The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is the most popular alternative trek. This trek takes you through incomparable landscapes, with incredible views of the snow-capped Humantay (5 473m/ 17 956ft) and Salkantay ( 6 271m/20 574ft) Mountains. There are stunning glacial lakes at the foot of each mountain. As you traverse through the different micro-climates, feast your eyes on the most dynamic and fascinating flora and fauna. Enroute to Machu Picchu we follow a remote path to the forgotten Inca Ruins of Llactapata which has great views of one the New 7 Wonders of the World, the great Machu Picchu.
Here are seven good reasons to hike the Salcantay trek:
1. Hike to the mountain passes and get close to glaciers
There is something extremely humbling about the sheer magnitude of mountainous glaciers, and the Salkantay glacier and its sister glacier, Humantay Glacier, are no different. Have your heart strings pulled as you reach the Apacheta Pass (4 650m/ 15 367ft) with the most spectacular views of glacial peaks like Salkantay, Humantay and Huayanay. Also camp at the foot of the picturesque Salkantay Mountain. The glacial peaks that tower above you are a truly magical sight to behold.
Did you know? We have some of the safest and best trekking adventures in all of Peru. Check out our list of treks to Machu Pichu to find your perfect adventure.
2. Pass indescribable scenery and varied eco systems
Many travelers rave about the variety of ecosystems on the Inca Trail. The Salkantay Trek offers even more.
The hike starts at relatively high altitudes in Soraypampa (3 800m/ 12 467ft) in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. Less than an hour into the hike, you can immerse yourself in the stunning mountain vistas along the trail. The first section is all about glacial lakes, camping under star studded night skies, and climbing over glacial moraines.
You than descend beautiful high mountain scenery before reaching greener vegetation and the warmer climate of the high jungle. Another fantastic outing, is the opportunity to visit a coffee plantation, so you can learn about how the famous Peruvian coffee is produced. The excursion starts by walking through the coffee bean fields, you then watch the roasting process, the tour than culminates in the grinding of the beans to make a delicious cup of coffee. Another great surprise enroute is a natural hot spring in Colcamayo, where you can soak your tired muscles in therapeutic waters.
The last section of the trail traverses through lush sub-tropical jungle, full of orchids and epiphytes growing on the trees. The weather is usually nice and hot in the day, with occasional showers during the dry season.
A great reason for choosing the Salkantay trek is the huge variety of ecosystems that you will encounter as you trek. Peru is famous for its diversity, and the Salkantay trek demonstrates that perfectly!
3. Visit the famous Humantay Lake and Salkantay Lake
Laguna Humantay is (rightly) one of the most visited attractions in Cusco. Its incredible blue-green colors and the towering glacier above it are an incredible starting point for the trek. A perfect amuse-bouche for the upcoming days! The Salkantay Lake is not to be underestimated, it´s also a very beautiful turquoise lake with less crowds compared to its sister lagoon. This is because day visitors, don´t usually make it this far.
You can also unwind in natural hot springs on your third day in Santa Teresa. Access to such beautiful natural pools definitely makes the Salcantay trek a great choice for your trek to Machu Picchu!
4. Unlimited trekkers (Unlike the Inca Trail)
The Inca Trail is both famous and beautiful. However, it has one major flaw, the crowds. Thousands of people look forward to hiking this trek every year and book months in advance for this once a lifetime experience. (To avoid the congested route , try our 5 Day Inca Trail trek instead of the Classic 4-day route).
The Salkantay Trek is widely considered to be the most beautiful alternative to the Inca Trail. It is however not the most secluded trek in Cusco. It is famous in its own right and has become a little commercial. But, it does not have tickets, so there is no limit in the number of people that can start the trek on any given day.
In short, the Salkantay Trek is a fantastic choice for those who want to experience the stark wilderness of the Andes, and want to do it with fewer people around.
5.Horses and mules for camping gear
On the Inca Trail there are no horses or mules allowed because they might damage the stone. Now, this is not an issue on the Salkantay trek. All camping equipment is carried using mules or horses. These horses are usually rented from the locals and this provides a sustainable form of income for the disadvantaged mountain side communities. A good tour operator should bring an extra horse for emergencies. So, if there are trekker that cannot continue because of health reasons or from exhaustion, the horse can be used.
When choosing a tour operator, we recommend asking them how they treat their animals. All animals deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion.
6. You get a unique view of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Ruins
The last section takes you to the rarely visited Inca Ruins of Llactapata. The ruins are perched atop a small hill and have spellbinding views of the Urubamba Valley, glacial peaks and Machu Picchu Mountain. Hiram Bingham came across the archeological site in 1912. Unfortunately, he did not leave clear instructions on how to find them. It would not be until 2003 when the British explorer Hugh Thompson and American archeologist Gary Ziegler rediscovered the ruins. The climate at the top of the hill is sub-tropical, making it an ideal spot to set up camp.
The INC ( Instituto Nacional de Cultura) as per usual has restored some of these “ ruins”. But if you look around the back you will see plenty more hidden amongst the thick vegetation in a still unrestored state. It´s another treasure to look forward to on your Salkantay Trekking adventure.
7. Adventure packed way to experience the Andes
Salkantay mountain is all that a mountain should be, a fierce towering pyramid. The night sky is stunning: you can watch shooting stars fall to earth, and pick out Andean constellations such as the llama, the frog, and the southern cross, as well as more traditional western ones. Also look forward to possibly spotting the gigantic condor soaring above. You also get to interact with some of the locals, that you will get to meet as you pass through small secluded villages.
The Salkantay Trek is an excellent choice for your hike to Machu Picchu, and it offers some of the most spectacular and varied views you will ever see in your life.
If you are ready to start planning your trip to Peru, contact us at Orange Nation.
The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is the most popular alternative trek. This trek takes you through incomparable landscapes, with incredible views of the snow-capped Humantay (5 473m/ 17 956ft) and Salkantay ( 6 271m/20 574ft) Mountains. There are s...