Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Written by: Sam Travel | 18 March, 2024
Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail

Salkantay Trek vs. Inca Trail: A Comprehensive Comparison for hiking to Machu Picchu.

Peru’s magnificent Andean landscape and rich cultural heritage have long attracted adventurous travelers seeking to explore its iconic ancient ruins. Two of the most famous trekking routes in Peru are the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail. Each offers a unique and rewarding experience, catering to different preferences and abilities. In this comparison, we’ll delve into the distinctive features of both treks to help you decide which one suits your interests and aspirations best.

Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is an exhilarating alternative to the classic Inca Trail, traversing the breathtaking Salkantay Mountain, standing tall at 6,271 meters (20,574 feet). This trek typically spans 4 to 5 days, taking trekkers through diverse landscapes, including high-altitude mountain passes, lush cloud forests, and remote Andean villages.


  • Salkantay Mountain: Trekkers will be awestruck by the sheer beauty and imposing presence of Salkantay, an important sacred mountain in Andean culture.
  • Humantay Lake: A beautiful glacial lake located in the Andes Mountains of Peru
  • Scenic Diversity: The trail offers varied scenery, from snow-capped peaks to tropical rainforests, creating a unique and ever-changing trekking experience.
  • Fewer Crowds: Compared to the Inca Trail, the Salkantay route sees fewer trekkers, making it an attractive option for those seeking a more secluded journey.
  • Challenging Terrain: While the Salkantay Trek is open to all fitness levels, it may be more physically demanding due to the higher altitudes and steep ascents.
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu
Salkantay trek
inca trail hike
inca trail hike

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is the most famous and iconic trek in Peru, offering a historical pilgrimage to the renowned ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. This classic route typically lasts for 4 days and covers approximately 43 kilometers (26.7 miles) of ancient stone-paved pathways.


  • Machu Picchu: The highlight of the Inca Trail is the rewarding arrival at Machu Picchu, an awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
  • Historical Significance: The trail provides trekkers with an immersive experience into Incan history and culture, passing by various archaeological sites along the way.
  • Well Developed Infrastructure: The Inca Trail benefits from well-established facilities, such as campsites and amenities, catering to a more comfortable trekking experience.
  • Permit Restrictions: Due to its popularity, obtaining permits for the Inca Trail requires advanced booking and limited spots are available each day.

Choosing between the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail ultimately depends on your preferences and priorities. If you seek a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, embracing diverse landscapes and cultural encounters, the Salkantay Trek might be your ideal choice. On the other hand, if you yearn for the allure of ancient history, a well-trodden path leading to the majestic Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail will fulfill your wanderlust. Whichever you choose, both treks offer a profound and unforgettable experience that will forever remain etched in your memory.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

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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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