Salkantay Trek To Machu Picchu – Distance, Cost, Difficulty

by | Apr 10, 2021 | Salkantay Trek | 0 comments

Salkantay Detailed Information

The Salkantay Trek 5 Days to Machu Picchu is located in Peru’s Cusco region is a high-altitude trek with 46 miles or 74 km altitude. However, the route of this trek starts from Mollepata, which is a small town located about 100km away from Cusco Region.

This route is going to take you through some marvelous and unforgettable Andes nature areas. These areas come up with amazing wildlife and breathtaking and picturesque scenery. , Trekking on this route will also include two amazing Inca sites as well that are Machu Picchu and Llactapata. Due to which both nature or history lovers will enjoy the Salkantay Trek.

Key factors to know about Salkantay Trek

Even more, the Salkantay Trek is also known to be a more affordable alternative to the well-known Inca trail. Also, it has become one of the most popular treks of the present time. Well, this trek finishes at Aguas Calientes (hot springs) from where you can reach Machu Picchu.

Have glimpse of the Salkantay Trek’s overview below to know more about the trek here with ease:

  • The total of the trail is about 46 miles.
  • It requires trekking of about 5 days to finish the Salkantay Trek entirely.
  • The Salkantay Trek starts from Mollepata and ends at Aguas Calientes.
  • The average altitude of this trek is about 3000 meters.
  • The highest point of the Salkantay Trek is Apacheta pass that’s 4600 m high.
  • Most importantly, no special permissions are required for trekking at the Salkantay Trek. Even you can easily enjoy it solo or with a guide as per your needs.

Do you want to explore more treks around the Cusco trips? Then you can plan to visit two of the most amazing treks here which are:

  • The Choquequirao Trek
  • The Ausangate trek

To enjoy more in Peru and make the most out of your visit here, you can also join small group tour options with ease. These will definitely let you explore the hidden gems of Peru as well and can make your overall tour unforgettable.

Reasons to choose the Salkantay Trek instead of Inca Trail

Undoubtedly, the Inca trail is the most famous route to reach Machu Picchu. It doesn’t mean that this is the best as well. So, there are numerous benefits that you can get while trekking the Salkantay Trek instead The Inca trail.

Realize these benefits for a more adventurous and lucrative experience of reaching the Machu Picchu.

So, let’s have a look at these benefits below:

1.    Flexibility in booking

To get a permit for Inca trail you have to book here for about 6 months a headof your trip. This is a hitch for the plans of various spontaneous travelers. The Salkantay Trek doesn’t have any permit limitations, this leads to reduced booking lead time and enhanced flexibility with ease.

2.    Less crowd

Despite the permit limits, Inca trail still gets pretty crowded which can paint your trekking experience with frustration some times. However, at the Salkantay Trek you can easily get off to the beaten paths for a more amazing and scheduled adventure. It means you will be able to get increased space and freedom to enjoy your trekking here.

3.    Beautiful scenery

The Salkantay Trek can let you discover the most remarkable nature beauty’s feature throughout the route. On this trek you can spend a lot of time with nature and can have an unforgettable nature-rich trekking experience with ease.

4.    Affordability

Are you looking for a budget-friendly tour to Machu Picchu? Then, the Salkantay Trek can be the best option for you to consider in this regard. It is because this is a cheaper route to the Mochu Picchu than others.

Some important tips to keep in mind for the Salkantay Trek

Are you all-set to experience an amazing trekking experience at Salkantay Trek? Well, there are some of the most important thigs that you have to consider while trekking the Salkantay Trek. Here we have enlisted all of these important things for you. So, you can manage all the things here in the best possible way.

Due to high altitude route of Salkantay Trek, it is important to consider good acclimatization.

So, here we go:

1.    Stay hydrated

Hydration is highly important for trekking the Salkantay Trek. It is mainly because of the high altitude of this hike. So, you must drink enough water before starting to hike the trek. Also, make sure to keep water bottle with you, to avoid any inconvenience.

Remember that there are plenty of rivers and streams on the way. Even though you can utilize the water from these nature reserves but make sure to keep a life straw bottle and some water purification tablets with you. It is because various alpacas walking around, it isn’t safe to drink water without purifying it. So, be careful.

2.    Don’t forget to bring warm sleeping bag

No matter at what time of the year you are going to hike the Salkantay Trek. The trail can get cold especially at night. So, make sure to layer your clothes and bring a warm sleeping bag with you while hiking the Salkantay Trek.

Even though bringing your own sleeping bag is the best thing you can do here, however, if you are unable to do so, then you can hire the one locally as well. But the quality and standard of the hired sleeping bag isn’t guaranteed here always.

If you are hiking to the Salkantay Trek in the winters, then it is highly recommended to bring a 3-season or 4-season bag for added comfort and warmth. Even more, for added comfort roll mats are being provided throughout the Salkantay Trek for greater convenience and comfort.  

3.    Wear comfortable shoes and dress

When you are on the Salkantay Trek to hike, you can wear whatever you want on your feet. However, make sure that your footwear is extremely comfy and comfortable. Make sure that your footwear is lightweight and well-worn with ease. Waterproofing and effective ankle support is recommended. If you are having something to wear which can offer you good support and grip on rock, then there is no need to invest in new boots at all. Go with the comfortable pair that you already have.

4.    Bring essential accessories with you

There are some of the most important accessories which you have to keep when going for hiking the Salkantay Trek. So, the things you must keep with you on the trek include a portable flashlight with extra batteries, a basic first-aid kit, water purification tablets, sturdy shoes pair, high-calorie snacks, swimwear and any other personal stuff that you want to keep.

5.    Avoid pushing yourself hard on the trek

Altitude sickness on the Salkantay Trek is real, and if you are not going to be careful, it can ruin your overall hike with ease. The biggest mistake people make is to fly to Cuzco directly and plan to hike next day. Well, it’s not the way to do the things here. You must give yourself some time to get adjusted with the altitude here.

Even more, during your first and second day of hiking on Salkantay Trek, you will get altitude pretty fast. If you are feeling tired, then don’t push yourself hard to move on. instead, take a break, have some water and rest for a while.

Also, there are a few steep-descends on the hiking poles of trek. These will be handy to take some pressure away from your knees and make you feel better.

6.    Get some cooked food from the village on the trek

Surprisingly, the third day on the trek can let you enjoy some fresh food. It is because there will be some villages around from where you can easily get some freshly cooked food or something else to eat such as tuna, cold drinks, pasta, snacks, instant soups, etc.

Understand the Salkantay Trek’s Difficulty or ranking

Whenever it comes to hike on the Salkantay Trek, most of the first-time trekkers here want to know about the difficulty level and other essential things to know more about the trek. So, here we will rank the Salkantay Trek for 3 different parameters including scenery, touristy and difficulty level.

This will definitely play a vital role in your option of hiking the Salkantay Trek.

  1. The difficulty level of this trek is medium. It is because the first two days can be a bit hard and demanding especially for the first-timers. It is because of steep ascents and high altitude. However, the rest of the days on trek are easier to hike.
  2. Scenery on the Salkantay Trek is breathtaking. The sights around the trek are pretty impressive, lavish and beautiful. However, the major highlights of the trek are Salkantay Lake, Glacier and Humantay.
  3. Also, the touristy here fall in the medium range. Even though the Salkantay Trek is less crowded than Inca Trail but still it is busier as compared to Ausangate trek and Choquequirao Trek.

Overall, the Salkantay Trek is a paradise for the people who loves to enjoy adventurous outdoor activities. As the trek is offering a great variety of sights throughout its way.

When it is best time to trek the Salkantay Trek?

Cusco Region has only two seasons which are “the dry season” and “the wet season.”

  1. Well, the dry season goes from April to October with the driest months from June to August with nice temperature and very little rain. So, this can be a better time for you to visit the Cusco Region.
  2. Also, July to August is known as the peak season for tourists to visit Cusco Region. During these months the prices of everything goes higher. Also, the sites get busier. So, avoiding the peak season to visit Cusco region is a better option.
  3. However, on the other hand the rainy season goes from November to March. During these months less tours come to the Cusco region due to higher humidity, and a lot of rains.
  4. Keep in mind the fact that December to February are the worst months to visit Salkantay Trek for trekking.

Do you need to get a travel insurance for the Salkantay Trek?

Just like all the other outdoor activities, hiking the Salkantay Trek also comes up with some adventures and risks to get injured on the way. It may also include the risks like trip cancelation due to sudden weather condition or landslides after Cusco’s rainy season, and breaking or losing gears.

Even more, the Salkantay Trek is the area with high-altitude through Peruvian Andes’ remote areas. Therefore, it is always recommended to prefer to have a travel insurance that can cover you for the hike period.

However, it is highly important to choose the insurance company on which you can easily rely in case of an emergency. Make sure your chosen insurance company is experienced to work with the best hiking destinations of Peru. This will keep you in peace by knowing that you are insured under the company that has experience to work with the local companies and organizations.

In a nutshell, when planning to hike and stay at Salkantay trek, it is always recommended to have a travel insurance. This will definitely help you a lot in any unwanted situation.

What to pack for the Salkantay Trek?

Have you planned your tour to Salkantay Trek? The next thing here is to create your packing list. It is because your hiking experience at Salkantay Trek will definitely be impacted with the stuff you are packing with you to take.

However, to make things easier and more convenient for you, here we have enlisted some of the essentials that you must put in your packing list. So, have a look at the things enlisted below to know better about the things in this regard.

1.    A warm sleeping bag:

Having a warm sleeping bag is a must in your packing list for Salkantay Trek. It is because the nights here are always cold and you definitely need a comfortable and warmer sleeping bag for better night sleep.

So, it is always better to pack the best quality yet lightweight and warm sleeping bag with you here.

2.    A waterproof Backpack

When it comes to get a backpack to use during your hiking journey at the Salkantay Trek, then you have two options to consider here. Either you can go for a backpack with a rain cover on it or you can prefer to buy with a waterproof backpack.

Going waterproof is necessary here, because of the unpredicted weather conditions of the Cusco. If you are hiking in a group then you will definitely divide your stuff between all members. However, if you want to go solo, then you must buy a 60L lightweight and easier to carry backpack with you. A backpack in this size will help you to carry all your stuff easily.

Most importantly, if you are going to get a tour guide company for your Salkantay Trek hiking, then you will have to carry a few things only. It is because the rest of the luggage will be carried to the next stop through car or horses. This will definitely add enhanced convenience to your hiking experience here.

3.    A Sleeping Tent

As you have to camp about 3 nights at least on the trek, therefore, having a good, reliable and waterproof camp that can even keep you protected during rain as well is important. So, make sure to perform your due diligence and find the camp tent that is suitable for long traveling Salkantay Trek distance also. Invest in the one that is designed for mountains’ adventure perfectly.

4.    Inflatable Camping Mats  

There are numerous inflatable mats available in the market that are small, lightweight and easier to carry. Most importantly, these can easily fit into your backpack and can give you a comfortable and soft feel when lying down on these. Once you are going to give these a try, you will definitely prefer to keep them along for any of your outdoor activity.

Costs to pay at the Salkantay Trek

When it comes to understand what you have to spend to hike the Salkantay Trek, then there are different things that you will consider here. Let’s have a look at the overview of the an estimated cost of different facilities here to get a better idea about the budget for this trip with ease.

  1. You need to spend $45 USD as an entrance fee to Machu Picchu. However, for going Huyana Picchu Mountains the entrance fee is $59 USD. Prefer to buy your trek entrance ticket prior to your trip.
  2. If you want to travel through bus to reach Cusco then the fare will be between 30 Sol to 60 Sol. However, traveling through train from Aguas Calientes to Hidroeléctrica can cost you 60 sol for one side.
  3. You must have at least 100 Sol for gas and food here at the trek.
  4. When it’s about accommodation, then the three camping nights can cost you 10 to 30 sol. However, a night in a Salkantay trek hotel starts from 26 sol.

While, there can be some additional costs as well such as gear rental. However, these are the per person expenditure to hike the Salkantay Trek.

Is hiring a tour affordable and preferable here?

However, if you want to get most out of your Salkantay Trek tour, then joining a guided tour is an amazing option to consider here. Even though this can be a bit expensive option than traveling along, but these come up with amazing facilities that you will not be able to get, otherwise.

It is because the group tours usually cover everything from food, camping, accommodation, and essential amenities as well.

Keep in mind the fact that the prices of guided tour can vary company to company. However, you can still have a chance to find an affordable guided tour as well.

Overall, trekking independently and joining a group tour, both comes up with their own pros and cons. You can get to know about each option and choose whichever you will find more suitable for you with ease.

Salkantay Trek Distance and routes guide of the Salkantay Trek

So, here we have brought the details about Salkantay trek distance and routes. The table given below contains everything from the mains stops to the available amenities at each point. You can have a look at this table to get a comprehensive guide regarding the routes and Salkantay trek distance.

So, here we go:

Route NameHidroeléctricaSanta TeresaLucmabambaLa PlayaColpapampaChaywayHuayracmachaySoraypampaMollepata
Distance2000 m1800 m2100 m2000 m2800 m2900 m3750 m3900 m2900 m
Salkantay trek HotelXXX
Cooked mealX
Running tap water
RemarksMost of the people avoid to stop here, it is because the location is at just 2-hrs of walking distance from Aguas Calientes.It’s a pretty touristy place. It is because people prefer to come here to visit hot springs nearby.This is a small but beautiful village to see breathtaking views and coffee plantation.An amazing place to stop with affordable campsite.Here you can stop to have some rest and rejuvenate yourself.A best place to have a nap, and freshen up yourself.Campsite is affordable but this place has less amenities than others.Overall, this is a camping area to stop at the first night of your hiking. Remember it’s not a town area.A small town that you can get by a bus easily. This is basically the beginning of Salkantay trail.

An amazing 5-day itinerary to the Salkantay Trek

Well, a typical Salkantay Trek itinerary will look something like the one we have given below:


The hiking to the Salkantay Trek starts from Cusco. To enjoy your hiking experience to the fullest on this trail, it is highly recommended to reach here a day or two before hiking the trek.

Day 1

At the first day you will take a 3-hour car ride to reach Mollepata from Cusco. From here you will have the option to either start hiking or take another bus to reach Sayllapata. The gentlest day of hiking the Salkantay trek. However, this can give you some time to adjust with the altitude and the hike day will end at Salkantaypampa.

Day 2

Be well-prepared for the second day hike. It is because this will be the most challenging part of Salkantay Trek. Hiking to Soyrococha from Salkantaypampa, you may encounter various switchbacks here. However, the views here from the top are definitely spectacular.

However, due to high altitude and zig zag trail here, you might feel thin air and cold. So, dress up yourself in layers. Well, you will reach the Salkantay pass after continuous upward steps. And here the scenery will change to the dense forest when you move down to Colpapampa.

Day 3

This day will offer you majestic waterfalls, the jungle zone, a variety of birds, plants and flowers. With the comfortable trekking of 3 hours from Colpapampa, you will reach La Playa. This small town can offer you the largest lodging on the trail.

Here you can spend some quality time in coffee plantations as well.

Day 4

The next day will come up with different routes for you to reach Aguas Calientes. These routes include:

  • Llactapata
  • Hot Springs in the Colcamayu
  • Cola de Mono

You can decide with your fellow and choose your preferred route to move forward and reach the Aguas Calientes. Here you can get the opportunity to stay at Salkantay trek hotel for the first time. So, make sure to take the full advantage of this opportunity.

Day 5

However, the next day is to take the route to Machu Picchu from the Aguas Calientes. Here you have two options to take this route.

  • Go upstairs and take more than 2,000 steps that will take up to 2 hours to reach Machu Picchu. If you want to go with this option, make sure to start earlier to avoid crowd at Machu Picchu.
  • The other option is to take the bus. The journey on the bus here starts from $20 USD. And it will take only half an hour to let you reach the destination.

After exploring the Machu Picchu, you can take the bus back to Agua Calientes. From here you can find various options of Salkantay trek hotel, transportation and trekking to return Cusco back. Plan your transport back to Cusco and finish the wonderful hiking experience there in the best possible way.


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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!


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