The Salkantay Trail: Explore The Best Of Andes Out In The Wild!


Peru is a paradise for anyone with a thirst for adventure. Lying at the heart of the Andes and once the mighty Inca Empire, this country hosts some of the world’s best treks. The Classic Inca Trail which serves as a direct route to the stupendous ruins of Machu Picchu is the most renowned trek in Peru, however, it isn’t the only worth expediting one. Booking its place on some of the most acclaimed lists of the world’s best, most thrilling trails and making the best alternative to the Classic Inca Trail is the Salkantay Trail in the Cusco region. If you are a tourist who takes pleasure in challenging himself, feasting his eyes on some scenic beauty and plunge in rich history on a single trip, a trek along the Classic Salkantay Trail is your heaven!

salcantay trail

The Best Alternative To The Classic Inca Trail

 The Salkantay Trail, also known as Salcantay, stretches across the Sacred Valley in the Cusco region and is classified as the best alternative to the infamous Classic Inca Trail for a number of reasons. While the Salkantay Trek doesn’t conclude at Machu Picchu itself, however, the Citadel can be reached via a bike and a short hike from this trail’s final destination. This trail passes through fewer archaeological sites as compared to the Classic Inca Trail.

The Salkantay Trail requires no permit and it is less crowded as well. It is busier when compared with the Ausangate or the Choquequirao treks but it is quite enough. It is a high-altitude trek with some very challengingly steep ascents.

Willkapampa range

The Classic Salkantay Trail is a five-day hike in the middle of the Sacred Valley, around imposing snow-capped mountains and miles away from the modern settlements. It is everything that the Classic Inca Trail is about and rather differently.

A Stunningly Savage Trek

Salkantay Trail encircles the most magnificent of the alpine peaks of the Willkapampa range in the Cusco regions, the Nevada Salkantay. It borrows its name from the mountain itself finding its etymology in the native Quechua language. Salkantay means the wild or the savage and the mountain, as well as, the trail stand true to the meaning of their names. The Salkantay Trek takes you from the lowland lush green forests and leads you through high-altitude curvy passes with majestic views of the Sacred Valley and along some of the most exquisite lakes and astonishing glaciers that you may have ever seen. The Humantay and Salkantay lakes have incredibly clear waters which add captivating radiance to their views. As you hike along the Salkantay Trail, you would see pretty hummingbirds and various other species of the indigenous Andean wildlife.

peru mountain

To top up your experience in the wild, you can savor some local cuisine at any of the Quechuan villages that you may find along the trail. The average elevation along this trail is 3000 meters above the sea level. The highest point sits at 4580 meters above sea level. The ascents are steep and demanding but the views these passes offer, are worth the dare! The ruins of Llactapata which are located 3.1 miles to the west of the magnificent Machu Picchu are a sight to behold. These ruins reflect the architectural knowledge and engineering skills of the Inca civilization. The Salkantay Trail is a stunningly savage trek given its unmatched beauty and arduous challenges.

salkantay trek

How to Trek the Salkantay Trail?

The Salkantay Trail heads out from the town of Mollepata which is 100 kilometers away from the main city of Cusco. We can cover this distance through a private taxi or a bus. It doesn’t require any permits and doesn’t get as many travelers as does the Classic Inca Trail. This trek is, however, an elevated one and more challenging than the latter. While the trail largely consists of stone pathways, the ascents and descents are very steep and can be very challenging. It is highly recommended to wear light but proper footwear which supports the ankles.

Hiking poles are advisable given the steepness of the inclines as well as narrowness of some passes. You won’t come across any villages for almost two days so it is advised not to rely on their kitchenettes and other facilities. Make sure you have ample food supplies and all the camping requisites. Water bodies around this area are densely occupied by the local fauna. Tt is highly recommended to use water purification tablets for drinking water obtained from these sources.

Peru - Way to Machu Picchu - Inca Trail (Camino Inca) - Day 1

Microclimatic variations pose a challenge of another kind. You must not burden your shoulders and ensure maximum balance and mobility. Don’t go venturing out on the Salkantay Trek without warm clothes. The final destination shall be a five-day hike away from Mollepata, namely the site of Aguas Calientes. From Aguas Calientes we can hike towards the renowned ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek is an alpine trail around a beautiful mountain. It contains some spectacular views but a very difficult terrain as well. 

When to Trek the Salkantay Trail?

The Classic Salkantay Trail lies in the Cusco region. Cusco region enjoys its dry season between the months of April and October. We advise you to avoid rainy season for trekking which starts in November and ends in March. It is a difficult terrain with diverse landscapes. Mudslides can wet stones along the steep ascents can be precarious in the rainy season. The driest months of the year are July and August which make the peak tourism season in Peru. However, the Salkantay Trek is less crowded as compared to the Inca Trail. It makes it quieter even during the peak season. 

sacred valley

Take A Guided Tour For A Better Experience!

The Salkantay Trail can be trekked independently, however, you should save yourself the toil while you can. The reasons are many and vital. The Salkantay Trek is at high-altitude and is fairly long. If you take a guided tour, you won’t need to worry about carrying the logistics through the dangerously steep passes. Since the native population speaks only Quechua, having a local guide by your side can make help more easily available. You need not worry about navigation through the forests or the alpine passes either. The guides can take care of all the problems while you can explore the beauty of Peru.

cusco region

Camina Los Andes offers a five-day trekking tour of the Salkantay Trail led by our experienced local guides. We will assist you in planning out the whole trip in advance and take care of everything, from accommodations in Cusco to entry in Machu Picchu.  For information and bookings, reach out now!