Humantay lake, Soraypampa
HIKING hiking Peru South America

Salkantay to Machu Picchu – complete trekking guide

Salkantay trek is a high altitude 74km/46 miles hike in the Cusco region, Peru. The route starts at Mollepata, a small town 100km from Cusco. It takes you through some incredible nature areas of the Andes with breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife. Trekking includes a visit to two Inca sites; Llactapata and Machu Picchu both history and nature lovers will enjoy Salkantay trek.  It is considered to be a less touristy alternative to the famous Inca trail though it goes through the completely different areas and unlike Inca trail Salkantay finishes in Aguas Calientes (from where you walk to MP) not at Machu Picchu itself.  

If you want to know more about different hikes in Peru go to 20 best hikes in Peru.

Salkantay trek facts

    • Total distance – 74km/46 miles
    • Required number of days – 5 days
    • Starting point – Mollepata
    • Finishing point – Aguas Calientes
    • Average altitude – 3000m
    • Highest point – Apacheta or Salkantay Pass, 4580m
    • Permits – no special permits are needed, the trek can be done independently or with a guide.

Information on other hikes around Cusco you can find on our Ausangate trek guide and Choquequirao trek guide

If you’re thinking about exploring more of Peru there are several great small group tour options to join;

Best time for trekking Salkantay 

There are two seasons in the Cusco region; the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season is from April to October, the driest months June to August – very little rain, lower temperatures, especially at night time. July – August is the peak tourist season expect prices to be higher and sights are busier. The rainy season is from November to March, with the most rain falling between December and February. During this period temperatures are higher, it’s very humid, rains a lot, not many tourists. December – February is the worst time for hiking in Cusco.

  

Practical information about the trek

Salkantay trek, especially the first two days of it, is a high altitude hike, good acclimatization is essential.

Drink enough water – hydration is very important for this hike.

There are many streams and rivers on the way but we’d recommend using water purification tablets or a life-straw bottle due to many alpacas walking around local water is not safe for drinking.  

On the first and second day of the trek you gain altitude quite fast don’t push yourself too hard if you feel tired; stop, rest, drink water.

There are a couple of steep descends on the trek hiking poles will be quite handy they will take away some pressure from your knees.

From the third day on there will be villages on the way where you can get cooked meals or buy some food e.g. pasta, tuna, instant soup, snacks, cool drinks, etc.

How we rank Salkantay trekking

Difficulty level – 4 out of 5; the first two days are quite demanding; high altitude and steep ascents, other days are easier.

Scenery – 5 out of 5; Humantay and Salkantay lake and glacier were the highlights.

Touristy – 3 out of 5; quite busy compare to Choquequirao or Ausangate trek.

Travel insurance for Salkantay trek

Like any outdoor activities trekking involves risks of getting injured, losing or breaking gear, cancellation of the trip due to unpredictable weather conditions (e.g. landslides after the rainy season, etc.). Salkantay is a high altitude trek through remote areas of Peruvian Andes it’s highly recommended to have travel insurance that will cover you for the period of the hike.

Choosing an insurance company that you can rely on in case of emergency is very important that’s why we recommend World Nomads. They focus on covering outdoor activities including high altitude hiking. Peru is one of their top hiking destinations which means they have experience in working with local companies. Another great thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance online while traveling, it takes only 2 minutes. Their insurance policy is very flexible you can purchase one that covers the whole trip or only the hiking part of it, even if it’s one or two days. Get a quote right now! 

Note! Always read carefully terms and conditions.

Travel Insurance for Hiking Diving Backpacking and more

Salkantay trek packing list

If you decide to hike without a guide you’ll need camping gear; tent, mattress, camping stove, gas, pots, etc. If Salkantay is the only trek you’re going to do rather rent camping gear than bring your own from home if you’re planning to do a couple of hikes – having your own stuff is better.

Backpack with rain cover – even if you hike in dry season use a rain cover to protect your backpack and the stuff inside from dust and humidity. If you hike independently you’ll need a good and comfortable  60-70L backpack to be able to fit all the gear and attach a tent. If you do it with a company you’ll need only a day pack your stuff will be carried by horses or driven by car in big dry bags.

Tent – you camp 4 night on the trek it’s important to have a good reliable tent that won’t fail in case of rain, strong wind or snow. We became big fans of MSR tents, they’re not the cheapest but one of the best especially for hiking and long term traveling; light, strong, pack small, easy to pitch – perfectly designed for adventure in the mountains.

Sleeping bag – make sure your bag can go down to 0°C/30°F in summer and to -5°C/20°F in winter, it gets quite cold up in the mountains. Down bag vs synthetic bag – both have their advantages and disadvantages; for the dry cold season a down sleeping bag will work great; it packs small, light and warm the main problem is if it gets wet but in dry season chances of rain are quite small. For wet season synthetic bag will be better; it dries quick, some modern bags are quite small and light as well.

Mattress – we have inflatable camping mats; light and small – fit in a backpack, soft, comfortable, good isolation. After we tried them once we decided not to use foam mattresses again.

Detailed packing list for hiking in Peru you’ll find in this post ↓↓↓.

A detailed Peru packing list for hiking and camping

Download our complete Salkantay trek packing list.

Salkantay trek cost

Without a guide, per person

Transport – 30 Sol/US$10 bus Cusco – Mollepata, bus Hidroelectrica – Cusco – 60 Sol/US$18; train Aguas Calientes – Hidroeléctrica (optional, you can walk) –  60 Sol/US$19 one way.

Shopping (food, gas)  – 100 Sol/US$30.

Entrance fee – Machu Picchu 152 Sol/US$45, if you want to go up to Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountain – 200 Sol/US$59. Make sure to buy your entrance tickets beforehand, especially if you travel in peak season and want to go up one of the mountains. It’s impossible to pay the entrance at the ruins, you can book tickets through the official website it takes time and involves several steps. Another option is to do instant booking through GetYourGuide (the easiest and fastest but more expensive way); Machu Picchu, MP + Machu Picchu Mountain, MP + Huayna Picchu Mountain.

Accommodation – 3 nights camping – between 10-30 Sol/US$3-10 (there are free campsites with limited facilities and private campsites/locals’ houses where you pay about 10 Sol/US$3 per tent). One night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes – from 26 Sol/US$8 pp in a hostel.

Gear rental (optional) – depending on what you rent prepare to pay between 160 Sol/US$50 and 260 Sol/US$80.

Total; 400 Sol/US$120 (420 Sol/US$125 with Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountain) + gear rental and train tickets.

With a company, per person

It’s easier to go with a tour and more expensive as well. Tours start from US$400 per person and usually include; accommodation (camping and one night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes), transportation (except train tickets), entrance fee, food, water, tents and mattresses, porters, chef, and a guide. Tours and prices vary from company to company some are more luxurious with better food, nicer accommodation, some are more basic where you pay extra for everything.

Salkantay trek, Peru
Beautiful scenery on Salkantay trek, Peru

Guided tour or independent hike

Independent trek

Pros

As you can see in the cost section it’s much cheaper, especially if you’re two or more people – you’ll save a lot of money.

You’re free to choose when to stop and where to stay if you don’t like a place you always can go to a different one; if you feel tired you can stop earlier etc.

It’s always an adventure to plan and prepare for a hike.

Cons

It’s more challenging; you carry all your stuff, you pitch a tent, cook, basically do everything on your own.

There is no pack up if you forget or lose something you’ll have to handle it all by yourself.

If you’re alone it might be lonely to wander around the mountains.

Guided tour

Our advice when you book a tour make sure what is included and what is extra and double check that your Machu Picchu tickets are for the right day and time and include Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountain if you’re planning to go up one of them. We met some disappointed travelers whose tickets, booked through an agency, were no right.

Pros

It’s easy all you have to do is to find a good reliable company and they’ll arrange everything for you, no planning, last minute shopping, finding a bus etc.

You don’t carry your stuff, you don’t cook or set a campsite – all you do is walking.

It might be fun is you get a fun group of people and a nice guide.

Cons

It’s much more expensive.

It takes away some part of the adventure.

Distances on Salkantay trek

    • Cusco – Mollepata – 100km/62mi., bus
    • Mollepata – Soraypampa – 22km/13,6mi., long ascend, +1000m
    • Soraypampa – Chaullay – 21km/13mi., first long ascend to Apacheta pass, +750m; then long descend to the campsite, -1500m
    • Chaullay – Lucmabamba – 18km/11mi., descend, – 800m
    • Lucmabamba – Llactapata – 7km/4,3mi., steep ascend to the ruins, +900m
  • Llactapata – Aguas Calientes – 13km/8mi., long descend, – 1000m.

Stops on the route

Mollepata (2900m)

A small town where you can get by bus, the beginning of Salkantay trek.

    • Campsite – no
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Soraypampa (3900m)

A first night stop, not a town just an established camping area.

    • Campsite – yes, one free and two private sites for 10 So/US$3 per tent.
    • Hotel – yes, before the campsites.
    • Shop – yes, at the first campsite on the way.
    • Cooked meal – yes, at the hotel
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes, at paid campsites
  • Shower – yes, at paid campsites.

Huayracmachay (3750m)

    • Campsite – yes, one free, one for 10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – no
    • Cooked meal – no
    • Tap with running water – yes, at a paid campsite
    • Toilet – yes, at a paid campsite
  • Shower – yes, at a paid campsite

Chaullay or Chayway (2900m)

    • Campsite – yes, 10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Collpapampa or Colpapampa (2800m)

    • Campsite – yes, 10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

La Playa (2000m)

    • Campsite – yes, 10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – no
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Lucmabamba (2100m)

A small village with coffee plantations and beautiful views.

    • Campsite – yes, 5-10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Santa Teresa (1800m)

Quite q touristy place, many people come here to visit nearby hot springs.

    • Campsite – yes, 10 Sol/US$3 per tent
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes

Hidroeléctrica (2000m)

Nobody usually stays here, it’s only 2 hours walk to Aguas Calientes.

    • Campsite – no
    • Hotel – yes
    • Shop – yes
    • Cooked meal – yes
    • Tap with running water – yes
    • Toilet – yes
  • Shower – yes
Machu Picchu ruins, Salkantay trek
Machu Picchu ruins, Salkantay trek

Accommodation in Cusco

There are many hostels in Cusco some have great facilities and excellent location if you’re on a backpacker budget and travel alone or with friends, it’s the best and most budget option you can find. Some of our tops pick Blacky Hostel – the nice vibe, great central location, wi-fi, breakfast, clean and very social, a great place to meet people. The Andean Rooftop Guesthouse – a bit further away from the center, 900m, cozy and neat place, with great terrace/living area, wi-fi, included breakfast, budget private rooms are available.

If you rather pay a bit more and stay in a private room Yanuy Culinary Guest House might be a good option, located 500m from Central Market, rooms feature a private bathroom, wi-fi, flat-screen TV, cable channels, etc. Food lovers will enjoy insight restaurant/bar; delicious local and European food, a local chef can even give you some cooking classes. Buffet breakfast is included.  

If you want even more privacy why not to rent an apartment in the center? Apartamentos Quewe has all you need for a comfortable private stay in Cusco, they are especially great if you are a family or a group of friends traveling together. The apartments feature; double and single beds, fully-equipped kitchen, dining area, TV, wi-fi etc. Everything is new, comfortable and very clean.

Plaza de Armas and Cusco cathedral. Peru
The historical center of Cusco, Peru

Getting from Cusco to Salkantay (Mollepata)

The trek starts at Mollepata, a small town 100km from Cusco. 

The first morning bus to Mollepata leaves at 4 am (there are several buses during the day) from the Arcopata bus terminal, a small terminal at Arcopata street, the journey takes 3 hours. We’d recommend going to the terminal the day before to make sure where it is and what time the bus leaves. Price 30 Sol/US$10.

Once in Mollepata you can start walking (as we did) or take a local truck that will get you to Sayapata from where you can start walking to Soraypampa, the first-night campsite, about 2-3 hours walk. Price about 100 Sol/US$30 per car.

Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru.
Salkantay trekking map. Note! Chaullay (2nd campsite) altitude is 2900m not 4000m like it’s indicated on the map.

Salkantay trekking itinerary

Day 1. Bus Cusco – Mollepata, 100km. Mollepata – Soraypampa, 22km

Cusco (3400m) – bus to Mollepata (2900m) – Soraypampa (3900m), 22km/13,6 miles

If you want to walk all the way to Soraypampa we’d recommend to start the day early and take a morning bus from Cusco. The journey to Mollepata takes between 2,5-3 hours.

From Mollepata many people take a taxi/truck to Soraypampa or a couple of kilometers before; it makes the first day shorter, you get to the campsite in a couple of hours instead of walking for 6-7 hours. We walked this part and unlike some people say the walk wasn’t unpleasant or along the road, in fact, the walking trek and the road split. It’s a bit difficult to find the trail in Mollepata, ask around or follow a group if there is one. The main reason we decided to walk is to give our bodies more time to acclimatize (it was our first hike in Cusco), the altitude difference between Mollepata and Soraypampa is 1000m if you get by car you gain it very fast, walking gives you more time to adjust.   

Highlights

  • Humantay lake and glacier (4200m) – quite a steep uphill walk from Soraypampa campsite, +300m. It was one of the most beautiful lakes we’ve ever seen, the colors are just incredible!

Challenges

  • Finding the trail in Mollepata
  • Steep ascend from Mollepata to Soraypampa, +1000m
  • Sleeping at high altitude, 3900m

A post shared by Stingy Nomads (@stingy_nomads) on

Day 2. Soraypampa – Chaullay, 21km

Soraypampa (2900m) – Apacheta/Salkantay Pass (4580m) – Huayracmachay (3750m) – Chaullay (2900m), 21km/13 miles.

This is the toughest day of the hike; high altitude, going up to 1500m to Apacheta Pass (4580m) –  the highest point of Salkantay trek plus steep uphill to the campsite. On the way up, don’t go too fast you’ll have enough time to make it to the campsite.

Views from the Pass were stunning; Salkantay mountain and glacier if you walk towards the mountain you’ll see beautiful Salkantay lake down there. If you feel sick; nausea, headache, etc. don’t spend much time at the top rather start going down slowly. You can stop for lunch at Huayracmachay. As an option, you can camp there as well but it’s still quite high 3750m compare to Chaullay, 2900m it’s always better to sleep at lower altitudes.

Highlights

  • Salkantay mountain and glacier
  • Salkantay lake – a small turquoise blue color glacier lake

Challenges  

  • Steep ascend from Soraypampa to Apacheta Pass, +1500m
  • Steep descend from Apacheta Pass to Chaullay, – 1500m
Apacheta Pass, Salkantay trek
We’re resting at the top of Apacheta Pass, 4580m

Day 3. Chaullay – Lucmabamba, 18km

Chaullay (2900m) – Colpapampa (2870m) – Lucmabamba (2100m), 18km/11mi.

A relaxed walking day past coffee and fruit plantations we saw many hummingbirds and butterflies on the way.

Highlights

    • Lush green forest with hummingbirds, colorful butterflies, orchids and fruit trees.
    • Coffee plantations at Lucmabamba.
  • Hot Springs – about 30min. drive from the village, you can catch a minibus, it is quite touristy but we enjoyed soaking in the hot pools after several days of walking without a hot shower.
Salkantay trek scenery
Scenery on the way to Lucmabamba

Day 4. Lucmabamba – Aguas Calientes, 20km

Lucmabamba (2100m) – Puncuyoc Pass (2900m) – Llactapata ruins (3000m) – Hydroelectric station (2000m) – Aguas Calientes (2040m), 20km/12,4mi.

Here you have to options to go to Llactapata ruins first and then to Hidroelectrica or to go straight to Hidroelectrica past Santa Teresa. The first option is longer and involves a steep 900m ascent to the ruins with subsequent 1000m descent to Hidroelectrica. The ruins are quite interesting and not overcrowded but if you feel tired of walking rather skip it and save energy for Machu Picchu.

Highlights

  • Llactapata ruins – recently discovered Inca ruins with a great view on Machu Picchu.

Challenges

    • The long ascent from Lucmabamba to Puncuyoc Pass, 900m up.
    • The long descent from Llactapata ruins to Hydroelectric station, 1000m down.
  • Walking along the railway from Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes (about 10km), taking a train might be a better option.

Day 5. Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes, 15km

Very early wake up, 4.30-5am you should leave your hostel to start up to Machu Picchu. You have two options; to take a bus all the way up or to walk. The walk from the town to the ruins takes about 1,5 hours, with steep 400m ascend. If you decide to walk, like us, take enough water. Don’t forget your torch, passport, and tickets. Entrance to MP opens at 6.00 if you are fast enough you’ll be there right in time. 

Taking a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is another option, you can buy a ticket in the town. The ticket office is opened from 5 am to 9 pm, one-way ticket – US$12 (adults), return US$24. The journey to the top takes 40 minutes. Buses leave every 10 minutes; to MP from 5.30am till 3.30pm.; from MP from 6.00am till 6.00pm. You can walk up and take a bus down (there is a ticket office at the ruins) or other way around.

Map of Machu Picchu ruins
Map of Machu Picchu ruins

Machu Picchu need to know before you go

Don’t forget to buy a ticket to Machu Picchu beforehand you can’t buy it at the entrance. Only 2500 people in the morning, from 6 am to 12 pm and 3000 people in the afternoon, from 12 am to 5.30pm a day are allowed at the ruins. In high season make sure to book it at least a couple of days in advance.

Take your tickets and passport/ID with you have to show both at the entrance.

Huayna Picchu mountain visitors restrictions; entrance from 7 am to 8 am – 200 people; from 10 am to 11 am – 200 people.

Machu Picchu mountain; entrance from 7am to 8am – 400 people; from 9am to 10am – 400 people. It’s important to buy you Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu/Machu Picchu mountain beforehand, especially in high season.

Make sure to enter the ruins and mountains at the time indicated in your tickets if you miss it you won’t be allowed to enter any other time.

New Machu Picchu rules were implemented in 2017 according to them all visitors supposed to have a guide to enter the ruins, in fact, nobody at the entrance enforces this rule there are people with and without guides. If you want to join a group you can do it; price US$20 per person or US$60 for a private guide per group.

Visitors are not supposed to bring food and water with which is quite strange as there are very few places where you can buy both. We’ve been to the ruins twice both times carrying day packs with water, sandwiches, snacks, and nobody has ever searched our bags or tried to stop us. This rule is mainly to protect the ruins from pollution as some people just damp plastic bottles and wraps. A reusable water bottle will be a better option and nobody will object to it.

Walking sticks are not allowed at the ruins we did hear about people being stopped and asked to leave them at the entrance so if your sticks are any value for you rather don’t take them. If your knees are a problem – take a bus down to Aguas Calientes.

alpaca at Machu Picchu
Traditional photo of alpaca at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu accommodation

For a budget stay Hostel Machu Picchu Land B&B is a good option; dormitories and private rooms, wi-fi, breakfast, good location, very helpful staff, some rooms have AC and cable TV, clean and nice place.

For middle price range check Inkas Dream Machu Picchu – a cozy place with a nice patio, outside spa bath and swimming pool. All rooms feature; private bathroom, flat-screen TV, satellite channels, free toiletries, wi-fi, buffet breakfast included.

If you want to treat yourself after a tough hike Sumaq Machu Picchu hotel is an amazing place. It features all you can expect from a luxury boutique hotel; spacious rooms, big comfortable beds, beautiful views, exquisite service, delicious breakfast, and dinner are included in the price. A great place to relax before and after visiting Machu Picchu.  

Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, Machu Picchu, Peru
Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel – a great place to stay after the hike. Photo; booking.com

Getting back from Aguas Calientes to Cusco 

There are four options;

To catch a train all the way from Aguas Calientes to Cusco – the easiest and the most expensive option; train ticket 277 Sol/US$85 price of the cheapest train ride Expedition 34. You have to buy tickets for this train a couple of weeks beforehand they are often sold out.

To go by train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo and from there take a bus to Cusco – it’s a bit cheaper than the first option but more complicated; train ticket – from 180 Sol/US$55 (the cheapest train leaves Aguas Calientes at 5.35am), bus ticket 15 Sol/US$4. A good thing about this option if you have time you can stay in Ollantaytambo and visit the ruins.

To get on a train from Aguas Calientes to Hidroeléctrica and from there take a minibus to Cusco – more complicated but cheaper; train ticket – 60 Sol/US$19, minibus ticket – 60 Sol/US$18.

To walk from Aguas Calientes to Hidroeléctrica, about 10km and from there take a bus to Cusco – the cheapest but the longest option; bus ticket 60 Sol/US$18.

Train to Aguas Calientes. Peru
Train to Aguas Calientes. Peru

Books and guidebooks

For a self-guided walk one of Machu Picchu guide books will be quite helpful, e.g. The Machu Picchu Guidebook: A Self-Guided Tour by Alfredo Valencia Zigarra (paper book) or Lonely Planet Peru (paper and Kindle).

If you want to travel back in history and find out more about the discovery of Machu Picchu, you’ll enjoy reading Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham. Kindle and paper book.

Nice and fun reading Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams trying to answer a common question; What is Machu Picchu? Kindle and paper book.

If you’d like to read some local authors Death in the Andes by the most famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa is a great choice. The novel tells some mystic events happening in the Andes, not far from Cusco when Machu Picchu was still quite of the beaten track place to come. Kindle and paper book.

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51 Comments

  1. Lara Zephyr

    Do you find water bodies around this trail or should we carry a lot from the start???

    • Stingy Nomads

      You can find water along the trail but we recommend using a filter or purifying pills to treat it before drinking.

  2. A question about altitude sickness. I would expect a few people to have problems with the altitude especially at the lake area. What options would a person have if they had severe altitude sickness.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Roger! First of all, we’d recommend spending a couple of days in Cusco before attempting the trek, second take your time walking up on the first day if you have time you can stay for one night at Mollepata (the town you arrive by bus from Cusco). You can take some medicine with like Diamox or any generic analog that helps to prevent the sickness. We had one person in our group that didn’t feel well on the first day she didn’t go up to the lake she just stayed at the campsite and slept the rest of the day, the next day she was better and could continue the hike.
      Cheers!

  3. David Newsom

    This guide has been essential in planning my solo trek in October! Thank you for your extremely detailed blog.

    My biggest concern is Day 1. How did you manage to have enough time to do Humantay Lake after hiking for 6-7 hours? I’m afraid I won’t have enough time or energy after arriving to Mollepta around ~7-8 AM. How doable is this, or is day 1 going to be pretty grueling?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, David! Thank you for the comment! The first day was quite tough if you start early you’ll have enough time to get to the lake and back to the camp but it’s pretty tiring due to the high altitude. If you arrive later than expected in Mollepata then it’s better to stay there for the night to use this day for acclimatization and to start hiking the next day. Another option is to take a truck from Mollepata to Sayapata it’ll save you a couple of hours of walking. Before you go on the trek I’d recommend checking out with tour operators in Cusco about the conditions of the trail, according to some reports from April this year the part of the route from Chaullay to La Playa (Day 3) was basically destroyed due to heavy rains in January-March so I’m not sure if it’s been recovered or you have to do a detour which makes the day much longer.
      Safe travels!

  4. Tez & Paul

    Hey guys, we usually really like your blog posts, we have found them very helpful travelling all around South America. A big thanks for that. We are just in the process of planning the Salcantay trek, as we were stunned by the pictures of Llactapata ruins in this post. However, after a few hours of research we figured that your presentation of the trek has brought us more confusion than clarity. It seems like you have confused Llactapata with Patallacta. We believe that the picture that you have included in this post is actually a picture of Patallacta located on the Inca trail and hence it is not visible from Llactapata on the Salcantay trail. The distance between the two places is roughly 30 km… We are wondering whether you have actually visited either of the sites, or if you just copied the picture from the internet? If yes, it would be honest to refer to the source. Also, people like us trust your itineraries and judgment and we really would not find it cool if you were recommending places that you have not actually visited yourselves…

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, guys! Sorry for the late reply your comment went to the spam folder because there was an in-text URL in it I had to remove it, sorry for that. We didn’t go to Llactapata ruins on the way to Aguas Calientes as we didn’t know anything about them. We got a report from our reader that walked the Salkantay a few months back with recommendation to walk to the ruins before Aguas Calientes, it sounded quite legit so we added it to our itinerary to make sure people not miss something worth visiting on the way. We didn’t have time to update or check it properly as we were busy hiking in Nepal and Spain. The photo is taken from a free source site, it’s free for commercial use and doesn’t require any attribution.
      As for walking Slakantay there were more reports (you can see them in comments) saying that after the rainy season part of the route was destroyed and hikers have to walk a longer route on the road, it’s on day 3 from Chuallay we don’t know how it’s now. We sent an e-mail to our friends that have a trekking company in Cusco to clarify the current route situation and Llactapata ruins. As I understand there are two ruins with the same name. When we get a reply from them we’ll update the post.
      We’ve heard about a new route Ancascocha trek that is less busy than Salkantay and has some incredible scenery, considering the route problem on Salkantay this trek might be a good alternative. We haven’t done it yet but going back to Peru in September to hike it. We’re very sorry for the confusion we caused by the photo of the wrong ruins!
      Safe travels!

  5. Kartik Suresh

    Hi,
    Me and a friend are planning to do this trek independently.
    It looks like there are hotels at the end of everyday’s trek. Is it possible to just carry a sleeping bag and book hotels at the end of everyday?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Kartik! There were hotels and lodges on the route, from the second night on you’ll go past villages with several accommodation options, first night at Soraypampa lodges there look quite fancy and I’m not sure if independent trekkers can stay there or it’s only for people who do a tour with a company.
      Safe travels!

  6. Susan Nourse

    My partner and I just finished hiking the Salkantay trek independently this week (April 3-7, 2019). I wanted all independent hikers to be aware that a large portion of the trail to the left of the river between Chaullay and Playa has been almost completely destroyed by six landslides, making that trail EXTREMELY dangerous. There is no signage indicating this, and many independent hikers (including my partner and I) are finding themselves hiking extremely dangerous conditions.

    In order to avoid this section of trail, there is a bridge that crosses the river to the road before the area with the landslides. This makes the portion of the trek from Chaullay to Playa still possible, but it makes it a much longer day.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Susan! Thank you very much for the updated information! We’re currently hiking in Nepal and facing the same problem with landslides. We’ll make the necessary changes to the post to make sure trekkers are aware about the danger and try to avoid it by taking the longer route.
      Safe travels!

    • Hi Susan! Thanks for this update, we are planning to do this trek next month. Do you know if it’s possible to get a bus/shuttle/collectivo ride between Chaullay and Playa or Lucmabamba? We are looking to skip this section of road walking that you describe.

      Thanks!
      Eric

  7. Great article! Question: is it possible to camp at Humantay Lake or would you recommend camping at Soraypampa? The lake looks amazing and if I can camp up there and avoid the crowds at Soraypampa that would be great. Thanks.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Andy! Thank you for the comment! If I’m not mistaken there were signs at the lake saying camping or staying overnight is forbidden. I guess the main reason is to keep the area clean there are no facilities around the lake (no toilets, rubbish bins etc.) if people start camping there it might get messy quite quick. Enjoy Salkantay!
      Cheers!

  8. Hey 🙂 we want to walk the trek independently with the help of your guide! Thank you so much! Do we have to reserve the campsites or is it even possible?

    Thank you and safe travels, Katie 🙂

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Katie! We’re glad you found our post helpful! We didn’t book any campsites, I don’t think you actually can, you just arrive there and I’m sure they’ll be able to find a spot for your tent. Enjoy Peru!
      Safe travels!

      • thank you so much!!

      • Do you think it is possible to get back to Cusco the same day you visit MC? I read that the last/only bus from Hidroelectrica leaves at 2 pm….I’m not sure that’s doable since we intend to walk back to Hidroelectrica…Thank you so much for your help!!

        • Stingy Nomads

          As we know buses back to Cusco do leave from Hidroelectrica between 2pm and 3pm, it takes about 6 hours to get to Cusco. I guess it’s possible to be at Hidroelectrica at 2pm but you’ll have to less time at Machu Picchu if you’re not planning to climb any one the mountains (Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu) 3-4 hours at the ruins might be enough. Make sure you book an entrance ticket to MP for the morning session, from 6am to 12pm. If you’re planning to walk in high season we’d suggest to book a bus ticket to Cusco in advance, you can do it in Aguas Calientes or in Cusco.
          Good luck!

  9. Great guide, guys. We are heading here in a few days and look forward to planning our trip with your help. This sounds like the less touristed option between this and the main Inca Trail trek, but t also sounds like into has gotten quite touristy recently. Any knowledge of additional treks to MP with more serenity?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Grant! There are two ways of getting to Machu Picchu; Inca Trail and through Hidroelectrica it’s basically impossible to skip the crowds. You can walk Choquequirao trek and continue to Machu Picchu, it’ll be more off the beaten track but the last two days it joins with Salkantay trek.
      Cheers!

  10. This is a nice and pretty useful guide! I wish I had read it before doing the Salkantay trek in September. Cheers guys! Keep on sharing your experience with us! 🙂

  11. Hey guys! I’m heading to Peru at the end of June and planning on doing this trek. I know that you said that you only booked your trek when you got there, but since June is peak season I am worried that MP entrance tickets will sell out (as there are only 2500 per day!). I understand that Huayna picchu tickets are hard to come by last minute (not concerned about this) but do you think MP entrance tickets will be okay booking a few days in advance???

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Sophie! As I know July and August are the peak season but you can expect to see many people all year around. I’ve been there twice and never booked my ticket to MP beforehand and always could get it. If you do Salkantay trek to MP it’ll take you 4 days to get there which means you’ll book your ticket beforehand anyway, if you do it with a tour company they might have some tickets reserved. There are online booking services for MP you can check there if there are any tickets available for the nearest days it might help to make up your mind.
      Good luck and enjoy Peru!

  12. Edith Csengo

    Hi there,
    thanks for this great blog! We are going to Machu Picchu in July this year and would like to know if the Salkantay trail is not too heavy for our youngest daughter of 10 years. We have done a hike of 3 days last year in the Alps but that’s of course not quite comparable to the Salkantay Trail. We have 2 other daughters (age 15 and 17). All are in good shape and very exited to do the trail, but we are in doubt. What would you advise?
    Thanks in advance, Edith

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Edith! Thank you for the comment!
      The main challenge on Salkantay is the altitude you must be good acclimatized, to stay in Cusco or in any other place above 3000, for two or three days, just resting, not doing too much walking or exercising. The first night on the hike you sleep at 4000m and the next day walk over 4600m pass after that you start walking down. You know better if your daughter will be able to walk 10-15km a day for 4 or 5 days. We’d suggest to do a tour in this case you walk only with your day packs and everything (accommodation, food) will be arranged for you. We did it in November and it was quite cold up there especially at night as you’re going to do it in July it will be even colder which adds difficulty. Maybe it’s better you don’t book the hike beforehand and once in Cusco decide depending on how you and your daughter feel. July is not a peak season you must be able to find a company to do it with. We shopped around for the better price and booked it just a day before. As an easier alternative to Salkantay check Lares trek on this route you see more ruins and local villages.
      Good luck!

      • Edith Csengo

        Thanks so much for your advice, we will probably do it the way you suggest: decide when we are there. This way we can also take the weather into account.
        Will let you know what we did!

  13. Great Post and experience!
    The Salkantay trail is the less traveled route into Machu Picchu. It´s longer more strenuous hike than the classic inca trai, but it is well worth it. It has fewer tourists on it plus it goes over a 15,252 pass between 2 glaciers. The scenery is simply breathtaking.

  14. Hey there – this a great post!! 🙂 I’m hoping to do the Salkantay trip next year, and was wondering if you could remember which agency you booked through in Cusco as that price is pretty amazing!

    Cheers,
    Katie.

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hello, Katie! Thank you! We used Qorianka Tours and bought our tour from a small shop close to Plaza de Armas on Triunfo street, they were the cheapest we could find. The best you can do is to arrive at Cusco a couple of days before the hike and shop around trying to find the best and the cheapest tour as we did.
      Good luck!

      • Gabrielle

        Hello ! I’m planing on doing the Salkantay trek in August. As it is the busiest month would it be better to book ahead of time or would it be possible to book the tour a few days before.

        • Stingy Nomads

          Hello, Gabrielle! We’ve never been to Cusco in high season if you’re tight with time I’d suggest to book it in advance if you can stay for a couple of days extra waiting for an available tour then don’t book anything from home and do it in Cusco on arrival. I think you’ll be able to find a tour leaving in two or three days but I can’t guarantee it.
          Safe travels and enjoy Peru!

  15. Hi guys, We are doing the Salkantay trek alone in April, and I was hoping for some advice. I have read a few blogs about aggressive dogs and people getting bitten on the walk along the train tracks from the Hidro electrica to AC. Did you see many dogs? Or have any problems? Or know anyone that did have problems?

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    🙂

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hi, Abbe! Thank you for reading! We saw many dogs hiking in Peru sometimes they were quite aggressive but on the way from Hidro electrica to Aguas Calientes and back we didn’t see any dogs. Maybe one or two next to the train station when we stopped for lunch but not further. Nobody we met complained about it. Good luck and enjoy the hike!
      Cheers!

  16. This is awesome! I love Peru, and I can’t wait to check out some of these cool spots when I go back.

  17. Hi guys
    Excellent trip report. My sister and I are planning on doing the 5 day Salkantay in late May (hopefully including zip lining). I know it is a lot cheaper to book when we arrive, which is what we plan to do, but I was still surprised at how little you paid for your trek. I was especially surprised at the cost for entry to MP ($35) and climbing MP mountain ($5). I guess late May is classified as peak season – do you think booking 2 or 3 days in advance is sufficient?
    Cheers
    Carol

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hello, Carol!
      Thank you for the comment! Sorry for the late reply we were a bit busy with our wedding:) We did the trek in October which is considered to be a peak season as well and had no problem with booking our trek just one day before. There are many travel agencies in Cusco if you walk around for a day you’ll be able to find a good deal for your dates. Most tourists do Inca trail this one you have to book in advance but with Salkantay it’s easy. The entrance fee to the ruins is different if you book online or buy at the office in Cusco, online is more expensive. When you book with an agency make sure they book MP mountain as sometimes they forget. If you have more questions don’t hesitate in asking!
      Good luck!

      • Wow – congratulations to you both Campbell and Alya!! I hope you have a long and happy life together, with lots of adventure along the way.

        It is really a surprise that the entrance tickets to MP would differ considering it is such a world icon. I read online somewhere that you can even bargain for the entry ticket to Colca Canyon, but not really sure about this. I believe bus tickets (long distance) are also dearer on line, and that you are better off going to the bus station to purchase your tickets.

        Thanks also for the tips you list at the end of your blog – these are very helpful.
        Cheers from Australia
        Carol

        • stingynomads@gmail.com

          Thank you a lot!!!
          For your MP ticket if you’re a student don’t forget to bring your card or ID you get a discount for all the sites in Peru and this you definitely can’t get if you purchase online. What about buses you can buy tickets online only for the expensive bus companies if you go to any bus terminal you’ll find different price range depending on how fancy buses are etc. to all main destinations buses leave every hour or so you always will be able to get a ticket.
          Good luck in your travel!

          • We would love to have student ID cards – unfortunately, we are nearing the other end of the scale – by May our average will be 60!!! However, we are both pretty fit and are sure we will have a fantastic time.
            Regards
            Carol

  18. Hi there,

    thank you very much for so much useful info.in advance.

    We are family with 2 Adult + 2 children (11, 6) and we had bought our ticket flying to cusco on 09.aug.2017. Now, we are looking for one Salkantay Trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu 5D/4N during 13.Aug.2017 – 17.Aug.2017 or 21.Aug.2017 – 25.aug.2017.

    But, we don’t know it is necessary to booking this trek jet or can we buy it when we arriving there in person ? Because the peak season on Aug.

    And, do you have any suggestion about trekking with two 2 childrens ? I have a big worry about it indeed.

    Your kindly advise would be much appreciate !

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hello! Thank you!
      We were there in late October and it was quite busy but it was very easy for us to book a tour just one day beforehand. You can book it online as well but in this case you’ll pay a lot more for the same tour. We had a couple in our group and they booked their tour from home online and the price they paid was double of what we paid for exactly the same tour. In peak season it can be difficult to book Inca trail it’s usually fully booked but for Salkantay we think it’ll be possible to book once you in Cusco.
      Don’t know how old your children are? If you do a tour then porters carry all your luggage you walk only with day pack so it won’t be a problem. But the hike itself was quite demanding especially the first two days mostly because of the altitude (4000m). We didn’t see any children walking Salkantay. If you have more questions we’ll be glad to answer them.
      Good luck!

  19. Hi guys, thanks so much for replying to my question about the Bolivian visa on your other post :).

    Just 2 more questions on this post :). When did you do salkantay and can you by any chance of remember the name of the agency you used? We are actually on our way to cusco now and would be awesome to get the same kind of deal.

    Thanks a mill.
    Kate

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hi Kate, thanks for reading! Our Salkantay trek was from 30 Oct to 3 Nov.
      We used Qorianka Tours http://qorianka-tours.com/ and bought our tour from a small shop close to Plaza de Armas on Triunfo street, they were the cheapest we could find. On the trek we found out everyone on our tour bought the same package from different agencies and there was a big difference in price. One of the couples bought their package online and paid double! There are many agencies and we bought our tour one day before departure.
      Please let us know if you have any more questions.
      Enjoy and Safe Travels!

  20. Pingback: South America travel budget for Backpackers - Travel blogTravel blog

  21. Thanks heaps for your reply. Your blog has been very useful. Congrats on getting engaged! We are flying into Rio and were thinking of heading towards Uruguay/Argentina – Patagonia to start with but now wondering if we should head to Bolivia/Peru first to avoid being in Bolivia/Peru in the wet months. Do you have any advice? What months did you travel in Bolivia and Peru? Thanks again 🙂

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hi, Gemma! Thank you very much!
      When are you flying? We were in Peru and Bolivia from mid October to mid December, in November had some heavy rains in Cusco but not during hikes. If you are planning to do hikes around Cusco it’s better to avoid rainy months, the best time is October but it’s the busiest time as well, many tourists come for Machu Picchu. For Bolivia if you want to visit Uyuni salt flats the best time is January when it rains and the desert looks like a big mirror, we were to early for that. Regarding Patagonia, the season if from December to March, the best weather. Jan-Feb are very busy months for Patagonia, holiday time in Chile and Argentina many locals travelling and hiking in the area. Can be difficult to find accommodation but if you have a tent it won’t be a problem, there are campings everywhere. If you have any more questions we’ll be happy to help you.
      Best regards,
      SN

  22. gemma woods

    Hi there, I have just found your blog and loving reading it thanks! My partner and I are travelling to South America from New Zealand in September. Could you please tell us what agency you did use for the Salkantay trek? Thank you

    • stingynomads@gmail.com

      Hi Gemma, thank you for reading! We used Qorianka Tours http://qorianka-tours.com/ and bought our tour from a small shop close to Plaza de Armas on Triunfo street, they were the cheapest we could find. On the trek we found out everyone on our tour bought the same package from different agencies and there was a big difference in price. One of the couples bought their package online and paid double! There are many agencies and we bought our tour one day before departure.
      Please let us know if you have any more questions.
      Enjoy and Safe Travels!

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