Trek: Salkantay to Machu Picchu
Days: 4 or 5 (not including Machu Picchu visit, see Day 5 option below)
Difficulty: Moderate, one steep climb followed by long descent
Highlights: The Salkantay trek is is one of the classic treks in Peru, and has been voted one of the Top 25 Treks in the world. Salkantay is a majestic peak of over 6300 meters (20,000 feet!) that was a very important “apu” (mountain) to the Incas. It guards the southern approach to Machu Picchu and is a popular alternative route to the Inca Trail. No, we won’t drop you off from an airplane but we did include the picture so as to best show the dramatic location of this trip ! During the trek you will likely have stunning views of the massive glacier while we are hiking to Mt. Salkantay and her sister peaks, as well as pass through several different climactic zones, from high alpine down to high jungle, and everything in between. This is a strenuous trek that passes through high altitude zones of over 14,000 feet – but it is easily done by anyone in reasonably fit condition who is willing to follow the instructions and suggestions of our guides..
We will pick you up at your hotel in either Cusco or Ollantaytambo to make the drive to Soraypampa, which takes about 4 hours and passes through classic Andean altiplano scenery. Along the way we will see some of our first views of Incan and pre-Incan architecture and also a glimpse of the mighty Apurimac river. Climbing from the main road up towards Salkantay, the valley is stunningly beautiful and with great views of Mt. Salkantay. We will have a short hike, followed by our first evenings camp in a peaceful quiet meadow with truly breathtaking views of the glacier. For dinner our cooks will prepare a hot meal using fresh local vegetables and other nutritious and tasty food.
After a large, hot breakfast we will begin our day’s walk, which is the most difficult of the trip. Today we will be climbing to one of the highest passes on Peru at nearly 5,000 meters (almost 15,000 feet !) Along the way we will have an opportunity to overlook the massive, glacial moraine of Mt. Salkantay. A huge trough in the mountain carved over time by the descending mass of glacial debris, is one of the best examples we have ever seen. It comes directly off of the southern base of the Salkantay glacier, which is one of the most dramatic and photogenic in all of South America
We will continue hiking upward and eventually reach the 4600 meter (over 15,000 feet!) pass over the shoulder of Mt. Salkantay. On a clear day (May through October) there are views for literally miles in all directions. Machu Picchu itself, though not in our sightline here, is directly north of the peak of Mt. Salkantay which is why it was one of the Incas’ holy peaks.
The hike up to the pass takes between 3 to 5 hours depending on the pace of the group and how often we stop for photos in this incredible high alpine environment ! We want to say that with very few exceptions over the many years we have been guiding that this high altitude does not present a problem to the average condition hiker. Of course, we don’t linger long at the pass but we know that it only gets easier from here.
We will then cross the pass and begin the long, multiday descent down the other side towards the high jungle and Machu Picchu, before making camp for the night in yet another pristine and remote mountain camp.
Today we can have a more leisurely morning around camp before setting out and continuing down the mountain. The walk is very pleasant and both the scenery as well as the vegetation continues to change as we descend. You can noticeably feel both the air and vegetation thicken as we make our way towards our eventual rendezvous with Machu Picchu. We still have another entire day of downhill hiking, however and so today has a relaxed feeling and vibe which is well deserved after our hike the day before ! We have time to break for a longer lunch and still get to camp in the late afternoon, with time for a hot solar shower (weather permitting) and a several course dinner.
Today is the day where one of two options must be chosen: The shorter, four day version of our Salkantay trek ends today, as we will walk down from our camp to the main road and down to the Playa, where our private transportation awaits to take us down to St. Theresa for lunch and then onward to the HydroElectric station for the start of our three hour walk to Aguas Calientes. There is also the option of doing the Colo de Mono’s highest zipline in South America after lunch in St. Theresa, ask us for details.
In Aguas Calientes the trek ends, but not before we bring you to your hotel (included) and purchase on your behalf at no extra cost all your documents and entrances (entrance ticket to Machu Pichu and Huayna Picchu, roundtrip bus ticket, return train ticket to Ollantaytambo.)
Day 5 (optional Llactapata extension – recommended!)
The second option is one of our favorites – the additional one day trek to Llactapata. This trek begins after our drive from the Playa down to just outside of St. Theresa, where we will register and begin the hike. This route is much less traveled than the Salkantay route, and makes for a very quiet and peaceful walk through the forest. It ascends gently for about three hours before arrivng at the site of Llactapata, another Incan site overlooking Machu Picchu that has only recently began to receive visits and is still in the process of being uncovered. We will have ample time to explore the site, relax on it’s huge front lawn of grass, or whatever before camping for the night a short distance below it. People always comment on how much they enjoyed this portion of the trip.
The next morning, we will walk down to the Aobamba river and arrive at the HydroElectric station and begin our walk to Aguas Calientes where the trek ends, but not before we bring you to your hotel (included) and purchase on your behalf at no extra cost all your documents and entrances (entrance ticket to Machu Pichu and Huayna Picchu, roundtrip bus ticket, return train ticket to Ollantaytambo.)
Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space!
This is an overnight camping and trekking trip and includes everything you will need. Sleeping bag, Sleeping pads, tents, and all meals are included !
The trip is 4 days and 3 nights and will get you to Aguas Calientes on the evening of the fourth day. (Add one day and night for recommended Llactapata extension) Meals included are lunch and hot dinner Day 1, full meals on Days 2 and 3, and breakfast and lunch on Day 4. Five day option includes all meals on Day 4 and breakfast and lunch on Day 5. Also ncluded is private vehicle transport up to the trailhead in Mollepata/Soraypampa from either Ollantaytambo or Cusco, a guide knowledgable about the area and its culture, and also includes either a porter or mule to carry all your gear except your small day pack – you get to just walk and enjoy the scenery! Our price is less than most agencies, but we have top of the line equipment, and on this trek that matters ! Great food, air beds, clean modern sleeping bags, etc. The cost for this trip is $595 per person, minimum 3 people. Add $125 per person for the Llactapata extension