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Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a route that takes us on the Salkantay snow-capped Mountain and Inca Trail. Since this trek combines the best 2 treks of Cusco, there is no trek that can be as great as this one. On this trek, you will observe a great part of the biodiversity, exotic flora and fauna that belongs to the highland and eyebrow of the jungle of Peru. It is worth to mention that both treks are well recognized and ranked as the best hikes worldwide.

You should know that each kilometer hiked in the Inca Trail & Salkantay can be not only physically, but also mentally challenging even for an expert traveler. This is because of the high altitude, the coldness of the Andean Mountain range and historic Inca Trail. However, we can say that the interaction with the locals and tourists will enrich the experience even more. Furthermore, arriving in a dream destination as it is Machu Picchu is the most amazing reward.

nevado salkantay

Credits: WaSZI

Location

Where is the Inka Trail & Salkantay Mountain?

The Inca Trail & Salkantay trek starting point is in Challacancha (3900m  / 12795 ft), located near the community of Soraypampa. This town belongs to the district of Mollepata, province of Anta, region of Cusco.

soraypampa salkantay

Credits: Darren Lin

Altitude

How high in the Inka Trail & Salkantay route?

The climate during the 7 days of the hike is varied. You will hike through different terrains that gradually go from lower to a higher altitude. The most fascinating thing is that during the hike, you will observe the great and beautiful variety of flora and fauna that each ecological zone harbors.

  • Minimum Elevation: 2050m / 6561 ft – Aguas Calientes town (last day)
  • Highest Elevation: 5200m / 17060 ft – Inca Chiriaska (third day)
salkantay trekking

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Climate

What is the climate like in the Inca Trail & Salkantay Hike?

The climate in Cusco is well known for its two distinct seasons along the year. However, during each season, you can notice the different microclimates that each place has. Microclimates are appreciated at different altitudes along the hike.

In simple words, the climate along the Inca Trail & Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu varies constantly. This is because we will hike from 2050m to 5200m. Being the first 3 days and then the fifth day when we will hike through the high Andean zone. The rest of the days, we will have warmer and humid weather, typical of the eyebrow of the jungle area. 

Rainy season:

It is from November to April. With average temperatures that vary from 0°C to reaching 19 °C (first 3 days). Then, it will get as high as 23°C and a minimum of 6°C, starting on the 4th day until the last day of the hike. Average annual precipitation is 160mm. During these months, it is cloudy due to the humidity that is 91%. Having sunny days is unpredictable. All of these factors contribute to slippery surfaces which make the trek more challenging, but not impossible.

Dry season:

It is from May to October. The first three days the temperature goes from -10 °C to 18 °C. Then, it has a minimum temperature that goes from -1°C to 22°C. Average annual precipitation is 60mm. During this season, you see a clear sky and the humidity is 70%. These factors contribute to a more enjoyable hike with no rain which makes you cover more kilometers in less time.

soraypampa salkantay inca trail

Credits: Vladimir Stepan

Attractions along the Route

Attractions along the Inca Trail & Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu

Along the Salkantay Inca Trail travel to Machu Picchu, we can appreciate the most authentic natural and cultural landscapes. We will find important Incan archeological enclosures surrounded by impressive snow capped mountains, fields, rivers and streams. Each one of them is located at different ecosystems of the Inca Trail & Salkantay.

  • Challacancha 3651m / 12690 ft:

It is a small town located in the district of Mollepata, province of Anta. Salkantay trek starts here, where you can observe beautiful wild flowers. The trek level on this route is moderate with an impressive view of the snow capped mountains.

  • Soraypampa 3900m / 12795 ft:

A small town with a few inhabitants who live in groups of families in small few houses. This is the key point to visit Humantay lagoon and Salkantay. It is usually a place where tourists can rest, buy snacks and find camping sites and lodging.

  • Salkantaypampa 4100m / 13451 ft:

The name comes from a Quechua word that means “Salkantay Plain”. It is an open rocky field situated in the foothills of the mountain. From the place you can appreciate the greatness of the mountains and the snow capped mountain of Salkantay.

  • Pampa Japonesa 4600m / 15091 ft:

Open field with abundant Pampa Japonesa plants. It is located very close to the snow capped mountain of Salkantay. From this place you only need to make an extra effort to hike a short distance to finally arrive in Salkantay.

  • Salkantay Mountain 6271m / 20574 ft:

Salkantay or traditionally known as ‘Apu Salkantay’. The name comes from the Quechua words that mean “Savage Mountain”. It is one of the most representative mountains of the Cusco region. This mountain has not only great historical value for the Incas, but also great natural value for the glaciers that you can see at the peak.

  • Inca Chiriaska 5200m / 17060 ft:

Natural Mountain pass. Its name comes from Quechua and means “Cold or frozen Inca”. It is located in the foothill of Salkantay snow capped mountain. From this point you can observe the valley and the snow capped mountain closely.

  • Inca Aqueduct 3800m / 12467 ft:

Also known as Inca Channel. It is an archeological site from where you can see an important aqueduct used to provide irrigation for the valley located in the inferior area of the snow capped mountain. This is where we will camp before heading to the historical Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

  • Paucarcancha 3200m / 10499 ft:

Inca Archeological Site near the Inca Trail access point. From this place, you can hike some parts of the Inca Trail. You can also observe some enclosure, a complex of terraces and 2 yards. It is practically situated in a valley surrounded by a humid subtropical forest with abundant plants such as bromeliads, orchids, ferns, moss, and begonias.

  • Wayllabamba 3000m / 9842ft:

Wayllabamba comes from a Quechua word that means ‘grassy plain’. It is here where you will camp on the fourth day. There is a village nearby where travelers can buy some basic things they will need for the hike. This small village is located at the confluence of the river Cusichaca and Llullucha stream (or Hatun Wayruro).

  • Ayapata 3300m / 10829ft:

This place shows a flat area which is usually used to rest. You can observe the great Andean Mountains and the beginning of the different microclimates and ecosystems.

  • Llulluchapampa 3800m / 12460 ft:

This point is a clear proof of the steep climb. It is called that because of the Llullucha stream that flows next to the Inca Trail. You can observe the change of the flora and fauna because of the different ecosystems that you will hike through. The birds chirping will accompany the tourists. This is the last place to buy some supplies for the rest of the Inca Trail hike.

  • 1st Warmiwañusca Pass 4200m / 13779ft:

This is the first mountain pass that tourists walk through on the Inca Trail and it is the highest point along the hike. Its name comes from two quechua words that means “Dead Woman”. It is a high Andean zone from which you can observe a magnificent and diverse landscape. Although the climb to the steep summit requires a great effort, it is worth it for the incredible view and feeling of achievement of the high altitude.

  • Pacaymayu 3580m / 11700ft:

It is here where you camp on the second day. Getting to this campsite is a great achievement because of the strenuous up and down mountains you will hike through. You can appreciate a more diverse ecosystem here since it is the beginning  of the jungle side with more vegetation and wildlife.

  • Runkuracay 3680m / 12073ft:

It is an Incan archeological site. Its name comes from quechua words that means “Abandoned or collapsed house”. The Archeological Site of Runkuracay is located in the mountain with the same name. This archeological site consists of semicircular construction, with a main square and other facilities that surround the construct such as niches, recesses, and trapezoidal doors.

  • 2nd Runkuracay Pass 4000m / 13779ft:

It is at a very short distance of the archeological center. This is the second Mountain pass that you will walk through. Although the climb to this point is not very steep, the high altitude is. From this point, you can observe the Sayacmarka viewpoint, Archeological site of Runkuracay and Cochapata lagoon.

  • Sayacmarka 3650m / 12000ft:

This archeological site is considered an Incan fortress and the name comes from Quechua words that means “Inaccessible town” due to its location. Its architecture made of stone is magnificent and is seen in all the area. You can find the temple of the Sun, food storage rooms, and a residential area. There is a complex ingenious irrigation system.

  • Chaquicocha 3600m / 11800ft:

Here you can find the Chaquicocha lagoon which means “Dry Lagoon” and it is here where you can rest. From this point, you can observe the change in the ecosystem that is the beginning of the tropical forest. Near the area, you can find an Incan tunnel that takes you to the other side to continue with the hike.

  • 3rd Phuyutupamarca Pass 3680m / 12073ft:

Third and last Mountain pass that you will hike through in the Inca Trail. The Archeological Site of Phuyupatamarca is located here. Phuyupatamarca comes from the Quechua words and means “The City Above the Clouds”. This is because it is surrounded by clouds. It has a great amount of enclosures and sophisticated retaining wall structure since it is located at the steepest side of the mountain.

  • Intipata 2800m / 9270ft:

This archeological site is a set of Inca platforms on a mountain slope keeping harmony with the surrounding. The terraces were used for agricultural purposes and built to prevent erosion of the Mountain.

  • Wiñay Huayna 2680m / 8792ft:

Magnificent archeological site that is on the mountain slope. Its name comes from Quechua words that means “Forever Young”. You can notice that this site was a small town for its constructions. There is a main yard surrounded by terraces that were used for agricultural purposes and also as retaining walls. This is just a magic and historical place.

  • Inti Punku 2730m / 8956ft:

Site used as the entrance door to Machu Picchu citadel during the Inca time. Its name comes from the Quechua words and means “Sun gate”. It consists of enclosures with windows and a main door. From this point, you can have the first and amazing view of Veronica snow capped mountain and Machu Picchu citadel.

  • Machu Picchu elevation 2400m / 7873ft:

The name of the impressive Machu Picchu Inca citadel comes from the Quechua words and means “Old Mountain” and it is the last destination of most hikes. It surprises the visitor with the greatness of its architecture and engineering. The architecture of its buildings is unique. You can observe: the religious enclosures, enclosures for the Inca and the urban area. The other area is for agriculture in which you can notice the terraces on the slopes of the mountain that also work as retaining walls. There is an irrigation system with aqueducts in the whole citadel.

  • Aguas Calientes 2050m / 6561 ft:

Town located at the Urubamba riverside. It is the main access to Machu Picchu citadel. Here you can the railway and the hot springs of Aguas Calientes. There is also a craft market. The weather is warm and humid since it is located in the Eyebrow of the Jungle.

Itinerary

7 Day/6 Night Salkantay Inca Trail trek Itinerary

Introduction

From all the amazing treks that take us to Machu Picchu, there is only one that offers the best views and landscapes, culture and history, microclimates at different altitudes. A trek that makes any effort worth it. It is a once in a lifetime experience. We are talking about the challenging and incredible 7-day Inca Trail & Salkantay trek.

Think about this, who could resist such natural beauty? We know that the Inca Trail & Salkantay is one of the oldest and most popular routes used by our ancestors, the Incas. We are sure that this part of the ‘Qhapaq Ñan’, will show you one of the best connections created to link the majestic Machu Picchu with the magical Empire city of Cusco.

mapa camino inca y salkantay

Day 1: Cusco - Challacancha - Soraypampa

On this first day, you will leave Cusco early in the morning at around 5:00 am. We start a 3-hour ride towards Mollepata town, an access point to the Salkantay valley. Along the way, you will experience microclimates at  different altitudes. Each one of them with a unique agricultural essence such as Limatambo, known for its delicious avocados. In Mollepata, we will have a quick breakfast and be able to buy our last supplies before heading to the community of Challacancha, where we start the hike.

After having lunch in Soraypampa, our next stop will be Humantay lagoon. Magical turquoise waters located at the foot of the enormous glacier of Humantay. Then we will return to the campsite in Soraypampa to spend the night there. If we are lucky enough, we will appreciate the spectacle of constellations and shooting stars.

Lodging: Soraypampa Campsite

Hiking Distance – 12 km / 7.45 miles

  • From Challacancha to Humantay Lagoon, it takes 4 hours.
  • From  Humantay Lagoon to Soraypampa (site for lunch and 1st campsite), it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Level Difficulty: Challenging

Day 2: Wayllabamba – Pacaymayu (11 km)

Today we will get up early and after breakfast, we will start the uphill hike. When we arrive in Salkantaypampa, we will have a delicious lunch. Getting closer and closer to the enormous ‘Apu Salkantay’ Mountain, located at an altitude of 6.271 m / 20.574 ft. Its name makes reference to the savage and indomitable nature that rules over the creative forces of the world. Tonight our campsite is located in Pampa Japonesa (4.600 m / 15.091 ft). It is the closest point to the glaciar. Then we will go downhill. Because of the high altitude and its close location to the glaciar, this will be a cold night. However, it will be a restoring night having proper camping equipment.

Lodging: Pampa Japonesa Campsite

Hiking Distance: 9km / 5.59 miles

  • From Soraypampa to Salkantaypampa (site for lunch), it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • From Salkantaypampa to Pampa Japonesa (2nd campsite), it takes 5 hours

Level Difficulty: Challenging

Day 3: Pampa Japonesa – Incachiriaska – Canal Inca

Day by day we are getting closer to the access point to the original Inca Trail. This is the day when we arrive in the historical area. Here we can observe the Andean Condor and its majestic flight. The highest altitude that we will hike through will test our resistance. We refer to the highest pass, Incachiriaska (5,338 m / 17,513 ft). Then we will go downhill some kilometers to arrive in Yanaccaca, where we will take a break and have lunch.

Finally, after hiking for 3 hours approximately, we will descend down into the valley and start a mild hike. When we arrive at the Inca Channel campsite, we will have dinner and sleep. The spectacular night views will amaze you.

Lodging:  Inca Channel Campsite

Hiking Distance: 12 km / 7.45 miles

  • From Pampa Japonesa to Yanaccaca (site for lunch), it takes 3 hours.
  • From Yanaccaca to Inca Aqueduct (3rd campsite), it takes 3 hours.

Level Difficulty: Challenging

Day 4: Inca Channel – Wayllabamba – Ayapata

Today we will start hiking on the famous Inca Trail. We will start visiting the archeological center of Paucarcancha. Then we will continue our journey and access the cloudy Andean forest, a lush vegetation area that has a variety of flora and fauna. The view of the impressive mountains and multiple waterfalls at each step will accompany the adventure as we experience the microclimates. When we arrive in Wayllabamba, we will have lunch. This is the traditional start point for the classic Inca Trail. Continuing the hike, we will arrive in the campsite in Ayapata (3,300 m / 10,942 ft).

Lodging: Ayapata Campsite

Hiking Distance: 14 km / 8.70 miles

  • From Acueducto Inca to Wayllabamba (site for lunch), it takes 4 hours and 45 minutes
  • From Wayllabamba to Ayapata (4th campsite), it takes 2 hours.

Level Difficulty: Challenging

Day 5: Ayapata – Warmiwañusqa – Chaquicocha

After a very nutritious breakfast, we will start our hike. We will go uphill to reach the famous high Pass known as Warmiwañusqa, or Dead Woman’s Pass, at an altitude of 4,200 m / 13,779 ft. Then we will go downhill and arrive in the forest with an environment filled with native Queuñas trees and abundant hummingbirds, part of the great variety of flora and fauna. When we arrive in Pacaymayo, we will have lunch and take a break before heading to our final destination of the day. Our campsite is in Chaquicocha 3,600 m / 11.800 ft. Here we will have dinner and sleep under a starry sky dreaming about our desired destination.

Lodging: Chaquicocha Campsite

Hiking Distance: 16km / 9.94 miles

  • From Ayapata to Pacaymayu (site for lunch), it takes 5 hours.
  • From Pacaymayu to Chaquicocha (5th campsite), it takes 4 hours and 45 minutes

Level Difficulty: Formidable

Day 6: Wiñayhuayna – Machu Picchu (5 km)

At this point, we are only one day close to Machu Picchu. However, there are many interesting places to visit along the hike. We continue the route to the last Pass, Phuyupatamarca. It is one of the most impressive ceremonial platforms that reflects construction techniques. After a break and lunch time, we will go to the archeological site of Intipata 2,800m / 9270 ft.

Lastly we will visit Wiñaywayna (the Eternally Young Mountain). Its aqueducts, terraces and temples are one of a kind. From this place, you can feel and see the energy of Machu Picchu, increasing step by step. Views of the Sacred Valley and the valley of the Urubamba river can be appreciated now. Hiking through the jungle side becomes refreshing. And, this route takes us to our next campsite near Wiñaywayna (2,680 m / 8,792 ft) where we will have dinner and sleep.

Lodging: Wiñaywayna Campsite

Hiking Distance: 10km / 6.21 miles

  • From Chaquicocha to Phuyupatamarca (site for lunch), it takes 2 hours. 
  • From Phuyupatamarca to Wiñaywayna (6th campsite), it takes 2 hours and a half.

Level Difficulty: Easy

Day 7: Wiñaywayna – Machupicchu – Cusco

Today we have to get up before sunrise to enjoy the rising of the sun at the famous sungate, the most amazing sunrise on earth. Watching the first rays that illuminate  the crystallyn city of ‘Machu Picchu’ is priceless. It takes almost 2 hours to get to ‘Intipunku’ (sungate), located at 2,730 m / 8956 ft. You will have the privilege of watching the great Machu Picchu citadel at the precise moment of the day. Also, you will be able to enjoy the view of the surroundings, deep valleys of the rivers and the peaks of the snow capped mountains.

Once inside the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, your guide will take you on a 2-hour tour of the most outstanding parts of the citadel. He will share some interesting facts and importance of the enclosures that you will observe along the tourist circuit. In the afternoon, we will go to Aguas Calientes town by bus. In this town, we will have lunch. Then we will take the train back to Ollantaytambo, and the bus back to Cusco. The amazing adventure of hiking the Inca Trail & Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu will come to an end.

Hiking Distance: 5km / 3.10 miles

  • From Wiñaywayna to Machu Picchu, it takes 2 hours
  • From Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes (site for lunch), it takes 30 minutes

Level Difficulty: Easy

Fauna and Flora

Flora and Fauna in the Salkantay Inca Trail trek

On the route of the Inca trail & Salkantay, we will hike through high Andean regions and tropical zones. In the tropical zones, we will observe different kinds of forests. Among them we can name the following: tropical rainforest, pluvial tundra, montane forest, subtropical rainforest, very humid forest, tropical páramo.

The Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Inca Trail network and the surroundings of the snow capped Mountain of Salkantay present a great biodiversity. This is because of the different altitudes each ecological floor is situated at. You will be able to observe a diverse flora and fauna. This area is also home to some species in danger of extinction.

colibri salkantay trekking

Credits: Angelica Spínola Masy

Flora
  • Peruvian Feather Grass (Stipa ichu).
  • Red ginger (Alpinia purpurata).
  • Sanchezia peruviana
  • Fuchsia alpestris Gardner
  • Chimpu chimpu (Fuchsia boliviana)
  • Tucnay (Hyptidendron arboreum).
  • Campanilla (Fuchsia La Campanella).
  • Floripondio (Brugmansia arborea)
  • Marvel of Peru or four o’clock flower (Mirabilis jalapa).
  • Tree-ferns or Klotzsch (Cyathea Caracasana).
  • Madreselva (Lonicera japonica).
  • Senna obtusifolia
  • Aya zapatilla (Calceolaria glauca).
  • Begoña (Begonia bractesa).
  • Farolito japonés (Abutilon striatum).
  • Aro aro (Arum italicum)
  • Trabajadoras (Impatiens SP)
  • Sano sano (Cyathea)
  • Tomatillo (solanum licopersicum)
  • Banana (Musa paradisiacea)
  • Laureamana (Lantana SP)
  • Coffee (Caffea Arabica)
  • Bungamvilla (Bougambilleo SP)
  • Achiote (Bixa Orellana)
  • Papaya (Carica papaya)
  • Nucchu (Salvia SP)
  • Molle (Schinus molle)
  • Queuña trees (Plylepis pauta, P. serícea, P. racemosa y P. peppei)
  • Monte Yahuarchonka (oenothera rosea).
  • Nicotina Tormentosa (Khamato Solanaceae).
  • Ayac Zapatilla (Calceolaria Chrysosphaera).
  • Tucnay (Hyptidendron arboreum).
  • Aña Pancu – (Echinopsis Maximiliana).
  • Sunchu (Encelia canescens).
  • Clavel del Aire (Tillandsia Fendleri).
  • Chimpu Chimpu (Fuchsia Boliviana).
  • Achanqaray (Begonia Veitchii – Begoniaceae).
  • Begonia (Begonia bracteosa).
  • Oqa Oqa (Oxalis spiralis).
  • Falso Kion (Hedychium coronarium – zingiberaceae).
  • Morning Glory (Cobaea scandens)

Orchids:

  • Angulosa Virginalis.
  • Sobralia Dichotoma.
  • Choclo Choclo (Elleanihus Capitatus).
  • Waqanki (Masdevallia Veitchiana) – ‘posee una leyenda local’.
  • Wiñaywayna (Epidendrum Secundum).
  • Sobralia Virginalis.
  • Trichopilia Frayans.
  • Oncidium pentatadactylon
  • Restrepia contorta
  • Stenia angustilabia
  • Xylobium bractescens
  • Maxillaria gigantea
  • Encyclia aspera
  • Stelis inca
  • Pleurothallis Lamellaris Lindley
orquideas camino inca

Credits: Kurt Buzard

Fauna
  • Chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla).
  • Northern Viscacha (Lagidium peruanum).
  • Spectacled Bear (tremarctos ornatus)
  • Taruka or Deer (mazam chung):
  • Giant otter or River Wolf (lontra longicaudis)
  • Llama (Lama glama)
  • Alpaca (Vicugna pacos)
  • Andean Jergon (Bothrops andianus)
  • Andean frog (Telmatoblus)

Birds:

  • Mirlo chiguanco (Turdus chiguanco).
  • Glossy-black thrush (Turdus serranus).
  • Blue-gray tanager (Thraupis episcopus).
  • Beryl-spangled tanager (Tangara Nigroviridis).
  • White-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).
  • House wren(Troglodytes aedon)
  • Olivaceous siskin (Carduelis olivacea).
  • Rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)
  • Royal Cinclodes (Cinclodes arico)
  • Andean guan (Penelope Montagnii)
  • American Kestrel (Falco sparverius cinnamominus)
  • Sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus)
  • Band-tailed Seedeater (Catamenia analis)
  • Thick-billed Euphonia(Euphonia laniirostris)
  • Giant Hummingbird (Patagona gigas).
  • White-bellied hummingbird (Amazilia chionogaster)
  • Cock of the Rocks (rupicola peruviana)
  • Hooded Siskin (Carduelis magellanica)
  • Black Backed Grosbeak (Pheucticus aueroventris)
  • Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus)
  • Green-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia nuna)
  • Blue-and-yellow Tanager (Thraupis bonariensis)
  • Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)
  • Royal Cinclodes (cinclodes aricomae)
  • Torrent Duck (merganetta armata)
  • Butterflies
fauna salkantay trek

Credits: Peter W. Wendelken

About Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Visit

Does the Salkantay Inca Trail 7 days include the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu?

The permits or entrance ticket for the Inca Trail includes the entrance to Machu Picchu citadel, but it does not include the entrance to the extra hikes to the mountains from where you can see the citadel from above.

For example, Huayna Picchu mountain costs $85 USD per person. In case, you want to hike it you have to buy the entrance ticket to the mountain in advance.

Credits: Alberto Benini

How long can you stay in Machu Picchu?

The visiting time in Machu Picchu citadel is an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. This is enough time to visit the main circuit that includes the most important sites of the historical sanctuary.

Once the guided tour is over, you won’t have much time to visit the site on your own. However, if you have bought the entrance tickets for either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, the extra hikes, you will have the chance to enter the site a second time.

You should know that in the case of the Inca Trail & Salkantay, it is not possible to hike the Machu Picchu Mountain after the guided tour. This is because the entrance time doesn’t match the time you can start hiking an extra mountain.

Huayna Picchu:

Average time of the hike is 1 hour and 45 minutes roundtrip. The climb is steep and has small stairs. Therefore, this extra hike is not recommendable for children. We can say that the hike is a bit dangerous. It is not recommendable for people who suffer from vertigo, or heart problems. Once at the top of the mountain, you will have from 1 to 2 minutes to take some pictures. Then you have to keep on hiking.

Machu Picchu Mountain:

Average time of the hike is 2 hours and a half roundtrip. This extra hike is more recommendable for people who travel with children. It is worth mentioning that the path is wider and not that risky as Huayna Picchu. You will also have more time to take pictures.

Where can I leave my belongings while I do the tour of Machu Picchu?

When you arrive in Intipunku, you won’t be able to access Machu Picchu citadel with all your belongings. First, you have to head to the entrance door of the Historical Sanctuary.

Keep in mind the restrictions to enter Machu Picchu. Among them, we can mention one that prohibits backpacks weighing more than 8 kg or exceeding the maximum dimensions of 40 x 35 x 20 cm. So, you may wonder where you can leave them?

The government has established a place where you can store your belongings without paying for this service. There is another place where you can leave your belongings, but it has a cost of S/ 5.00 per person. Most visitors prefer the second option. They feel that paying guarantees more security than the free option. However, both places are adequate for leaving your belongings.

NOTE: Both storages are located at the entrance of Machu Picchu.

Inca Trail and Machu Picchu Regulations

Something important that any traveler must be aware of are the regulations of the Inca Trail that entities such as SERNANP and DDC-Cusco have established in order to preserve the route. Therefore, we will mention some of the main regulations to hike the Inca Trail:

  • You aren’t allowed to hike the Inca Trail on your own. To hike the Inca Trail, you need to hire the service of a licensed tour operator.
  • You can’t buy the permits on your own. Only licensed tour operators can get the tickets for you.
  • Groups shouldn’t exceed 16 tourists. If they are more than 10 people in the group, there must be an extra assistant.
  • Permits have to be bought in advance since there are limited spots. You can’t buy permits at the checkpoint..
  • It is not permitted to camp at unauthorized sites.
  • Waste is discarded at the end of the hike.
  • Drones and tripods aren’t allowed.
  • Firearms and hunting and fishing gear are prohibited.
  • Don’t bring alcoholic beverages, stimulants, psychotropics, and other drugs.
  • You can’t enter with musical instruments or high speakers.
  • It’s not allowed to climb over the wall or cross the security bands.
  • If you are using trekking poles, they have to be soft tip, not metal.
  • Don’t bring food.

It is important to be aware of these regulations and follow them. If not, park rangers will approach you and you will receive a fine for any damage caused.

About the Hike

What you should know about the Salkantay Inca Trail

This section will help you find all the needed information to book this fantastic hike that will take you to the most emblematic tourist destination of Cusco, Machu Picchu.

Restriction on the age limit for the Salkantay Inca Trail

Actually, there is no government restriction on the age limit for the hike. However, because of the challenging trek, we consider it to be best for visitors above 16 years old to 50-year-old adults. Of course, they must be in good physical condition and don’t have breathing or heart problems.

In case a child travels with you, you may need to hire the service of a muleteer and rent a horse. And a personal porter for the Inca Trail who will assist your child along the hike and carry his backpack. 

Adults over 50 years old, should have hiking experience and be in good health condition. This way, they will be able to arrive in Machu Picchu safely.

How long before should I book the Salkantay Inca Trail?

Anyone who wants to secure his permits must book it in advance. It is wiser to book it at least 5 – 6 months in advance. Permits are sold fast especially for months of the dry season.

The months of high season, where tickets are sold fast, are May, June, and July; then, April, March, and August, followed by September and October.

In case you decide to add Huayna Picchu to your booking, you have to do it in advance, too. This is because it is sold very fast. You should book it at least 3 or 4 months in advance based on the time you are planning to do the Inca Trail & Salkantay trek.

Inca Trail & Salkantay Training (physical condition)

Training in advance is the key to succeed on hiking the Salkantay Inca Trail. Without it, you may not be able to complete the circuit since the trail presents different types of terrain which go from easy to challenging levels to finally arriving in Machupicchu.

Performing some activities at home or at the gym will make the difference. You can do activities that make the legs, arms, heart and back work. When you start the Inca Trail, your body won’t struggle at the difficult parts; instead, you will be better prepared and consequently enjoy the view more. It is recommendable to start training at least 3 or months before your travel date.

Breathing exercises can strengthen chest muscles and make breathing easier during the hike. This way, high altitude won’t be a problem for you, not even the 5200 m.a.s.l., which is the highest point of the trek you will be at.

How long before the hike should I arrive in Cusco? (Acclimatization)

We highly recommend arriving some days before you start the hike. This will help you acclimatize to the altitude of Cusco gradually  (3400 m.a.s.l.). Depending on your availability, you can stay one or more days in Lima.

Otherwise, arriving 2 or three days in advance in Cusco will be enough to acclimate. Take advantage of these days visiting sites around the city as long as they are not challenging.

How to prevent and cope with altitude sickness?

Most likely, you will experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness in Cusco. If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure. But if you travel to a place at a higher altitude, say above 2,500 meters (8,000 ft), your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure. Some of the symptoms tourists usually have are headache, shortness of breath, nausea, among others. 

There is no need to worry since symptoms usually come on within 12 to 24 hours of reaching a higher elevation and then get better within a day or two as your body adjusts to the change in altitude.

Note the following tips that can help you cope with altitude sickness:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol on the first day in Cusco.
  • Don’t eat red meat the first days.
  • Eat fruits or mild soups.
  • Coca tea is completely safe to drink and a cup or two each day can ease altitude symptoms. Just remember coca is a mild stimulant so don’t go over the top and drink cup loads.

What is the condition of the restrooms and showers of the campsites?

There are different kinds of campsites for each night. Some of them don’t have restrooms and showers. Having that said, we will mention what you will have at each of the most popular campsites:

Soraypampa (1st campsite):

  • There are restrooms and cost S/ 2.00
  • There are hot showers and cost between S/ 10.00 to S/ 20.00

Pampa Japonesa (2nd campsite):

  • There is no restroom nor shower.

Inca Aqueduct (3rd campsite):

  • There is no restroom nor shower.

Ayapata (4th campsite):

  • There are restrooms at no additional cost.
  • There is no shower.

Chaquicocha (5th campsite):

  • There are showers, but they are cold. 
  • There are restrooms at no additional cost

Wiñay huayna (6th campamento):

  • There are restrooms at no additional cost.
  • There are no showers, but there is one at a long distance of the campsite. However, it is not free and there are lots of people in line waiting to use it. It costs from S/ 15.00 to S/ 20.00, not a reasonable price.

If you are traveling with a tourist agency, there is no need to worry about the restrooms. The tourist agency will carry portable toilets. Some of the porters will carry the portable toilets that tourists will use.

During the first three days, hiking to the Salkantay, you can use the portable toilets.

At this point, you may wonder who carries the waste of the toilets. If so, you should know that since waste can’t be thrown along the hike, porters carry this type of waste in special bags.

Is there drinking water along the hike?

There is no drinking water in Salkantay Inca Trail. Normally, some agencies provide boiled water at the campsites. You need to bring a camelback or water bottle which will be refilled.

Therefore, this will be provided on the day agreed with the agency you have hired which can be since the second or third day. 

On the other hand, it is also recommendable to bring pills or water purification bottles, ultraviolet water purifiers, portable suction filters or portable filtration pumps. This way, you could drink water from the rivers and streams.

Could I buy bottled water or snacks in the hike?

You can buy them at some points in the area. The first day in Soraypampa and from day 4th to 6th (Phuyupatamarca), you will see some places to buy some food supplies. However, you will notice that they cost a bit more than in the city. And with all reason since it implies a great effort to take these products from the city to these areas not only it is expensive but also challenging for the altitude.

Some agencies include all services (such as snacks) in the total cost of the tour. However, doing so, they don’t allow tourists to contribute to local small businesses. You should know that tourism is a form of economic growth for families that live in the high Andean regions where the main activity is agriculture.

Tips to book the 7D trek

How to book the Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Choosing the right tour operator

To start, you should know that there are hundreds of licensed tour operators that can take you on the Inca Trail & Salkantay. However, not all of them offer a high quality service or provide all the equipment needed for the trek.

Therefore, we recommend doing some research about the best tour operators in Cusco. Being well informed will prevent from being tricked by unscrupulous agencies.

One way to find the perfect agency for you is by asking relatives or travelers for recommendations. You can check their posts and reviews on different traveling websites. You can also check different online platforms such as:

Most of these platforms often show reasonable prices and offers from the most well known tour operators. They also include itineraries, packages of many days. You will definitely find one that meets all your needs and suits your plans.

Price Rate of Salkantay Inca Trail

You should be aware that since there are many Inca Trail tour operators, many offer appealing prices that can call your attention. This may be in a group service that includes a lot of people.

The cost of the Salkantay Inca trail to Machu Picchu that you may find goes from USD$1000 to USD$1900. However, the most recommendable agencies that guarantee a high-quality service cost from USD$1400 – USD$1900. Those rates mean that the agency will give a fair treat and economic reward to the staff. 

Consequently, if you opt for a cheaper agency, not only you won’t have a good quality service, but also the staff won’t be receiving a fair salary, which is not OK considering the hard work they do on this kind of hikes. Don’t forget to ask in advance what is or not included.

Salkantay Inca Trail Availability

There are limited spots for the Inca Trail & Salkantay, only 500 spots. These spots are not only for tourists but for guides, porters, chefs, assistants who will assist you along the trek. This means that about 230 spots are for the staff mentioned and only 270 spots are available for tourists.

Before booking your tour with any licensed tour operator, make sure there are spots available for your desired date. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do Inca Trail. Remember that permits are sold fast.

You can do the Inca Trail from March to January, but due to maintenance of the Inca Trail network. This is organized by the competent authorities.

Required documentation for the Salkantay Inca Trail

To hike the fantastic Salkantay Inca Trail, you need to bring your personal identification documents. The names in the permits must match the information in your documents. Therefore, make sure you provide accurate information to the agency you are booking the tour with. If the information is not accurate, you won’t be able to do the Inca Trail.

  • Valid original Passport
  • Identity card
  • National Identity card (DNI)
  • Student card (if you you want a discount)

You must bring with you any of these personal documents that you used at the moment of booking. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do the Inca Trail. Make sure you have your personal documents with you all the time. Put them in a safe place before and during the hike.

Note: If you have updated your passport some days prior to the trek, you have to let the agency know and ask them to update the new information. If possible, bring both the old and new passports. You should also send a copy of both the old and new passports to the agency.

Inca Trail Discounts

There is a small discount that the Culture Ministry gives to minors or students who have a valid student card. A student card is considered valid if it shows the following features:

  • PVC Material 
  • Name of the university
  • Full name
  • Student photo
  • Birthdate
  • Expiration date, which has to be the year that the student visits Machu Picchu (NOT a year early or later to the visit date) 

Note: To apply for the students discount, you shouldn’t be over 25 years old.

Chefs and Porters

Staff – Chefs and Porters of Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Who are the muleteers or porters of the salkantay inca trail hike?

They are humble people who live in the high Andean area of Cusco. Most of them live near the places that we will hike on the Salkantay inca trail. That is why they are familiarized with the route.

The muleteers are in charge of guiding the horses or mules that carry the equipment that will be used on the first three days of the hike.

Above all, Hiring their service through a reliable agency, we contribute generating a new source of income, which was only agriculture in the past.

Who carries the equipment and cooks during the salkantay Inca Trail?

Most of the well known agencies provide everything you need for the Inca Trail & Salkantay trek. Consequently, the porters are the ones who carry all the things needed for the adventure. These things include cooking utensils, tents, food supplies, chairs, among others.

The tents will be set once you arrive at each campsite. Then, Porters will arrive earlier than you and set everything for you. This way, you will have one less thing to worry about and have a pleasant resting time.

If you are carrying some of your personal belongings such as your own camping equipment, it will be you who sets everything up after a tiring day.

Why do you need porters and muleteers in the hike?

There is a big difference when you are in charge of carrying all your camping equipment than having the help of porters or muleteers. Some agencies don’t include the service of a personal porter as part of the Salkantay Inca trail. However, you can add that extra service on the briefing day.

We sincerely believe that it is much better to have some help during the salkantay inca trail. This way, you will enjoy the view more and won’t be concerned about the milles you still have to walk. Likewise, The only thing that you have to watch will be your personal backpack in which you are carrying water, snacks, a hat, etc.

Having porters or muleteers on the route, contributes to generate an extra economic income which will be used to support their families that are dedicated to agriculture.

Porters Law of salkantay inca trail hike

As time went by, the respective authorities as the Peruvian government have been implementing new regulations on the porters rights. These regulations were established due to the constant mistreatment of porters by tour operators which made porters work under outrageous conditions.

In 2019 some changes were applied to articles of the Nº 27607 porters law, article 6 to be precise. This article states that the minimum payment that a porter receives must be equivalent to 1.6% of a UIT for 8 working hours.

The porter who also is the chef should receive 25% more of the minimum payment.

Tour operators that don’t follow these regulations will be fined.

Porter weight limit

According to the Porters Law – Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Nº 27607, article 3rd, the weight has been limited to 20kg. This includes a 5kg personal allowance.

Likewise, When the porter is a woman, the weight limit will be reduced according to the regulations, including the 5kg of personal belongings.

All the supplies must be provided by the agency and guarantee their use. Of course, in case there is any change, it must be informed and agreed by both the employer and employee. The following are the things that each porter should receive:

  • Food supplies
  • Clothing 
  • Camping equipment
  • Transportation
  • Life insurance

Food and camping equipment for porters

Not all the agencies offer porters a dignified treatment. To clarify, This means that they don’t provide food and good camping conditions for porters. Some agencies give porters the tourists’ leftovers.

Many porters and chefs carry all the camping equipment and cooking utensils and just look forward to resting at the end of the day. Fortunately,  thanks to the support and complaints of the visitors, this has been changing and improving over the years.

How can you help the porters of salkantay inca trail trek?

The most important is to hire the service of tour agencies that look after their porters. You can testify how the agency you have chosen treats their porters since the first day and along the Salkantay Inca Trail. Check if they have proper outfit and if at campsites they receive quality meals. 

As a result, A good way to interact with them is by engaging in a conversation. You can ask about their history and legend of the town or the importance of coca in their culture.

Most importantly, Don’t wait for them to start the conversation since they are shy and speak Quechua and Spanish.

How much should you tip porters?

This is a common question tourists who do the Salkantay Inca Trail often ask. They want to be sure they are giving a fair tip and take enough money with them. Most tourists would like to show their gratitude for the effort porters and guide make on the strenuous hike.

So, The tips collected from the tourists are given to the chef who will distribute them among the porters. 

If you feel a certain porter has worked harder or has done something special for you, you can tip him personally. This way you can make sure he receives what he deserves. Certainly, Sometimes the distributed tips are not equitable. Another thing you have to consider giving a reasonable tip. If you give more than expected, the risk is that porters would splurge it. Therefore, resist the urge to over-tip.

Note that tips are NOT mandatory. The amount of money you are willing to give should be based on the service you have received.  As a result, It can be classified as bad, regular or good. Each person in the group can contribute between S/40 and S/60 for the porter and double for the chef, which can be S/120. Certainly, The chef receives double since he has to carry food ingredients, and prepare the meals, which are well elaborated and marvel tourists.

Above all, Something that encourages porters to go ahead with their hard work are the words of gratitude and motivation that tourists give them. So, feel free to say something positive.

Recommended Equipment

Recommended Equipment for the Salkantay Inca Trail

Agencies which offer you a complete service provide certain equipment facilities. On the briefing day, you will be given a duffel. So, The duffel is especially designed to carry up to 6 or 7 kg of your personal items. Note that the duffel should include the weight of the sleeping bag, thermal insulation and personal items for the seven days of the salkantay inca trail. Therefore, We recommend packing light, only most essential things.

What kind of gear should you carry for the Salkantay Inca Trail?

We believe this is one of the most frequently asked questions for travelers. Therefore, we will share some tips on what to pack for this incredible adventure in the high Andean regions and jungle of Cusco. Note that since your personal items will be carried by the porters, you will have access to them at the campsites.

  • 7 or 8 short or long sleeved polo shirts
  • 6 or 7 trekking pants
  • 7 sets of underwear
  • 7 o 8 pairs of socks
  • Windbreak
  • 1 warm jacket
  • 1 rain jacket  or rain poncho
  • Gloves, scarf and a beanie
  • Hats for the sun
  • Trekking shoes / An extra pair of shoes (if they get wet)
  • Toiletries
  • Some snacks
  • Airtight Plastic bags (to organize your clothes)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Portable device battery charger

What should I carry inside my backpack?

Certainly, Inside your backpack you should carry the following items that are essential for the Salkantay Inca trail:

  • Pocket flashlight with spare batteries
  • Water purification tablets
  • Snacks (dried fruits, candy, chocolate, etc.)
  • Bandana
  • Rain Poncho (NOT an umbrella)
  • Hat for the sun
  • Ear plugs
  • Some cash
  • Personal Documentation
  • Music (to listen along the hike)
  • Plastic bag for waste

What toiletries to bring?

You need to bring the following items since you won’t find them along the salkantay inca trail hike:

  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Alcohol gel
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Sanitary pads or tampons.
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunscreen (FPS 60+)
  • Face moisturizer

How to know you have the exact weight for the salkantay inca trail?

Above all, It is important to know the allowed weight for the Salkantay inca trail to Machu Picchu not only to avoid an extra payment, but also to help porters carry the adequate amount of weight.

Therefore, We recommend weighing your things before traveling. Most hotels have scales to weigh your backpack. Likewise, You can ask your tourist agency to lend you a scale and weigh your backpack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Inca Trail & Salkantay trek Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to do the Salkantay Inca Trail?

As we have mentioned earlier, the best season to do the Salkantay Inca Trail is during the dry season. However, you should know that whether you come in the dry or rainy season, it will have advantages and disadvantages.

  • If you do the Inca Trail  from November to January, you won’t see as many tourists as during the other months. This is because the rainy season starts in November.
  • If you do the Inca Trail from May to August, you will notice crowds of people, which means you won’t have that much privacy. However, the weather is pleasant and there is no rain.

Tips: It is important to pack light and consider the climate of the time of the year you are coming. However, If it is during the rainy season, you need to buy a rain poncho and bring a raincoat. Above all, Wear always sunscreen no matter the time of the year.

Do you need travel insurance to do the Salkantay Inca Trail?

Although it is not mandatory to have travel insurance to do the Inca Trail, we highly recommend getting one. This way you can prevent any inconvenience that can happen during your trip such as a flight delay, strikes in the country or city, a natural disaster, or getting sick during the hike.

So, You should know that getting sick in Peru may be a bit more expensive than in other countries. In addition, Getting travel insurance will make you feel more secure. Insurance companies normally charge you from 100 to 150 US Dollar. Here you have a list of some insurance companies:

  • Assist card
  • World nomads
  • Berkshire Hathaway Inc (a leading company in the U.S)
  • Allianz (the biggest insurance company in Germany and Europe)
  • Ping An (a leading company in China)
  • Metlife (well known in Europe and Spain)
  • Berkley International
  • Liberty Insurance

Is there Internet connection or electricity at the campsites of the Salkantay Inca Trail?

During the 7 day Inca Trail & Salkantay trek, you will not always have Internet connection. Therefore, using a cellphone or any electronic device is not convenient in most places.

However, To keep in contact with the administrators of the tourist agency and inform them in case of a problem, or to check something important, we use radios or satellite phones.

  • First day, WiFi service costs S/ 5.00
  • Second day, there is no internet.
  • Third day, there is no internet.
  • Fourth day, there is internet access.
  • Fifth day, there is no internet.
  • Sixth day, there is internet only after noon.
  • Seventh day, day, there is access.

Can I take all my luggage with me?

There is no need to bring all your luggage to the Salkantay Inca Trail. You should only take the most essential things you will use during the 7 day hike. You should pack light and organize the clothes you will wear each day of the hike. As a result, Don’t forget to bring an extra pair of shoes, raincoat, a hat, among others.

So, Packing light allows porters to follow the weight limit regulation. It also shows you are considerate of the effort they will do carrying all your staff. Certainly, You will be given a duffel where you will put all your belongings for the hike.

Can I hire a personal porter for Salkantay Inca trail trek?

Porters play an important role in the Salkantay Inca Trail hike. They carry all the necessary implements to make your tour as pleasant as possible. Therefore, Without porters, it won’t be possible to get to Machu Picchu. 

Some Inca Trail tour operators include the service of a personal porter in the total cost of the salkantay inca trail trek. If you hire an agency which doesn’t include a porter in the cost of the trek, you will have to pay to have one. Next, we will describe how much you will have to pay for the service of a porter. Note the two services of porters we offer you:

Personal Porter: They carry from 5kg to 8kg, the extra cost is USD$ 160.00 per person.

Full Porter: They carry from 10kg to 16kg, the extra cost is USD$ 320.00 per person.

What are the meals like in the salkantay inca trail trek?

Most agencies include food in the total cost of Salkantay inca trail. They offer a buffet menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a result, Each meal consists of a 3 menu selection that each tourist can choose from.

If you have any dietary restriction, you have to inform the travel agent, or the guide on your briefing day at the latest. This way, the chef can make any adjustment on the menu for you. We cater to vegetarians, vegans and any food allergies.

How much extra money do I need to take with me for the hike?

For any additional expenses that you may have during the salkantay inca trail 7 day, you need to have some extra cash in the local currency which is Soles Peruanos. So, You may need to buy bottled water, cookies, or other snacks, toilet paper, etc. Note that locals only accept Soles Peruanos.

We recommend bringing between S/ 600 – S/ 700 per person. You may wonder why you need to bring more money if everything is included. If that is your case, you need to read the services you have hired carefully, what is or is not included. Certainly, Some agencies don’t provide water on the first and second day, or lunch on the seventh day and tips for the porters.

Do I need to bring trekking poles?

You will find the trekking poles very useful since they provide 2 more points of support which will help you walk safely, especially on steep and rocky slopes or when going downhill.

Therefore, this trekking equipment used properly will help you keep the balance of your body. That is why we recommend asking your guide for using the trekking poles according to the different types of terrain you will hike through.

However, In case you don’t have trekking poles, you can rent them from your tour agency. The cost of the trekking poles varies from USD$25.00 – USD$30.00 per person for all the days of the salkantay inca trail 7 day.

Where can you leave the extra luggage that won’t be needed along the salkantay inca trail?

All the extra luggage that you have brought for your trip to Peru can be stored in the storage room of the hotel that you are staying at. You should ask the receptionist first. In case, the hotel doesn’t have a storage room, you can leave your luggage in the storage room of our agency at no additional cost.

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