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If you are a fit, well-acclimatized trekker looking for a major physical challenge, then the 4 day Salkantay Trek is the trek for you!
Incredible mountain vistas, a changing and varied landscape, and a widely ranging altitude and climate await you on this trek. The 4 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is a difficult hike done in a shorter amount of time, with the chance to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Andes, and end up at Machu Picchu.
The 4 day Salkantay trek in Peru takes you through a series of different climates, from the high alpine to the Andean jungle, so it’s important to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Layering and flexibility are key!
Our first night will be spent at a very high altitude campsite – 4490m (14,731 ft). It will feel VERY cold, and you will need thermals, a winter hat (toque or beanie), mitts and scarves. The overnight temperature is most likely to be below freezing.
By Day 2, however, we will already start to walk down into the high jungle and temperatures will warm up! As you move quickly on the Salkantay Trail, by the end of the day, you might just be in a t-shirt and shorts!
When it comes to flexible trekking clothes, you can’t go wrong with convertible hiking pants made out of a quick dry fabric. Hiking pants typically have a special design giving you a maximum range of motion, and when it gets hot you can zip off the lower section of the pants to convert them into shorts. This is ideal for a trek like the 4 day Salkantay which features extremes of temperature.
Trekking pants also feature many pockets. You might feel more like an explorer than a tourist, but they can be very useful on the trail. We recommend starting out on the 4 day Salkantay trail with thermals under your hiking pants to help keep you warm as you ascend into higher altitudes, and colder climates.
When it comes to footwear, water-resistant trekking boots with a high top are the best hiking boots to take on the 4 day Salkantay trek. If you’re not ready to invest in specialist hiking boots, at a minimum hiking shoes will suffice.
What is the difference between hiking shoes and hiking boots? Hiking shoes are durable, trekking shoes that are generally water resistant. They don’t have ankle support though. Hiking boots are tough footwear that last a long time due to their strong construction. They have ankle support and often are very waterproof.
For more help with what to pack, check out our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
Apus Peru is one of an elite group of trekking agencies in the Cusco region that put people before profit. Safety is paramount and we have a comprehensive risk assessment policy that covers a very wide range of details from vehicle maintenance to illness and evacuation on the trail.
There are several treks we will not operate in the wet season under any circumstances – including Salkantay – due to safety considerations.
Want to join a 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!
Today is the beginning of your Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu! We start early, picking you up from your Cusco hotel in our private vehicle. From Cusco we head out of the city and towards Tarawasi, an important but often overlooked Inca ceremonial site in the Limatambo valley. We will drive for about hour and a half until we reach Tarawasi where we’ll have some time to explore its fascinating stone architecture.
After our visit to Tarawasi, we continue on to Mollepata where we will stop to rest, pick up some snacks, or even have breakfast if you missed it at your hotel.
From Mollepata we continue our drive until we reach Chuñuna (3650m / 11,975 ft), the start of the trail for us. Here we’ll meet our muleteers who will accompany us the rest of the way on our hike to Machu Picchu. This is where our Salkantay adventure begins! Now, we head out along an undulating path until we reach the lookout point with stunning views of the majestic Humantay mountain.
Then, it’s another 2.5 hours along a more gentle path until we reach Soraypampa, where we will stop for lunch. After a delicious lunch prepared by our personal trail chef, we continue our trek. We will climb upwards along a very impressive path for about 3.5 to 4 hours until we reach Soyroq’ocha (4490m / 14,731 ft), our campsite for the first night of the 4 day Salkantay trek. You will be treated to some spectacular sights, but know that this is a very challenging zig zag walk uphill.
Our goal today is to reach the highest point on the Salkantay Trail – the Salkantay Pass, coming in at an impressive 4600 m (15,092 ft). We will start very early, climbing up for about 45 minutes until we reach the pass, where we can take a well deserved rest!
After a few minutes of enjoying the feeling of being “on top of the world,” we continue walking down for about 2 hours to Huayracmachay. Here we will rest a bit and have a snack before continuing down another 2 hours until we reach Andenes, our lunch spot today.
After lunch, we continue walking down another hour and a half until we reach Chaullay where our private vehicle will be waiting for us. We will drive for about an hour until we reach tonight’s campsite at Lucmabamba (2040m / 6693 ft).
In Lucmabamba, you will have an opportunity to learn all about the coffee-making process at the Cocla coffee cooperative. This is a hands-on exploration of fruit- and coffee-growing and how the two are interrelated. You’ll see grapefruit trees, lime trees and even avocado trees! If you’re lucky, you’ll sample some fresh avocado, picked right from the tree!
Then, we immerse ourselves in the coffee production process. After harvesting some fresh coffee beans, we learn all about the process of shelling, drying, toasting and grinding the beans in a hands-on coffee-making experience. We’ll end day 2 with some freshly-brewed coffee!
After a grueling couple of days hiking, you will be rewarded by a relatively relaxing day on day 3 of your 4 day Salkantay trek! We will hike up a well-preserved Inca trail for about 3 hours until we reach an interesting pass, surrounded by thick vegetation.
From here we continue a short 15 minutes down the path until we reach Llactapata (2720m / 8924 ft). Llactapata is interesting Inca ruin from which you have a startling view of Machu Picchu. This will be the first time that you have a view of Machu Picchu and it is sure to be an impressive sight! We’ll enjoy our box lunch within view of Machu Picchu.
After lunch we zig zag down the mountain until we reach the Aobamba valley, where we can dip our feet in the refreshingly cool waters of the Aobamba river. From here we continue walking another 45 minutes until we reach Hidroelectrica train station where we will catch our train to Machu Picchu, and head to our comfortable hotel in Aguas Calientes (1840m / 6037 ft).
After a very early breakfast at the hotel, we will take the bus up to Machu Picchu in the pre-dawn hours to reach Machu Picchu before the crowds. 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 our driver will meet us and transfer you directly back to your hotel in Cusco. Total travel time is about 4 hours from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.
The Salkantay 4 days itinerary follows the classic Salkantay trekking route at a faster pace, making for long, challenging days of hiking. Essentially, you are condensing 4 days of trekking into 3 days – this obviously makes the trek much harder.
The hardest day of the 4 day trek is definitely Day 1. It is a long day with difficult climbs; expect to walk for a total of 9 or 10 hours. The second half of the first day includes a challenging 4 hour switchback climb. This is a steep ascent that will take you to a point just shy of the highest point on the trek.
You must be well acclimatized before starting this trek, as it can be hard on the body to camp at such a high altitude. Your reward will be some impressive sights, but this is definitely the most strenuous part of the trek!
After peaking in the morning of Day 2, the rest of the trail takes you down from the highlands and into the Andean jungle. The temperatures will warm up and the vegetation will become reminiscent of the jungle, lush and green.
There is another day of steep climbs on Day 3, but it will feel relatively easy compared to the first day as it is only 3 hours. From here, you will have your first glimpse of Machu Picchu – an unforgettable sight!
Remember all treks in the Cusco region are challenging for most people due to the high altitude and steep mountains, but this 4 day 3 night Salkantay trek is certainly for those who are looking to push themselves and are looking for a more physically demanding alternative. For more about how difficult the Salkantay hike is, check out our blog post.
A young person of average fitness who works out several times a week will probably find the 4 day Salkantay trek a challenge. Older people, or those who are not fit, should most definitely embark on a fitness training program prior to doing the 4 day Salkantay itinerary, in consultation with a medical and fitness professional. What this will entail depends on each person and their own abilities.
See our Tip #3 for how to get ready for your trek.
The best way to prepare yourself for the altitude is very easy: spend time at a high-altitude place like Cusco. Generally speaking, the more time you can spend acclimatizing, the better. Ideally, 3-4 days at altitude would give your body an excellent chance to acclimatise.
In addition, being kind to your body – eating healthy food and staying away from alcohol – helps your body deal with the extra pressures that altitude creates.
Read more about Altitude and How to Acclimatize before starting your trek.
December through March is the wet season in Peru and trekking the Salkantay trail is not recommended 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.
Trekking during the shoulder season (April, September, October) is possible, but depends on the weather and the actual conditions of the trail at the time. We reserve the right to cancel or modify any trek booked during the rainy season if conditions make the trail unsafe. Read more about the best time to hike and take note of our wet season trekking policy.
See the day-by-day itinerary for exact hiking times per day on our 4 day Salkantay trek.
On the trail, you are treated to first-class service from our field team. We use 4 season North Face tents on our treks, all dutifully set up by our team of hardworking staff. Whatever the conditions, you will have some sound protection on your side! 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 gourmet meals on the trail. 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 travellers and our cooks have some great options for them to enjoy their meals. 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.
Huayna Picchu is the conical shaped mountain that appears in all the classic pictures of Machu Picchu. The climb is extremely steep and not for the faint-hearted, but is very rewarding for those who can stomach it!
Permits can sell out in advance, especially for Huayna Picchu, so you are best to tell us at the time of booking if you would like to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
Read more about Visiting Machu Picchu.
For those who want to experience two famous treks while on holidays, our combined 6 Day Inca Trail & Salkantay Trek is a great option. We are also able to offer that trek in 7 days – please ask your Apus Peru Travel Consultant for more information!
You can also customize your experience by adding on one or more of our Cusco day tours, or opting for one of our upgrade packages which includes not only an upgraded hotel but also a luxury train service and meals at the top restaurants in Aguas Calientes.
Or, customize your Salkantay 4 day trek to have two days of visits to Machu Picchu. With our Extra Day at Machu Picchu, you can visit the site at different times of day, make sure you see all the highlights, and also have enough time to do one of the Machu Picchu hikes, like Huayna Picchu.
Water is vital on the trek. We provide boiled water during the trekking days. You should start the day with 2 litres. 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 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. All of the camping equipment needed on the trek is also carried by mules.
In order to answer whether this 4 day 3 night trek is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:
For more information about what this region has to offer, check out our Salkantay homepage.
…or Take the Long Way
Apus-Peru put together a private, custom 4-day Salkantay trek that other adventure companies wouldn’t. Unbelievable scenery, Inca ruins and didn’t see a single hiker after early morning of day 2!
From the very beginning, our sales representative was super helpful, discussing numerous options, routes and pricing to help me settle on my ultimate itinerary. And when my wife got sick and had to stay in Cusco, she was there to take care of her. They even refunded some of the cost.
My guide was great! Excellent English, very knowledgeable and set the perfect pace for me. Can’t say enough about the food. Lots of it and all wonderful. They even baked a cake for me on the last night!
The equipment was all first rate … new or very-nearly new. I’ve done the Everest Base Camp trek and summited Kilimanjaro, but this was the best team of all. I recommend Apus-Peru unconditionally.