salkantay trek travel guide

Salkantay Trek : Complete Travel Guide

Trekking across high Andean mountains might not be every bodies cup of tea, but for those of you who are in it for the adventure this is the perfect trek for you. The trek is a little harder than the Inca Trail, with some high passes that will test your abilities, the reward is definitely worth the extra effort. Finish your tour at the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu, explore and wonder at the brilliance of the Inca engineers.


The Salkantay trek holds historical significance and like the Inca Trail, was a route the Incas once took to get to Machu Picchu. The main difference is that the Salkantay Trek is through the mountains reaching nearly 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level, whereas the Inca Trail is walking past ruins much. It is said that the Salkantay Trek was the route that religious leaders took to get to Machu Picchu because of the high elevations that brought them closer to God.

When to go?

The Salkantay trek is open most of the year for trekking and there is no bad time to experience this wonderous mountain trek. The high Peruvian Andes has 2 seasons every year, the Wet Season and the Dry Season. The most popular is the dry season which is from May to September, you will find many people on the trek and the weather is dry and cold at night. The wet season is from October to April and you will experience wet weather, but you will have most of the trail alone. Take your wet weather gear with you for this time of year.

Things to see on the Salkantay Trek

Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake is a sparkling jewel located high in the Andes Mountains. The lake features brilliant green and blue waters, making it the most photographed lake in Peru. The lake is located around 75 miles from the city of Cusco and south of Machu Picchu. See the spectacular Humantay and Salkantay Mountains which tower around the lake.

Salkantay Mountain

Salkantay is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range, part of the Peruvian Andes. It is located in the Cusco region, about 60 km (40 miles) northwest of the city of Cusco. The name Salkantay is from sallqa, a Quechuaword meaning wild, uncivilized, savage, or invincible. The name is thus often translated as “Savage Mountain”. There were writings about the mountain as early as 1583.

Apacheta Pass

The ancient Inca Trail leads up over the Apacheta Chucura Pass at 4800 meters above sea level. After the pass the trail leads down to the lakes around Jatan Pucacocha. Great views of the south face of Ausangate and the many lakes below.

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

The third of the trek you can spend some time at the Cocalmayo Hot Springs. The temperature of the thermal waters of Cocalmayo varies between 38 and 44 ºC and unlike most thermal waters in Peru, the thermal baths of Cocalmayo have clear waters. The baths are located 1,600 meters above sea level, the waters have minerals such as sodium, bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium among others that have healing properties on the skin and joints. Surrounded by the high Andes a great place to pass a few hours.

Aguas Calientes

The town below Machu Picchu is called Aguas Calientes. Here the trains leave for Cusco and the Sacred Valley. The town is a charming mix of restaurants and markets all aimed at the tourist. Aguas Calientes is worth a few hours or even a day of your time. There are hot springs just outside of town which are popular with those who have just finished the Inca Trail.

Machu Picchu

At the end of your trek, you will visit the Inca City of Machu Picchu. Known around the world for its location and history, Machu Picchu will surprise and delight you as you marvel at the different sections of the ancient Inca citadel.

Entrance tickets for Machu Picchu

Although your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is included in your trek, the tickets to Machu Picchu sell out quickly.

Tickets to Machu Picchu are limited and must be purchased in advance. During the peak season from May to November it is a must if you plan to do the Salkantay Trek, you will need to book and pay for your trek up to 6 months in advance as there are only 500 entrances a day to do the hike, this includes porters, guides and cooks. Also, if you plan to climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain you must book these tickets early as the government of Peru only releases 400 tickets a day and these sell out quickly.

How long can you spend at Machu Picchu?

  • An entry ticket to Machu Picchu is valid for 4 hours, so you have 4 hours in the site.
  • An entry with a Huayna Picchu ticket gives you 6 hours to go on a Machu Picchu tour and do the hike.
  • An entry with Machu Picchu Mountain ticket gives you 7 hours to take a guided tour and do the hike. This hike is longer than Huayna Picchu hence why you have more time in Machu Picchu.


If hiking to Machu Picchu, you should be in good physical health and have a taste for adventure. The level of enjoyment that you get out of this trek depends on numerous factors, the amount of time you have had to acclimatize to the altitude, your age, your general fitness level and your previous trekking experience. We recommend you arrive to Cusco at least two to three days in advance to help with the altitude.

The classic 4- or 5-day Salkantay Trek is 45.98 miles (74 kilometers) from start to finish.

The Salkantay trek is not as busy as the Classic Inca Trail trek so you may not need to book so far in advance as the Inca Trail. A month or 2 before will be sufficient.

The answer is yes, but you will need to take all your food, tents, water with you on the trek. It is recommended that you take a tour which will provide all that is necessary. When you reach Machu Picchu, you will however need a guide.

There is a toilet tent. Some campsites have public toilets you can use. All campsites also have cold showers for public use. During the day hikes, you will pass a number of sites where you will find toilet facilities available.

Each tour is accompanied by a chef who will prepare all meals for you. The food is hearty, plentiful and filling to keep you energized for the journey. Please notify us if you have any special requirements or diet restrictions, such as requiring vegetarian meals. You will enjoy breakfast, as well as a hot lunch and dinner every day. You will also be served snacks in the morning and afternoon, including hot drinks in the afternoon.

Packing List

On any trekking holiday there are essential items that you will need to take with you for a comfortable and rewarding journey. Your travel company will supply you with a duffel bag, this is a maximum of 7 kilos. Please remember that your sleeping bag and mat will weigh 3 kilos leaving you 4 kilos for your belongings.

What to put in your DUFFEL BAG?

  • 2 t-shirts
  • 2 hiking pants
  • 4 sets of undergarments
  • 3 sets of hiking socks
  • Fleece/ Thermals
  • Warm clothes, down jacket — 2nd campsite temp around 3º C
  • Waterproof gloves (even if they are ski gloves, take them)
  • Comfortable shoes for camp
  • Quick dry towel. We provide small ones; you might prefer something larger
  • Small bottle of soap: we provide warm water each day to wash
  • Battery Charger: No electricity along the trek
  • Large plastic bags will be provided at the office to line your duffel
  • Sleeping bag: It has to be at least -15ºC – This can be rented from us for $20 USD

What to put in you DAY PACK?

  • Passport or Identification (you will not be allowed to enter the Inca Trail without this)
  • Water: Please supply your own water until the first lunch spot, then we will provide you with cold boiled water at every meal time. Please bring your canteens.
  • Sun hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Headlamp
  • Wool hat and gloves
  • Wet Weather clothes
  • Fleece or warm layer
  • Snacks like chocolate bars, cereal bars or any dry fruits
  • Personal First Aid kit and personal medications
  • Camera
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper and small plastic bag for waste
  • Valuables
  • Headlamp

Travel Tips

Advanced Booking Is a Must

It’s very important to buy your tickets for the Salkantay trek in advance. Early planning does always not guarantee a spot, but greatly increases your chance of securing the trekking dates you want. During high season, from April through October, permits can sell out 6 months beforehand.

Before the Trek, Adjust to the Altitude

We recommend spending a few days in Cusco before your trek begins to give your body plenty of time to adjust to the high-altitude region. Cusco is a city that resides at 4800 mts above sea level. The highest mountain pass along the Salkantay Trail is at a soaring 13,830 ft (4,214 m).

Tips for the Trekking Staff

The guides, porters and chefs on the Salkantay Trek work very hard to give you the best trek experience. They are paid for the work but if you feel you have had a good experience it is your choice to whether you tip or not. A general guide for tipping is $50 to $70 per person, which will include all the Salkantay Trek staff.

The Salkantay trek is a once in a lifetime adventure that passes some of the most beautiful scenery that you will see anywhere in the world. A challenging hike with the reward of Machu Picchu at the end of your tour.

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