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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! For more of a challenge, check out our 4 day Salkantay Trail Challenge!
This Salkantay trekking route really has it all! From impressive mountain vistas, to tropical vegetation and varied wildlife, to fascinating Inca ruins. Read more about Salkantay as a trekking option in Peru, and all the Salkantay trekking routes that we offer.
Equipment Available for Rent
At the highest point on day 2 you will need thermals, a winter hat (toque or beanie), mitts and scarves. During the night, temperatures drop below freezing and you will need very warm clothes. By Day 3, however, you are already starting to walk down into the high jungle and temperatures warm up. On Day 4 of your Salkantay trekking itinerary, you might just be in a t-shirt and shorts!
Our preference is for convertible pants made from a quick-dry fabric. Most of these hiking pants have special designs allowing 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. The many pockets on this style of pant can make you look a little more like an adventurer than a tourist, but can be very useful on the trail. Personally, we wear thermals underneath our hiking pants to give them the necessary warmth during the colder parts of the trek.
Water-resistant trekking boots with a high top are the best hiking boots for your Salkantay trek. However, we understand that if you are not an enthusiastic trekker you don’t want to invest in specialist hiking boots. At a minimum, solid sports shoes or cross-trainers will suffice, or possibly investing in hiking shoes.
Hiking shoes are durable, trekking shoes that are generally water-resistant. They don’t have ankle support though. What is the difference between hiking shoes and hiking boots? Hiking boots are tough footwear that last a long time due to their strong construction. They have ankle support and often are very waterproof.
There are a lot of biting insects on the Salkantay trek and so good insect repellent is also necessary!
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. We will not operate many treks in the wet season under any circumstances due the safety considerations.
Today, you begin your Salkantay tour bright and early! After picking you up from your hotel in Cusco in our private vehicle, we head towards Tarawasi. Located about 1h30 from Cusco, Tarawasi is an important but often overlooked Inca archaeological site. It is well worth the visit, though, so we stop here for a chance to marvel at the beautiful stonework of this important Incan ceremonial center.
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 (3930m / 12,894 ft), the trailhead for the Salkantay trek, and where we will meet our muleteers.
While our personal chef chef starts preparing a delicious gourmet meal for lunch, we will take a detour from the normal Salkantay trail and head towards the stunning Humantay Lake (4230m / 13,878 ft). Lake Humantay is a beautiful, crystal blue glacial lake, surrounded by incredible mountain vistas.
The hike to Humantay Lake from Soraypampa is about 3 hours, round trip. We start by hiking upwards for about an hour and 45 min until we reach the lake (considered one of the top instagrammable spots in Peru!). The panorama that unfolds before our eyes is stunning and certainly is one of the highlights of the first day of our Salkantay trek itinerary. After feasting our eyes and taking those Insta-worthy photos, we head back down a little over an hour to Soraypampa where we will have lunch.
When we finish our delicious lunch, it’s time to start the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu! We begin climbing in the direction of Salkantaypampa (4200m / 13,780 ft), 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.
It’s a full day of hiking on day 2 of 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 Mountain (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 (3920m / 12,861 ft) 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 Collpapampa (2870m /9,416 ft) 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 a special experience, strike off on a detour from the standard Salkantay tour which is exclusive to Apus Peru and 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.
After a rejuvenating night’s sleep and a nourishing breakfast, we start day 3 of our Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. The first leg is a 20 min walk along a road before meeting up with the trail. From there we continue along the trail, 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 along a dusty road (5km). Tonight we camp at Lucmabamba (2040m / 6693 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 of your Salkantay trek 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.
Day 4 of your Salkantay trek in Peru starts off with an early morning wake up call! This morning we climb for about three hours through the jungle before descending to the interesting but largely covered ruins of Llactapacta. Llactapata (2720m / 8924 ft) is a very interesting and not-to-be-missed introduction to Machu Picchu!
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 (1840m / 6037 ft) 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.
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.
You may want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain to cap off your Machu Picchu experience, but remember that permits are limited and must be reserved at the time of booking! There is an additional cost to hike either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain not included in the Salkantay trek price.
For more tips on what to see at Machu Picchu, 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.
Days 3 and 4 of your Salkantay trekking itinerary are much easier, though you still need to hike substantial distances.
Remember all treks in the Cusco region are challenging for most people due to the high altitude and steep mountains.
For more details about trek difficulty, check out our blog about how hard the Salkantay 5 day trek is.
We can only advise in general terms: the fitter you are, the easier and more enjoyable the trek is going to be! And of course, you want to have fun while on holiday.
See our Tip #3 for how to get ready for your trek.
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 route is not recommended for safety reasons, as the trail can be slippery and muddy. It is also possible for the 4600m Salkantay Pass to be snowed under during the rainy season.
At Apus Peru, we personally like trekking Salkantay in the shoulder seasons: April, September and October are excellent months to plan your trip. There might be a little rain but in general things won’t be as busy.
Read more about the best time to hike and take note of our wet season trekking policy.
On the trail, you are treated to first-class service from the Apus Peru 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 sound protection on your side!
Go luxe! You can also choose our Comfort Camping option for a full-on luxury camping experience.
You will also be accompanied by a personal chef who prepares first-class gourmet meals on the trail. Our chefs receive annual training in order to offer you delicious culinary creations on the trail! This is not basic trail food, but fully catered for trekking.
We have many vegetarian travellers and our cooks have a variety of great options for them to enjoy their meals. We can cater for 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 can sell out in advance, so you are best to tell us at the time of booking that you would like to hike Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain. 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!
Read more about Visiting Machu Picchu.
You can also customize your Salkantay trekking experience by adding on one or more of our Cusco day tours, or opting for one of our upgrade packages which include not only an upgraded hotel but also a luxury train service and meals at the top restaurants in Aguas Calientes.
Or, customize your Salkantay tour to allow for 2 days of exploring at 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. You should start the day with 2L; 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 that we provide, by mules. All camping equipment needed on the trek is also carried by mules.
For more information about the difference between Salkantay and other routes like Lares or the Inca Trail, check out our Salkantay vs Lares page.
…or Take the Long Way
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.
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.