This trek is the shorter version of the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu and is optimal for travellers with less time in Cusco. The Salkantay Trek leads you through high mountain passes and semi-tropical cloud forests on your way to Machu Picchu. Ranked as one of the top treks in the world by National Geographic Travel Magazine, the Salkantay Trek is a fantastic alternative to the more crowded Inca Trail.
Day by Day
Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa
We will begin the trek by picking you up from your hotel early at around 4:30 to 5:00 a.m. and travelling by private bus to the small community of Mollepata (2,800m/9,186ft), where we will stop briefly for breakfast. After breakfast, we will continue by car to Soraypampa. This secluded valley is the start of the trek, where we will meet our arrieros (horsemen) and trekking crew in the shadow of the Salcantay glacier. From here, we will start a steep, ninety minute ascent to Humantay Lake, one of Peru´s most stunning natural wonders. Tucked between two sharp, snowy ridges, the lake shines a brilliant green and cerulean in the mountain sun. After time for plenty of photos and a dip in the chilly waters, we will descend back to Soraypampa, then begin a gentle one to two hour walk to our campsite at Salcantaypampa.
- Walking distance: Approximately 13 km/8.08 miles (6 hours)
- Campsite altitude: 4000 masl/13,123 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
- Weather: Sunny and breezy, but very cold at night!
Day 2: Salcantaypampa – Salkantay Pass – Challhuay
The second day will be the most challenging day of the trek. We will wake up very early for an energizing breakfast, then depart from Salcantaypampa and hike up to the Salkantay Pass, at an elevation of 4,600m/15,000ft. This will be the highest point of our trek. From here we will get a spectacular view of Salkantay, a stunning snow-capped mountain whose peak reaches 6,271 m/20,574 ft. The first part of the day we will hike for approximately three and half hours to reach the pass.
On the descent, we will approach a rocky area and then pass several streams until we reach Wayracmachay, where we will stop for lunch. We will continue to hike downhill until we reach our campsite at Challhuay. At this campsite, you will experience a semitropical climate because of the cloud forest.
- Walking distance: Approximately 22 km/13.67 miles (9 hours)
- Campsite altitude: 2800 masl/9,186 ft
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Weather: Cool and windy, especially at the top of the Salkantay Pass. Warm and humid beyond the pass.
Day 3: Challhuay – Santa Teresa – Hydroelectric Plant – Aguas Calientes
After breakfast at 5:30 a.m., we will start a six hour hike through the tropical jungle. We will cross the Lluskamayo River and a variety of small streams—waterproof shoes are a must! We will pass through gorgeous valleys and have wonderful views of waterfalls. Your guide will show you naturally growing tropical fruits and native plants and flowers. A car will meet you at Punta Carretera to bring you to Santa Teresa for lunch. After lunch, we will take a van for one hour to the Hydroelectric train station. From the station, we will continue our last two hours of hiking to Aguas Calientes, where we will spend the night.
Important Note: Sometimes, to guarantee a departure, we must combine groups of trekkers doing the five-day and four-day Salkantay treks. If this is the case, trekkers will be required to walk the last portion of the trek without their guide. This portion consists of merely two hours of perfectly straight, flat, one-way trail along the train tracks from Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes. It is extremely safe, extremely well-marked, and you will see plenty of other friendly hikers along the way! Once you arrive in the plaza in Aguas Calientes, a new guide or staff member will be waiting to greet you and bring you to your hotel or hostel.
After you´ve checked in, you will be briefed on the next day´s Machu Picchu tour and receive any further details, instructions, or entrance tickets you may need. We will then enjoy a celebratory dinner and you will have the luxury of comfortable beds and hot showers. You will also have the option of visiting the thermal springs in the evening (10 soles entrance fee).
- Walking distance: Approximately 16 km/9.94 miles (5 hours)
- Campsite altitude: 2200 masl/7,217 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate to easy
- Weather: Warm and humid
Day 4: Machu Picchu – Cusco
There are two ways to access Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes: 1) you can hike for one and a half hours up the famous stairs, or 2) you can take a bus. By waking up early, you will arrive at the ancient city just in time to witness the magnificent sunrise over the world-famous ruins. After arriving in Machu Picchu, you will have a guided tour for approximately two hours. After the tour, you will have free time for your own exploration of this mysterious city.
When you finish exploring Machu Picchu, you will meet your guide in Aguas Calientes for lunch, where he/she will give you your train ticket back to Cusco.
$USD per person
After we have received your booking form and confirmation your deposit was made, we will send you an electronic receipt confirming your trek has been officially booked and the exact departure date of your trek.
Returning train Included in the cost of this tour/trek is the Expedition train, which departs either at 6:20 pm or 7:00 and 8:20 pm DEPENDING ON AVAILABILITY.
Can I get an early train ticket?
We can also book an afternoon train that departs 2:55 p.m. or 4:22 p.m. at an extra cost of US $35 per person the train we will book DEPENDS ON AVAILABILITY.
Please, notice that 35 dollars extra you will pay also will cover your private transportation to bring you back from Ollantaytambo train station to your hotel in Cusco
There is also an option to upgrade your train to the Vistadome train which is the extra US $75 per person. Please let us know your preference at the time of booking the tour. Unfortunately, none of the trains go straight to Cusco—they run either to Ollantaytambo or Poroy. In either case, we will transfer you back by bus to Cusco.
Can I change my return train ticket by myself?
At the time of your tour, it may be possible to make changes to your return train ticket if you don’t want to take the 18:20 p.m train. You will have to take your train ticket personally to the train station in Aguas Calientes and ask them to change the return ticket for an early one. You will probably be asked to pay an extra administration fee, which will depend on the train service and departure time. Please notice that once you will change your returning train you will responsible to cover your own transportation back to Cusco
How long is the journey back to Cusco?
You will be traveling for approximately 3 hours before you arrive back in Cusco. First, you will travel for 1.5 hours by train to the Ollantaytambo train station. Then you will be picked up by your driver outside of the train station. The driver will be holding a sign with your name on it so that there will be no confusion. If you do not see the driver initially, wait for them outside of the train station. Once the driver has picked you up, you will travel for another 1.5 hours in a private van/car to your hotel/hostel in Cusco. Arrival time in Cusco will depend on train availability. You will receive your return train tickets once your guide has finished your walking tour of Machu Picchu.
- Student Discount $20
- Under 18 Discount $20
- Under 7 Discount $50
Important Notice Regarding Student Discount Eligibility
We offer a student discount (USD $20.00). However, due to several incidents of users falsifying personal data, the ISIC card is no longer valid for purchasing a discounted tour. As of July 1, 2017, the rules for purchasing student tickets to Machu Picchu have changed: discounts are only available with presentation of a student visa granted by the Peruvian embassy or consulate in the student´s country of origen and/or by the National Superintendent of Migrations. These documents must be provided at the time of purchase; discounts cannot be applied retroactively and refunds or reimbursements in this case are not available. Please send us a scan or photocopy of your passport, student visa, and university ID card or transcript so that we are able to secure your discount.
- Sleeping bags $20 per person
- Walking poles (sticks) $20 per pair of them
- Entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
- Hostel night in Aguas Calientes
- Weight allowances: 5 kl per person (to be carried by horses)
- Transportation: pickup from your hotel in the morning and private transportation to starting point of the trek
- English/Spanish speaker professional guide
- Personal sleeping pad /mastrass
- Personal tents: two people in each four-person capacity tent, to allow for higher comfort and safekeeping of backpacks
- Cook and cooking equipment
- Horses (to carry the tents, sleeping pads, cooking equipment, and 5 kilograms of the hikers´personal belongings)
- Two hour guided visit to Machu Picchu
- Expedition train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
- Transportation from Ollantaytambo train station to Cusco
- Meals as mentioned in the itinerary
- Vegetarian food available on request with no extra charge
- First aid equipment
- Sleeping bags
- Breakfast on the first morning
- Water along the way
- Train ticket from Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes
- Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu PicchchuPicchu
- Luggage transfer from Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes(10 soles)
- Lunch in Aguas Calientes on the final day
- Entrance to the thermal springs in Aguas Calientes (10 soles)
- Tips for the guide, cooks, and wranglers
- Drinks (coke, mineral water or beer) during the dinner in Aguas Calientes on the Day 3
- Tip for the guide, cook,and wranglers
- Breakfast on Day 4
WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING
- Original passpor
- Sleeping bags
- Hiking boots
- Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
- Warm jacket
- Hat and gloves
- 2-4 t-shirts
- 2 pairs pants (1 for hiking, 1 for camp)
- Long underwear for sleeping
- Hand sanitizer
- Comfortable trousers
- Sun hat or cap
- Insect repellent
- Water and/or water purification tablets
- We strongly recommend to bring your Camel Back and water canteen due to that government of Peru will not allow disposable plastic bottles anymore on the Inca trail and in Machu Picchu.
- Personal medication
- Camera and bateries
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Cash in Peruvian nuevo soles ( 300 soles approx)
At Inka Trail Backpacker, providing a personal experience and ensuring you are thoroughly prepared for your trek is very important to us. Before you depart on the Inca Trail trek, you will receive a briefing in our office. At the briefing, you will get to meet our staff, receive maps and a detailed description of each day of your tour, be given duffel bags if you have hired a porter, and have the opportunity to ask questions.
Do the tour guides speak English?
Our team of guides are all local to the Cusco area and speak both Spanish and English fluently. Many of them also speak Quechua (the native language of Peru). With degrees in tourism and with two years minimum of experience under their belts, they are full of energy, information about the native flora and fauna, and the Inca sites, with a vast knowledge of Andean stories and legends.
How many people are there per group?
The size of your group depends on the day’s activity. The maximum size of our Salkantay trek group service is 16 people. For groups of over 14 people, we also employ an assistant guide to help out (the assistant guide is a fully qualified guide but may lack some of the experience of the main guide or still need to improve his/her English skills.)
Renewal or change passport number?
If you plan to renew or change your name on your passport between making your trek booking and starting your trek, you can book your trek or tour with your current passport number or name, but you must send us a copy of your old passport and a copy of your new passport when you have them. We can then make the change with the government before you arrive. The extra cost to make the change is US$25 per person. (This will cover the change in number or name for your Inca Trail Permit, Machu Picchu Entrance, and train.)
If you do not advise us of the change or do not want to pay the fee, bring the original of both passports (the old and new one). You can enter Peru with your new passport but you must show the government authorities your old passport in order to enter the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu or train. If you cannot do so, you will not be allowed to start your trek by the government officials. All names and numbers must match!!
What about toilets?
Toilets have improved a lot in the last couple of years and all of the larger campsites have flushable toilets and running water. Overall, they are kept pretty clean. If you do need to use the toilet between campsites, then please defecate away from the trail and water supplies; you can dig a hole, or cover your feces with a rock, and take the paper with you in a bag to deposit in one of the several bins along the way.
Important: As a sustainable tourism operator that takes care of our porters we do NOT take portable toilets.
Tips for the Staff: Tips for porters, cooks and guides are always welcome. The porters are also very grateful for small gifts, such as clothing and school equipment for their children. A normal amount is S/60-80 for each porter and S/120 for the chef. The group will pool money for the tip, this is not an individual amount.
Refunds: If Inka Trail Backpacker fails to confirm the reservation, your payment will be refunded in full.
Health and Safety: A participant must declare if he/she has any sickness or medical disorder and must bring his/her own medication. We recommend that you meet with a doctor before you book the trek if you have questionable health.
Food on the Salkantay Trail: Always fresh and featuring organic ingredients, the food on the Inca Trail is always something to look forward to. There is always plenty to eat and lots of options including vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and other sources of protein and carbohydrates. On our tours, everyone sits down to eat together and enjoy each other’s company.
Can I have vegetarian, vegan, or special meals?
We offer standard meals as well as a vegetarian meal option. Just let us know if you want vegetarian meals when you book your trek.
Vegetarian meals have no red meat, chicken or fish. We will assume that eggs and dairy are OK. We are unable to cater specifically for vegans as it is too complicated for our cooks (remember they are cooking in a tent). Most of our main meals in the evening are served as a buffet service so you can always leave out what you don’t like. If there is a particular food that you don’t like (i.e. tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, etc) we will ask the cook to do his best to leave them out of the dish, but we cannot guarantee this. We can also cater to lactose-intolerant and gluten free diets (mild reactions only, no life threatening allergies accepted- see below). We reserve the right not to accept a trek booking based upon dietary requirements, this may be because we already have several people booked requiring special meals and don’t want to further inconvenience our cook. Thanks for your understanding.
Standard (no dietary requirements, will eat everything)
No red meat (chicken & fish ok)
No fish (red meat and chicken ok)
Lactose-free (mild reactions only)
Gluten free (mild reactions only)
Unfortunately, we don’t offer a combination of the above i.e we don’t accept vegetarian AND gluten-free.
Storage during your trek: You can leave any of your belongings that you do not want to bring on the trek at your hotel or hostel you were previously staying in. These hostels/hotels usually have a secure, locked room where you can store your belongings. If you do not trust your hostel, we would be more than happy to securely store your belongings for you.
When is the best time to start the Salkantay Trek?
June, July and August are the most popular months to start this trek. As a result, you will encounter much larger crowds during these months. As an alternative, you can also hike from December to March.
During the months of December to April, you can expect rain showers three to four afternoons a week. If you do not mind a little drizzle and muddy trails, hiking during the rainy season should not be a problem. During the rainy season, there are smaller crowds and greener hillsides. Frequently, you will see wildflowers and orchids in bloom.
When do I need to pay the balance for my tour??
We require everyone to be in Cusco at least two nights prior to starting the trek, although three nights is even better. You must pay your trek balance at least two days before the trek departure. For example, if your trek departs on a Monday you must come to our office before 7:30 pm on Saturday to pay the trek balance. This ensures that everyone in the group is well acclimatized to the high altitude before starting the trek.
How many days will I need to acclimate to the altitude before the Salkantay Trek?
It is very important to be well acclimated before exerting yourself on a trek. This is why we require everyone to be in Cusco for a minimum of two days prior to regular treks like the Inca Trail. However, if you are doing the Salkantay Trek, you will need at least four days to acclimate because this trek occurs at much higher altitudes than Cusco. You can use this time spent acclimatizing to visit the city of Cusco, nearby Inca ruins, and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Can I wear sneakers on my trek? Why do I need hiking boots?
No, sneakers are not recommended for the Salkantay Trail! The terrain is very steep, with loose gravel, puddles, mud, and other obstacles. You must have sturdy, waterproof footwear designed for this type of terrain, with good traction and ankle support. Be sure to break in your hiking boots before your trek! Wear them on several shorter walks or hikes before your trip, so that your feet can get used to them.
If you do not have hiking boots, or they are too bulky for your suitcase, you can rent them in Cusco for under one hundred soles.
What about altitude sickness on the Salkantay Trek?
To avoid altitude sickness on the trek, we recommend that you spend time in Cusco or in the Sacred Valley beforehand. If you have never been in high altitude, we recommend that you first spend a day in the Sacred Valley, because it is at a lower altitude than Cusco city.
Is the Salkantay trek difficult?
All of the treks are fairly difficult and you should be well prepared and healthy prior to starting the trek. You have to be moderately fit to complete this hike. To prepare, try walking 15km a day or start going to the gym a month before the trek. We will cover a lot of distance in the first two days of this trek.The good news is that everyone in the last few years who has started a trek has finished it! If you are really struggling, we have emergency horses that you can ride if you are not fit for the trek.
Do I need to make a Salkantay Trek reservation?
As of July 1st, 2017, tourists will be able to access Machu Picchu from either 06:00 to 12:00 or from 12:30 to 17:30. Given this limit, we highly recommend that you book your tour far in advance, especially if you are interested in going during the peak tourist season (May to September). Machu Picchu entrance tickets and train tickets are often sold out weeks in advance.
How warm are the sleeping bags that you rent?
Our sleeping bags are rated for temperatures as low as -10°C, but are more suitable for temperatures of about -5°C. Since you won’t find temperatures as low as this on the trek, we rate them as very warm and cozy! We charge US$20 per person for the whole trek.
Is there an oxygen bottle available during the trek, just in case?
Yes, all our tour guides take an oxygen bottle with them along the trail and will provide oxygen as needed.
How cold are the Salkantay Trek campsites?
All of our former trekkers agree that the coldest campsite along the trek is the first basecamp: during the nighttime, temperatures can drop below freezing! This is especially true during the months of June, July, and August. However, the second and third campsites are also fairly cold. Please keep these temperatures in mind when you pack for the trek.
Do we go to Machu Picchu for sunrise?
Your entrance time to Machu Picchu will depend on when you book your trek. As of July 1, 2017, there are two possible entry times to the site: 6:00 am to 12:00 pm, or 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Your ticket will grant you entry for either the morning or the afternoon—not both. The morning entry is significantly more popular and quickly sells out—unless you book your trek two to three months in advance, we cannot guarantee a morning entry.
If you book far enough in advance to secure a morning entry, you will start to hike up to Machu Picchu at 4:30am, arriving at the site by about 6:00 am—just in time for the sunrise!
Is Machu Picchu entrance ticket included in the price?
Yes, the Machu Picchu entrance is included in the tour package.
Are there any hidden costs in the trek?
No, as a company, we do not have any hidden costs which is why we list everything that is not included in our tour on our own website. However, we highly recommend that you take some extra money with you on the trek (about 300 soles, at least). Small bills in soles are recommended.
Is it possible to recharge batteries during the trek, and if yes, how often?
You can recharge batteries on the second day, but there will be a cost of 15 soles per battery.
Are breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the price every day?
Yes, all meals are included except the first breakfast on the first day, and lunch/dinner on the last day.
Is drinking water included in the price?
At meal times we will give you tea, coffee, etc to drink. During the trek, you may have to buy water directly from the local people, which is possible approximately every two hours and at each campsite. Remember that the price of the water will be much more expensive than in the city.
Bottled mineral water can also be taken from Cusco, bought at Mollepata (the start of the trek), at Soraypampa (first night), and at Chalhuay (second night).
You may also use local water sources. You’ll come across a mountain spring, fountain or small stream approximately every two hours along the trail where you can fill up your water bottle. Many people complete the trek without ever having to use water taken from streams , but sterilizing tablets are recommended for emergencies.
Are there toilets on the Salkantay trek? Do I have to pay to use them?
Many toilets have been built along the way, including at all of the campsites, and you may use them for a small fee (approximately one sole). This has helped a lot to improve sanitary conditions on the trail, although conditions are still not always perfect.
We recommend that you bring hand-sanitizer to use after visiting the public toilets.
How much stuff can we take, and is it carried by horses or by us?
For the Salkantay Trek, we give you a weight allowance of 5 kilos/10 pounds per person, to be carried by our horses.
This weight limit includes your sleeping bags. However, the horses will not walk at your side during the trek: you will still need a day pack to carry essential items such as water, snacks, your camera, a warm sweater and a rain jacket.
Our horses will only be able to join you for the first day and second day of the trek. The rest of the time, our porters will be responsible for all the heavy lifting.
If I am travelling alone, can I have my own tent?
If you are travelling alone and are willing to share a tent with a member of the same sex, then there is no additional cost. If, however, you would like your own tent, then there is an additional supplement of US$40.
Is transportation to and from the Cusco airport included?
No, transportation to and from the airport is not included in your tour. Please plan accordingly.
Is there a direct train to Cusco from Machu Picchu?
The train travels between the town of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes, a small town located fifteen minutes below the Machu Picchu complex. The journey from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes is an hour and forty minutes. (The return journey will be about three and a half hours, because the drive from Ollantaytambo station to Cusco is about an hour and forty minutes.) From Aguas Calientes, it is either a fifteen minute bus ride or hour hike up to Machu Picchu. There is no direct train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Although there is an additional station located at Poroy, about 25 minutes from Cusco, it is not always open. Train service from Ollantaytambo, meanwhile, is constant and reliable. Furthermore, taking the train from the Poroy station extends the total length of your journey between Cusco and Aguas Calientes to more than four hours, instead of three and a half.l.
What vaccines do I need for my trip? Will I need malaria pills?
Before traveling to Peru, you should consult your doctor. Routine vaccines, Hepatitis A, and typhoid vaccines are recommended for most travelers by the CDC. Some travelers may also need vaccines for Hepatitis B, rabies, and yellow fever. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should also be advised that the Zika virus is present in Peru.
Malaria pills are not necessary for these treks.
Do you recommend a rain poncho, or is a rain jacket okay?
The rainy season in Cusco is generally from November to April, when there are near-daily showers and the ground—especially in trekking areas—is wet and muddy. However, there are occasional showers throughout the rest of the year; you should always pack a rain jacket, regardless of when you plan to visit. For treks, a rain poncho is highly recommended—since you will be walking through rain for potentially several hours without shelter, a poncho will be much more effective at keeping all of your belongings and your base layers warm and dry. Waterproof shoes are also strongly recommended.
What if I get sick on the trail during my tour?
In the event of illness or injury, we will offer all of the support and care we are able; however, you should carry any medications you expect to need with you (ask your doctor for specific recommendations or prescriptions for altitude sickness, traveler´s diarrhea , colds and sore throats, and pain or inflammation). If you are not capable of completing the trek, we will transport you back to Cusco, where you can seek medical treatment. However, the cost of this transportation is not included in your tour and you will be expected to pay the additional expense—for this reason, we highly recommend travel insurance for your trek.
Will I have a private bathroom in the hostel?
Yes, in all of the hostels that we book for you, you will have a private room and bathroom.
Do I need walking poles?
Although not required, walking poles are recommended for any trekkers worried about joint stress or balance. They also are quite helpful in providing stability and leverage on especially steep climbs and descents. If you do not have poles or are unsure how to use them, we are able to rent them to you and provide instruction.
What documents do I need to bring to Machu Picchu?
As of July 1, 2017, you must have your original passport to enter Machu Picchu. You also need to have your entrance ticket, which your guide will give to you at the appropriate time. The passport that you bring to Machu Picchu must be the same one that you used to book your tour and entrance; if you change or renew your passport between booking and your trip, please be sure to bring the originals of both.