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A unique 5 day Salkantay Trek, brought to you by the pioneers of alternative trekking in Cusco! Our innovative Salkantay trek 5 day itinerary keeps you out of sync with the crowds and includes a tour of Lake Humantay on Day 1.
Combining the best of two worlds, the 5 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu takes you hiking near glaciers beneath the magnificent Apu Salkantay mountain (6240m / 20,472 ft), before descending into the tropical climate of Santa Teresa on your way to Machu Picchu.
Apus Peru’s unique Salkantay trek route offers a greater chance for solitude on this busy trail, before connecting with Aguas Calientes and a visit to the un-missable Machu Picchu. Plus: check out the option to take a detour on Day 2, unique to Apus Peru!
See What To Bring for our comprehensive recommendations on what to pack for your trek. Note: the temperature varies widely on this trek. Be prepared for all types of weather, and be able to both bundle up and de-layer! For more great suggestions, check out our blog about How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
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!
From Tarawasi, we continue on to the town of Mollepata. We will stop for a rest here, and you stretch your legs, pick up some snacks or even have breakfast if you missed it in your hotel. After our break in Mollepata, we drive for about another hour until we reach Soraypampa, the trailhead for the Salkantay trek, and where we will meet our muleteers.
While our personal chef stays behind to prepare lunch, we, accompanied by our muleteers, will walk to Humantay Lake (4230m / 13,878 ft). We hike for about an hour and a half until we reach Lake Humantay, a stunning turquoise glacial lake (and considered one of the top instagrammable spots in Peru!)
When we finish our delicious lunch, it’s time to start hiking the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu! We begin climbing in the direction of Salkantaypampa, where we will camp for the night. Get ready for more spectacular views as we set up our tents at the foot of Cusco’s second-highest mountain, the impressive snowy Apu Salkantay (6270m / 20,571 ft).
Note: This is a high altitude campsite and you must be well acclimatized to avoid altitude sickness. We recommend a minimum of 2 days of acclimatization at altitude before doing this trek. For more information, see our page on Altitude Acclimatization.
Walking Distance: 10 km (6.2 mi)
Total Walking Time: 6h
Minimum Altitude: 3930m (12,894 ft) / Maximum Altitude: 4230m (13,878 ft)
Altitude of Campsite: 4200m / 13,778 ft
Approx. night temperature: 2˚C
It’s a full day of hiking on the Salkantay trek, starting with a 2.5-3h switchback up the mountain! We arrive at a glacial moraine with a small lake and a chance to spot vizcachas, the elusive Andean chinchilla that likes to jump and scurry among the rocks. After another stretch, we reach Salkantay pass, the highest point on our trip at 4600m (15,091 ft). Here we find ourselves between two important mountains, Salkantay (6240m / 20,472ft), the second highest mountain in the region, and Humantay (5850m / 19,192ft). You will also be able to see Pumasillo (5850m) opposite you, a mountain that, interestingly, can be seen from a different angle from Machu Picchu.
From Salkantay pass, we walk down for about 2.5-3h towards Huayracmachay and stop for lunch. After lunch, we leave the crowds behind and we continue walking until we enter a small valley where we can appreciate the contrast of sceneries and we will be able to see vegetation and notice the change of temperature. We will arrive in Colcapampa (3000m /9,842ft) with views of the Santa Teresa Valley below us, we reach our campsite, where we are likely to be the only ones spending the night.
For an special experience, strike off on a detour exclusive to Apus Peru, designed to get you off the beaten track. We will climb for about an hour to Unuyoc, our campsite for the night. This is not a wide trail and in the rainy season, it can be wet and slippery.
Total Walking Distance: 16km
Total Walking Time: 8h – 9h
Minimum Altitude: 3000m / 9,842ft / Maximum Altitude – 4600m /15,091ft
Altitude of camp: 3000m / 9,842ft
Approx. night temperature: 3°C
After a rejuvenating night’s sleep and a nourishing breakfast, we start today’s hike by descending for about an hour to the ceja de selva, literally, the “eyebrows of the jungle”, enjoying incredible lush landscapes as we go. Crossing the river Alto Salkantay, we will be able to spot an incredible variety of wildlife, from birds, insects, and butterflies to orchids and bromeliads. We continue our slow, easy descent for about 3h to La Playa (2100m / 6890 ). The landscape will change before our very eyes, with the high altiplano giving way to fruit trees, avocados, bananas and coffee plants.
From here, it’s a short 15 minute drive to Lucmabamba, or if you prefer, an hour’s walk. Tonight we camp at Lucmabamba (2050m / 6726 ft), a great campsite to get away from the crowds! Other popular campsites – like La Playa and Santa Teresa – are crowded and known for parties.
In Lucmabamba, we have a chance to learn all about the coffee-making process at the Cocla coffee cooperative. In the mid afternoon, we’ll visit the banana plantation for an overview of all the different kinds of bananas and their importance for the coffee plant. We’ll also get to see other fruit trees, like lime, grapefruit and avocado. If you’re lucky, you may even get to sample some fresh avocado, picked right from the tree!
After this, we immerse ourselves in the coffee production process, from collecting the coffee beans to shelling, drying, toasting and grinding them, in a hands-on coffee-making experience. Later we’ll enjoy the fruits of our own labor and enjoy some freshly-brewed coffee!
Note: If you want to spend Day 4 relaxing in the Cocalmayu hot springs or zipping down the zipline at Cola de Mono, we will camp at one of the other campsites instead of Lucmabamba, which are closer to these attractions.
Total Walking Distance – 11km
Total Walking Time – 4h
Minimum Altitude – 2050m / 6726 ft/ Maximum Altitude – 3000m / 9,842ft
Altitude of camp – 2050m / 6726 ft
Approx. night temperature – 10°C
The Llactapata ruins were originally discovered by Hiram Bingham at the same time that he re-discovered Machu Picchu. Modern-day explorers Vincent Lee and Gary Ziegler recently established that these Inca ruins are much bigger and more important than previously thought.
From Llactapata we have our first view of Machu Picchu, nestled in the saddle of the mountain opposite us. It’s a breathtaking view and an odd sensation to see such an important Inca site from a remote mountain top. It reinforces your awe and wonder for the complexity of Inca civilization, and just how interconnected the entire area was.
We will either have lunch here or down below at Hidroelectrica. After taking in the views, we will descend very steeply on a muddy track for 2 hours to the impressive Machu Picchu Hydroelectric Station where we will also visit another Inca ruin. After this, we will walk for another 2.5 hours along the train tracks to arrive at the village of Aguas Calientes.
Once we arrive, a soak in the thermal baths in Aguas Calientes is often the perfect respite for aching muscles! Afterward, enjoy a celebratory dinner with your group before turning in at your standard Aguas Calientes hotel. You can also upgrade your Aguas Calientes hotel for more comfort.
Walking Distance: 11 km (6.8 mi)
Total Walking Time: 5 h (7.5h if you walk to Aguas Calientes)
Minimum Altitude: 2040m (6693 ft) / Maximum Altitude: 2800m (9186 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. 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 trek was difficult because we were travelling with young kids but our guide was great with them! We were especially pleased to use Apus Peru for it´s commitment with sustainability.
The whole trip was incredible, the route was absolutely beautiful and the highlights were the tour of Machupicchu, hiking to Santa Teresa and visiting the hot springs!
Our guide had a great sense of humor and was very knowledgeable about the trail and history.
The trek exceeded my expectations. It was an amazing route, from alpine to jungle terrains, snow-capped mountain to beautiful rivers and valley. What made this trip even more amazing was Apus Peru´s team. The guide was someone we could count on and feel very comfortable and safe; the cook was great; the horsemen and assistant horsemen were very professional and helpful.
An exceptional trip-great value for an eco-friendly trip.
The route is really beautiful and picturesque. Difficult in moments, but it´s worth it! It´s one of the best experiences of my life!!!