu has a duration of 2 hours for a regular stretch, with few elevations. So this last hike is easy to do.

The average time to get to Machu Picchu Pueblo is from 17:30 to 18:30 hours. This is because they may be delayed before starting the hike in Hidroeléctrica. But it is normal for everyone to arrive before 18:00 hours. It is important to walk carefully and avoid being on the train tracks. Upon arrival, you will be able to go to your hotel and take a bath before dinner.

The fourth day will be distributed between the ascent to Machu Picchu and also to make the return trip. By doing the trip with a travel agency you will be able to make the return trip by train. Normally the first part of the trip is from Machu Picchu Pueblo to Ollantaytambo by train. From there you continue the trip to Cusco by bus. The buses that are offered are of the same company as the train trip. That is, the return trip is made with the bimodal service.

Making the hike to Playa Sahuayaco
Making the hike to Playa Sahuayaco


Prices for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu per person are around 400 to 450 USD. This price will include all the necessary services for the trip. As transportation to Mollepata and again from Playa Sahuayaco and connect with Hidroeléctrica. Likewise, they will be in charge of generating a train transportation reservation for the return trip. That will not be all, they must also guarantee food and adequate conditions to spend the night. They are also in charge of making hotel reservations and the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.

Another more economical option would be to make the trip on your own. For this, it would be important to take into account the capacity of the backpack and camp that will be carried. The weight often influences during the trip making the hike more tiring and therefore slower. In case you dare to do it without the help of a travel agency. It will be important that you have physical preparation and experience in trekking routes. Since, when doing it independently, you will have to take care of your food and camping, something that would normally be taken care of by the travel agencies.

Tourists delighting in the coffee experience
Tourists delighting in the coffee experience

Route information

During this long hike, you can find beautiful landscapes, as well as the opportunity to see some specimens of fauna during the Salkantay Trek. It is also possible to find some beautiful colorful birds near Machu Picchu. To you who are reading this blog and have come this far, we hope you can find the beautiful cock of the rock, during your journey. The cock of the rock is a brightly colored bird and because of its beauty and the importance of its habitat to the world, it is considered the national bird of Peru. Finally, in case you feel some discomfort typical of altitude sickness, remember to stay calm and do the route without demanding too much. If possible, drink lukewarm water and be sure to inform your travel companions or your guide.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 05-04-2024

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