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Get the best of both worlds with this Salkantay Inca Trail trek – the stunning, high mountain trekking experience of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and the impressive ancient Inca ruins and mystique of the famous Classic Inca Trail.
Temperatures will vary widely on this trek, from below-freezing to semi-tropical, so make sure you are well prepared!
This unique six day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu takes you on a less traveled path around the sacred Salkantay mountain (6271m / 20,569 ft), one of the highest and most stunning in the Peruvian Andes.
After passing through Quechua-speaking communities and lesser-known Inca ruins, we join up with the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, that world-famous trek that is on everyone’s bucket list!
Only a special few actually get to hike the Inca Trail every year. Peru’s permit system means that just 500 people are allowed on the trail every day – approximately 200 visitors and 300 trekking staff. Permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and are in very high demand: they can sell out as much as 6 months in advance. Once spaces have been booked, NO OPERATOR CAN OFFER YOU A SPACE. All spaces are personal and non-transferable, and there is no waiting list, so if someone cancels, their spot cannot be taken by someone new. Also note that the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance.
The Inca Trail is notorious for the mistreatment of porters and other trail staff who are asked to carry more than government regulation allow. At Apus Peru, we do things differently, going above and beyond these minimums. Read more about how we take care of all our staff, including porters and horsemen.
You’ll need to pack for a variety of microclimates on the 6 Day Salkantay and Inca Trail combo trek! You’ll be hiking up to some very high altitudes, surrounded by snowy peaks, but then will descend into the semi-tropical “Andean jungle”. You should pack flexible clothing options that you can layer.
The first two nights will be at very high-altitude campsites, each one over 4000m (13,780 ft). You should expect cold temperatures; during the dry season, the overnight temperature is likely to be below freezing. Be sure to bring warm, thermal under-layers, a winter hat (toque or beanie), gloves, a scarf and several pairs of warm socks.
By Day 5, it should start to warm up and you may find yourself shedding some layers! We recommend bringing a t-shirt or lightweight long-sleeve shirt for these warmer sections of trekking, as well as hiking pants that let you zip off the lower section to convert them into shorts. These convertible trekking pants are usually made of a quick-dry fabric and also feature a series of pockets which can be very handy on the trail.
As a long-distance hike, the Salkantay Inca Trail combo trek requires good quality, sturdy footwear. We think a water-resistant trekking boot with ankle support is the best option for a trek of this nature, but you can also choose to trek in hiking shoes. While hiking shoes tend to be durable enough, they lack ankle support and may only be water-resistant instead of water-proof.
For more help with what to pack, check out our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
As a member of an elite group of trekking agencies in Cusco, Apus Peru is one of the few agencies that put people before profit. For us, safety is paramount and we have a comprehensive risk assessment policy that covers a wide range of details, from vehicle maintenance to illness and evacuation on the trail.
Due to safety considerations, there are several treks which we will not operate during the wet season under any circumstances. This includes our 6 day Inca Trail and Salkantay combo trek.
Want to join a Salkantay Inca Trail trek? Ready to confirm a departure date of your own, but interested in having others join you? Then Trekkers Wanted is for you! Our innovative Trekkers Wanted system matches people up who are interested in hiking the same trek, bringing costs down and multiplying the fun for everyone! Read More about Trekkers Wanted, post your trek or search for confirmed departures!
Note: Trekkers Wanted ONLY available while permits last for your departure date.
Does this trek sound like just what you were looking for? If you’re ready to book or just want to find out a bit more information, fill out the Inquiry Form in the top right-hand corner of this page to get the ball rolling. You’ll connect with someone from our amazing sales team who will be able to turn your dream of hiking in the Andes into a reality. For more information on the entire booking process, please see How to Book.
Travel insurance is a must! World Nomads offers travel insurance for adventure activities.
After an early breakfast in your hotel, we will pick you up to start our 2.5h journey to Mollepata, the traditional starting point for Salkantay trek. Here we’ll have a chance to pick up some last-minute supplies or have a quick bite if you missed breakfast, and then we’ll continue another 1.5h by car to Soraypampa (3800m / 12,464 ft).
Here we’ll have lunch while marvelling at Humantay’s impressive snowy peaks (5917m / 19,085 ft). After lunch, we’ll hike for about 2.5h to our campsite at Ichupata. This is an especially cold and high altitude campsite, so make sure you’re well acclimatized and that you have enough warm layers to bundle up in!
Alter a cold night, we continue our hike past Pampa Japonesa to start the 3-4h steep climb towards the Incachiriasca Pass (4965m / 16,289 ft). This is the highest pass on this route and it offers impressive views of the Salkantay’s snowy peak.
After a celebratory rest on the pass, we will start our descent towards our lunch spot at Sisaypampa (4100m / 13,451 ft), a flat area from which we can observe the Salkantay´s neighboring valleys. If we’re lucky, we may even have a chance to spot some condors! If we camp at Sisaypampa*, we can make a short detour to the Palqay Pass, which has an altitude of 4500m (14,764 ft) and offers a different view of Salkantay mountain.
*Depending on Inca Trail permits and campsite availability, we may continue on to Pampacahuana instead. See Day 3 for more details.
We’re halfway through our Salkantay Inca Trail combo trek! This morning we will descend for about 3.5h to Pampacahuana community (3300m / 10,827 ft), located next to an original Inca canal.
The Incas frequently cut canals through valleys to increase the usable agricultural land. From Pampachuana, it’s a 1-2h hike down the narrow, steep valley to the Inca fortress of Inkaracay (also known as Paucarcancha). This is a site well worth exploring and little known to the vast majority of visitors to Peru.
From here, we continue another hour to the small village of Huayllabamba where we will join up with the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. As mules are not allowed on the Classic Inca Trail, we will say goodbye to our mules and muleteers here and welcome our porters who will accompany us for the next few days.
In the afternoon, we leave Huayllabamba behind to start our way up the tough, 9km steep ascent to Warmihuañusca Pass (also known as Dead Woman’s Pass). We will only climb part way today, stopping at Ayapata (also known as Yuncachimpa, 3300m / 10,827 ft), where we will camp for the night.*
*Depending on Inca Trail permits and the campsites that the INC allocates to us, we may need to hike another 2h to Llulluchupampa (3800m / 12,467 ft). If this occurs, it is likely that we will spend Night 2 at Pampacahuana campsite, instead of Sisaypampa.
Today we continue our trek 4h up to the highest point on the Classic Inca Trail, the Abra Warmihuañusca or Dead Woman’s Pass. Coming in at a still-impressive 4200m (13,776 ft), we can feel proud that we’ve already attained even higher altitudes.
Immediately after the pass, we descend into the Pacaymayo valley (3600m / 11,808 ft), from which we then continue to climb to the second pass, the Abra Runkurakay (3955m / 12,976 ft), stopping halfway to visit the very impressive archaeological complex of the same name. This site, located at 3760m (12,336 ft), consists of a small oval structure that is believed to have been used as a watchtower.
After going over this pass, we descend towards Yanacocha (Black Lake) and enter the cloud forest to finally arrive at Sayacmarca (3624m / 11,887 ft). This is a beautiful semicircular complex. Only 20 minutes away is Chaquicocha (“dry lake” in Quechua, 3300m / 10,826 ft), where we will camp for the night.
After breakfast on day 5 of our Inca Trail Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu we have an easy climb to the third pass, the Abra de Phuyupatamarca (3700m / 12,136 ft). Located on the highest point of the mountain, Phuyupatamarca (“town above the clouds”) is one of the most complete and best-preserved archaeological complexes along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
From here we also have impressive views of the Urubamba River Valley below. We descend by stone steps to Wiñaywayna (2650m / 8692 ft), a popular campsite with bathrooms and (cold) showers! The campsite is just five minutes away from another archaeological complex of the same name.
Wiñaywayna is an impressive site made up of an agricultural center with numerous terraces, a religious sector and an urban sector – even if you are tired and enjoying the relative luxury of this campsite, don’t miss this incredible site!
Our final morning will be an early one as we rise at 3:30 am in order to leave Wiñaywayna by 5:30 am to go to the checkpoint and make our way to Inti Punku, the Sun Gate (2730m / 8792 ft). This will take an hour of hiking along a trail of flat stones on the edges of cliffs in highland jungle.
From this fabulous spot, we may see the sun rise over Machu Picchu. Arguably the highlight of the Salkantay Inca Trail trek is reaching Machu Picchu and from Inti Punku we descend into the famous city which we will reach after 40 minutes. We then descend to the control point where we register ourselves and leave our backpacks.
Your 4h visit to Machu Picchu can be spent exploring some of the alternative routes, like the Inca Bridge, after which your guide will give you a 2-3h walking tour of the historic citadel.
If you’re feeling adventurous you may wish to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain, but take note: this requires an extra permit, and they can sell out well in advance! Be sure to tell us at booking if you would like to add one of these hikes. For more tips on what to see, check out our Visiting Machu Picchu page.
After visiting Machu Picchu, you can take the bus back down to Aguas Calientes (or walk down!). From there, we return to Cusco in the afternoon by the Expedition (tourist class) train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, where we will be met by our driver who will transfer you directly back to your hotel in Cusco. Total travel time is about 4 hours from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.
The 6 day Salkantay Inca Trail trek itinerary combines two popular Machu Picchu treks for a unique, if strenuous, Peru hiking experience.
The trek begins with two days hiking in the Salkantay region (though not the classic Salkantay trek) before joining up with the Classic Inca Trail on Day 3. Day 2 is one of the hardest as you climb up to the highest point on the trail – Incachiriasca – coming in at a whopping 4965m (16289 ft)! Hiking to such a high altitude so quickly requires sufficient acclimatization and also the physical and mental endurance to complete it.
Day 2 also has the possibility of being even more strenuous. Depending on the campsites allocated to us by the government for the Inca Trail portion, it may be necessary to hike a bit further, making it an 11+ hour day of hiking. That’s a lot! (This is another reason why you should book early: so we can get our preferred Inca trail permits!)
The 4th day on the trail is another tough day as you hike to the second highest point on the trek: Dead Woman’s Pass (Warmihuañusca), 4200m / 13779ft.
In fact, you could describe the 6 day Inca Trail Salkantay trek as “undulating” – climbing up one steep ascent only to descend and then climb another steep ascent:
Don’t forget: All treks in the Cusco region are challenging for most people due to the high altitude and steep mountains. The Incachiriasca pass is considered one of the most difficult in the whole area.
No matter what – make sure acclimatization is part of your training schedule!
See our Tip #3 for how to get ready for your trek.
Truly, the more time you can spend at altitude before trekking, the better. Spending two or even three days at altitude will give your body time to adapt and allow you time enough to recover if you experience altitude sickness symptoms.
In addition, you should eat healthy food, stay away from alcohol, drink plenty of fluids and make sure you get enough rest. Being kind to your body helps it deal with the extra pressures that altitude creates.
Read more about Altitude and How to Acclimatize before starting your trek.
Dry season is also the coldest time of year in the Andes, so be prepared for some very cold temperatures, especially at night (even below freezing!)
The rainy season in the Andes is December through March and is not a good time for this trek. In fact, we typically will not offer any Salkantay treks during this period for safety reasons. The trail can be slippery and there is a risk of rockslides that can wipe the trail out altogether. Additionally, the pass and higher areas can be covered in snow, which makes trekking difficult if you are not properly equipped.
Another date to watch out for is February: the Inca Trail is closed every February for regular maintenance, making it impossible to hike this Salkantay Inca Trail combo trek at that time.
The shoulder season (April, September, October) is an unpredictable time, weather-wise. Usually there is less rain and the temperatures can be warmer, making them ideal times for hiking (you can also expect fewer people on the trails!). But it all depends on the actual conditions at the time, and if you book a trek during this time, we reserve the right to cancel or modify it if conditions make the trail unsafe.
Read more about the best time to hike and take note of our wet season trekking policy.
Days 1 and 6 are the shortest, with about 4h total hiking time each day. Days 2-5 average about 7 to 8 hours each, though, depending on how campsites are allocated, it’s possible for Day 2 to be very long (11+ hours) and Day 3 a bit shorter (5h).
These are only average hiking times, and the time it takes you depends on the relative fitness and speed of everyone in your group.
See the day-by-day itinerary for exact hiking times per day.
We use 4 season North Face tents on all of our treks which are set up for you by our team of hardworking staff. You will be well taken care of overnight, no matter what conditions present themselves on the Salkantay Inca Trail. This is particularly important for high altitude camping when temperatures can be very low.
You will also be accompanied by a personal chef who prepares delicious meals during your trek. Our chefs receive annual training in order to offer you some really stunning culinary creations on the trail! This is not basic trail food, but fully catered for trekking.
We have a lot of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free travellers and our cooks are well-prepared to meet their needs. We can cater for or all other types of dietary requests with adequate preparation and clear communication.
Read more about What to Expect on the Trail, including more about meals and equipment.
Permits for the Inca Trail can sell out very quickly, especially for peak dates (May through July). You should ALWAYS book as early as you can, but know that dates for these peak months will sell out 6 to 8 months in advance. Permits usually go on sale in October for the peak dates, so booking on or before October 1st is your best bet to secure dates during that time period.
The Inca Trail permit includes your visit to Machu Picchu. If you wish to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, this requires an extra permit not included in the price of your trek.
Huayna Picchu is the conical shaped mountain that appears in all the classic pictures of Machu Picchu. The climb is very steep and not for the faint-hearted, but is very rewarding for those who can stomach it!
Permits for Huayna Picchu can also sell out in advance, so let us know at the time of booking if you would like to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
Read more about Visiting Machu Picchu.
Other ways you can customize your trek:
Water is very important while hiking. You should start each day with 2 litres. On the way to the trailhead, we will have filtered water which you can use to fill up your water bottles, as well as boiled water for tea. During the trek, we provide boiled water at meal times. You will have a chance to refill at lunchtime and again in the evening.
We also provide an ample range of snacks which will fill up the average person – if you have hollow legs, you might need to bring some extra snacks of your own!
The rest of your belongings – up to 7kg (15 lbs) – are carried in a duffel bag (which we provide during your Pre Trek Briefing) by mules (on the Salkantay portion of the trek) and porters (on the Inca Trail). All of the camping equipment needed on the trek is also carried by mules or porters.
Being the most popular, Wiñaywayna is allocated first. If you have your heart set on camping at Wiñaywayna, book early! The plus side to Phuyupatamarca is that it is generally less crowded.
Read more about Wiñaywayna vs Phuyupatamarca in our blog (coming soon)!
Arriving at Inti Punku at dawn is possible on this trek, especially if you book early enough and we are able to reserve the preferred campsite (Wiñay Wayna) the night before. From Wiñay Wayna it is a 2-3 hour hike to Inti Punku so if we start early enough (say, 3am, the earliest we are permitted to start out on the trail), then there is a good chance we’ll arrive as dawn breaks.
However, as Machu Picchu is located in the high jungle, it is actually often shrouded in mist in the early mornings. A misty Machu Picchu is a beautiful and ethereal sight, but it is not the same as a stunning bright sunrise breaking over the mountain.
It is on many people’s bucket list to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu, and some less honest agencies promote this as a selling point. But let’s not be misleading: you most likely won’t see the sun actually rise over Machu Picchu.
Truth be told, we actually think a later arrival at Machu Picchu can be better. You are likely to be joined by fewer fellow hikers on the trail, and may also experience a somewhat less-crowded Machu Picchu, too.
…or Take the Long Way
My daughter and I had a fantastic time with Apus! The minor glitch with Valerio was more than made up for by the wonderful dinner at Uchu. Thank you!
Jose knew the route like the back of his hand. He is a wonderful, knowledgeable guide and I tell my friends about how wonderful Apus and Jose are.
I am a big fan of Apus. My constructive feed-back would be to have one of the guides review the custom itineraries for accuracy. Obviously on the set routes that is not critical, but I seem to pick custom routes and that is where the guides might help the office. How could office staff know if they haven’t been over the route the client wants to try? Please understand that I am offering suggestions for improvements and not criticism.
So, I am truly a Happy Apus Camper.
Please tell Jose how much we enjoyed his company. I feel, after two treks with him, that he is a friend. You guys run a very classy operation. It was just a pleasure! I will always use and recommend Apus.
The trek exceeded my expectations! Campsite #1 was the highlight of the trek, sleeping beneath Apu Salkantay.
Our guide was great, helpful, knowledgeable and well informed.
It has taken me three attempts to make it to Peru for the Salkantay-Inka Trail. I had organised a larger group the first time and the feedback from those people about Apus Peru was, without exception, excellent.
Apus Peru is a relatively small organisation amongst a forest of tour megaliths. It feels and works like a small community. Our sales representative answered every one of my pesky emails during the months leading up to our trek and, when we met, gave us all the time we needed for our questions. We were a small group of two walkers and Apus sent nine people to care and carry for us. The porters all came from the same small village and had been with Apus for many years. They were always cheerful and each one kept a quiet eye out for us. Our guide stuck with me (the slow one) for all the seven days and made sure I came through looking good. Our chef worked miracles in his tent kitchen.
Apus Peru did a great job. Thank you, Apus.
It is hard to express in words our experience trekking as a family of 4 from Mollepata, up to Abra Salkantay down to Pampa Cahuana and then on to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The communication with our travel consultant from Apus Peru was thorough and always prompt right from the start of my inquiries. I had a good feeling about this local outfitter right from the start. This would be our family’s first multi-day backpacking trek but with camping, hiking and strong fitness, we were confident in our kids’ abilities to tackle the trail.
We then began our private trek for the 6 days along with our guide. The first two days we had horses along with our chef and sous chef and then porters for the Inca Trail portion. Our guide was a fantastic guide for our family. He is calm but intuitive, very knowledgeable about history and current events both in Peru and globally so we had some great conversations. He was able to anticipate our pacing which enabled us to move faster through the trail and get to camp early rather than stop for extended lunches in the latter part of the trek which was great as we then had lots of time at camp to eat, read, play soccer and eat again! And the food…our chef and sous chef were incredible! We are a vegan/vegetarian family and our guide joined us in this! We miss these meals every day now that we are home! We even had real coffee (not nescafe) done on the burner with a large espresso maker.
We tackled the Salkantay climb and descent the first two days which was the highlight of our trek – the beauty, peace, and challenge was awesome. We covered 34 kms and got up to 5000m and back down to just over 3000m in those two days. Inca Trail was great to do as well. The only busy campground, really, was the last one as we were still early season. Weather co-operated for us (some light rain) and the bugs were minimal. We ended at Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu climb (which seemed easy after the prior 5 days!). While we appreciated everything that is Machu Picchu, we had seen so many lessor but equally interesting and quiet ruins that it was almost strange to be seeing this amongst 2500+ other people. Our guide guided us through some interesting elements (not all the touristy ones) and left us to hike Wayna Picchu. We capped off the day in Aguas Calientes and then Vistadome train back (recommend upgrading the train for sure). Another 2 hrs in the van to Cusco which made for a long day but worth it.
We will book again through Apus Peru – likely my husband and I would do a longer, more remote trek in the future. Peru is a beautiful place to visit with excellent food for vegans.