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Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (SMAPI)

Salkantaytrek to Machu Picchu


A remote and ancient footpath in the same region as the Inca trail, with spectacular views of the snowcapped “Apu” Salkantay; this hike is a magnificent wilderness alternative for those who wish to escape the more congested trekking routes. This is also a great option if the traditional Inca Trail has no spaces available. The route crosses the Andes and then descends down to the high jungle.

We pass through an amazing progression of ecological zones, from sparsely vegetated alpine meadows flanking two spectacular 20,000' glaciated peaks, and down through subtropical forest. Our visit to Machu Picchu on Day Five is made all the more exhilarating having trekked across rugged terrain to arrive at the famous citadel of the Incas. 

Located northwest of Cusco, the snow-capped mountain of Salkantay is located at the eastern end of the Vilcabamba mountain range and it is its tallest peak at 6,271 meters above sea level. The name Salkantay means 'Savage Mountain' which may refer to the swirling clouds that rise up from the jungle lowlands and engulf its peak.

The Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek has become popular with trekkers wanting to combine a quieter, less trodden route with a visit to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. You will be surrounded with magnificent scenery and sometimes see other groups of trekkers. We trek over several high passes, and the trip includes high mountain scenery and subtropical forest views.
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The trek is more difficult than the Inca Trail, so horses can be used to carry food and equipment.


Machu Picchu
snowy mountain Salkantay Salkantay

Day One.

We will depart very early, around 5.00 am. We pick you up from your accommodation in Cusco and drive to Mollepata, where we will make a short stop for you to buy breakfast and any personal supplies for the trek.  We will then drive to Cruzpata where we will organize the horses (who will carry the supplies and backpacks).  From here we will start the hike - around 3 hours of walking and then a stop for lunch at Challabamba.  After lunch we walk around 4 hours more before the valley broadens and flattens out and the beautiful conical snow-capped peak of Nevado Salkantay comes into view.  Here at Salkantay Pampa (4000m) we will have dinner and camp our first night.

Day Two.

Nevado Humantay (5917 m) dominates this morning’s views.  Today is the hardest day as we will be climbing up to a pass close to Nevado Salkantay – the highest part of the trek.  A spectacular day! From here we will descend into the upper cloud forest where the climate changes towards semi-tropical and we stop for lunch. After a total of 7 hours of hiking we arrive at our second camp in Colcapampa (3,200m).

Day Three.

After an early breakfast we start our third day of hiking. We will walk for around 5 hours, descending 2,000m down through the changing vegetation to the warmer camp at the village of La Playa.  Much of the path follows a small river with waterfalls, and we may see parrots, hummingbirds, orchids, bamboo and much more in the tropical forest.  The Playa is the biggest village on the way, where we can find some small shops to buy snack etc.  In this area we can see small plantations of coffee and bananas.  On arrival to The Playa we have two options:

Option 1: spend the afternoon in the The Playa and camp there.  On the morning of Day Four, catch a public bus to Hidroelectrica.

Option 2: Take local transport to Santa Teresa, a beautiful village in the cloud forest, where we spend the afternoon and camp.  On the morning of Day Four we walk to Hidroelectrica on a recently discovered Inca trail.  This trail originally was used to transport agricultural products to the population on Machu Picchu and it takes us through an area with coffee plantations and subtropical fruits and crops.  We see for the first time the impressing Machu Picchu on a mountain saddle further into the valley.  We have lunch at Llactapata enjoying the views of Machu Picchu and the beautiful mountains before continuing to Hidroelectrica.

* You will decide which route you take this day with your guide as a group, either at the pre departure briefing or during the trek itself.

Day Four.

After arriving in Hidroelectrica (time of arrival depends on which above option chosen) we hike from Hydroelectrica to Aguas Calientes and spend the night there in a hostel.
It is also possible to take the train from Hidroelétrica to Aguas Calientes instead of hiking, but you will have to pay for the cost of the train (about $10).

Day Five.

We get up early, at 5.00 am, to take the first bus (at 5.30 am) to Machu Picchu. We will have a guided tour of about 2.5 hours. After that you can explore the site yourself, or climb up to Wayna Picchu (you will need about one hour to climb up). We need to be back in Aguas Calientes by around 2.30 pm to catch a train back to Cusco.

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Practical Information

Leaving: in highseason daily
Transport: bus & train
Length: 5 days/ 4 nights
Price 2017:

Bring With You

  • Personal things;
  • Warm and Light clothes;
  • Camera, films, battery´s;
  • Sun Block and Insect Repellent;
  • Hat;
  • Hiking Shoes;
  • Flash Light;
  • Sleeping Bag;
  • 01 liter of water;
  • Water Purifying tablets.


  • Professional bilingual guide (English – Spanish);
  • Cook;
  • Horses to carry your personal belongings, food, and camping equipment;
  • Pre-departure orientation meeting, (5.30pm 2 days before departure at the Dos Manos office);
  • Transport from your hotel in Cusco Cusco to Cruzpata;
  • Double occupancy tents (all new equipment!) with foam mattresses;
  • Camping Equipment: kitchen tent, dining tent, chairs, tables, toilet at all campsites;
  • All meals, snacks and coffee/tea breaks;
  • First aid kit + oxygen;
  • Radios for communication in case of emergencies;
  • 1 night in a hostel in Aguas Calientes (double rooms);
  • Return bus ticket Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes;
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu;
  • Train back to Cusco (standard Backpacker Service, if you would like to make a change to the service, or request a specific departure time, please let us know);
  • Transfer from the train station back to accommodation in Cusco.

Not Included

  • Sleeping Bag;
  • Busticket from Machu Picchu to trainstation;
  • Breakfast at Day 01;
  • Lunch and Dinner at Day 05;
  • Entrance fee to the Salkantay Trail S/.60 (around $22).

Additional Options

  • Extra night in Aguas Calientes;
  • Upgraded Hotel in Aguas Calientes on Day 04.
  • Carriers of an ISIC card receive a discount.
  • Upgrade your hotel in Aguas Calientes or pay single room supplement
  • Contact us for sleepin bag rental or horse rental (to carry your luggage during the trek)
  • Upgrade your return train (check the update Price, aproximately US$ 30)
  • Dos Manos offers special prices on fixed departure dates, check and get a great discount.


  • The Salkantay Trek in Peru to Machu Picchu is said to be ‘more difficult’ than the Inca trail.  If you ar worried, horses can be rented to carry food and equipment, contact us for more information.
  • On the other hand, the Salkantay is a well known alternative for the Inca Trail to Machu picchu not only for the hard core trekker.  And the efforts are worth it: the Salkantay is also said to be less touristy and the natural scenery and views are amazing.

You might also want to read:

Train Tours to Machu PicchuTrip Report Salkantay TrekInca Trail 4 days
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