5-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

♦ Start: Cusco
♦ Finish: Cusco

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an alternative to the Inca Trail and considered by most to be the best alternative route (and maybe even better!). It was named among the 25 Best Treks in the World by National Geographic. The best part, it’s open to everyone with no limitation on spaces or permits (at least for now), and is typically less crowded than the Inca Trail. This magnificent trail is perfect for adventurers who want to get off-the-beaten-path, and who wish to become personally integrated in changing ecosystems from one day to the next. You will walk through sweeping, magical landscapes of a snowy mountain paradise to a tropical jungle where you’ll find a wide range of animals, medicinal plants, and flower varieties. Witness with your own eyes a living, but ancient culture in remote villages hardly ever seen by foreigners!


4 nights/ 5 days

Physical Rating



Places Visited

Cusco, Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes (starts and ends in Cusco)


  • 5-Day trek along the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu, listed as one of the 25 best treks in the world by National Geographic.
  • Enjoy a full day guided tour of Machu Picchu with the option of climbing Huayna Picchu, named one of the 20 most dangerous hikes in the world by Outside Magazine.
  • Stay in private camps including the Sky Lodge, authentic wooden camping Chozas (Andean Huts), and the newly constructed Jungle Domes.
  • Take the Expedition Train on your return to Ollantaytambo for the chance to take in the unbelievable scenery and panoramic views while you enjoy some much-deserved relaxation.

Cusco/ Mollepata/ Challacancha/ Soraypampa (Humantay Lake) (L, D)

We start the day by picking you up at your hotel in Cusco at 5am for the drive to the trailhead at Soraypampa. We’ll drive for about 4 hours, crossing Anta and Mollepata and ending up at Challancha. As we drive over Tika-Tika Pass, you’ll be rewarded with your first view of Mt. Salkantay and Humantay. You’ll cross the plateau of Antapampa to reach Limatambo Pass with impressive views of the mountains and the lush agricultural valley below. Visit the ruins of Tarawasi with its long asymmetrical Inca stone wall, and then continue along the asphalted road until you reach the turnoff that will take you winding up a dirt road that zigzags uphill until you reach Mollepata (2,900m/ 9,515ft above sea level). Here, we’ll make a quick stop to take advantage of the toilet facilities, souvenir shops and to pick up some snacks. We’ll then continue to Challacancha, the starting point of our trek.

The first section of the trail takes us over a few deep valleys along the side of a mountain. At some parts of the trail, an old aqueduct can be seen which supplies water to the farmers in the lower valleys. After about 3 hours of walking, we’ll arrive in Soraypampa, where we’ll have lunch at our base camp for the night. After lunch and a short rest, we’ll hike up to the unforgettable Humantay Lake (4,200m/ 13,779ft). This is a 5km (3.1 miles) round-trip hike that will take approximately 3 hours. This place is one of the most beautiful sights in all the Andes with unbelievable blue-green water reflecting the mountain glaciers of Apu Humantay. It seems like something out of a dream or fairytale!

Back at our camp, relax on your soft bed in our state-of-the-art Sky Lodges as the background of the valley at sunset creates the most peaceful scene with an energy that can only be felt and not described. Spend as many hours as you would like star-gazing through your elegant glass ceiling! Soraypampa is in the middle of the glacier valleys and the sky is so immensely clear at night that you can see every star and constellation. Comets can also be seen shooting across the pitch-black darkness, uninterrupted by the hustle, bustle, or lights of the city. Take a moment this evening to re-center your spirit and reflect in the profound silence and tranquility of Soraypampa!

Hiking Distance: 12km/ 7.45 miles
Starting Elevation: 3350m/ 10,990 ft
Highest Elevation: 4600m/ 15,091 ft
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Private transportation to Challacancha
Guided Trek w/ Porter Support
Lunch & Dinner (Plus snacks and afternoon tea time)

Overnight at Salkantay Sky Lodges


Soraypampa/ Salkantay Pass/ Wayracpunku/ Chaullay (B, L, D)

After an early wake-up with the first daylight at 5:30am and a quick but energizing breakfast, we’ll start trekking up to the highest point of the trail: the Salkantay Pass (4650m/ 15,255ft). The distance is a 7km (4.34 miles) of difficult ascent in 3 hours between the rocky valley base and the magnificent Salkantay Mountain (6271m/ 20,574ft). When we reach the top of the pass, we’ll appreciate the spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and the imposing snowy peaks of Salkantay, Humantay, Tucarhuay and Pumasillo mountains. Salkantay Mountain is the second highest mountain in the Cusco region and one of the Inca gods called “Apu.” Continuing from this climax of today’s trek, there is a 5km (3.1 mile) downhill walk to our lunch campsite. On the way down, there is a perfect valley lookout that is stunning! In the afternoon, after our meal, we’ll enter the upper part of the Amazon jungle, also called “the cloud forest.” This is a 10km (6.2 mile) hike completed in 3 hours on a wide trail in the thick and magical tropical forest. During this part of the trek, you’ll notice a dramatic change in landscape and the earth’s energy as we move from Andes to Amazon! This hike is truly beautiful! The hills are decorated with colorful scenery, wildlife, and native plants. The forests are warm and tropical most of the year with temperate climates. At the end of this outstanding hike, we arrive at Chaullay Village (2900m/ 9,514ft) for a much-deserved rest after a long day of trekking!

Tonight, enjoy our camping huts made of ichu (Peruvian feather grass) and wood to guarantee a pleasant rest with protection during cold nights in the mountains. This is our base camp in the jungle as we continue to make our way to Machu Picchu. Like in the times of our ancestors, our commitment is to our Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the Apus (Mountains). This campsite is adapted to the natural environment without generating any audiovisual impact, it is constructed of natural elements, surrounded by the mountains and rivers, and under the shine of the stars.

Hiking Distance: 22km/ 13.7 miles
Starting Elevation: 3800m/ 12,467 ft
Highest Elevation: 4,650m/ 15,255 ft
Difficulty: Strenuous

Guided Trek w/ Porter Support
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Plus snacks and afternoon tea time)

Overnight at Chaullay Camp


Chaullay/ Collpapampa/ La Playa/ Lucmabamba (B, L, D)

At 6:00am, we’ll start our trek to the small town of La Playa through Santa Teresa valley. You will be able to soak up this new, lush landscape during our 6 hours of hiking today! During the hike, we’ll see rivers, waterfalls, wild orchids, and plantations of coffee, banana, and avocado. You’ll also be able to taste passion fruit and granadilla fruit along the way. We’ll visit a village called Colpapampa, also called the “brow of the cloud forest,” where waterfalls, birds, hot springs, fruit-bearing trees, and flora and fauna can be observed. If we are lucky, we will even be able to see the beautiful Tunki bird, also known as “The Cock of the Rocks,” the national bird of Peru! After a hearty lunch at La Playa, we’ll hike for approximately 1-hour to our base camp called Lucmabamba (2400m/ 7874ft). We’ll explore the tropical forest for a little while and then we’ll visit an organic coffee farm. If you’re a coffee lover, this we be especially heavenly for you – you can taste coffee freshly prepared by the locals. If not, you can still enjoy the decadent aroma of freshly roasted and ground coffee wafting through the air. Coffee is the main farming industry of the local people in the jungle, and they farm many acres of coffee to export to the USA, Asia, and Europe. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, but it wasn’t until the Spanish invaded Cusco that it was brought to this region. Afterwards, we’ll explore a nearby orange plantation and an avocado plantation this afternoon.

Tonight, you’ll experience our Jungle Domes, brand new this year! These domes have been ecologically designed to not interrupt the beautiful, raw surroundings of the cloud forest. The Jungle Domes are a project that was created so that every guest could feel and enjoy the wonderful nature of Vicabamba with great comfort. From the comfort of the domes, you can be in intimate contact with the surrounding nature, hearing the wind or the rain or gazing at the stars through the central dome from your comfortable bed. The conceptual design of the domes invites you to see one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world from your window. Every time you step outside your dome, you will find yourself in a beautiful and aromatic native forest where you can enjoy observing many species of the fauna which live together with us.

Hiking Distance: 18km/ 11.2 miles
Starting Elevation: 2,750m/ 9,022 ft
Campsite Elevation: 2,400m/ 7,874 ft
Difficulty: Easy

Guided Trek w/ Porter Support
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Plus snacks and afternoon tea time)

Overnight at Jungle Domes Camp


Lucmabamba/ Llactapata/ Hidroelectrica/ Aguas Calientes (B, L, D)

Like previous mornings, our chef will wake us up early with a hot cup of coca tea served in your bed. You’ll get ready for today’s activities while enjoying your last prepared breakfast by our talented trek chef. Our hike will begin early, and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy part of the famous Inca Trail this morning. After a climb of about 2 hours with amazing views of the Santa Teresa valley, we’ll arrive at the Llactapata Inca site right in front of Machu Picchu. This will be the first archaeological site we will visit of the mysterious Lost City of the Incas! From here, we’ll also have our first glimpse from the distance of the south face of Machu Picchu. We’ll also get our first views of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.

Llactapata is a very special place to spend some time learning a bit more about this land’s roots and history. We’ll explore this Inca site with our guide, and he’ll share the history of the Incas who used and worshipped this land. After the Llactapata ruins, we’ll continue our trek with a 2-hour downhill hike. On this part of the trail, you can see Machu Picchu all the way until we arrive at the Hidroelictrica train station to have lunch. One of the most impressive sites in this area is the 300-meter tall natural waterfall, which generates electricity for the entire region of Cusco! After lunch, we’ll arrive at Intiwatana, a famous sundial stone in the Machu Picchu site. The people used these two stones to measure and read the winter solstice, which was the beginning of the new farming season for the Incas. After passing this interesting Inca site, we’ll reach the train tracks which lead to the town of Aguas Calientes. Here, you can choose to take the train to Aguas Calientes ($31 extra) or you may walk from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes, about 3 hours along the train track. Next to the tracks, there is a nice path through the warm paradise of the cloud forest. This is the same trail used by the American professor Hiram Bingham who rediscovered Machu Picchu after centuries of it being lost to the outside world!

Note: During the rainy season, the hike up the Llactapata Trail is not 100% guaranteed due to safety concerns. When heavy rains are frequent, this trail becomes very dangerous.

Hiking Distance: 18km/ 11.2 miles
Starting Elevation: 2,450m/ 8,038ft
Campsite Elevation: 2,000m/ 6,561ft
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Guided Trek w/ Porter Support
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Plus snacks and afternoon tea time)

Overnight at
 Waman Hotel or similar


Machu Picchu (B)

Today we arrive at the long-awaited finale of our trek, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Machu Picchu! We will wake up early after a refreshing night at our hotel to beat the crowds to the top of Machu Picchu (7,972 ft elevation) and enjoy its serenity in the soft morning light. The Machu Picchu entrance check point is open from 6:00am until 5:00pm. We’ll hike up to Machu Picchu (a bus ride is optional for $12) and enter the hidden Royal Citadel of the Incas. Here, we’ll have a 2-hour guided tour through this incredible ancient city to visit temples, terraces, palaces, priest’s houses, the sundial, the industrial sector, and the farming fields. Be amazed at the engineering ingenuity of the Incas which was so far ahead of their time and still partially a mystery today! Without having modern tools or even steel and iron to work with, the people who built this city were genius in organizing this community in a sustainable and beautiful way on the side of a mountain, even bringing water in canals through its streets for the people to use. When a Peruvian guide showed this site to Hiram Bingham, it was almost unrecognizable, covered in thick vegetation and in a state of disrepair. It has since been cleaned and restored and is now protected and treasured by the world at large!

You’ll have some free time after the tour to climb up to the sun gate or optionally climb Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu (permits required for these at an extra cost, please book in advance!). Each mountain takes approximately 3 hours to hike up and down. Another option is walking to see the Incan Bridge. Whatever you choose, you’ll have more than 7 hours to explore this magical city before hiking back down (or taking the bus) to Aguas Calientes for the train ride at 6:20pm to Ollantaytambo. A private bus will transfer us from the train station to your hotel in Cusco at around 10:00pm.

Guided tour of Machu Picchu
Expedition train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo
Private transport from Ollantaytambo train station to your hotel in Cusco
Meals: Breakfast

End of Services

2018 Dates & Pricing

***Prices Available Upon Request***

NOTE: All prices are per person in U.S. dollars based on double occupancy. All quotations are based on the current rates of park fees, VAT, other government taxes, and current exchange rates. Should any of these be increased or a new tax introduced, these increases will be added on even if your trip has already been paid for.

What’s Included

  • Transfers mentioned in the itinerary
  • 2 nights in Mendoza
  • Meals mentioned in the itinerary
  • Tours described in the itinerary
  • Bilingual guide (English / Spanish)

What’s Not Included:

  • International or Domestic Flights or Buses
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
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