Salkantay Trek Peru – Trail, Salkantay Pass, Map - Inca Trail Alternative

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Salkantay Trek Peru – Trail, Salkantay Pass, Map - Inca Trail Alternative
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The Salkantay Trek is for the purists, for those who know that there is more than the Classic Inca Trail or the Short Inca Trail. If you are going Salkantay trekking then you know that the Incas created more beautiful trails and there are more ways to get to Machu Picchu. The Salkantay trail is not for the faint-hearted. You need to have some of that Salkantay courage flowing through your veins. Crossing the Salkantay Pass with its high altitude isn't that easy. Do you think you are Salkantay enough? In this blog post, we show you how to get to Machu Picchu via the coolest way. Let’s go!

You either came to read this blog post because you already know that the Salkantay Trek is the most beautiful trek in the Cusco region, or you are exploring options after you have found out that there are no more permits for the Classic Inca Trail. Either way, you have come to the right place.

What is the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek is one of the many treks that you can find in the Cusco Region of Peru. With roughly 75 km / 46 miles of distance and about 3000m / 10.000 ft of elevation, this trek is considered a tough one, when compared to the other trekking options in the area. A typical Salkantay Trek will start in Cusco, where you get fetched from your hotel and from where you will be taken to either Mollepata or Soraypampa.


The Salkantay trek is all about the Salkantay Pass. This 4.580 m is the highlight of the Salkantay Trek and it is one of the reasons why the Salkantay Trek is not an easy one. Altitude sickness can occur when you are doing this hike. Later on, we tell you what you can do to prevent this happening to you. The Salkantay Trek was named of the Salkantay Mountain, also known as Salcantay or Sallqantay, in Quechua. It is the highest peak of in the Vilcabamba mountain range and it is, freely translated, dubbed the Savage Mountain. This is because the word Sallqantay means something like savage, uncivilized, wild or invincible. Do you now see why we ask you if you are Sallqantay enough?

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How Hard Is The Salkantay Trail?

We hope haven’t scared you in our last paragraph. You might believe that the Salkantay Trek is extremely difficult. Don’t worry, it’s not. None of the itineraries for the treks to Machu Picchu are designed for mountaineers. They are designed with tourism in mind. This means that everyone with moderate fitness should be able to do these treks. The same applies to the Salkantay Trek. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely not too difficult for you to accomplish. When considering the Salkantay Trek, you just need to be aware of a few things. We will list them for you here.

- Spend at least one extra day in Cusco to help you get used to the altitude.

- The second day of the Salkantay Trek is the toughest.

- Don’t rush yourself. Enjoy.

- Once you’ve crossed the Salkantay Pass, it gets easier.

In order to get the most out of your trek, you should always take it as easy as possibly can. You are not doing a mountain race, so you might as well take the time to enjoy the scenery. You don’t get to spend every weekend in the Andes. Bring plenty of snacks and hydrate properly. On higher altitude, you need more water and one of the benefits of trekking is that you burn a lot of calories ;) If you are struggling on the first day of your Salkantay Trek, know that you can always rent a horse for the second day. This can help take the edge off when climbing up to Salkantay Pass. You won’t be needing any support for the rest of your trek. You will enjoy more descent and flatter trails.

When Should I Do The Salkantay Trekking?

If you are thinking of trekking the Salkantay, it is good to know what you are in for in terms of weather. The Cusco area of Peru knows two distinct seasons. There is the dry season and then there is the rainy season. The dry season lasts from April to October with the driest months being June, July, and August. This is also the busiest season. Don’t worry, you are not doing the Classic Inca Trail, so you don’t have to worry too much about permits

The rainy season is from November to March and the worst months to go trekking to Machu Picchu are December, January, and February. It is not impossible, but you should ask yourself if it’s worth it. Oh, you like rain? Then go ahead! At least the Salkantay Trail, unlike the Classic Inca Trail, isn’t closed in February.

What Does The Salkantay Trek Cost?

This is not an unimportant question. If you want to make your Euros, Dollars or Sols go further, you should research your options carefully. Most people prefer to do the Salkantay Trek with a trekking company but you can of course also do it the vagabond way. Below we give you a rough estimate of the costs of your upcoming Salkantay Trek.

Guided Salkantay Trek

The cost of your guided Salkantay Trek depends much on the trekking company operating your trek. There are plenty of options and because of that, there is also a lot of competition. It does not only depend on competition though. Some trekking companies, for example, offer an extra night at Llaqtapata, where others just stop by and hike straight to Aguas Calientes. Expensive is also not always better. Some companies are for example more specialised in the Lares Trek or the Inca Jungle Trek, and that is why they have more costs when operating the Salkantay Trek. Costs for a guided Salkantay Trek vary between 310 EUR (350 USD) and 700 EUR (780 USD). That is a massive difference if you consider that every trek is pretty much doing the same route and concludes at Machu Picchu. Depending on which trekking company, a 5-day version can sometimes be even more affordable at the one company than a 4-day trek with the other company. Check our offers for the Salkantay Trek here and compare your options. The prices of your guided Salkantay Trek are always without accommodation in Cusco. You will have to add that your cost overview if the sole reason for traveling there is trekking and visiting Machu Picchu.

Solo Salkantay Trek

You don’t necessarily have to make use of a trekking company to get your Salkantay Trek going. Although you will not have the benefit of a guide, solid accommodation, cooked meals, and porters, you can definitely do it on your own. If you are thinking of crossing the Salkantay Pass on your own, the following costs may apply to you:

Transport: 40 EUR / 50 USD per person for the bus to Mollepata, bus from Hidroelectrica to Cusco and train from Aguas Calientes back to Cusco.

Accommodation during Trek: 58 EUR / 70 USD per person for shared accommodation during the trek.

Food: Expect to spend about 30 EUR / 35 USD on food during the trek.

Machu Picchu Tickets and Permits: About 68 EUR / 75 USD. You will have to organize this a few days in advance.

How High is The Salkantay Pass by Salkantay Mountain?

The Salkantay Pass is your biggest obstacle during the Salkantay Trek. The pass has an altitude of 4600m / 15100ft above sea level. On a typical Salkantay Trek, you are most likely to cross the Salkantay Pass on the second day. It is key to take it easy while crossing the pass. If you are prone to altitude sickness, then this is where it can happen. Fortunately, once you have crossed the Salkantay Pass, you will descend pretty quickly. This will aid your acclimatization and should settle the worst symptoms of altitude sickness

How To Identify and Prevent AMS On The Salkantay Trek?

It's essential to understand that altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or previous high-altitude experience. These days there are several tools to monitor your health at altitude. A widely-used (analog) method is the Lake Louise score card. It ticks the altitude symptoms while keeping the severity in mind. It’s a common tool used by guides. Nowadays, most trekking and mountain guides bring a blood oxygen saturation meter, which also measures the heart rate. These are key indicators whether a person adapts to altitude well or not. AMS can occur when trekking the Salkantay Trek. Below you can find everything you need to know about altitude sickness.

  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

    Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a health condition that occurs when someone is exposed to low levels of oxygen at higher altitudes. AMS is a serious condition and as the name suggests acute. It needs to be dealt with immediately, as it is potentially life-threatening. Most people will experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and act before symptoms become more severe. Below we break down the different forms of AMS and how you can reduce the risk of getting it.

    AMS symptoms

    It is key to know how to identify altitude illness. You may experience the following symptoms due to the jump in altitude: headache, lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, insomnia, nausea and vomiting. The intensity and severity of these symptoms may increase with altitude and an overall feeling of fatigue will take all your joy away. This may further deteriorate to one of these life-threatening conditions.

    High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest tightness, and an increased heart rate. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate descent to lower altitudes and, in severe cases, medical treatment.

    High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE is a more serious condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Symptoms may include severe headaches, confusion, loss of coordination, and altered mental status. HACE is also a medical emergency and requires immediate descent and medical attention. Below 7 ways of minimizing the risk of AMS:

    • 1. Gradual Ascent

      One of the most effective ways to prevent AMS is to ascend gradually. When traveling to high altitudes, try to take several days to acclimatize before going higher. This allows your body to adapt to the reduced oxygen levels. All our treks in Nepal keep sufficient acclimatization into account.

    • 2. Stay Hydrated

      Dehydration can increase the risk of AMS, so drink plenty of fluids. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they can contribute to dehydration.

    • 3. Diet

      Consume a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates and avoid heavy, fatty meals. Carbohydrates can help your body utilize oxygen more efficiently at high altitudes.

    • 4. Medication

      Some individuals may consider taking medication, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), to help prevent AMS. Consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication, and be aware of potential side effects.

    • 5. Rest

      Ensure you get enough sleep and rest during your ascent. Fatigue can increase the risk of AMS.

    • 6. Avoid Overexertion

      Pace yourself and avoid overexertion. Listen to your body, and if you experience symptoms of AMS, rest or descend to a lower altitude.

    • 7. Descend if Symptoms Persist

      If you experience symptoms of AMS, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, it's crucial to descend to a lower altitude. Symptoms should not be ignored or dismissed.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 5-Day Itinerary

If you are looking for an itinerary which covers everything there is to see and has accommodation, guides and porters included, you can opt for the 5-day Salkantay Trek as offered by our partner Alpaca Expeditions.


Transfer to the Cabañas de Cristal

You will start this Classic Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu on the afternoon of Day 1. We will pick you up at 3 p.m. from your hotel, where you will meet your Alpaca trekking team. From here, we will head in our private van for a 3.5-hour drive to the Cabañas de Cristal in Soraypampa, located at 3,800 m.a.s.l. We will arrive just on time to take photographs of the sunset over the glacier peaks. At the Cabañas de Cristal, your guide will settle you in your rooms before enjoying your dinner, along with some hot drinks. Your night will also have many stars in the night sky.

Cabañas de Cristal

Cabañas de Cristal

Cabañas de Cristal - Humantay Lagoon - Salkantay Pass - Wayracmachay

Duration: 06:00 h
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 1050 m
Descent: 1050 m
Lowest Point: 3800 m
Highest Point: 4650 m
After a good night’s rest, you will have early wake up to enjoy your breakfast before your trek. During this morning, there will be a short team introduction between all trekkers and the Alpaca Staff to ensure a positive, family-like experience. Following the introduction, you will give your duffel bag to the muleteers for carrying. The day´s hike will begin by visiting Humantay Lagoon. You will hike approximately 1.5 hours along a steady uphill. Once at the lagoon, you will enjoy the serene views of the crystalline-blue water of Humantay Lagoon. If the skies are clear, you will see the first sun rays peeking through the snow-covered peaks. If you are brave, you will also have the chance to touch the almost-frozen water so that you may stay young forever! The advantage of visiting Humantay Lagoon in the early morning hours is the quiet surroundings with no other trekkers besides those in your group. Due to the popularity of this location, this is not something everyone can enjoy! After breathing in the beauty of such a magical place, you will begin making your way back down to the starting point to continue with your hike to the lunch spot in Soyroccocha on gradually ascending terrain. On your way, you will pass places such as Salkantay Pampa and will enjoy the outstanding views of the surrounding peaks and snow-covered mountains. After lunch and well-deserved rest, you will continue with your hike for about 1 hour more until Salkantay Pass at 4,650 m.a.s.l.- the highest point of the trek. You will be rewarded once here with hot drinks before continuing! From Salkantay Pass, it will be mainly hiking downhill to our last campsite for the day, Wayracmachay. Upon arrival at the campsite, the trekking staff will have your tents set up and with your duffel bags ready. They will provide you with warm water to get washed up, so that you may change into something warm. We will have a happy hour with hot chocolate and coffee, followed by dinner. If the weather allows, you will get to enjoy the blue sky, along with a brief introduction to the visible Inca constellations.

Wayracmachay campsite

Wayracmachay campsite

Wayracmachay – Chaullay – Ccollpapampa Loreta (Hobbit House)

Duration: 06:12 h
Distance: 20.3 km
Ascent: 70 m
Descent: 1770 m
Lowest Point: 2200 m
Highest Point: 3900 m
Your trekking team will wake you up early with a hot drink to help you start the day. Hopefully, as you open your tent, you will see the sunrise over glacier peaks and clouds, lifting from the green cloud forest. You will have time to pack up and enjoy a nice breakfast prepared by your trekking chef. At around 7 a.m., you will begin the day's hike by hiking downhill until reaching the lunch spot at Ccollpapampa (2,700 m.a.s.l.). In this hike, you will begin to notice the micro-climate and fauna & flora changes. You will go from cold glacier views to warmer green jungle surroundings. There will be many different species of orchids to see, as well as ferns, begonia flowers, and Hummingbirds. After lunch and well-deserved rest, you will continue with your trek to the next private campsite called La Loreta at 2400 m.a.s.l. on gradually downhill terrain. Along the way, you will explore beautiful waterfalls, rivers, and again, flora and fauna. Here you will have another tropical forest micro-climate, where local people farm coffee, passion fruit, papayas, oranges, and avocados. Upon arrival at the campsite, your trekking staff will welcome you. You will have time to enjoy a free hot shower, hot Jacuzzi, and perhaps even swim in our swimming pool. There will also be time to walk around our ecological garden to see some of our coffee, avocado, chilies, tomatoes, and pineapples. Dinner tonight will be at our building with views to the Salkantay River, which you will hear below as you fall asleep at night.

Hobbit House

Hobbit House

Ccollpapampa Loreta (Hobbit House) – La Playa Sahuayaku – Lucmabamba Coffee Farm – Llactapata (Camp in front of Machu Picchu)

Duration: 05:00 h
Distance: 12.5 km
Ascent: 820 m
Descent: 450 m
Lowest Point: 2200 m
Highest Point: 2600 m
After a delicious breakfast, you will start the shortest but most exciting day of the trek. Today you will experience the most beautiful sights along your trekking route to Machu Picchu. You will explore the tropical forest and will have a visit to a local, organic coffee farm. Here you will have the opportunity to explore some of the orange and avocado plantations and taste some of the freshly-brewed coffee. There will be a brief introduction to the region's coffee and its importance as the main farming product. You will then learn that coffee in this region was introduced after the Spanish conquest, and most of the coffee is exported overseas to North America, Asia, and Europe. After the coffee farm visit, you will continue with your trek to Llactapata by hiking along a section of the Inca Trail. On your way to the Llactapata Inca site, you will see amazing views of the Santa Teresa valley. At Llactapata, you will get the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, including the main archaeological sites Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain. You will also have the opportunity to explore the Llactapata Inca site along with your guide and take photographs for the books! From here, it will be an additional 15 minutes downhill to your lunch and campsite area. Owned by a local family, only Alpaca Expeditions has permission to stay at this campsite. You will find the campsite to be a great place to enjoy the sunset and sunrise over Machu Picchu. After lunch, you will have some free time to enjoy the views and relax from hiking. Again, we will serve a lovely happy hour with tea and coffee, and your chef will prepare a delicious meal for dinner. Once the stars come out, you can enjoy the Milky Way and the Inca constellations – just like the Incan astronomers did to predict the weather.

Llactapata campsite

Llactapata campsite

llactapata Lookout – Waterfalls at Hydroelectrica – Mandor Hiram Bingham Farm – Aguas Calientes

Duration: 05:10 h
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 470 m
Descent: 960 m
Lowest Point: 2100 m
Highest Point: 2550 m
Your trekking team will wake you up early with a hot drink to help you start the day. You will get ready for today’s activities and enjoy your last breakfast prepared by your trekking chef. The day's hike will begin with a downhill path, with views of Machu Picchu, until Hydroelectrica Station. The most impressive part of this area is the natural 300 meters high waterfall, which generates electricity for the region of Cusco. From Hydroelectrica Station, you will then continue to the famous Intiwatana (sundial rock). According to history, this Inca stone used to work with the legendary sundial rock in Machu Picchu during the winter solstice, which was the beginning of a new farming season for the Incas. Following the Intiwatana, you will continue to the path on the train tracks. The hike along the train tracks will lead to the town of Aguas Calientes, located at the foot of the valley of Machu Picchu. This part of the hike will be interesting as it was the trail used by the American professor, Hiram Bingham, when rediscovering Machu Picchu. On his way to Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham met with local farmer Melchor Arteaga, who eventually guided him to Machu Picchu. On your trek, you will hike past Melchor Artaega´s farm. Here you will see many species of flora and fauna, the national bird called cock of the rock, Tucanes, Oropendolas, Parrots, and Orchids. Finally, upon your arrival in Aguas Calientes, you will enjoy your packed lunch. You will then go to your hotel to enjoy a hot shower, and a visit to the famous hot springs (10 soles, not included), of Aguas Calientes. In the evening, you will enjoy your final dinner with your trekking chef and say goodbye.

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes

Machu Picchu – Return to Cusco

Today will be the most important day of your expedition. To get the most out of the day, we encourage every group to have an early breakfast before catching one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu (starting at 5:30 a.m.). The hotel will hold your bags for you while in Machu Picchu. This way, you will only be required to take your backpack with all essentials up to Machu Picchu. The bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu will take approximately 30 minutes. Once in Machu Picchu, your guide will introduce you to the beauty of Machu Picchu. You will head directly to a well sought out location from where you will watch the sunrise and take photographs. Your guide will then guide you around the main sectors of the citadel, for a total of 2.5 hours. During this guided tour, you will learn some more about the history and culture of the Inca Empire. At the end of the tour, you will have some time to yourself or, if you arranged to hike Huayna Picchu* (must be booked in advance, as it sells out and costs $75 per person), your guide will show you where to begin this hike, which will take no more than 2 hours round-trip. For your return from Machu Picchu, we recommend heading back to Aguas Calientes no later than 2 hours before your train departure. The train return from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo will take approximately 2 hours. In Ollantaytambo, our Alpaca Staff will be waiting for your right by the station´s exit door, ready to bring you back to Cusco by car. The car ride to Cusco will be approximately 2 hours and will have you dropped off at your hotel in Cusco.
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Salkantay Trek Map

If you are looking for a Salkantay Trek map, it's best to focus on the following one as used by Alpaca Expeditions for their Salkantay Trek.

Salkantay Trek Map

Packing List for the Salkantay Trek

If you are planning to take a guided tour in Peru, you made the right decision. Everybody knows that when you hike solo you put too much stuff in your backpack. And, surprise! No one is going to carry that weight for you. Not when you book your trek with a local trekking agency. They will take care of (almost) everything on your behalf; from food and tents to sleeping bags, mats and much more. If this applies to you, here is a detailed packing list with everything you will need in the Salkantay Trek:
  • Essentials

  • For your daypacks

  • Additional items for your duffel bag

How To Get Fit for The Salkantay Trek Peru

When you get the hang of it, after about three weeks, it’s time to beef up your intensity. Bring a pack of 10 to 15kg and add a longer hike of three hours to your week. If this lifestyle is new to you, you will soon reap the benefits of trekking. After a good few months of solid hiking, it is time to put your endurance to the test. Do back-to-back long hikes. You can simulate a few days of constant trekking by going hiking for a few days. Easy at that. Plan a smaller trekking holiday or keep it simple by hiking your favorite route on repeat. If you are comfortable hiking for 4 hours a day, 3 days in a row while carrying a 10kg to 15kg backpack, you will be fine.

Moderate Strength Exercise

You will need to get a bit stronger. One way to get stronger is to do some basic strength work. You don’t need a gym membership, as merely using your bodyweight can already give you the results you are looking for. Once or twice a week, depending on how you are feeling, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats, and 10 step ups. If you want to push yourself a bit more, you can try to add some pull ups and push up to your routine. Going the extra mile in your strengthening is, however, really not necessary. You can already enjoy trekking when you just stick to the basics. This is not a fitness competition. That should get you fit!

Where Can I Book the Salkantay Trek?

At you can book this trek and many others. Our guided options come with experts on the ground, and offer you a convenient, stress-free, safe, and educational way to explore the outdoors. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is this not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our blog posts:


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