Known as the most encompassing and adventure-filled mountain route, this alternative to the traditional Inca trail is considered one of the 25 best treks by National Geographic. It has biodiversity and majestic mountain landscapes that make it one of the most beautiful and sacred regions of the area. In the era of the Incas, this trail was considered one of pilgrimage and worship, and even the Andean cultures of today persist in their worship for the mountain Salkantay (6,271 m), or “Wild Mountain” as it is known in the Quechua language. This trek will involve hiking through sweeping, magical landscapes, shadowed by snowy mountains until reaching a tropical forest. You will interact with communities living in remote villages, who still seem unaffected by the transformation of modern times. You will travel through the Cordillera Vilcabamba: an impressive mountain range covering a mass of 260km. All the while the great Salkantay will loom over you. It has a beautiful snowy peak that will guide you through the valley. You will visit secluded turquoise lakes; hike impressive mountain faces; travel through the jungle to appreciate exotic flora and fauna as well as relaxing in natural hot springs. Sleeping under the stars never seemed so appealing! In order to complete the Salcantay Trek, you need to have a reasonable level of fitness, but age shouldn’t be a barrier.
- Location: Northeast of Cusco.
- Type: Cultural, landscape, and adventure tour.
- Length: 5 days, 4 nights.
- Difficulty: Moderate/ difficult.
- Accommodation: Tents.
- Maximum altitude: 4,650 m.
- Minimum altitude: 1,700 m.
- Group size: 2-9 participants.
- Season: March to December recommended.
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You will begin your adventure with a 5:30am pick-up from your accommodation and head to the town of Mollepata in private transportation. After roughly a 2.5-hour drive, you be able to get out, have some breakfast, and make use of the restrooms if necessary. We then continue driving until we reach Challacancha and walk for around 2.5hours until Soraypampa (3,900 m). This is where we will set up camp for the first night. You will have lunch here and prepare for the hike up to Lake Humantay (4,200m). The ascent to the lake takes around 1.5 hours. Here your guide will explain about the local area and give a demonstration of the offering of the offering ceremonies that are still carried out to this day. The turquoise lake sits below the stunning peaks of Salkantay and Humantay Mountains. After a period of relaxtio you will return to your cosy camp for the first night. A total of 15km is covered during this first day.
You will be up bright and early by 5:30am with a nice cup of coca tea and breakfast at 6:00am. The first leg of the day’s hike is a 3hour ascent to Salkantay Pass (the highest point of altitude of our trip- 4,650m). This gorgeous day, which includes a breathtaking view of Apu Salkantay, the second highest mountain in the region of Cusco, and an additional informative presentation by our guide on the rituals and offerings carried in this region during the Incan Empire. After this unique encounter with the spirit of Salkantay, you will descend to Huayraqmachay, where you will have lunch. Following a rest, you then continue the descent, enjoying flora, wildlife, and striking landscapes along the way, until finally reaching the second campsite, Chaullay (2,900 m). Here you will have dinner and set up camp for the second night.
Following breakfast, you will begin you hike at 6:00am to the town of La Playa that is accessed through the Santa Teresa Valley. You will walk for a total of 6hours while enjoying a lush and tropical landscape. This hike will offer the opportunity to see waterfalls, small rivers, tropical plants, as well as coffee, avocado and fruit plantations. Local homes will give demonstrations on how the cocoa bean is harvested. You can try everything along the way. At Colpapampa you will see majestic birds, waterfalls and hot springs. After arriving at La Playa, you will enjoy a large lunch before a your short hike to the campsite names Lucmabamba (2,400m). There will be some time to explore the tropical forest some more and visit an organic coffee farm. For coffee lovers there is the opportunity to taste different varities and purchase packets. Coffee is the main export of this region and many of the small local plantations supply to companies all over the world.
Following another early rise, you will enjoy your final prepared breakfast before setting off on the day’s excursion. The morning hike involves a period of time trekking along the famous Inca Trail. A steep 2hour climb will end with spectacular views of the Santa Teresa Valley. Your guide will explain about the purpose of the part of this trail, and its significance for information connection during the Incan Rule. A short walk will find you at Llactapata Inca Site- here you will have your first glimpse of Machu Picchu and it surrounding mountains. Llactapata will be the first archaeological site you will see linking the Lost City of the Incas. You will explore this site with your guide and the significance of the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains will be explained. Of course, you will have plenty of time to take as many photos as possible to document this glorious day.
Following the Llactapata ruins, you will continue the trek with a 2hour downhill walk. On this part of the trail, you can see view Machu Picchu Mountain all the way to Hidroelectrica train station. This is where you will have lunch. Following lunch, you will walk until Intiwatana, a famous ancient rock used as a sundial in the Incan era. According to history, Intiwatana worked together with the famous sundial stone in the Machu Picchu site. The people used these two stones to measure and read the winter solstice, which was the beginning of the new farming season for the Incas. Next stop is the functioning train tracks that lead to Aguas Calinetes. The walk along the train tracks is flat and easy, and normally takes around 3hours. This is known to be the same path used by Hiram Bingham.
*Note- for an extra cost there is an option to take a train from Hidroelectric if you are tired.
The journey for the most important day of the trip will begin at 4:00am. In order to reach the gates of Machu Picchu for a once in a lifetime sunrise, it is essential to leave as early as possible. The climb towards the iconic citadel of Machu Picchu costists of a 20-minute walk on flat ground followed by an hour-long ascent by stairs built into the jungle. After reveling in the magic of the sunrise (with plenty of time to take pictures) your three-hour guided tour of the Machu Picchu will begin. Your guide will provide extensive history and explanations on the most important structures of the citadel. For example, you will visit The Temple of the Sun, The Temple of the Three Windows and the Sun Gate. This is followed by a period of free time to explore on your own and engage with the mystery that shrouds these ancient ruins. There is also an option to climb to Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountains- with some of the most incredible views in the Peru (as stated by National Geographic). These hikes are not included in the trip and tickets need to be purchased in advanced. Once it is time to return home, you will take the train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. You will then be taken in private transport back to Cusco.
- Briefing: Informational session the night before departure.
- Hotel Pick-up.
- Transport from Cusco – Challacancha.
- Professional guide- fluent in English.
- Assistant guide (if more than 10 passengers).
- Meals: Four (4) lunches, Four (4) dinners, Four (4) breakfasts.
- Cook and assistant.
- Camping gear (tent, kitchen and dining amenities, chairs and tables).
- Two-person tent and a mat or mattress per person.
- Three (3) nights of camping.
- Mules and mule driver (to carry camping gear cooking equipment).
- Cargo mules (max capacity 6 kilos per person).
- One (1) night’s accommodation in Aguas Calientes.
- Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and National Park.
- Train ticket from Aguas calientes to Ollantaytambo.
- Return transport from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
- First-aid kit.
- Day 1 breakfast in Mollepata.
- Day 4: lunch in Aguas Calientes.
- Extra horse to ride or carry backpacks.
- Sleeping bag (available for rent in our offices).
- Drinks and snacks.
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WE RECOMMEND TO BRING:
- Original passport.
- Sleeping bag.
- Warm jacket.
- Five days worth of clothing- T-shirts, pants, shorts.
- Sturdy walking shoes.
- Walking stick (if needed).
- Insect repellent.
- Warm hat gloves.
- Bathing suit, towel, sandals.
- Sun block and sunglasses.
- Rain jacket.
- Spare cash (preferably in soles).
- Standard Backpack.
- Camera and extra batteries.
- Toilet paper.
DOCUMENTS TO CARRY WITH YOU
- Original Passports.
- Immigration card.
- Original International Student Identity Card (in case you have applied for a student discount).