The Salkantay Trek is as much an expedition for the soul as it is a test of physical endurance. This adventurous trek to Machu Picchu, will be the experience of a lifetime.
Once upon a time, when I lived in Cusco, Peru, my mother came to visit and we decided to trek to Machu Picchu. Since I had already visited Machu Picchu on a budget for $100 with some friends via a bus, I wanted my second trip to be more adventurous.
About the Salkantay Trek
There are multiple options for trekking to Machu Picchu, but after a lot of research on the best treks and talking to people who had done them all, I chose the Salkantay Trek.
The trek itself is a less expensive alternative option to the more famous Inca Trail, but I’m not sure why because it takes you through glacial lakes, to the bottom of the Salkantay glacier, through the edge of the Amazon Rainforest, hot springs and ends at the indescribable world wonder of Machu Picchu. This path is also more rugged and remote, which means it is less trafficked than the Inca Trail, so if you are looking for an adventure more off the beaten path–this is the one for you. Plus, it’s rated one of the 25 best treks in the world by National Geographic!
The trek can range from 3-5 days depending on your comfort and strength level. I did the 5 day/4 night trek and highly recommend this for being able to acclimatize to the high elevation.
This is a moderate to difficult hike with a total distance of 74km/46 miles and will reach a max altitude of 4,630m/15,190ft. The trek’s highlights are Humantay Lake, Salkantay Pass, the rainforest and Machu Picchu.
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience on the Salkantay Trek, and that is most likely due to the wonderful team at Salkantay Trekking.
Salkantay Trekking put us in a group of 8 wonderful people with a very colorful guide that made the trip all the more enjoyable.
The first three days were full of adventure in the form of hiking up steep terrains in high altitude, and witnessing avalanches from afar. Day 4 is a light walking day and day 5 is all about exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Each day included three home cooked meals and an awesome team that set up our tents and woke us each morning with coca tea.
5 Day/4 Night Trek Itinerary
Day one: was a wonderful intro into the difficulty of day two but with the added bonus of an evening hike to a glacial lake.
Day two: we reached the base of Salkantay Mountain (the highest point at 4,600 meters) and offered up 3 coca leaves to the sacred Inca mountain gods.
Day three: consisted of a casual 5-hour hike through the edge of the Amazon to Santa Teresa, followed by a 3-hour soak in the surprisingly nice hot springs there. Then after our 3-course meal we played a German dice game called “lying max” over a box of Chilean wine.
Day 4: we ziplined our way over the tree canopies in the morning, walked along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Picchu Park) in the afternoon, and took an epic shower in what felt like a luxury hotel in the evening. In reality, it was just a hostel with warm water and wifi (but after a few days of trekking, luxury becomes a relative word).
Day five: we woke up at 4 am to be the first to explore Machu Picchu. We arrived at the entrance of the park at
As the mist rolled in and out over the mountains, we wandered through the ruins. After learning about the various temples we hiked Waynapicchu Mountain, and we attempted without much success to spot the condor shape of the Incan city from the viewpoint at the top.
All and all it was one of those completely perfect and memorable trips that will stay with me fondly forever. The famous world wonder did not disappoint and felt just as majestic the second time around. I look forward to the day when I’ll roam through its mysterious walls again.
Whether you choose to trek to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek, the Jungle trek, or simply visit the world wonder via train or car, it is definitely one world wonder you won’t want to miss.
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