The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru is an excellent trek through the Cordillera Vilcabamba to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. It offers adventurers the perfect journey to experience many of Peru’s diverse landscapes. You will get to experience so many different ecosystems from snowy mountains, colorful valleys, and waterfalls to the cloud forest. Read our 6 Practical Tips Salkantay rek.
Some people choose the Salkantay Trek when the famous 4-day Inca Trail in Peru is sold out, which used to happen (in pre-covid times) up to 6 months in advance. Actually, the Salkantay trek is the 2nd most popular trek to Machu Picchu behind the Inca Trail and should be booked in advance too.
The Salkantay trek is indeed one of the best alternatives. Deemed by the Inca as sacred, the Salkantay trek offers a more rugged and remote adventure with that offers impressive views and awe-inspiring, rampant beauty. The Salkantay trek was actually ranked as one of the top 25 treks in the world by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.
Are you worried about the Salkantay trek difficulty? Travelers in Peru say it is a bit more difficult than the classic Inca Trail but well worth the effort. The difficulty of the Salkantay trek is rated by experts at a level of difficulty of 3-4 on a scale that reaches up to 7.
Due to the high altittude and steep slopes, you will need a resonable level of fittness to complete this hike. The highet point of the trek is about 4,650 meters or 15,256 feet above sea level (depending on which Salkantay trek you choose.) The total Salkantay trek distance is approximately 74 Km (45.98 miles), which are traveled in 5 days during the route.
Your guide will give you the most important information during a special briefing a few days before the start of your trek through the highlands of the Andes, and they will also give you information about what you need to pack.
With the correct time for acclimatization and with these 6 Practical Tips for Surviving the Salkantay Trek in Peru, you will be just fine and enjoy the stunning landscapes. The key is to be prepared for your trek in Peru!
6 Practical Tips Salkantay Trek
1. Packing your backpack
Depending on the tour operator and the price you pay, you can give a duffle bag weighing approximately 5 to 7 kilograms to the horsemen to carry for the first three days. In your duffle bag, pack the essential items like your 4-6 pairs of underwear, base layers, 4-7 long and short sleeve trekking shirts, 2 pairs of hiking pants and 1 pair of shorts, general medications, toiletries, a headlamp, a trekking towel, extra comfortable, waterproof trekking shoes, sandals, etc. Use a day backpack that not only has shoulder straps, but also supports your lower back and hips.
In your day backpack (usually a 30 liter backpack is sufficient), bring the most important things, such as:
- Water bottle or hydration bladder (Never go out on the mountain to hike without a minimum of a liter and a half of water. When it comes to hydration, choose water or isotonic drinks (never carbonated soft drinks).
- A poncho / rain coat
- A warm jacket
- A fleece jacket
- Your camera/ phone
- A pocket knife
- Extra socks
- Sunscreen, lip balm
- UV protection sunglasses
- A hat for the sun and the cold
- Neck gaiter
- A rain cover for your backpack
- Your passport
- Cash in Peruvian Soles
- And other small light personal items
Bring a multi-functional rain jacket, as the weather can change very quickly. I recommend a jacket that protects against both the rain and cold temperatures.
2. Don’t rush – it’s not a competition
This is your vacation and your free time! Therefore, don’t rush and don’t forget to enjoy the amazing landscapes and peaceful time in the great Peruvian outdoors. The landscape is so beautiful and each day provides plenty of time for all hikers, even the slow ones! Approach the Salkantay trek as a fun activity, and then it becomes less of a challenge and more of a fun experience! Because of the small group sizes, it will always feel like you are traveling among friends and like-minded people with a shared passion for travel, adventure and discovery!
Are you worried about the altitude during the Salkantay Trek? Getting acclimatized is the trick. Read more about altitude sickness in Peru.
3. Use the layer system
Number one is comfort! If you are comfortable your hiking experience could go from ok to the best experience ever! Wear layers to stay warm and also save weight in your backpack. Thermo polos or shirts are recommended, as they can work to either cool you down or warm you up. We recommend these breathable and lightweight shirts from Hanes. Alternatively, shirts from Icebreaker or Columbia are good.
Do not bring cotton shirts as these absorb moisture. Clothes made out of cotton can become sweaty and really hot after hours of hiking, and they also take longer to dry. A mixture of short and long sleeve shirts are recommended.
The weather is very unpredictable, changes quickly, and varies by season. It is impossible to say exactly what kind of weather you will encounter on your trek, so that is why having layers is a must. However, in general, the first night will be quite cold. It can get down to about 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Towards the end of your trek, you will be in the Peruvian jungle. In these sections of the trek it could be as hot as 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time to do the Salkantay Trek is between May and October. It should be noted that the Salkantay trek is possible to do throughout the year, but the rainy season occurs from December to March, so this is not the best time to do the Salkantay Trek.
4. Be aware of the sand flies!
During your third day, you will arrive at the warmer, more tropical campsite of Santa Teresa. The hot springs are a popular destination for travelers and hikers who need to relax their muscles after many kilometers of hiking. Nonetheless, beware of the sandflies! The sandflies attack your skin in a swarm and bite you when you get out of the water! The best recommendation is to dry yourself quickly and get into your long pants and long sleeved shirt. A sandfly bites can be quite uncomfortable and itchy, so do your best to avoid being bitten!
5. Get yourself some walking sticks
Walking sticks are the secret to saving your knees in the long stretches of downhill hiking. Walking sticks can actually reduce stress on you knees and leg joints by up to 20%. You can either rent or buy them in Cusco before your trek. Black Diamond walking poles are excellent, so are Leki poles. You can also buy a wooden walking stick at the first campsite for just a few soles! I thought it was a great investment.
6. Walk in small groups
As every hiker has their own pace, it is sometimes difficult to find someone with the same hiking speed. Nevertheless, it is a better idea to stay together in a group to give you more motivation and some good company. But, make sure you keep a constant walking rhythm. It is a great feeling to arrive with your fellow trekkers at the campsite after a long day of trekking together to eat a delicious and filling meal!
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