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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (One Of The World’s Best Hikes)

salkantay trek

Welcome to the Web's No.1 guide on hiking the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu.

In this article we have worked tirelessly to produce the most comprehensive and up to date information on the Salkantay trek.

In particular, you will find detailed information on the classic Salkantay trek itinerary, route map and altitude profile. We have also included guidance on weather conditions, equipment requirements and altitude sickness.

You will also find information on responsible trekking companies that we recommend, or if you are a rugged backcountry trekker you will find lots of useful guidance on how you can complete the Salkantay trek unsupported.

We recommend bookmarking this page for future reference. Please feel free to share this page with friends and family, link to it from your blog or give us a shout out on your social media page!

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Salkantay Trek - A Brief Overview


The Salkantay trek (sometimes referred to as the Salcantay trail) is the most popular alternative trek to Machu Picchu, and for good reason – it offers hikers an incredibly diverse trekking experience, is relatively easy to access from Cusco and unlike the Classic Inca Trail, there are no permit limitations.

In fact, the Salkantay trek can be completed without the use of a guide or tour agency (see DIY treks at the end of this article)

The trail sojourns through incredible landscapes where lowland jungle gives way to highland alpine settings and glaciated mountains, the most impressive of which is Nevada Salkantay (more on this below).

National Geographic Adventure Magazine rated the Salkantay trek as one for the 25 Best Treks in the World.

The trek is typically completed on a 5 Day /4 Night itinerary; however it is possible to do the trek on a 4 Day / 3 Night itinerary or to combine the trek with the Classic Inca Trail (see Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo below).

Nevada Salkantay

One of the key features of the Salkantay trek is the mountain that gives it’s name to the trail.

Mount Salkantay (or Nevada Salkantay / Salcantay) is one of the most iconic mountains in the Cusco region and the highest mountain on the Willkapampa range.

Trekkers on the Salkantay trail spend a day approaching the mountain from the south and then another day in close proximity to the mountain as they scale the Salkantay Pass, which at 4,600m provides amazing vistas into the valley below.


South-west face of Nevada Salkantay, as viewed from the Salkantay trail

Situated 60km North-west of Cusco city, Salkantay which stands at 6,271m, is the 12th highest mountain in Peru and the 38th highest in the Andes.

For mountaineers, Salkantay has a reputation of being a very tough summit. In fact the Quechua name, Sallqantay, means ‘Savage’ or ‘Wild’. Although it was first successfully climbed in 1952 by a French-American expedition, the mountain is not often conquered.

The easiest summit assault passage is around the North-east ridge – which won’t be visible on the Classic Salkantay trail but is visible for trekkers on the Salkantay / Inca Trail combo.

Machu Picchu is directly north of Salkantay. Although the mountain is not visible from Machu Picchu, the Southern Cross star formation, when viewed from Machu Picchu’s sundial appears directly above Salkantay summit during rainy season.

It is for this reason that the Incas considered Salkantay to be one of the principal deities controlling weather in the region. Even today, Salkantay features very prominently in the local beliefs of the people who live in the Cusco region.

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Salkantay Trek Itinerary


The Salkantay trek set out below is for a typical 5 Day /4 Night itinerary using an official tour company and arrieros (horsemen), who will carry gear.

You may see variations on this route from tour company to tour company, but this route is by far the most common. 

Where appropriate we have included information for readers who are interested in doing an unsupported trek

Standard Itinerary

Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Salkantaypampa

Most Salkantay tours depart by bus or private car from Cusco city (3,400m) early on day one (around 05:00 or 06:00) and drive for 2.5-3 hours to the town of Mollepata (2,850m), where you will likely stop and have breakfast.

If you are doing a DIY trek you can hire a private car / taxi or public bus to take you to Mollepata from Cusco, or indeed from the Sacred Valley (Urabamba, Ollantaytambo) – costs vary depending on mode of transport and depature town – budget between 200-400 Soles for a private car / taxi and 50-80 soles for a public bus.

It is possible to start the trek from Mollepata but most tour operators don’t as this lengthens day one by a few hours and the beginning of the trail is along a rather unpleasant road.

Instead most operators will transfer you using another minibus / truck or 4×4 car, as the road is a little rough here, to the trailhead at Sayllapata / Sayapata (3,200m).

This is where you will meet your support team and arrieros (horsemen). The first good views of Salkantay and the Apurimac River valley are visible from here.

From Sayllapata, trekkers follow a gradual trail which climbs upwards to Soraypampa (3,850m) and takes about 3-4 hours to reach.

This is where most treks will have lunch. Some trekking companies camp here for the night but it is more common to continue trekking for another 2-3 hours to a campsite at Salkantaypampa (3,900m – 4,100m, the jury’s out).

Total trek distance ~12km, total time walking ~5-7 hours.

Please Note
Between Sayllapata and Salkantaypampa you will notice that the trail splits East and West, you will taken the Western or left fork (see map below). Trekkers on the Salkantay / Inca Combo take the East or right fork.

Day 2: Salkantaypampa – Soyrococha – Abra Salkantay / El Passo – Huaracmachay – Colpapampa

Day two is by the toughest day, so prepare to be challenged.

After waking early you will begin the trek from Salkantaypampa to Soyrococha (4,470m), which takes about 2.5-3 hours and starts gradually and gets steeper.

After about an hour trekking the trail begins zig-zagging, which goes on for a while and gets steeper the higher you go. The switchbacks are called the 7 Culebras (7 snakes).

At the top of the Culebras you might notice that the temperature is cooler, but the sun intensity might still be high. The views of Salkantay from here onwards are breath-taking (make sure you have enough film and battery-life).

Continuing upwards you will reach Soyrococha (4,470m) around 10am. You might be exhausted as the air is thin at this altitude, but you still have a big climb ahead of you, so dig deep!

Continuing for another hour upwards, with Salkantay on your right, you will finally reach Salkantay Pass (4,600m). You will have a feeling of immense satisfaction at the top of the pass, and on a clear day will get amazing views of Salkantay (6,271m) to your right and Huamantay (5,917m) mountain to your left.


Stone Cairns left by previous trekkers at the Salkantay Pass (4,600m)

From the Salkantay Pass you will descend 2-3 hours to Huaracmachay (3,750m) for lunch. It is possible to overnight here, but most tours continuing descending a further 3 hours to Collpapampa (2,850m) – the end of a mammoth day trekking!

You will notice that the landscape changes dramatically from high mountain terrain to lush tropical forest.

Total trek distance ~15km, total time walking ~7-10 hours.

Day 3: Collpapampa- La Playa

Early the next morning you will depart from the campsite at Collpapampa. The trail ascends slightly before descending for the rest of the day towards La Playa (2,050m).

The route is a little more populated than the earlier trails and sits firmly within the tropical forest zone, so look out for nasty little sand flies that leave terrible bites (definitely wear insect repellent).

If you are trekking unsupported you may get a little confused on the trail out of Collpapampa as there are many little subsidiary trails. It is best to leave the campsite with an organised group to avoid getting lost.

As you approach La Playa the trail splits. If you stay on the left bank of the river, which most tour operators do, you will cross a bridge. From here the trail takes you straight into La Playa.

The right river bank is accessed by gondola. From here the trail continues to La Playa, which will be on the opposite side of the river. At the end of the town you can cross the river to access the campsite.

La Playa is a small town but a lot bigger than any of the other campsites you would have stayed at. For this reason some trekking companies like to continue trekking for 30 minutes further to Lucmabamba, or catch a minibus to Santa Theresa.

Total trek distance ~10km, total time walking ~6-7 hours.

Day 4: La Playa – Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes

From this point on the wilderness experience is over, and a number of route / activity options are available.

These are typically agreed with your company / trekking group before you begin the trek, or if you are a private group can be decided before you get to La Playa.

Option 1: Hot Springs in Colcamayu

The first option is the most relaxing, so if you and your trekking partners are shattered this one is for you. You will be transported to the hot springs in Colcamayu, which is just outside the town of Santa Theresa.

The morning can be spent soaking your sore legs and feet whilst enjoying the jungle scenery.

After lunch you will be transported to the Hidroelectrica Station, where you will either hike for another 2-3 hours to the town of Aguas Calientes, or if you are super tired you can catch the train (cost US$25 if it is not included in your tour package).

Options 2: Llactapata (Inca Ruin)

The second option is our favourite and is probably the most common amongst trekkers. You will leave La Playa to trek 30-minutes to Lucmabamba.

From here you will spend a good two hours ascending to Llactapata, an Inca ruin, which was discovered by Hiram Bingham on the same journey that he discovered Machu Picchu in 1911. 

The site is still covered by vegetation in areas so it gives a good sense of what Machu Picchu must have look like when Bingham stumbled upon it. From Llactapata you will get your first view of Machu Picchu in the saddle opposite.

The route descends steeply for 2 hours from the site to the Hidroelectrica Station, where you either trek 2-3 hours or train for 45-minute to Aguas Calientes. Total trekking time: 7 hours


Llactapata, an impressive Inca ruin discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911

Options 3: Zip-lining at Cola de Mono

The final option is for adrenaline-seekers. Trekkers are transported to Cola de Mono, the site of South America’s highest zip-line, 150 meters off the ground.

The morning is spent zipping before being transported to the Hidroelectrica Station, and onwards to Aguas Calientes by foot or train. Check out this cool video of trekkers zip-lining.

Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

Aguas Calientes is the town that sits below Machu Picchu and where you will overnight in a hotel – ah, a real bed and shower!!

From Aguas Calientes there are buses that run regularly up and down between the town and Machu Picchu.

Tickets costs ~US$20 return and the first bus departs around 05:30. Queues for buses can start before 05:00 during the peak trekking season (May-September) and the journey one-way takes 30 minutes.

It is also possible to walk up to Machu Picchu, it takes a good hour and half and involves scaling over 2,000 steps!


Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu (often referred to as Machu Picchu town)

If you want to get up to Machu Picchu in time to witness sunrise from the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), you will need to get one of the first buses to the Citadel and then briskly walk up the gradual trail that leads up to the Sun Gate (it is well marked and takes about 45 minutes at a good pace).


The view of Machu Picchu from Inti Punku (the Gate of the Sun)

Please remember your passport, you will need it to enter Machu Picchu!

After sunrise most trekkers are given a organised 2-3 hour tour of the city ruins.

If you don’t have an organised tour you can either acquire the services of a registered guide outside the gate (costs vary, but expect to pay 40-50 Soles per person if you have two or more people in your group, or 80-100 Soles if you are solo), or take a good guidebook (here are some great recommendations).

Don’t walk around uninformed, your experience will be immeasurable heightened if you have good information to draw on as you walk through the city.

A popular activity to do, apart from visiting the Sun Gate and the Inca Bridge, is to climb Huayna Picchu (the large mountain behind Machu Picchu on the North end of the site) or Machu Picchu Mountain on the opposite South end side.

The former is a lot more popular and is restricted to 400 climbing permits a day and two climbing times – 07:00am and 10:00am.

Hence, you need to book early if you want to climb Huayna Picchu. Machu Picchu Mountain is less popular but equally challenging, permits are also required so do book in advance (here are full details on both climbing options).


The view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu (aka Wayna Picchu or Wayna Pikchu)

Once you have finished exploring Machu Picchu you can either walk back down to Aguas Calientes, allow at least an hour and a half, or catch a bus. Buses depart regularly but expect queues during and just after lunchtime as most trekkers head back to catch trains to Cusco.


Queues for buses at Machu Picchu start forming around lunchtime and waits can be as long as an hour on bad days

If you are with an organised tour you will likely have afternoon train tickets already booked for Ollantaytambo, where you will catch a mini-bus / private car back to Cusco.

For DIY trekkers, it is possible to trek back to the Hidroelectrica Station, where you can get a bus that will take you all the way back to Cusco, via Santa Theresa and Ollantaytambo – this is a longer, but cheaper route than getting a train.

For details on getting to and from Machu Picchu we recommend your reading our online guide here.

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Salkantay / Inca Combo Itinerary

The Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo combines the best of both worlds – the extraordinary mountain scenery of the Salkantay Trail with the authenticity of the Classic Inca Trail.

Although the route has a similar first day to the Salkantay Trail it soon departs from the Classic route heading east around Salkantay. The route is longer and more challenging than the classic Salkantay trek, typically completed on a 7D/6N itinerary, and requires an Inca Trail permit.

The most common route itinerary is as follows:

Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Ichupata

You will drive from Cusco to Mollepata (approx. 3 hours) where you will stop for breakfast / stock up on final supplies.

Continue driving for 1.5-2 hours to Soraypampa (Salkantay trekkers usually hike to Soraypampa). From Soraypampa you will hike for 2.5-3 hours to Ichupata – a high camp that gets nippy at night so be prepared for cold weather.

The altitude is also high here, over 4,000m so you should acclimatise for at least 2-3 days in Cusco before departing on this trek.

Day 2: Ichupata –Incachiriasca Pass – Sisaypampa

Like the Classic Salkantay trek, day 2 on the combo trail is tough. The day starts with a steep and tiring trek up to and over Incachiriasca Pass (4,900m) – 3-4 hours trekking.

The views of Nevada Salkantay and surrounding peaks are awesome from the Pass. After a short rest you will descend back down to Sisaypampa (4,100m), where most tour operators camp for the night.

Day 3: Sisaypampa – Ayapata

The descent continues on day three towards a small community at Pampacahuana (3,300m). As you approach Pampacahuana, after 3-4 hours trekking, you will see an original Inca Canal.

From here you continue down for another 1-2 hours until you reach Paucarcancha, an Inca Fortress. After a further 45 minutes trekking you will reach Wayllabamba, the point at which you join the Classic Inca Trail.

The horsemen and mules will leave you at this point as mules are not allowed on the Inca Trail, and you will meet your porters.

After lunch you will depart from Wayllabamba and head upwards towards Warmihuañusca Pass (aka Dead Woman’s Pass). You will get halfway up before stopping for the night at Ayapata (3,300m).

Day 4: Ayapata – Chaquicocha

The climb continues on day 4 up to the top of Warmihuañusca Pass (4,200m), before descending back down into the Pacaymayo valley (3,600m).

You will have a short rest before continuing back up towards a second smaller pass called Abra Runkurakay (3,970m).

Half-way along this route, at 3,800m, you will stop to appreciate an Incan archaeological complex called Runkurakay, which is thought to have been used as a watchtower. 

Once over the Pass you will descend to Yanacocha Lake (aka the Black Lagoon) and another Incan ruin called Sayacmarca (3,624m). From here you are only 30 minutes from the campsite at Chaquicocha (3,600m).

Day 5: Chaquicocha  – Wiñaywayna

Day 5 starts with a gradual climb up the final pass Abra de Phuyupatamarca (3,700m), where you will see the well preserved archaeological complex, Phuyupatamarca (which means “town over the clouds” in Quechua).

This is an impressive Inca site, not only because it is so high, but also because it is so complete. The views of the Urabamba valley below are beautuiful. From here you will descend to Wiñaywayna (2,650m), the campsite for the night.

Right next to the campsite is Wiñaywayna archelogical complex which is well worth visiting. The campsite has a restaurant, bar and bathrooms with hot showers!!

Day 6: Wiñaywayna – Machu Picchu (Option to stay another night at Aguas Calientes or return to Cusco)

On day 6 you will wake well before sunrise (around 04:00) and begin trekking towards Inti Punku (the Sun Gate). At around 05:30 you will arrive at the Sun Gate in time to witness the sunrise over Machu Picchu.

After sunrise it is a 40 minute walk down into the famous city. You will first register with the authorities at the main entrance, and deposit your backpack for safe keeping, before beginning a 2-3 hour tour of Machu Picchu.

If you still have the energy and are not too afraid of heights then it is worthwhile climbing Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain – click here for details.

Some trekkers like to add an additional day to this tour so that they can visit Aguas Calientes and return to Machu Picchu the next day.

If you wish to do this you will need to get your tour operator to book an additional entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, and a hotel in Aguas Calientes.

If you are interested in trekking the Salkantay / Inca Combo, please feel free to use our free tour operator recommendation service.

Route Map and Altitude Profile

The map below shows the route followed on a typical Salkantay trek. You can see just after Soraypampa the trail splits.

The Western trail follows the Salkantay trail up and over El Passo and around to La Playa. The Eastern trail shows the Salkantay / Inca Trail Comb trek which climbs over the Incachiriasca Pass and joins up with the Classic Inca Trail at Wayllabamba.

Please note: this map is not to scale and should not be relied on for wayfinding.

Excellent route maps are available in the Trailblazer Inca Trail Guidebook


Here is the altitude profile for the Salkantay Trek. As you can see the first two days are tough, after which the trek gets a lot easier!Enter your text here...


Best Time To Do The Salkantay Trek

There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes – a dry season that runs from late April through to early October, and a wet season that starts mid to late October and draws to a close in April.


The peak trekking season to Machu Picchu occurs during the dry season and is busiest between May and September.

The Classic Inca Trail is very busy during these months and permits sell out months in advance. Those who don’t get permits for the Inca Trail typically overflow onto the Salkantay trail, which means that between May and September the route can be busy.

That being said, you will not get a sense of overcrowding that can be the case on the Inca Trail.

The Salkantay trek can technically be completed all year round, although we highly recommend avoiding the months of December, January and February when rainy days are the norm.

The best trekking months run from the shoulder wet months March / April all the way through to the shoulder dry months October / November.

Temperatures throughout the year follow a very consistent pattern. Days are warm, in the high twenties Celsius (70/80 Fahrenheit), and cold at night and in the early mornings (single digits Celsius and sometimes below zero degrees).

Temperature fluctuation is further exasperated by the micro-climates that dominate as you ascend and descend in altitude.

Key to staying comfortable throughout the trek is layering (see our equipment packing list section below for details on ideal clothing requirements).


Acclimatisation and Altitude Sickness

The Salkantay trek is a high altitude hike that comes with obvious altitude sickness risks.

The highest altitude that you will reach on this trek is just over 4,600m (4,900m if you do the Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo), which might be the highest altitude you have ever gone to outside of an aeroplane.

At this altitude, available oxygen per breath is nearly 45% less than what is available at sea level, and results in a number of physiological impacts.

It is nearly impossible to predict how altitude will effect you as there is very little correlation between altitude sickness symptoms and age, fitness level, gender etc.

We do however know that going too high too fast is a key determinant of altitude sickness. Given enough time the body can adapt to higher and higher altitudes – this is called acclimatisation.

The trouble with treks to Machu Picchu is that most, if not all trekkers start their journey from Cusco (3,400m), which is already at high altitude.

It is important that you spend a few days (2 at a minimum) acclimatising in Cusco, or ideally in the Sacred Valley, which is nearly 1,000m below Cusco before starting your trek.

We have written a very detailed online guide on acclimatisation and altitude sickness that we recommend you take a moment to read. Click here to read the guide.

Equipment Packing List

Machu Picchu x 2 long & short sleeve shirts -Mountain IQ

There are a few key equipment items that you will need to take with you on your Salkantay trek.

We have written a very comprehensive packing list for the Inca Trail, which is thankfully identical to what is needed for the Salkantay trek. The only key difference is that mules are used to carry gear on the Salkantay trek, instead porters. The weight distribution between porters and mules is very similar though.

If you are doing an unsupported DIY trek, you will need to carry your own gear, including food and a tent. This means that you will need to pack light, avoid taking too many duplicate items on the packing list (for example, take only one pair of trekking trousers instead of two).

Try to keep your pack under 15kg, anymore weight will make the trek very tough. If you are overweight, consider acquiring the services of an arrieros (horseman) in Mollepata.

They charge between 30-40 Soles per mule per day and an additional 30/40 Soles per day for themselves, but are a great help.

As you will be cooking your own food (go with 3 days worth of light food, like sachets of soup, ramen noodles etc), you will need to have fuel ignition cooking gear. Here are some good examples of camping cookware and camping gas stoves.

Training, Fitness and Preparation

The Salkantay trek and the Salkantay / Inca Trail Combo are both moderate to tough treks (the latter in particular). You don’t need to be super-fit or a marathon runner, but you should be in relatively good shape and have trained for a few months before arriving in Cusco.

The best type of training you can do is aerobic cardiovascular exercise like long distance jogging, swimming or cycling. Click here to read our hiking training programme which provides some useful guidance on how best to prepare for the trek.

Get a Trek Quote

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.


Like most treks to Machu Picchu, the costs vary quite dramatically from tour operator to tour operator. Here is a brief overview on the types of operators you will come across and their prices:

  • Local operators
  • International Trek operators
  • Tour Agencies

When it comes to local operators, it is important to note that the quality of treks in terms of service, equipment, guiding, facilities and safety varies widely. There are over 200 local trekking companies in Cusco alone. Generally they split into two types:

Cheap Local Operators
At the bottom of the market are the cheap local operators who often cut corners, pay questionable wages to their staff and deliver services that often don’t stack-up to their promises. There prices are predicated on putting together large groups, up to 16 trekkers, and if they don’t reach this number they will combine treks with another company. Booking with a cheap operator doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have a bad experience, but the probability of poor service is higher. Basically if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Prices for this type of operator range from US$300-US$450 for a 5D/4N Salkantay trek itinerary, and might exclude certain key items like bus tickets in Machu Picchu, return train tickets to Cusco etc. Make sure you check what is included.

Responsible Local Operators
There are a number of great local trekking companies who offer excellent services and run a responsible operation, but finding them can be tough. With these guys you should expect to pay US$500-US$800 for a 5D/4N itinerary, depending on group size, and there shouldn’t be any hidden or additional costs.

Trekking Insurance

Insurance for your trek to Machu Picchu is a must. Most operators will require you to carry sufficient travel insurance for your trek.

As most trails to Machu Picchu go over high 4,000m passes, you will need to make sure your insurance covers you for high altitude hiking (up to 6,000m). We have reviewed a number of travel insurance providers. The most affordable and best by far is World Nomads.

Use the Calculator below to get a travel insurance quote for your trek.


We hope that we have answered many of your questions about the Salkantay trek. If you have any unanswered questions, please leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours. We very much welcome questions or feedback so that we can keep this article up to date. Thanks!

Tags: Salkantay Trek, Salkantay Trail, Salkantay Trekking, Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, Salkantay Trek Peru, Camino Salkantay, Salkantay Pass, Salkantay Peru, Salkantay Trail Peru, Salcantay trail

References: (1) Wikipedia, (2) The Machu Picchu Guidebook, (3) Personal experience, (4) Depth interviews with local guides and trekking companies, (5) Saltankay Treks by Ladies Trekking Club

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Leave a Comment:

Sam says April 3, 2016

This website looks like it answers all the questions I had (and answers to more questions I hadn’t thought of) to begin putting together a real plan. Great work and professional presentation. Thank you!

Kelsi Anderson says July 29, 2016

I was thinking about doing the salkantay trek sometime in September. I am trying to figure out if I need a permit or if I need to pay for a guide or if I can do it independently. I have read mixed reviews about the following and I wanted to clarify them. Thanks for your time!

    Mark Whitman says July 29, 2016

    Hi Kelsi, you don’t need a permit to complete the Salkantay trek, however you will need a permit for Machu Picchu. I would recommend taking a guide and potentially a muleteer to carry gear. All the best!

    Suzanne says July 20, 2018

    We’re interested in walking the Salkantay Trail and going to Machu Picchu (maybe separate from each other, maybe at once).

    We (me and my friend) will be in Cuscu area in the first two weeks september (2018). Do we need to book Machu Picchu in advance? And if you think its possible to book the trip in Cusco (area), can we assume that there are 2 ‘spots’ left for us within +/- 3 days to start the hike? The problem is we don’t know, when we will be in Cusco exactly, so I’d like to book last minute on location.

    And I was wondering if you do the Salkantay Trail, do you need you own tent to sleep in or not?

    Thank you in advance for you reply!

      Mark Whitman says July 21, 2018

      Hi Suzanne, yes I would recommend buying your Machu Picchu tickets in advance. You can book the Salkantay trek at the last minute in Cuzco. Your tour operator should provide all camping gear. All the best!

Mollie says July 29, 2016

This is great! I plan on doing the trek unsupported this September. You mentioned a 4D/3N option — what do you recommend the stopping points be each day for that?


    Mark Whitman says July 30, 2016

    Hi Mollie, There are many variations, but on a 4d/3n you would just carry on from La Playa to Aguas Calientes, instead of stopping at La Playa on day 3. Cheers!

Dorota says August 24, 2016

We are also planning on starting Salkantay trek around 14-15th September this year. We want to go unguided and were wondering if there is anybody else going at the same time and would like to join?

    neil alwardt says December 16, 2016

    Why, I might around that time! Thanks, Neil Alwardt

Alicia Ngaropo-Tuia says April 17, 2017

Hi there, unfortunately January is the only time we are able to be there. I realise its rainy season so does this mean that the Salkantay treks is closed? Can we still go?

Juanita Hammen says April 26, 2017

Hi my daughter aged 25 years is in Cusco now wanting to do the salkantay Trek. Not sure of who/company to go with? She can go and visit/chat to recommended ones? Thanks, her wifi is unstable. Any advice would be appreciated. 🙂

    Mark Whitman says April 26, 2017

    Hi Juanita, thanks for getting in touch. Use our tour operator recommendation service here to get a quote from our partner:

Emily LePain says May 15, 2017

I am thinking of doing this trek solo. Is that usually alright or is it recommended that I do not hike alone?

    Mark Whitman says May 16, 2017

    Hi Emily, Although you can hike the Salkantay trail solo, on principle I would always advise that you trek with at least one other person, be it another hiker or a guide / porter. All the best!

Will says July 9, 2017

Do the campsites have sources of water?

    Mark Whitman says July 10, 2017

    Hi Will, yes, there are a number of streams along route where you or your porters can collect water. Make sure to treat water with purification tablets, and / or boil and filter the water before drinking. Cheers!

Rhyannon says July 25, 2017

Hello! I am wondering how best to tell if we are booking with an international trekking company? Do you have a list of these please =)

    Mark Whitman says August 2, 2017

    Hi Rhyannon, the list is pretty long. The best way to tell is to check the Contact or About page of the operator. If they don’t have offices in Peru or don’t explicitly state that they employ local staff then they are probably an international trekking company. If you fill in our form and we will put you in touch with a good international company with their own ground operation:

Frances says August 10, 2017

Thank you, that was very informative and I’m hoping to do this in October. I’m fine with the trekking but not so good with heights, are there many ‘scary’ climbing high ledges/ridges areas on this trail?

    Mark Whitman says August 10, 2017

    Hi Frances, There are no big exposures over high ledges or ridges on the Salkantay trail. Cheers!

Mike says December 5, 2017


I’m looking for an international trekking company that is legitimate and fairly priced. I’d like to do the Saltankay Trek – 7 days with lodge stays on the way to Machu Picchu. Can you recommend a tour operator please?



    Mark Whitman says December 6, 2017

    Hi Mike, I recommend you use our tour operator recommendation service, see here: All the best!

kristin says December 15, 2017

hey there…are there any mountain huts or lodges or hostels along the Salkantay Trail that we could stay in and eat at rather than carry camping gear? I can’t seem to find any info other than Mountain Lodges, which would require us to use their guides. I want to DIY my hike, but stay in shelters so I can travel light. I appreciate any insight!

    Mark Whitman says December 16, 2017

    Hi Kristin, it is possible to stay in Refugios along the Salkantay Trail. Check our: Refugio Salkantay. All the best!

Dewez says December 23, 2017

Thanks for all the informations. Very interesting. Do you know about an insurance alsor for people above 65 (in fact 67) as worldnomads do not accept people above 65 ?

    Mark Whitman says December 24, 2017

    Hi Dewez, you may need to contact a few travel insurance operators to see if they will cover you given your age. I recommend starting contacting your national mountaineering association as they usually offer insurance or can point you in the right direction. For example, in the UK you will need to contact the BMC. All the best!

Malte says February 16, 2018

Hi, I’d like to do the Salkantay Trek unsupported in the end of march. Is there anyone who might wants to join me?

    Malte says February 19, 2018

    The plan changed to beginning/mid march.
    ‘d like to start around 11th.

Elizabeth says March 5, 2018

Hi there! My partner and I will be hiking Salkantay without a guide during the last week in April. For the towns that we overnight in (not including Aguas Calientes), do you have to book campsites ahead of time? Or can you just show up and pitch your tent? Is there a cost?


    Mark Whitman says March 5, 2018

    Hi Elizabeth, no you don’t need to book a campsite ahead of time and can effectively camp wherever you like, you may be approached by the landowner to pay a camp fee. This is usually very cheap but make sure you have some cash available. If you are taking a guide / muleteer they can take you to the best camp spots. Cheers

Hitesh says March 8, 2018

Hey buddy.. this a great article, and very useful. Thanks for all the info.
Im doing the Salkantay trek in the last week of March. It seems to be rainy season, but do you know if its heavy or light rain?
Since its summer, will i need much thermal wear?
Are basic waterproof ponchos good enough for this rain?
Do i need waterproof trousers too?

Also, i have booked the trek with a company called Viajes Cusco. they have an office in Cusco so im hoping they are reputable. If you know them, are they any good?
Has anyone else used this Tour company?

Thanks you in advance for you advice!

    Mark Whitman says March 8, 2018

    Hi Hitesh, March can be a bit hit and miss. Heavy rains are possible so I would prepare for that and hopefully you get a great week. I would include a thermal base layer top and full wet weather gear (ideally a hard shell jacket), but light waterproofs (top and bottom) will do the trick too. It’s worth also having a super cheap poncho that you can quickly throw over yourself if there is a sudden downpour. I haven’t heard of Viajes Cusco, so can’t comment. All the best for your trek!

Andrew says March 16, 2018


My wife and I are planning a Peru trip in November. We are stuck between doing the Sacred Valley and short Inca Trail (3D/2N) and the Salkantay.

Heights do not bother me much, it is more being close to a ledge especially with a sheer drop with no wall or foilage blocking the view. From what I read there are some instances of this for the Inca trail but not so much for Salkantay, is this correct?

I am just not sure where the exposed sheer drops occur on the Inca trail. The tour starts with a tour of Sacred Valley ending in Ollantaytambo. The next day is Ollantaytambo -> train to bridge -> Chachabamba -> Wiñaywayna -> Inti Punku then bus to Aguas Calientes. We are then busing to Machu Picchu and busing back down.

So 1) Does this route bypass the sheer drops/narrow ledges of the Inca Trail
2) Does this short route miss out on some of the more impressive sites?

From what I have gathered the Inca trail is better for ruins, historic sites, etc. whereas the Salkantay is more naturally beautiful.

    Mark Whitman says March 16, 2018

    Hi Andrew, although I realise people experience heights differently, I would say that they aren’t any real exposures on the Inca Trail or the Salkantay route. There are a few instances where the trail is narrow and there is a drop off but to be honest these are easy to navigate past. The short Inca has many less examples of this so if you are very concerned then it may be a better option then the classic Inca or the Salkantay. Where I would say there are some scary heights is inside Machu Picchu, either on the Inca Bridge or on the Huayna Picchu hike. Also in the bus ride up and down the Hiram Bingham pass that takes you from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu you may feel a little uncomfortable as it is a winding road with steep exposure. That being said, I don’t think there has ever been an accident and there are literally 100s of bus trips every single day. As to your last point, the Inca Trail is indeed better for ruins / historic sites ect. But I would say the Salkantay has the edge in terms of scenery. Hope this helps!

    Amanda says September 28, 2018

    I am also planning to visit Machu Picchu in November, I think I’m going to do the Salkantay Trek!

Clif Price says April 7, 2018

Is the trek you are describing also known as the Santa Teresa Trek? A friend and I are headed to Peru in a few weeks and are going to be doing the trek unguided. From the maps I have looked at it looks like the Salkantay trek splits to the right and the Santa Teresa trek splits to the left. We DO NOT want to buy permits or use a guide. We are both experienced backpackers and can easily handle this trek on our own. Thanks for the info!

    Mark Whitman says April 7, 2018

    Hi Clif, this trek is the classic Salkantay route. It is similar to the Santa Theresa trek, see here: Both treks can be completed independently and do not require permits, like the Inca Trail. All the best!

Jack says May 15, 2018

I suffer from moderate Acrophobia (fear of heights). I have hiked many mountains around the world over the past 15 years. Where I have most difficulty is when the trail opens up where there is open and exposed areas that look out to a deep valley especially if the trail is narrow’s (3 feet wide or less). I am planning the Salkantay trail this October. Can anyone provide their input on this? Very much appreciated. Thank you

Judith says July 27, 2018

Hi there, jusy wondering how difficult the hike is on the Salkantay trek – i know you’ve mentioned the expectes length of the trek each day but are there steps most of the way or dirt trails or stones, etc. Is there need to have a stick to assist? Is it slippy or easy to navigate?

    Mark Whitman says July 29, 2018

    Hi Judith, the hike consists of mixed terrain. The route is dominated by gravel trails that ascend and descend, but there are sections with Inca steps. If it rains than some parts of the trail can be slippery. I would recommend taking trekking poles. All the best!

Andrew says July 29, 2018

Hi, It seems that early Dec fits best into my schedule; how rainy might it be? A driving rain, or more hike-able? And am I carrying my sleeping bag and gear, or is it being transported with us? Thks //

    Mark Whitman says July 29, 2018

    Hi Andrew, you can get a great week in December so it is hard to predict the weather conditions. That being said I would prepare for some rainy days where wet weather gear will be required. Generally it is not torrential rain. Depending on your tour operator you may have porters / use mules to carry most of your gear (including your sleeping bag). It’s worth checking with your tour operator.

Amanda Gillespie says September 28, 2018

I am planning to do the Salkantay Trek in November. I’ve heard it’s cheapest and best to find a tour while in Peru rather than buying one online. Is this true?

Lisa Grimes says September 29, 2018

interested in DIY – how safe is this idea? Is a tour recommended?

    Mark Whitman says September 30, 2018

    Hi Lisa, I recommend at least taking a local guide.

Roda says October 12, 2018

Hi there,
Your website is a great resource. I have a few questions regarding trekking the Salkantay trail. I finally had the time to go so I dont want to miss the chance of going to Cusco, Machu Picchu and hopefully be able to do Salkantay or one of the trails.

What are my chances to be able to book a trek with a tour group for end of next week? Also, how much will it cost if I trek, supported with horses/horsemen. And finally, while I have not done a lot of physical activities in the past month and while not the fittest, I am relatively healthy. 🙂 I have had experience multiple day treks the past years (Nepal) but the last one being 2 years ago in New Zealand. Do you think that it is even worth trying? I was thinking I could take it really slow or do the trek longer. Do you have any suggestions or insights?

Thanks so much!

    Mark Whitman says October 19, 2018

    Hi Roda, you are best engaging a tour operator in Cuzco to see if they can get you onto a last minute Salkantay trek. Costs vary so I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess for a last minute deal. In terms of fitness, as you are healthy and have trekked in Nepal, albeit a while ago, I think you will be fine. All the best!

CristinaT says October 26, 2018

Is late May already crowded for the Combo tour? Can I have hot springs and zipline on a combo? If I want an extra day at Machu Pichu, how many days do I need? 7? Can I buy the travel insurance later than I book the combo tour? Thank you

    Mark Whitman says November 11, 2018

    Hi Christina, Late May is a busy trekking month, but the Salkantay / Inca is a relatively quiet route. Obviously the Inca Trail segment gets busy but the trail is restricted to 500 trekkers a day so it isn’t ridiculous. The hot springs are in Aguas Calientes, so yes you can easily do this by staying an extra day there. Ziplining is in Santa Theresa, which is too far from Aguas Calientes, you could do this on the extra day there too. You should buy travel insurance before you depart. For more information check out:

Tess says November 9, 2018

I would like to do the Salkantay trek with a local tour operator in mid-april 2019. Is it necessary to book this months in advance or could I just book it when I am in Cusco, a few days to a week in advance? And if I book this trek spontaneously, is visiting the Machu Picchu site included or not? (In other words: can you visit the Machu Picchu spontaneously when you book an alternative trek like the Salkantay trek instead of the classic Inca trail?)

Kind regards,

    Mark Whitman says November 11, 2018

    Hi Tess, you can book the Salkantay trek as a last minute exercise, but it is better to try arrange you trek in advance. As for Machu Picchu permits, these are limited to 2,500 a day and do sell out so it is worth making plans in advance.

Maggie says December 18, 2018

Great information, we are experienced trekkers and have found it very difficult to find information on independent trekking to Machu Picchu so thank you for this. You recommend carrying 3-days’ worth of food, are there any shops/shacks on the Salkantay Trail for fresh milk/bread/veg etc?

    Mark Whitman says December 20, 2018

    Hi Maggie, not that I’m aware of. I recommend taking a full suite of food supplies for at least 3 days.

Soren says December 19, 2018

Does the Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu require a pass in advance?
What is the best time of year to do this hike?

Thank you

    Mark Whitman says December 20, 2018

    Hi Soren, The Salkantay trek does not require a permit. To enter Machu Picchu though you need to purchase a visitor’s pass. For detailed information on weather and the best time to hike check out this article:

Juanita says January 7, 2019

Hi Mark, thanks so much for this information! My husband and I are planning to do this trek solo in February. Neither of us speak Spanish. Do you think this would be a problem?

    Mark Whitman says January 24, 2019

    Hi Juanita, being able to talk / understand Spanish is a benefit but not a pre-requisite.

Elena says January 19, 2019

Hi Mark! Brilliant website!
One question – what type of train stops at Hidroelectrica station on the route to Agas Calientes? Is it Peru rail Vistadome – Expedition? I believe luxury trains do not stop at this station?
Many thanks!

    Mark Whitman says January 24, 2019

    Hi Elena, I think the Belmond luxury train stops here but I’m not 100% sure.

Jonas Koeniger says March 4, 2019


I’m planing to do the Salkantay trail with a girl from peru. How do I reserve each campsite when going independently?
And do they have running water?

I would book each bus/trainride on my Own and most likely get one horseman for the luggage.

I’m excited to hear from you.

    Mark Whitman says March 17, 2019

    Hi Jonas, you don’t need to book campsites on the Salkantay. And most campsites don’t have facilities or running water. You will need to collect water as you hike and make sure to purify it. All the best!

Adam says May 16, 2019

I know you touched on it already, but how strongly do you recommend avoiding December? We really want to do a trek to Machu Picchu, it seems like December is the only time that works. We obviously don’t want to go through all the flights and travel if it is not recommended during that time. Thanks!

    Mark Whitman says May 16, 2019

    Hi Adam, December can be quite wet, as it is the rainy season. There is also landslide risk so make sure that if you do trek during this month you are accompanied by an experienced guide. I would say if you are totally restricted to this month it is still worth the gamble, and hopefully you get a good week. It’s a gamble, so I would mentally prepare for inclement weather.

Tara says July 31, 2019

What a fabulous website, thank you most informative. I am coming to Cuzco on the 19th August, with my husband and 2 children 11& 12. I would ideally like to do a decent trek with them all that includes one night of camping at least. Can any of these treks be completed by children (who are fit and up for a challenge)… famous last words! Is there anything else that you would recommend for a family.
Many thanks, Tara

    Mark Whitman says August 1, 2019

    Hi Tara, yes, all treks to Machu Picchu can be completed by children, but I would only consider taking 10+ year olds who have experience of multi-day hikes (i.e. walking for 5-6 hours a day). Hope this helps!

Deidre says November 8, 2019

Hi! My mom and I are looking at the Salkantay Trek. We’re not afraid of the cardio challenge but our mountaineering experience is limited to simple, rocky trails. I’ve seen photos of people summiting with crampons and ropes and am a bit concerned that this route may be biting off more than we can chew if that is part of the required route. Is the element that requires the more technical mountaineering skills part of an optional route or is that something that we’ll need to be able to manage in order to complete the Salkantay trail at all? Any additional information you could provide to fill in my questions surrounding this concern would be GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks so much!

    Mark Whitman says November 9, 2019

    Hi Desidre, the Salkantay trail is just a trek. No technical climbing skills are required and the use of crampons is highly unlikely. I suspect the imagery you have seen is of people actually climbing Mount Salkantay. All the best!

James says February 7, 2020

My partner and I are in Peru 16th – 22nd February and I’d like to know if there are 2 night/ 3 day options to hike the Salkantay to Macchu Picchu? Or a close variable? Would it be possible to join a longer trek, but half-way through?

We don’t really have time for the 5 day trek but want something a bit more meaty than just a day trip!

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