When Inca Trail permits inevitably sell out, many people turn to Salkantay (also spelled Salcantay or Sallqantay) as a good alternative trek to Machu Picchu. In our humble opinion, we feel that Salkantay – like every alternative trek in Cusco – deserves to be appreciated as a great Peru trek in its own right. Every trek in Cusco has something different to offer, and Salkantay is no different!
Salkantay (6271m / 20,574 ft) is located about 60km (40mi) northwest of Cusco city. As the second-highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range (after Ausangate), Salkantay mountain is an important apu, or mountain god, in the Andean region. The name salkantay comes from the Quechua word sallqa which means wild, savage or invincible. The ancient Inca associated apu Salkantay with weather, rain and fertility.
The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu takes you over soaring mountain passes, past snow-capped peaks, and down into the Andean jungle. It’s an incredible journey through changing scenery as you reach heights of over 4600m (15,092 ft) before descending to just 1000m above sea level. The fantastic alpine scenery is the true highlight of Salkantay. If you’re looking for exposure to contemporary Andean culture and a glimpse into the traditional Quechua lifestyle, a better option would be the Lares trek.
We also don’t recommend this trek to those who are looking for a remote wilderness experience. The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu is now the second most popular route in the Cusco region, meaning that it is teeming with fellow hikers. Important to note if you’re planning to hike Salkantay: it is only available during dry season (April-October). The chance of mudslides make it dangerous to hike during rainy season (November-March).
Apus Peru’s goal is to take you to places where no one else goes, so you might be wondering why we would even offer such a popular route. Well, with the Salkantay trek what we aim to do is show as much of its raw beauty as possible. Our two Salkantay itineraries are designed to keep you slightly out of sync with the crowds, and show you some of the surrounding highlights that others miss.
We offer a relaxed 5 day Salkantay trek that starts with a visit to Humantay Lake – a special treat for Salkantay trekkers! On this route, we also skip the over-crowded Soraypampa campsite and instead head to Salkantaypampa for the first night.
For those wanting more of a challenge we also offer a 4 day Salkantay hike for the extra fit and hardy. This trek includes a difficult first day via Chuñuña and a very high altitude campsite. You must be well-acclimatized to do this challenge hiking adventure! On Day 3 of this trek we take you to see Llactapata, an interesting Inca ruin with a fascinating perspective on Machu Picchu. It’s an incredible way to start your visit to Machu Picchu! After spending the night at the Lucmabamba campsite, you also have a chance to partake in some hands-on activities about coffee-making with a member of the local coffee cooperative – and indulge in the results!
Another reason to choose Apus Peru when hiking the Salkantay route is our commitment to eco tourism principles. The Salkantay trail is showing the effects of the lack of regulation. Compared to the Inca Trail, which is strictly regulated, there is no oversight of the Salkantay trail. Given its popularity, it’s prone to wear and tear and litter left by careless hikers. As a responsible trekking company we follow “leave no trace” principles, aiming to minimize our impact on the environment. In addition, we started a program called Handy in the Andes. We organize monthly clean up treks where our passengers help out by picking up trash left by others, and we give them a discount on their trek for lending a hand! It’s just one of the small ways we try to do our part.
If you’re still not convinced about trekking Salkantay, read the following review! Andrea B hiked the Salkantay trail with Apus Peru in high season 2019.
We couldn’t be happier with our Salkantay Trek with Apus Peru. We chose the company due to its flexible departure dates which allowed us to book a private family trip, and also because it was recommended to us by a guide friend. Every time we contacted Claire about absolutely everything, her responses were quick and reassuring. Planning a family trip in Peru can be very stressful when you’re 50 years old! But Claire’s excellent advice gave us the confidence that we were making the right decision.
Our guide Elizabeth was incredible. I can’t say enough about how she encouraged us, anticipated our needs and kept us entertained with her relaxed attitude. Every aspect of the trip went off without a hitch and was well organized. Elizabeth and Claire allowed us to elaborate an itinerary that suited us perfectly. The cook, Fortunato, was exceptional.
The hike itself was impressive, so many highlights and enough out of our comfort zone to be a real adventure. One that we, as a family, will never forget.
READY TO BOOK? Check out our Salkantay itineraries below, then submit an an inquiry form or email one of our Trek Experts directly: