Salkantay Trek: 5 Day Tour to Machu Picchu | Tips and experiences
Salkantay trekking to Machu Picchu: tips and experiences During our tour through Peru we walked the Salkantay trek with the special destination: Machu Picchu. A 5-day trekking through varied nature. I would like to give you tips and tell you my experience about this beautiful trek. The alternative to the classic Inca trail The Salkantay trek is a tough trek that leads you to Machu Picchu through a beautiful landscape. Nowadays you have a wide choice of treks to Machu Picchu, each with its own charm. Where the Inca trail is known for the many Inca ruins, the Salkantay trek is known for its beautiful nature. You must book the official and classic Inca trail well in advance (at least 6 months). View availability here. The Inca trial is also a lot more expensive than the Salkantay trek. During the Salkantay trek, of 80 kilometers, you will brave snowy peaks, a beautiful lake, the subtropical jungle, fantastic waterfalls and end at Machu Picchu. The variants & where do you book it? Amount of days You can book the Salkantay trek in variants of five, four or three days. If you have a lot of time, I advise you to do the five-day trek. You walk less every day and therefore have more rest. If you don't have much time, then do the three-day trek. Do realize that you will walk about 20 to 30 kilometers a day for the first two days. A tough trip, but you get a fantastic view in return. Comfort & prices There is also a huge difference in terms of luxury and comfort. You have very luxurious variants where you sleep in lodges, but you also pay more than 2000 USD for that. For the variants where you spend the night in tents, you pay about 270 USD and book at Machu Picchu Reservations, for example, as we did. If you want something more luxurious, you can go to Salkantay Trekking and pay 420 USD. We have adjusted our tour a bit in consultation with the tour operator. Do you want this too? Please contact the tour operator in advance or ask when you book the tour in Cusco. Our tour operator was very flexible about this. You can read what our tour looked like later in this blog. When booking your trekking, please note what is included. This often differs per draw. With our trekking, the water, extra snacks and the rental of a sleeping bag were not included in the price. You can buy water and snacks along the way, but keep this in mind in your budget. Also check whether the return journey by train or bus is included. Train or bus The way back from Aguas Calientes can vary considerably per trek. The most common options are: Return by train to Poroy station (half an hour from Cusco) – duration: 3.5 hours Return by train to Ollantaytambo station and from there by bus to Cusco. – duration: 4 hours Return by bus from Hidroelectrica to Cusco. – duration: 5 hours Daily schedule of the 5-day Salkantay Trek On the evening before the trek, we had a short briefing with the rest of the group at the office, so that we knew what to expect. We received our “duffle bag”, which we were allowed to fill with extra luggage and was carried by the donkeys for the entire trek. Super easy because then you don't have to carry everything yourself! Day 1 On the first day we left at 05:00 in the morning towards Mollepata, a drive of about 2 hours. We had breakfast here and then drove on to the start of the trek. On the way we made one last stop to buy water, snacks and possibly a walking stick. After everyone had introduced themselves, the first meters of the trek to Humantay Lake began. A beautiful blue / green lake with the snowy Humantay Mountain in the background. The trek down led us to our first accommodation. In the evening we were treated to a super beautiful and clear starry sky. Day one was taking it easy and coming in for day two. Day 2: Day two is the hardest day and you have to be an early bird for this day too. At 06.00 am the first meters are already in the legs towards the highest point at 4630 meters, namely the mountain pass of the Salkantay mountain. Your calves are your best friends this morning because you climb to the top in about 3 hours. Once at the top you can enjoy another fantastic view. We had a fairly fast group and our guide decided to take us to Salkantay Lake. A clear blue lake hidden between the mountains. Officially, this piece is not part of the trek we booked. You have now reached the highest point and you start the descent. The first part is still a bit steep, but later the descent is easy to do. You will reach accommodation number two around 5 p.m. Day 3: This morning we were allowed to sleep in and we left around 06.45 am. This is a fairly calm and flat day. Soon everyone takes off the sweaters and shorts appear here and there. We are now walking more and more in a jungle-like area, with the disadvantage: mosquitoes! After about 4.5 hours of walking we reach the lunch spot in Santa Teresa. This is also accommodation number three for the 5-day trek. After lunch, the people of the 4-day trekking leave for Hidroelectrica and then walk along the track to Aguas Calientes and report to a nice hostel. The group of the 5-day trekking will go to the Hot Springs after lunch to relax the muscles. We went with this group. Day 4: Because we have changed our route a bit, we have only walked part of this day, but I do have the route for you. Today you walk from Santa Teresa to the LLactapata ruins. From here you have a beautiful view of Machu Picchu. After seeing the ruins you walk towards Hidroelectrica. From this point you walk constantly along the train track to Aguas Calientes. If you walk in the afternoon as the group did, you will come across a lot of stalls and restaurants along the track and you will also see many other backpackers who walk the same route. In Aguas Calientes you will spend the night in a hostel. Day 5: The last day is the same for both the 4-day and 3-day trek. This day you will leave around 04.00 AM to start the last hike to Machu Picchu. There is a path, in the form of many stairs, leading to the entrance of Machu Picchu. This route takes about 1.5 – 2 hours from Aguas Calientes. At 06:00 you will be at the entrance and not far from the beautiful Machu Picchu. It is often crowded at the entrance at this time because you are not the only one who wants to be first. The guide will tell you the important information about Machu Picchu. Then you can visit Machu Picchu on your own. Custom Itinerary As I wrote earlier, we have adjusted the tour in consultation with our tour operator, Machu Picchu Reservations. After visiting the Hot Springs on day three, we said goodbye to the group because we had booked a stay in the super nice Eco Quecha Lodge in Santa Teresa. It is an environmentally friendly lodge and a very nice place to relax. In addition, the food is delicious! The lodge also offers tours to get to know the area. We were here for three nights and then continued our route to Machu Picchu. We also walked along the track to Machu Picchu. We started our trek at 05:30 in the morning and, except for a few Peruvians, did not meet anyone. We were at the entrance around 9.30 am and the crowds were not too bad. There was a small line, but we were in within 10 minutes. On the way up we even met people who had already been inside. We had a morning ticket and could enter without a guide. We decided not to climb one of the mountains again after the trekking, but walked to the "Sun Gate". It will take you about an hour to do this and you will eventually see Machu Picchu from a distance. Then we got a close look at Machu Picchu and walked towards Aguas Calientes around 1pm to catch our train back. Facilities during the Salkantay trek Tents The tents we slept in were under a roof of straw that stopped the wind and possible rain. The first night we even slept in a small hut that was insulated and stood about half a meter off the ground. Despite this protection, it was a cold night (read below 0 degrees), because you are at 4000 meters altitude. Thermal clothing and a good sleeping bag come in handy here. Toilet / shower During my search for a good trekking I mainly looked at the toilet facilities. I don't mind sleeping in a tent, but I was very afraid that I would have to hang over a hole in the ground. At the trekking we booked there was a normal toilet with running water! So a huge stroke of luck. Do not expect a luxurious bathroom because the facilities are very basic. You can't take a shower at the first accommodation, but you're not the only one. After a hard walk on the second day, you can treat yourself to a hot shower. Anyway, I did and it was delicious! After day three you can take a hot shower at the hot springs you visit at the end of the day. The last accommodation is a hostel in Aguas Calientes, so you have a bit more luxury. To eat In terms of food, we were very well taken care of. A cook travels with the group and treats you to delicious Peruvian dishes. In the morning you will be woken up with a cup of Coca tea in bed. The breakfast was different every day and consisted of bread with jam, bread with eggs or pancakes. Lunch and dinner often consisted of soup and a main course with rice, potatoes, vegetables and meat. In addition, at the end of the afternoon we had “Tea Time” with Coca tea, chocolate milk and popcorn or cookies. How heavy is it? This depends on a number of different factors. First of all, it has to do with your own condition. I must admit that I had quite a bit of trouble with the parts up and I was glad I bought a walking stick. I had trouble breathing because of the altitude and was also quickly tired because of the tough climb or maybe just because of my not such a super good condition. In addition, the trekking also has an impact on your muscles and joints. Especially the way down will be less fun for people with knee complaints. So do this part slowly at your own pace. You can also use walking sticks during the trek, which relieve your muscles, back and knees while walking. You can often rent the walking sticks, but I advise you to go for the simple and much nicer Peruvian variants. You can buy this for only 5 euros at the start of the trek. Height is also an important factor. The air is thinner than in the flat Netherlands. In addition, you rise and fall considerably in a short time. You can therefore suffer from altitude sickness, which is caused by the lack of oxygen in your body. Complaints may include headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, dizziness, severe fatigue, reduced urination, vomiting and sluggishness. Make sure you get used to the altitude by acclimatizing for at least 2 or 3 days in Cusco. Also drink a lot of Coca tea, this also helps against altitude sickness. If you want to be sure, you can also get pills against altitude sickness at the pharmacy in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the weather is a factor. We kept it dry during the trek, but you may encounter rain or snow. In summary: the trekking is just doable for most people. It is a wonderful adventure that you must experience. If in doubt, go for the 4 or 5-day variant so that you have more moments of rest. Finally, there is still a possibility to rent a donkey that will take you to the top. TIP: Buy a set of Peruvian walking sticks for more support. Music provides distraction and relaxation. That way you don't always think about the tough climb. What are you bringing? You will encounter various types of weather so bring clothing for both warm and cold weather and work with layers. Hiking boots Slippers / extra pair of fine shoes Walking sticks Hiking socks thermic underwear Cap Cap / hat Gloves Sweater Raincoat or outdoor jacket Hiking or sportswear Shorts Shirts Swimwear Towel / hammam towel Flashlight Insect spray / Deet Sunscreen toilet paper Toiletries Blister plasters or a needle and tape to treat your blisters yourself Music (helps with the tough climb up) Camera Hopefully now everything is clear about the Salkantay Trek! Do you have any questions? Reassure them.