Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. Alternative to Inca trail
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, amazing scenery and good alternative to Inca trail, we could easily do it again but without an agency. Everybody knows about Inca trail, people try to book it and arrange everything beforehand, pay a lot of money and afterwards not everyone is happy about the trek. But not many people know there is an alternative way to get to Machu Picchu (not even one). After reading many reviews and blogs about Inca trail I got an impression the highlight of it is food that people get on the trek. Nothing about the scenery mostly how delicious the food was and what a great job their cooks did. We can’t really judge Inca trail, we’ve never done it but we’ve done Salkantay it it was great, beautiful and worth of time, effort and money.
Actually on Salkantay trek you get quite good food as well, it’s just not the most impressive thing you see.
Let’s start from one of the main concerns for many travelers, the price.
Price of Salkantay trek
- We paid 195$ for 5 day trek, it included.
- Transport to the starting point of the trek.
- Gear rental (tent, sleeping bag, mat).
- Guide, porter (10kg per person), cook.
- All food during the trek (3 breakfast, 4 lunches, 4 dinners).
- Two nights accommodation in a double room in a nice hotel in Aguas Calientes.
- Entrance fee to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu mountain (35$+5$).
- Some snack breakfast on Machu Picchu day.
- Bus back from Hidro Electrica to Cusco.
Not that much for what we got. It’s still cheaper to do on your own, we calculated we’d have saved about 40$. Unlike other hikes we’ve done around Cusco (Choquequirao, Ausangate) that cost us 5 times less to do on our own, Salkantay involves expensive entrance fee and accommodation.
Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu our itinerary
1st day. Cusco – Soraypampa, 3 hours drive and 5-6 hours walk
Early wake up, a van came to our hostel to pick us up at 6am, we were first. 30 min. later all our group was complete and ready to depart. We were quite lucky, our team was great, 10 fun and easy going people.
We got a chance to sleep a bit while driving to the starting point of our hike. After 3 hours we arrived to Mollepata, where had breakfast in a local restaurant (not included).
After breakfast we started our ascend, from Mollepata (2830m) to Soraypampa (4000m). Due to high altitude don’t walk too fast, rest from time to time and drink enough water. When we arrived at our first camping everything was ready, we just had to choose a tent.
Our walk for the day wasn’t finished. After lunch we went to see Humantay lake, about an hour up from the camp. It was the most beautiful lake we’ve ever seen, absolutely stunning. Humantay was the epic end of the first day and the most beautiful view on the hike.
2nd day. Soraypampa – Chaullay, 8 hours
Next day again started early. After breakfast we continued our ascend to the highest point of the hike, the pass at 4600m. It took about 2,5-3 hours to get there, due to high altitude walking up becomes challenging. One there don’t forget to check one more glacier lake, walk from the pass sign towards Salkantay glacier. The lake is beautiful, bright turquoise color, surrounded by ice and rocks.
After the pass starts down, 2 more hours to Huayracmachay (3500m) where we had some rest and lunch. On the way down you can see how the landscape changes from bare rocks and ice peaks to lush green forest with butterflies and hummingbirds flying around.
Three more hours down to the second camping at Challway (2800m), nice small village at the river.
Total ups and downs, 600m up in the beginning and 1800m down.
3rd day. Challway – Santa Teresa, 6 hours half walking, half driving
Our guide team every morning woke us up bringing everybody a cup of coca tea, it was very nice! This day we walked about 3 hours, from Sahuayaco we continued in our van, stopped for lunch at Lucambamba and drove to Santa Teresa.
In the afternoon we went to hot springs, it was the first time in 3 days we had “hot shower”. The springs were nice, main dislikes too many people and terrible tiny flies once you out of water they eat you alive!
We didn’t like much our camping in Santa Teresa, all groups stop there, it was like a party place with loud music and drinking. Next morning toilets looked disgusting.
4th day. Santa Teresa – Aguas Calientes, 5 hours
Last day we could choose to walk all the way to Aguas Calientes or to go by car to Hidro Electrica and walk from there. We decided to walk, it was enough driving the day. Car costs 15 pesos and takes about 30 min. We walked for about 2 hours. At Hidro Electrica we had lunch and continued along the railway to Aguas Calientes. This part of our hike was the least interesting, would be quite boring if it wasn’t for many butterflies with transparent wings flying around.
Three more hours and we reached Aguas. At about 4pm we were settled in our rooms and later had restaurant dinner (was included). Here we got our tickets to Machu Picchu, bus/train tickets. Next day was a big day, finally Machu Picchu! PS. Not for me, decided not to go, I’d been there two years before.
5th day. Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes
Very early wake up, 4.30-5am you should leave your hostel to start up to Machu Picchu. You have an option to take a bus all the way up. If you decide to walk like us take enough water with, the up is steep and long. Don’t forget your torch, passport and tickets. Entrance to MP opens at 6.00 if you are fast enough you’ll be there before and start queuing. Once you are inside you can stay there till it closes at 5pm.
If you have tickets to MP or Huayna Picchu mountain check your time to go up, don’t miss it.
The up to Machu Picchu mountain is quite long and steep, you ascend 500m but the view from the top os definitely worth of the effort.
To get back to Aguas Calientes you can the same way walk down or take a bus.
After whole day at MP Campbell was really happy we had an extra night in Aguas Calientes, to rest a bit before start heading back.
6th day. Aguas Calientes – Hidro Electrica (walk) – Cusco (bus), 5-6 hours
We had to walk back to Hidro Electrica to catch our bus back to Cusco. There was nothing more about hiking in it, just going back home.
Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu, which mountain to choose?
We chose MP for a very simple reason, you don’t need to book it weeks beforehand, one or two days is enough. The entrance fee is almost the same, 5$ to MP and 7$ to Wuayna Picchu. For me the view from both looks quite the same, the ruins from far up. Machu Picchu (3050m) mountain is 300m higher than Wuayna Picchu (2700m), the climb will be longer. If for some reasons you won’t be able to go to either of them, the view from the Sun Gate is quite good as well and the way up is shorter. Just don’t forget to take enough water it’ll very hot on the way up!!
Tips for Salkantay
- Bring purifying pills for water, there are many natural water sources on the hike, it will save you some money.
- Check with the agency everything twice, that they book you right tickets for right days. Some our travel buddies didn’t get train tickets or tickets to MP mountain.
- Bring snacks with you everything gets more expensive on the hike.
- If you want to go up Machu Picchu mountain, you need to book a separate ticket, entrance ticket to MP itself isn’t valid.
- In Aguas Calientes you can eat for cheap at the market on the second floor, restaurants are expensive.
- Take food and water to Machu Picchu, there is one restaurant at the entrance with crazy prices.
- If you plan to do Salkantay trek though an agency, don’t book it over the Internet, you’ll pay at least double. It’s easy to arrange everything once you are in Cusco, there are plenty of agencies.
- Cusco is a very good place for for buying or renting trekking gear. Here you can find some prices for gear and clothing.
- If you buy an entrance ticket to MP online it’ll be more expensive.
- If you are a student bring your ISIC card, you’ll get a good discount for all the ruins in Peru.
Can you do Salkantay on your own?
Definitely Yes! Unlike Inca trail you are allowed to walk Salkantay independently and we in a way regret about doing it with the agency. It isn’t the most difficult trek, the path is clear and easy to follow, you can find food and water to buy everywhere, there are even hostels.
Machu Picchu is not the only one ruin around Cusco thou the most famous. If you have time you can explore other ruins and do more hikes, there are plenty of places to visit in the region.
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