Salkantay Trek 5D/4N
The Salkantay Trek is an excellent alternative for the Inca Trail. This trek provides the perfect combination of natural, scenic and cultural beauty varying from snowy mountains to tropical jungle. All this in a unique and unforgettable hike to Machu Picchu, with magnificent views to some of the most beautiful snow peeks of the Andes, the Salkantay (6264m/2055ft) and other beautiful snow covered mountains of the Vilcabamba Cordillera. While the Inca Trail stands out for its archaeological richness, the Salkantay Trek convinces by its enormous ecological exuberance and landscape beauty as well as by the limited number of tourists. The level of difficulty of this trek is moderate and variable.
Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Challacancha – Soraypampa (Humantay Lake)
You will be picked up at 5 am from your hotel and have a four hour drive to Challacancha via Mollepata, where we stop to have breakfast. On the way you will enjoy a spectacular scenery of high peaked mountains and valleys. Beautiful are the snowcapped mountains of Apus Salkantay and Humantay.
At Challacancha is the starting point of the trek. After meeting the support staff you will start at 9.30 am your trek!
After a three hour hike you will reach Soraypampa, your first place to camp. During the hike on a path along the site of a mountain you will be able to see an old aqueduct that still supplies water to local farmers. Arriving at Soraypampa you will have lunch.
After lunch you will go for a three hour roundtrip to hike to Humantay Lake (4200 m). The water of the lake is of a beautiful green-blue color and reflects the mountain glaciers of Apu Humantay.
Back at the camp Soraypampa you will enjoy dinner and at night you can appreciate the stars, constellations and even comets if you are lucky. The sky is here immense clear, because the camp is located in the middle of glacier valleys.
Distance: 7.5 miles/12 km (6.5 hours)
Altitude campsite: 3920 m.a.s.l.
Day 2: Soraypampa – Salkantay Pass – Wayracpunku – Chaullay
Today is the most challenging day of the trek. After an early breakfast you will start hiking to the highest point of the trek, the Salkantay Pass (4650m). Reaching the top you will have amazing views on the surrounding valleys and the snowy peaks of Salkantay, Humantay, Tucurhuay and Pumasillo.
On your descent to the lunch campsite Huayracmachac, you can enjoy stunning views on the valley.
After lunch you will reach the upper part of the Amazon jungle, also called ´the Cloud Forest´. It is a big change from mountains to tropical forest, from Andes to Amazon. This hike is of a very colorful scenery with wildlife and native plants.
Finally you will reach Chaullay Village, the camp to overnight, where you can rest after a long day hiking, before you go for dinner.
Distance: 10.5 miles/17 km (10 hours)
Altitude campsite: 2750 m.a.s.l.
Day 3: Chaullay, Collpapampa – La Playa – Lucmabamba
Today you get up early again, have breakfast and start hiking on a serene and empty trail. You will pass through the Santa Teresa Valley to the small town of La Playa. During the trek you will see rivers, waterfalls, wild orchids, and plantations of coffee, banana, and avocado. You can taste the passion fruit along the way. With some luck you will see the national bird of Peru, “The Cock of the Rock”. You will pass a village called Collpapampa, also called the “brow of the cloud forest,” where waterfalls, birds, hot springs, fruit-bearing trees, and other flora and fauna can be observed.
After a good lunch in La Playa you hike another hour to the base camp Lucmabamba where you overnight. Here you will visit an organic coffee farm, a great experience for the coffee lovers among us as you will taste freshly prepared coffee. After this visit you will also explore an orange plantation and an avocado plantation.
Walking distance: 12.4 miles/20 km (6.5 hours)
Altitude campsite: 2.400 meters
Day 4: Lucmabamba – Llactapata – Hidroelectrica – Aguas Calientes
After breakfast you will hike to the first archeological site of this trek: Llactapata. You will climb over a small part of the famous Inca Trail to reach this site. On this site the guide will explain you about the amazing Inca culture. From here you will be able to see Machu Picchu itself, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.
After the visit of Llactapata you descend to Hidroelectrica. On the way down you can see Machu Picchu and a natural waterfall of 300 meters that generates electricity for the entire Cusco region. Arriving at Hidroelectrica you will have lunch.
After lunch you will visit Intiwatana, a famous ancient rock used as a sundial in the Incan era. Intiwatana worked together with the famous sundial stone on the Machu Picchu site. The people used these two stones to measure and read the winter solstice, which was the beginning of the new farming season for the Incas.
After this visit you have two options: If you are very tired, you can take the train from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes (33 USD). Or you continue walking for three hours on a path next to the rail track. It is the same trail used by the American professor Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu after centuries being lost to the outside world!
Arriving at Aguas Calientes you will overnight in a hotel.
Note: During the rainy season, the hike up the Llactapata Trail is not 100% guaranteed due to safety concerns. When heavy rains are frequent, this trail becomes very dangerous.
Walking distance: 11.2 miles/18 km (9 hours)
Altitude Agua Calientes: 2.000 meters
Level: Moderate to challenging
Day 5: The big final – Machu Picchu!
Today, one more time, you get up early to beat the crowds and reach the site before most other tourists. You will hike up to Machu Picchu (bus is an option for 12 USD) and you will have a guided tour of 2 hours on this magical place, considered as one of the seven modern world wonders! You will see temples, terraces, palaces, priest’s houses, the sundial, the industrial sector, and the farming fields. It is still partially a mystery how the Inca´s built this city without any modern tools: True engineering ingenuity.
After this guided tour you could visit Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. These options need to be booked in advance and are not included in the basic price. Both mountains take around three hours to hike up and down.
Another option which is for free is to hike to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), which is the main entrance to Machu Picchu. From here you have a spectacular view on the mountains and Machu Picchu in all its glory. This hike takes around 2.5 hours.
A fourth option is to walk to the Incan Bridge.
Then you will descend by bus to Aguas Calientes where you can enjoy your last lunch in a local restaurant. This is optional and not included. Later in the afternoon you will take the train back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo where you will continue by bus going back to Cusco to your hotel.
Walking distance and level: 2-5 hours exploring and optional 2-3 hour strenuous hike; Machu Picchu is at 2430 m.a.s.l.