Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek the Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu

The younger, cooler sister of the over-crowded Inca Trail

From

Trip Ref #9887

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek the Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu

The younger, cooler sister of the over-crowded Inca Trail

DURATION

7 nights

LOCATION

Peru

ANNUAL LEAVE

1 week off work

SEASON

May-Oct

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport, Cusco

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

The steep terrain and altitude can make the going tough at times, but anyone with good fitness and the right attitude will love it.

Voted one of the top 25 treks on the planet by National Geographic

Trek through rainforest, cloud forest, over high passes and around glaciers - your feet might get tired, but your eyes never will

Sleep in picture-perfect campsites, so close to the Milky Way you can almost touch it

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    Mark Acton, July 2022

    Wow...this trip exceeded all our expectations the trip was well organised from start to finish and the guides both Christian and Lu made the whole thing fun and educational. The actual trek is challenging but with the stunning views at every turn well worth it. 👏

    Hamid, July 2022

    Trek of a lifetime. Hiking through frozen water streams, lush jungles and cold and hot weather, you see it all. Our guide odom was legendary in his guidance and humor. The food was unbelievable. One of us had her birthday and they managed to whip up a delicious birthday cake in the middle of the jungle! Word of caution though, make sure you spend a few nights acclimating to the altitude before beginning the trek, it’s doable but will take u to your limits

    MarieAnne, July 2022

    Perfect trip! A wonderful adventure that leads beautifully to the Machu Picchu.

    Agnieszka, July 2022

    Brilliant for anyone who loves adventure. Beautiful landscape all around. Amazing experience.

    Eduard, June 2022

    Awesome trip, hones the warrior spirit, recommended. GO SEXY KUI WARRIORS

    Sarah, June 2022

    An incredible experience! Challenging, fun and beautiful sites. The local guides were so knowledgeable and friendly, and the local host, Roxner, was incredibly helpful both before and during the trip!

    David, June 2022

    The scenery was absolutely stunning, the trek content well thought out and challenging. The hosts were able to arrange additional nights of accommodation and extra tours, which for us included the Rainbow Mountain. Our tour included visits to sites of historical significance as well as interactions with the local population. For me the food and drink on the trek was not as good as I have experienced on previous trips with Much Better Adventures and I was gutted to miss out on Machu Picchu after being hospitalised with a bug most likely picked up during the trek from contaminated food or water.

    Oliver, May 2022

    Really great trip. Food was amazing and accommodated for all diets. Highly recommend.

    Brendan, May 2022

    Dario & Eddy (our guides) were amazing, some beautiful campsites, not that hard physically (mostly downhill after the first day), pretty luxurious camping/trekking experience really.

    Craig, May 2022

    May 2022, a friend and I took the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu. We were a group of 13 with 2 brilliant guides, Dario and Eddie. Day 1 was arrival and a meet for dinner with the team and guide. Day 2 started with a tour of the sacred valley which was really impressive and informative. This was a long but brilliant day with a brief for the next mornings hike at the end of the day. We even managed to visit the salt flats. Day 3, the hike! There’s a bit of a drive to the start with a breakfast at a local house on the way. This was an omelette and fruit. The walk up to Humantay lake was hard, but only due to acclimatisation and lack of oxygen at this altitude. We even saw an avalanche in the distance! No where near our trek so no need to panic! If you’ve never been at altitude before, I’d recommend speaking to your doctor and getting some Diamox that will help with the headaches and dizziness. I felt it in Cusco city which is 3300m so going to 4600m would have been tough without it. We reached the lake and had time for photos before back down the mountain and again up towards our first camp at 4200m. Everyone’s appetite was gone due to the altitude but the chef and his team had laid on an immense spread. We reached the salkantay pass early the next morning. Amazing views and photos before a long trek down the other side and camping on land belonging to a local resident. There was access to a warm shower for those who wanted one, but most preferred to wash with the bowls of water provided by the team. The next day we set off down a track to our next campsite. This followed a valley down with bridges and waterfalls. We finished slightly early and we’re given the opportunity to visit the hot springs. This was awesome at the end of a couple of days hiking. Sat in a warm pool looking at mountains and condors circling in the far distance was a memory I shan’t forget for a while. We also toured the coffee plantation at which we stayed. Freddie, the owner, was a funny guy and his property was lovely to stay on. We then joined the Inca trail to hydroelectrica where we had lunch and jumped in the train to agua calientes. Hotel and shower for all. The next day was the main event, Machu Picchu! Much bigger than I thought it’d be and thankfully the weather held out with lovely sunshine. We were up there for nearly 3 hours and the tour was very informative. Once finished, it’s the long train and bus ride back to Cusco (not forgetting the Guinea pig for lunch at a local restaurant). Overall I had an amazing experience. The guides were brilliant and the staff were amazing, especially what the chef can achieve in a tent! My recommendations would be to take some snickers bars, Diamox and money for more water or nibbles on the way if you need it.The staff boil water to top up your own bottles at meal times. Snacks are provided to take with you, which is normally some sort of biscuit bar and a piece of fruit, but I took some sweets as well. You will want to tip the staff as well. They do an outstanding job. I wore shorts mostly, but the weather can change quickly and I had a poncho that I put on a couple of times. You’ll need warm kit at the first campsite, but after that it was pleasant at the other sites. I jumper or fleece to throw on at stops is recommended. The trip was one I shan’t forget. Lovely people and amazing views. The tour guides operated with locals, supporting the community and they did their very best to make it a real adventure. Can’t thank them enough.

    Included

    Guides

    Local, certified and friendly English-speaking guides

    Accommodation

    4 nights in hotels (3 in Cusco, 1 in Aguas Calientes) and 3 nights camping on the trail

    Meals

    Local food cooked by your very own chef during the trek

    Transfers

    Both airport transfers and local transfers

    Porterage

    Porters and horses to carry your luggage on the trek

    Equipment

    Everything you need for camping along the trail will be provided and set up for you

    Permits

    All your tickets and entry fees will all be covered and organised in advance

    Not Included

    Flights to and from the meeting point

    Travel insurance

    Personal expenses

    Tips for your guides

    The Area

    map

    Logistics

    Starts

    Cusco Airport (CUZ)

    Flexible - arrive any time on Day 1

    Ends

    Cusco Airport (CUZ)

    Flexible - catch any flight home on Day 8

    Transfers

    Catch any flight you like. Your host will pick you up on arrival and drop you off on departure. Just bear in mind that if you arrive at the crack of dawn your room may not be ready for check-in.

    Travel options

    There are currently no direct international flights from Europe or the US into Cuzco. Flights generally involve one or two changes and go via Lima. If you prefer to break up the journey, you could consider flying into Lima a day early and booking an onward flight to Cuzco the following day. Airport hotels are available in Lima or, if you have more time to spare, why not stay in the popular Miraflores district of Lima and use this as a base to explore the city? See Optional Extras below for prices for extra nights in Cuzco or Lima before or after the tour.

    Day 1

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 2

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 3 – Day 5

    Wild camping · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 6

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 7

    Hotel · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 8

    Departure day

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    What is the food like?

    Whilst trekking, an experienced chef will be on-hand to make amazing meals in the middle of the mountains. Expect plenty of hot food and drinks with every meal. Snacks such as chocolate or granola bars, cookies, dried or fresh fruit will be provided in addition to three meals a day during the hike. Breakfasts typically include things like oats (or 'kiwicha', a local supergrain), eggs/omelettes, jam and toast, pancakes and granola. Lunches are usually soups, salads, pasta, or potato-based dishes and dinners tend to be three-course cooked meals complete with dessert! Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request this on your passenger info form.

    What is the accommodation like?

    Cusco

    During your time in Cusco, you’ll stay in a centrally located stylish boutique hotel, such as the Tierra Viva Cusco Hotel or similar. This highly rated hotel is set in a classic colonial house just off the Plaza de Armas (main square).

    Salkantay trek

    During the trek, you'll camp along the route. Your host will provide a four-man tent for every two people, complete with a Thermarest inflatable mattress and pillow. You’ll be accompanied by a group camp chef and porters, bringing a kitchen tent, dining tent with tables and chairs, and a toilet tent with portable loo.

    Aguas Calientes

    On the last night of the trek, you'll stay in either the La Cabana Machu Picchu or Andina Luxury in Aguas Calientes for a good night's sleep before heading up to Machu Picchu the following day. Both hotels are modern, clean, very friendly and serve a brilliant breakfast.

    Upgrades

    For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

    Day 1

    Arrive in Cusco and get to know your crew

    Arrive at your hotel in Cusco, perfectly located off one of the main squares. If you’ve got the time, head out to wander the streets for your first real taste of Peruvian culture. Join your guide later for dinner at a nearby restaurant, where you can sample the local cuisine and music, as well as get to know your fellow adventurers. After dinner, head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest – and perhaps a night cap.

    Day 2

    Tour of the Sacred Valley

    The Sacred Valley was a crucial area for the Inca Empire, functioning as an agricultural, spiritual and political hub. You’ll visit the two main sites, Pisac and Ollantaytambo, to experience their ancient ruins, cobbled streets and learn about their history. On returning to your hotel in Cusco, you’ll meet your guide for a quick pre-trek briefing. Afterwards, the evening is yours - relax, grab some dinner and probably have an early night, ready for tomorrow’s adventure.

    Day 3

    Trek to Soyrococha via Humantay Lake

    Hiking

    6-8hrs · 8.2km · 992m up · 377m down

    You’ll be up picked from your hotel for a scenic drive to Mollepata, where you’ll enjoy breakfast in a local house. After brekkie, you’ll make your way to the start of your trek in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba at Soraypampa (3800m), getting your first glimpse of the Salkantay and Humantay mountains on the way. After packing the horses, it’s time to set off. You’ll trek to the high altitude and bright turquoise waters of Humantay Lake, sitting below the Humantay Glacier. From here, it's a gentle climb to Salkantaypampa for lunch. After lunch, you’ll ascend to Soyrococha (4400m) where you’ll set up camp with Humantay as your stunning backdrop.

    Day 4

    Soyrococha to Colpapampa

    Hiking

    8-9hrs · 15.3km · 235m up · 1884m down

    Today’s a tough one. After breakfast, you’ll start with an uphill hike to the highest point of the trek, the Salkantay Pass (4630m). At the top, you’ll make an offering to Apu Salkantay and learn the significance of the mountain to Inca culture. Descend to Huayracmachay (3800m) for lunch, passing turquoise lakes with the Pumasillo and Humantay mountains in the distance. After lunch, you’ll descend further through highlands, cloud forest, and rainforest, until you reach camp at Colpapampa (3100m).

    Day 5

    Colpapampa to Lucmabamba Coffee Plantation

    Hiking

    5-6hrs · 15.5km · 320m up · 1141m down

    A much gentler day, you’ll head through the rainforest along the Santa Teresa River, trekking past lush vegetation and waterfalls, before reaching camp by noon and stopping for lunch. After being fed, you’ll have a tour of the nearby coffee plantation, learn about the beans and pick your own to grind, roast and enjoy later. Before returning to camp, you’ll roam the nearby tomato and avocado fields and pick vegetables for the chef to use in tonight’s dinner.

    Day 6

    Trek to Aguas Calientes via Llactapata

    Hiking

    6-7hrs · 21.4km · 1634m up · 1604m down

    After breakfast, you’ll embark on an easy(ish) trek through the rainforest to the Llactapata Inca site (2700m). You’ll have plenty of time to explore the area and catch your first glimpse of Machu Picchu in the distance. From Llactapata, you’ll descend for lunch before boarding a train to Aguas Calientes. On arrival, you’ll check in to your hotel and perhaps indulge in a power-nap before visiting a local restaurant to enjoy dinner with the crew.

    Day 7

    Ah...Machu Picchu

    Hiking

    4hrs · 3.5km · 296m up · 296m down

    Today you’ll head to Machu Picchu itself, one of the world’s most incredible archaeological sites, with a breathtaking location to match. You'll catch the bus there and have a guided tour to hear all about the hidden secrets of this ancient site. After a long day, you’ll return by bus to Aguas Calientes and continue your journey back to Cusco via the expedition train to Ollantaytambo, and then bus it from there. You’ll be back at your hotel with a drink in hand by 21:00, no doubt ready to drop.

    Day 8

    Time to go home

    After your Peruvian adventure, it's time to head home. Your transfer will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco and take you to the airport in time for your onward journey.

    15% Off Outdoor Gear

    In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

    What's included?

    • Tent, inflatable mattress and pillow
    • Duffle bag for your personal belongings
    • Group oxygen bottle and medical kit

    What's available to hire?

    • Sleeping bag
    • Trekking poles

    What do I need to bring?

    • Day pack (25-35 litre)
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Warm fleece or down jacket
    • Hiking boots
    • Wicking base layers
    • Light long walking trousers
    • Few t-shirts
    • Hiking socks
    • Winter gloves
    • Beanie and sun hat
    • Down or synthetic feather sleeping bag
    • Warm layers for the first night camping at 4400m
    • Ear plugs
    • Trekking poles (recommended)
    • Head lamp
    • Sunglasses
    • Toiletries (toilet paper, wet wipes, personal towel)
    • Sunscreen (SPF 35+ recommended)
    • Insect repellent
    • Water bottle

    FURTHER INFORMATION

    • You'll be given a duffel bag during the trek briefing to pack your trekking gear into. You'll have an 8kg limit per person for porterage, so you'll only need to carry your day pack.

    • Your camp crew will provide you with boiled water every day, which is safe to drink. Should you have any concerns about the water quality, please feel free to bring additional water purification tablets.

    Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

    Payable Before Departure

    Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

    Per Person

    Sleeping Bag Hire

    Payable Before Departure

    Sleeping Bag Hire

    Trekking Pole Hire

    Payable Before Departure

    Trekking Pole Hire

    Pre/post accommodation in Lima (Single)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre/post accommodation in Lima (Single)

    Per Night

    Pre/post accommodation in Lima (Twin/Double)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre/post accommodation in Lima (Twin/Double)

    Per Night

    Pre/post accommodation in Cusco (Single)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre/post accommodation in Cusco (Single)

    Per Night

    Pre/post accommodation in Cusco (Twin/Double)

    Payable Before Departure

    Pre/post accommodation in Cusco (Twin/Double)

    Per Night

    We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

    What's the number?
    It works out on average at 126kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

    The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

    But what does the number mean?
    Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

    • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
    • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
    • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

    What are we doing about it?
    Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

    Want to know more?
    Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

    A little tougher and higher than the classic Inca Trail (and without any of the permit faff), the Salkantay Trek is a great challenge for those with good fitness who are after quieter trails and dramatic Andean landscapes. The two nights in Cuzco (3,400m) before the trek double up as acclimatisation days, but nevertheless - the steep terrain and high altitude will make the going tough at times, particularly on the first two days of the hike. A pocket full of coca leaves will also help you with the altitude. No previous experience is necessary, but you will need to be able to walk for 6-8 hours a day with considerable ascent and descent for four consecutive days. Porterage is included, so you'll only need to carry a small daypack with extra layers and bits for that day.

    Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

    Clean drinking water will be provided for you each morning and at meals. In an effort to eliminate plastic waste you must bring your own water bottle or hydration bladder with you. If you are concerned about the water quality, please feel free to bring additional water purification tablets.

    Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice however we suggest the below as a guideline:

    • If each Porter/Horseman were to receive 60 to 70 soles and your Chef received 120 to 150 soles in total from the group, this would be considered a generous tip, and your team would be delighted!
    • We recommend that your Guide is tipped personally and would suggest between 60 to 100 soles per person.

    Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

    The only one thing you can say about the weather in Peru is that it is difficult to accurately predict. You can have beautifully clear hot days in the middle of the wet season and hail storms in the dry season – it’s one of the beauties of Peru.

    In the Andes, there are two main seasons – wet and dry. The wet season runs from November to April and is wet but usually warmer overall. The dry season runs from May to October and has hot clear days but cold nights. May and June are two of the most popular months to trek in the Andes as the weather tends to be more stable. If you're spending time in Lima before or after the trip then be aware that the season is the reverse of this so you can expect some grey skies.

    When you trek in the mountains, there's always the risk of getting altitude sickness, regardless of how old, young, fit or unfit you are. We would expect most trekkers to feel some mild symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, sleeplessness, heavy breathing) when over 3500m. Our guides are trained to identify the symptoms of altitude sickness so if any more serious symptoms are noted, there is a strict procedure regarding extra care or a rapid descent if needed. All of our trips have been designed with altitude best practice in mind so acclimatisation days have been built in and our experienced guides follow advice to ‘walk high and sleep low’.

    We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

    No, for this trek you do not need to organise a permit, and entrance to Machu Picchu is included in the price of the trip.

    The Inca Trail has all the fame, but in our humble opinion, this is a better, less crowded trek. It passes through more dramatic landscapes, past Inca ruins, and still ends at Machu Picchu. It is widely regarded as the best alternative trek, and though that does mean you won’t have the trail to yourself, our local guides will keep you away from the crowds and camping away from other groups. You'll also evade the permit requirement and strict regulations that are enforced on the Inca Trail.

    For current advice about travelling in Peru, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

    Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

    Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

    We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

    We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

    If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

    All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

    From

    Full Financial Protection

    Your money is safe. Every booking is fully financially protected.

    Covid Refund Guarantee

    If your trip is cancelled due to Covid choose from free date changes, account credit, or a full refund.

    Similar Trips

    From