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Inca trail Tours

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu Travel Guide

Written by: Incatrailhikeperu March 20, 2024

Ineffable is what to say when describing the wonderous Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek. Have you long dreamed of trekking past the high Andean peaks, marveling at turquoise lakes, seeing spectacular mountain views and hiking through the ancient Andes Mountain ranges? On this adventure of a lifetime, you will be in awe of the dramatic changes in the scenery, from snowy mountain peaks, cloud forests and even traverse Peruvian Jungle, all with the end goal of reaching the prodigious Machu Picchu.

Where does your Salkantay Trek start

Your Andean Mountain adventure begins early in the morning with a 3-hour drive to the start of the trail at Soraypampa. At Soraypampa, we have our delicious and hearty breakfast while enjoying the spectacular views of the Humantay Mountain and Salkantay Mountain and their surrounding glaciers.

When is the best time to go?

It is strongly recommended that you do the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu in the dry season, which is from early April to late October, although in dry season the temperatures are lower, expect them to get below zero at night the path is dry but can get windy. But if you don’t mind the rain November and March also can be a great time to do the trek, less people and is really quiet.

4 Day Trek v 5 Day Trek

So, what should I do, the 4- or 5-Day Trek, this is a great question and mostly depends on the time you have available to do the trek? The 5-day trek is done at a slower pace taking in more sites and a different route and a few less kilometers every day, where the 4 day is faster paced with more kilometers but still enjoying all the best the trail has to offer.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness can sometimes be an issue at high altitudes. For the Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek, it is highly likely that you will experience some form of altitude sickness, for this reason, it is important to acclimatize properly, take your time on the trail, take measures to combat symptoms.

How to Prepare for your Salkantay Hike

While being moderately fit and physically able to walk at least 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) at lower elevations is essential, preparing for high altitude trekking is challenging. This is because you can’t predict how your body will react when it’s faced with these conditions, particularly as it’s not impacted by how fit, young or healthy you are. The best preparation for hiking the Salkantay trek is to arrive in Cusco at least two days before the trek begins to give your body time to acclimate. Get plenty of sleep, eat a light diet, do not drink alcohol, save that for the end of the trek, stay hydrated and be sure to get some Diamox to help your body adjust. 


Each day on the Salkantay Trail a new adventure awaits, whether it is revealing an amazing view or resting your muscles in the superb hot springs. There are many different things to see along the way, here are a few stops that can’t be missed along the way.

Highlights of the Salkantay Trek

Humantay Lake

The exquisite turquoise water lagoon is surrounded by the impressive Humantay and Salkantay Peaks and offer one of the best views in Peru. The lake itself is runoff from the huge glacier located above the lake. Minerals within the glacier are released into the water as it melts, which give the water its characteristic emerald color. In the Andean regions of Peru, you can find beautifully colored mountainous lakes ranging from the brilliant greens to incredible crystal blues. The shade of the colors can also be dependent on the time of year, the temperature, and the weather.

Abra Salkantay Pass

When you reach the pass, you will come face to face with the sacred Salkantay mountain, this pass is at an elevation of 4630 meter above sea level. Feel the magic as you are truly awed by the spectacular views of these three towering snow-capped mountains: Salkantay, Humantay, Huayanay. These peaks are considered sacred by the ancient peoples of Peru and your guide will inform you on how important these Apus are in traditional Andean beliefs. Below you are spectacular rivers of whitewater and small scenic lakes. 

Coffee Plantation

Visit a working coffee plantation close to our lunch spot, here visit the fields and learn about the different types of beans and also pick your own beans, later roasting, grinding and tasting your coffee, see how the coffee co exists with other vegetables like tomatoes and avocados.

Llactapata Inca Ruins

Being a mountain trek, it is thought that no Inca ruins are visited during the Salkantay Trek, but you will visit Llactapata, an archaeological ruin that was also discovered by Hiram Bingham. An amazing view of Machu Picchu is enjoyed from this point. Here we can take the time to marvel at the strategic location of the Citadel of Machu Picchu and its surrounding mountains of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu and the Aobamba Canyon. 

Cocalmayo Hot Springs

The Cocalmayo Hot Springs are said to have special healing properties and the water temperature can reach 45 degrees, so these natural thermal baths are ideal to relax and recover your sore muscles after a long hiking day. The surrounds are an impressive environment of verdant vegetation next to a raging river. Hot springs are Mother Nature’s method of infusing tired bodies with relaxation. The Cocalmayo hot springs are a popular destination among travelers seeking a connection with the earth and its balance. 

Machu Picchu

The Inca citadel is the perfect ending for your adventure. A detailed tour is offered on the last day. You will see most of the important parts of Machu Picchu Citadel. You will also learn about how Machu Picchu is divided into three sectors: agricultural, residential and religious. After your guided tour you have free time to explore the World Heritage site by yourself.


Your Andean Mountain adventure begins at 4:30am when we drive to Soraypampa, the start of the trial. Hike up to visit the turquoise Humantay Lake. Lunch at Salkantay Pampa before hiking to the first campsite at Sorococcha.

  • Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea time and dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping facilites
  • Distance: 12kms / 8 miles
  • Difficulty: Challenging

After a tasty breakfast we continue onwards and upwards for one hour, we reach Apacheta Pass, after we head down for 2 hours to Huayracmachay for our hot lunch. After descending for arrive at Chayllay with lush green valleys and waterfalls and the warm Amazon Jungle.Then we will take the local transportation to Lucmabamba where we will camp.

  • Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea time and dinner
  • Accommodation: Camping facilites
  • Distance: 18kms / 11 miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Walk in the footsteps of the Inca, along the ancient and remote Inca Trail to the Puncuyoc Pass. Later arrive to Llactapata Inca Ruins; located right across the valley front Machu Picchu, enjoy the strategic location of the Citadel of Machu Picchu and its surrounding mountains Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu and the Aobamba Canyon. From there, we descend for 2 hours to have lunch and take the train to Aguas Calientes.

  • Meals included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 3* Accommodation:  Hotel Ferre´ Machu Picchu
  • Distance: 15kms / 9 miles
  • Time: Approximately 9 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Take one of the first busses up to Machu Picchu, to see the sunrise. Your guide will give you a tour, which takes about two hours. You will see most of the important parts of Machu Picchu Citadel. Later take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included). The Expedition train will take you back to Ollantaytambo, your driver will meet you at the exit from the train station to take you back to your hotel in Cusco in our private vehicle.

  • Meal included: Breakfast
  • Difficulty: Easy

Travel Tips

  • This trek is for those that crave adventure and love pristine natural landscapes and love a challenge.
  • Don’t forget to bring good waterproof gear as the weather can be quite unpredictable.
  • Do some hiking before arriving in Peru to ensure that you are fit for the trip.
  • Make sure your hiking boots are broken in before attempting this hike.
  • Don’t forget to bring a headlamp this is essential for getting around camp at nighttime.
  • The altitude can be a problem on this trek, recommended for those that consider themselves relatively in shape.

Packing List

Back Pack to take with you on the trek

  • Water Bottle, reusable to be filled at each meal
  • Sun Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp, essential
  • Wool Hat
  • Raincoat and Pant
  • Fleece
  • Snacks, like chocolate bars, cereal bars, dry fruits for the trek
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • Hand Sanitizer and Moisturizer
  • Toilet Paper and small plastic bags for waste

Duffel Bag to be carried daily by the porters

Note not accessible until the camp at night

  • 2 T-shirts minimum
  • 2 Hiking Pants minimum
  • 4 Sets undergarments
  • 3 Set hiking socks
  • Bathing Suit
  • Thermal Underwear
  • Fleece, Down Jacket
  • Comfortable shoes for camp
  • Quick Dry towel
  • Small Bottle of Soap
  • Battery Charger, note there is no electricity on the trail.
  • Large plastic bags


  • Face Cleanser and Moisturizer
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wet Wipes
  • Toothbrush and Paste
  • Medications
  • Small First Aid Kit

How to choose a Tour Operator

There is a mine field of Travel Agencies in Peru so you will need to do your research when trusting your hard-earned pennies to an agency in Peru. Firstly, you should check a guide book for recommendations the trusted Lonely Planet is a good place to start. Also travel forums like Trip Advisor also have recommendations with good reviews. Ask a friend who have traveled to the area you want to travel; they may have worked with an agency. Once you have narrowed it down, check that they are licensed and have all the appropriate permission to operate in Peru.

If you are trekking in the Cusco area it is best to use an agency that has an operator license, they are directly in charge of your trek, many agencies pass your trek to a licensed operator, causing you to pay more for the trek. So do your research and it is also a good idea to call and ask questions and see the response from the agency.

Significate preparation is needed to take on any of the wonderous treks in Peru, some more difficult than others, so take the time to research which trek would suit you better, all are just as rewarding as the other. What you will experience on the Salkantay trek will be a challenging but will be an experience that will live with you forever.

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