Hike the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu

Written by: Sam Travel | 18 March, 2024

Ineffable is what to say when describing the wonderous Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek. Have you long dreamed of trekking past the high Andean peaks, marveling at turquoise lakes, seeing spectacular mountain views and hiking through the ancient Andes Mountain ranges? On this adventure of a lifetime, you will be in awe of the dramatic changes in the scenery, from snowy mountain peaks, cloud forests and even traverse Peruvian Jungle, all with the end goal of reaching the prodigious Machu Picchu.

Where does your Salkantay Trek start

Your Andean Mountain adventure begins early in the morning with a 3-hour drive to the start of the trail at Soraypampa. At Soraypampa, we have our delicious and hearty breakfast while enjoying the spectacular views of the Humantay Mountain and Salkantay Mountain and their surrounding glaciers.

When is the best time to go?

It is strongly recommended that you do the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu in the dry season, which is from early April to late October, although in dry season the temperatures are lower, expect them to get below zero at night the path is dry but can get windy. But if you don’t mind the rain November and March also can be a great time to do the trek, less people and is really quiet.

4 Day Trek v 5 Day Trek

So, what should I do, the 4- or 5-Day Trek, this is a great question and mostly depends on the time you have available to do the trek? The 5-day trek is done at a slower pace taking in more sites and a different route and a few less kilometers every day, where the 4 day is faster paced with more kilometers but still enjoying all the best the trail has to offer.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can sometimes be an issue at high altitudes. For the Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek, it is highly likely that you will experience some form of altitude sickness, for this reason, it is important to acclimatize properly, take your time on the trail, take measures to combat symptoms.

How to Prepare for your Salkantay Hike

While being moderately fit and physically able to walk at least 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) at lower elevations is essential, preparing for high altitude trekking is challenging. This is because you can’t predict how your body will react when it’s faced with these conditions, particularly as it’s not impacted by how fit, young or healthy you are. The best preparation for hiking the Salkantay trek is to arrive in Cusco at least two days before the trek begins to give your body time to acclimate. Get plenty of sleep, eat a light diet, do not drink alcohol, save that for the end of the trek, stay hydrated and be sure to get some Diamox to help your body adjust. 

Highlights of the Salkantay Trek

Each day on the Salkantay Trail a new adventure awaits, whether it is revealing an amazing view or resting your muscles in the superb hot springs. There are many different things to see along the way, here are a few stops that can’t be missed along the way.

Highlights of the Salkantay Trek

Humantay Lake

The exquisite turquoise water lagoon is surrounded by the impressive Humantay and Salkantay Peaks and offer one of the best views in Peru. The lake itself is runoff from the huge glacier located above the lake. Minerals within the glacier are released into the water as it melts, which give the water its characteristic emerald color. In the Andean regions of Peru, you can find beautifully colored mountainous lakes ranging from the brilliant greens to incredible crystal blues. The shade of the colors can also be dependent on the time of year, the temperature, and the weather.

humantay lake
salkantay pass

Abra Salkantay Pass

When you reach the pass, you will come face to face with the sacred Salkantay mountain, this pass is at an elevation of 4630 meter above sea level. Feel the magic as you are truly awed by the spectacular views of these three towering snow-capped mountains: Salkantay, Humantay, Huayanay. These peaks are considered sacred by the ancient peoples of Peru and your guide will inform you on how important these Apus are in traditional Andean beliefs. Below you are spectacular rivers of whitewater and small scenic lakes. 

Coffee Plantation

Visit a working coffee plantation close to our lunch spot, here visit the fields and learn about the different types of beans and also pick your own beans, later roasting, grinding and tasting your coffee, see how the coffee co exists with other vegetables like tomatoes and avocados.

Coffee Plantation
Llactapata Inca Ruins

Llactapata Inca Ruins

Being a mountain trek, it is thought that no Inca ruins are visited during the Salkantay Trek, but you will visit Llactapata, an archaeological ruin that was also discovered by Hiram Bingham. An amazing view of Machu Picchu is enjoyed from this point. Here we can take the time to marvel at the strategic location of the Citadel of Machu Picchu and its surrounding mountains of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu and the Aobamba Canyon. 

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

The Cocalmayo Hot Springs are said to have special healing properties and the water temperature can reach 45 degrees, so these natural thermal baths are ideal to relax and recover your sore muscles after a long hiking day. The surrounds are an impressive environment of verdant vegetation next to a raging river. Hot springs are Mother Nature’s method of infusing tired bodies with relaxation. The Cocalmayo hot springs are a popular destination among travelers seeking a connection with the earth and its balance. 

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

Machu Picchu

The Inca citadel is the perfect ending for your adventure. A detailed tour is offered on the last day. You will see most of the important parts of Machu Picchu Citadel. You will also learn about how Machu Picchu is divided into three sectors: agricultural, residential and religious. After your guided tour you have free time to explore the World Heritage site by yourself.

Treks to Salkatay

Salkantay Trek 5 days

salkantay trek to machu picchu

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu via Llactapata Inca Ruins

Take this alternative trek, 5 days from Salkantay to Machu Picchu, designed to take advantage of the unforgettable views of Humantay and Salkantay mountains. Following a unique trekking route and pass ....

From $557 USD

Salkantay trek 4 Days

salkantay mountain hike

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay 4 day trek is a more adventurous and mountainous route  to Machu Picchu and it also takes you to a higher altitude. Travel through incredible landscapes and several micro-climates, each ....

From $547 USD

Travel Tips

  • This trek is for those that crave adventure and love pristine natural landscapes and love a challenge.
  • Don’t forget to bring good waterproof gear as the weather can be quite unpredictable.
  • Do some hiking before arriving in Peru to ensure that you are fit for the trip.
  • Make sure your hiking boots are broken in before attempting this hike.
  • Don’t forget to bring a headlamp this is essential for getting around camp at nighttime.
  • The altitude can be a problem on this trek, recommended for those that consider themselves relatively in shape.

Packing List

Back Pack to take with you on the trek

  • Water Bottle, reusable to be filled at each meal
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp, essential
  • Wool Hat
  • Raincoat and Pant
  • Fleece
  • Snacks, like chocolate bars, cereal bars, dry fruits for the trek
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • Hand Sanitizer and Moisturizer
  • Toilet Paper and small plastic bags for waste

Duffel Bag to be carried daily by the porters

Note not accessible until the camp at night

  • 2 T-shirts minimum
  • 2 Hiking Pants minimum
  • 4 Sets undergarments
  • 3 Set hiking socks
  • Bathing Suit
  • Thermal Underwear
  • Fleece, Down Jacket
  • Comfortable shoes for camp
  • Quick Dry towel
  • Small Bottle of Soap
  • Battery Charger, note there is no electricity on the trail.
  • Large plastic bags


  • Face Cleanser and Moisturizer
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet Wipes
  • Toothbrush and Paste
  • Medications
  • Small First Aid Kit

Join the thousands of satisfied customers who rate us #1 on TripAdvisor

Bernie s 2023/03/02

Had a great trip with our guide Ray Herrera and driver Alfredo. Lots of good experiences in a short period of time 4 days. Learnt a lot not just about the main tourist destinations but Peru in general by Ray. Ray has a passion for Inca history and local produce. Ray knows all the good photo spots and we managed the sun out every day .. Good culture and if you want to get on a tour ask for Ray at Sams Travel = amazing

Tanya H 2023/03/02

Ray was our Tour Guide and Alfredo was our driver for a 4 day tour we did with SAM Travel Peru. Ray's knowledge of the history of Cusco and Machu Picchu was outstanding. Ray was very accommodating with all our needs. He stayed alongside us when trekking and helped where he could. His sense of humour was pleasant to be around. Ray spoke very good English. He is such a nice guy. I would strongly recommend Ray to be your tour guide to visit Machu Picchu. Ray explained everyday what the plans were for the next day, which was reassuring what we needed to take etc

Captanjack 2023/01/012

Our 1 day tour thru the Sacred Vally with Danny was wonderful. He was very knowledgeable and able to answer all our questions in detail. I would recommend asking for him personally if you are able.

Sherry 2022/12/26

We booked the Classic Cusco to Machu Picchu tour with SAM travel which we really had a good experience. SAM travel is very responsive during the communication and cater to our changes needed. Our guide is Ray who is also an very awesome guide. He is knowledgeable, patient, humorous as well reliable, he help us take many good photos and also go extra mile to help with our request. Thanks Ray! Thanks SAM travel that gave us good memories in Peru! Highly recommend if you consider booking any tour in Cusco.

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C Clark 2023/01/20

Wow. We had such an incredible experience in Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Our guide, Dayvit, is the most knowledgeable guide we have ever had. He has such an extensive knowledge of the history and is very friendly and helpful. If you are planning a trip to Peru, I highly recommend SAM travel and be sure to request Dayvit!

Emma Dinzebach Clark 2023/01/10

2 day tour sacred valley / Machu Picchu highly recommend! David was the best tour guide. He knows an incredible amount about Incan culture and is personable and funny. He also kept us up to date on a political situation happening when we were there and was informative. Overall, this tour checks all the boxes. Thank you!

Nupur Joshi 2023/01/02

We used SAM Travel for a 2D/1N trip from Cusco to Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu on Dec 25-26, 2022. The team was good with communication from the start - both Saul and Junior were very helpful and professional with answering any questions and clearing up any misunderstandings. Our guide, Miguel, was prompt, pleasant, and quite knowledgeable. We enjoyed his company and insight over the 2 day trip and recommend him to anyone booking with SAM Travel.

Xueying Chen 2022/12/20

We booked the Classic Cusco to Machu Picchu tour with SAM travel which we really had a good experience. SAM travel is very responsive during the communication and cater to our changes needed. Our guide is Ray who is also an very awesome guide. He is knowledgeable, patient, humorous as well reliable, he help us take many good photos and also go extra mile to help with our request. Thanks Ray! Thanks SAM travel that gave us good memories in Peru! Highly recommend if you consider booking any tour in Cusco.

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Brandon Slater 2022/09/30

My wife and I just completed two excursions with SAM Travel Peru and we absolutely loved them. We did the 4 Day Salkantay Wilderness + Machu Picchu and then the 2-Day Rainbow Mountain + 7 Lakes trek with guide Carlos Estrada, chefs Nerio & Lucio, and horseman Unarato. Over the last 6 days we have learned so much about the Inca culture, discovered some of the most incredible sights, and ate delicious food every step of the way. We would definitely recommend SAM Travel (especially with Carlos!) to anyone that wants an incredible Peruvian adventure. The Wilderness trek is a much quieter trail than the standard Salkantay and goes a bit higher elevation, but camping at the base of Salkantay was incredible. Carlos's guided tour through Machu Picchu was so informative. We would have missed so much without him taking the time to share his knowledge.

Kellie Taylor 2022/04/06

Big thanks to David he was an amazing tour guide who really cared for our group. He allowed us to go at our own pace and was a brilliant photographer He was really funny and is full of interesting information & his passion for his inca ancestors is very obvious and warming. He also brought us to great restaurants! This company are very good and from what I can recall were cheaper than most. Thank you!

Mike Geelhoed 2021/06/10

They took care of everything! Saul the owner is very responsive and helpful. Johnny our guide was fantastic, as were our chef, assistant chef and horsemen. I can’t recommend them highly enough and will definitely use them again if we return to Peru!

Janice-Kaneki Chen 2020/01/28

Three of us decided to choose Sam Travel Peru, reason being is it is a local travel company that help indegenious communities. We picked Lares Trek 4D3N to have cultural experience while hiking. Good foods provided by talented Mario Chef! Johnny is our tour guide, very helpful tour guide. He even helped me to carry my daypack as I was too exhausted to carry it on day 1 hiking. Strongly recommend to those like to have local experience while hiking.

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