Salkantay Trek

Salkantay Trek

Distance(mile) Stages Elevation(ft) Best time Difficulty


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Most likely you have already heard of the Inca Trail. The Inca Trail is probably the most popular hiking route in Peru, and is marked the number one on many hiker’s bucket lists. The fact that the trail ends in the legendary lost city of Machu Picchu, most certainly has something to with that. The tourist flow on the Inca Trail has grown so big that you need a permit to start the hike. Every day, a maximum of 500 hikers is admitted on the Inca Trail. And that may seem like a lot, but every year adventurers are denied entrance to the Inca trail because the trails are overpopulated.

Photo by Felipe Ernesto

Do you also belong to this last group and have you just heard that you can not get a ticket for the Inca Trail anymore? Do not worry, because I have an alternative for you, which you do not need a permit for and which is perhaps even more beautiful than the famous Inca Trail itself: the Salkantay Trek. This alternative hike takes you over impressive mountain passes, past picturesque villages, and through mysterious forests. The Salkantay Trek ends in the village of Aguas Calientes, which lies at the foot of Machu Picchu. After a good night’s rest, you can put the icing on your delicious hiking cake on the last day of your adventure, with a visit to the ancient ruins of this Inca civilization.

Photo by Dos Manos Peru

The Salkantay Trek is named after the Salkantay Mountain, one of the highest mountains in Peru. The Salkantay Mountain in its turn got its name because of its reputation that it would be particularly difficult to climb. The word “sallkantay” is Quechua for “fierce” or “wild”.

Edited photo by Nicolas Rénac

On the Salkantay Trek you will not have to climb to the top of the Salkantay Mountain, but the Salkantay Pass however is on the program. It is a mountain pass of 15,000 feet (4,600m) above sea level. It is one of the reasons why the Salkantay Trek is tougher than the Inca Trail. Because at altitudes like this you have to take into account that you might suffer from altitude sickness. A good acclimatization to the altitude of about three days prior to the tour is therefore highly recommended. In addition, it is important to drink a lot of water, and ginger tea would have a beneficial effect as well.

Photo by McKay Savage

You can walk the tour on your own, or opt to be accompanied by experienced mountain guides. If you have little experience in multi-day treks, and especially if you are not sufficiently aware of the risks of altitude sickness, it is a good idea to start the journey under the safe wings of a local guide. In most cases, the same travel organizations where you can book a guide will offer the option to have your luggage transported with donkeys or horses.

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