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Salkantay to Machu Picchu: 5 Days
The magnifient peak of Salkantay, the highest in the Vilcabamba range, lies directly south of Machu Picchu, which is situated at the end of a ridge extending down from the mountain. Salkantay has a prominent peak, with steep vertical sides rising from the valleys to the north, which contain tributaries of the Amazon River. This trek offers a less traveled route to the ancient Inca citadel. It combines that must-see destination with a slightly longer trek taking you along a higher elevation approach. The 12th highest mountain in Peru (6,271 m / 20,574 ft) Salkantay was considered by the Incas to be a major deity influencing fertility and weather in the region. Its name is derived from the Quechua word meaning wild, uncivilized, savage or invincible.
Day 1: Cusco - Mollepata - Challacancha - Soraypampa
With so much to see and do, it's an early start: we pick you up from your Cusco hotel at 5:00am and travel by bus to the largely indigenous hamlet of Mollepata (2,800 m / 9,116 ft) where we stop for breakfast. This is a scenic drive through the Limatambo valley, with views of the Apurimac River.
We continue driving for 1 hour more to Challacancha which is the starting point of our trek, and where we will meet the muleteers and mules who will accompany us. After about 4 hours of hiking it's time for lunch. Then we will continue to our first night's camp at Soraypampa (3,825 m / 12,371 ft) where we'll have a hearty, delicious meal prepared by our camp cook -- well deserved after a long day's journey.
Day 2: Soraypampa - Wayracpampa - Colpani
We continue to climb from the campsite, to our first high pass at 4,650 m / 15,091 ft. Depending on your acclimatization to altitude, we will proceed slowing and take breaks as needed. You will see the snowcapped Salkantay mountain, with the neighbouring peaks of Huamantay on the right and Tucarhuay on the left. You can also see the Salkantay glacier, and possibly glimpses of distant avalanches crashing down. We continue thorugh this vast and spectacular Peruvian territory. We follow a gradual descent through cloud forest, where vegetation and wildlife will be more abundant. We have dinner and camp for the night at Colpani (2,900 m / 9,514 ft).
Day 3: Colpani - La Playa - Santa Teresa
After a substantial breakfast, as always offered on the trail, we will begin our walk at 6:30 am. It takes us through the high jungle and across the Lluskamayo River and a several other streams. We will pass through valleys rich with the exotic flora and fauna characteristic of the region, plus amazing views of waterfalls.
We hike as far as the village of La Playa - Sahuayaco (2,250 m / 7,381 ft) where we stop for lunch. After this we take a little bus for about 1 hour to the town of Santa Teresa (1,900 m / 6,233 feet). We will have dinner and camp here, and later can relax into thermal baths of Cocalmayo.
Day 4: Santa Teresa - La Hidroeléctrica - Aguas Calientes
After breakfast we will begin our trek again, through the Santa Teresa valley to La Hidroeléctrica, where we will enjoy lunch. Later we continue hiking and are rewarded with a majestic view of Machu Picchu and the principal sacred mountains of the Incas, Huayna Picchu, Putucusi and Salkantay.
After about 6 hours of walking, we arrive at the friendly tourist town of Aguas Calientes (1,900 m / 6,233 ft), where we will have dinner and pass the night in a hotel.
Day 5: Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu - Ollantaytambo - Cusco
Just as we started this tour with a very early day so too will we end it: we need to awaken at around 4:00 am to start our walk to the Machu Picchu citadel. Once we enter the site you will have a guided tour for about 2 hours.
After that you will have free time to explore the vast ruins. You can hike out to the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), which is about a 2-hour return trip, or climb Huayna Picchu (which has limited access and must be booked in advance).
In the afternoon we return to Aguas Calientes for lunch and to take the train to Ollantaytambo and then a bus to Cusco.
- All transfers to and from hotel
- All bus and train travel indicated
- Muleteers, mules and camping equipment along the trek
- All meals as noted above
- One night hotel accomodation in Aguas Calientes
- Entrance fee to Machu Picchu
- Professional guide (fluent in English, Spanish, German and Quechua)
- First aid kit and oxygen bottle
- Last lunch in Aguas Calientes
- Sleeping bag
- Discretionary spending, tips
For tips on what to bring, check our Travel Tips page.