Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu – 2018 Update: Salkantay trek is an ever increasingly popular alternative to the classic Inca trail. One of good things about this trek is that you do not have to book it way ahead of time as in the case of the classic Inca trail. Moreover, no permits are required and you could actually do the Salkantay trek without a guide. Whether you prefer a guided tour or do it on your own, our travel experts at The Only Peru Guide have put together an easy to navigate guide for everything you need to know about the Salkantay trek.

Hiker at Salkantay trek heading to a snowcapped mountain

Salkantay is the highest peak of the Cordillera Vilcabamba mountain range in Southern Peru, located about 60 Km’s (40 miles) north-west of Cusco. Salkantay is the 38th highest peak in the Andes and the 12th highest in Peru, and has an elevation of 6,271 meters (20,574 ft).

The Salkantay Trek starts from Sayllapata at 3,600 meters (10,200 ft), a 4 hour bus ride from Cusco. The trek varies depending on which route you take, and can take between 4 and 6 days. The most common route used by trekking companies heads north, then west around the west side of the mountain, over Salcantay Pass at 4600m (15,088ft). It continues as far as the village of La Playa, where buses usually make the connection to Santa Teresa. From here, trekkers walk to the Hydroelectric plant then either train or walk to Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. This route takes 4 days in total, with the fifth day to visit Machu Picchu and return to Cusco.

The Salkantay Trek is often considered an alternative trek to the more popular Inca Trail, but it is actually a one of Peru’s most exciting and rewarding hikes. Unlike the Inca Trail, The Salkantay Trek doesn’t require hiking permits, and therefore accessibility to the trail is much easier.

Trekking operators accept bookings just several weeks before your departure, as there is no restriction for obtaining trekking permits. Often trekking companies have spaces available for confirmed departures, and you may be able to join a group departing a few days later.

The Salkantay Trek is considered to have a difficulty rating of medium to challenging, and is suited to the more adventurous trekkers who are able to handle higher altitude and distance. Ascending to reach the famous Apacheta Pass at 4,600m (15,088ft) is not strenuous neither very steep but requires a certain amount of stamina.