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Salkantay Trek FAQ

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Salkantay Trek FAQ

The Salkantay Trek is an old traditional alternative trail to the Inca Trail, along this route, you can see beautiful places with ecological diversity of flora and fauna, an excellent trekking path for adventure lovers. This hike is known as one of the alternate routes to reach the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

 

The excursion to Salkantay was recently named by the National Geographic Adventure Travel magazine among the top 25 hikes in the world!

 

Are you worried about the level of difficulty of the trek? Travelers in Peru say it is more difficult than the classic Inca Trail, but it is worth it anyway! The views are spectacular and with all the answers below in the Salkantay Trail FAQ, you do not have to worry at all!

 

Best Time of the Year for the Salkantay Trek

There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes:

  • The dry season runs from late April through to early October.
  • The wet season starts mid to late October and ends in April.

But, when is the best time of the year to do Salkantay Trek?

The trek can technically be completed all year round, the peak trekking season to Machu Picchu occurs during the dry season and is busiest between May and September. So, the best time of year to do Salkantay Trek run from the shoulder of wet months March/April all the way through to the shoulder of dry months October/November.

 

Salkantay Trek Weather

The weather during the Salkantay trek is very diverse because it winds through very different terrain at different altitudes. The only place where the weather is a serious problem is Salkantay Pass and the surrounding area. Temperatures here and at nearby Soraypampa camp may drop below freezing. The other camps are much warmer due to its proximity to the cloud forest.

 

Salkantay Trek Weather Month by Month: 

  • October to March: The rainy season is presented during those months. The days are sunny (19°C) and the nights are not so cold (4°C) but the frequency of rains increases considerably.
  • April to September: During those months is the dry season. The days on the Salkantay Mountain have a stable climate (18°C), but the nights reach their lowest temperatures in the year (-10°C). 

Changes in the Salkantay Trek Weather:

  • The passage of ‘Abra Salkantay’ (Salkantay Pass) is the section where the cold is much more intense at night; the climate in the pass can reach -10°C.
  • In the rest of the trail, the climate changes into a tropical environment; for example, in the section towards Aguas Calientes, the daytime temperature reaches 26°C and at night 12°C!

How Cold is the Salkantay Trek?

Temperatures throughout the year follow a very identical pattern. The days are warm, well above 20°C (70/80°F), and the nights and early morning are cold (units above zero and sometimes below zero degrees Celsius). Temperature fluctuations further distinguish the microclimate which dominates during ascents and descents at altitude.

 

If you are still worried about how cold the Salkantay Trek is, the key to maintaining comfort throughout the trek is layering (see the Equipment Packaging List below for details on ideal clothing requirements).

 

How Long Is the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay Trek is a hiking route that takes its participant to the Inca city of Machu Picchu, the Salkantay Trek Distance is approximately 74 km (45.98 miles), which is commonly surpassed in 5 days, that means 12 kilometers distance on average per day.

 

Day

Destination

Salkantay Trek Distance

Hiking Time

Day 1

Mollepata to Soraypampa

13 kilometers (8.08 miles)

7 hours

Day 2 

Soraypampa to Chaullay

22 kilometers (13.67 miles)

10 hours

Day 3 

Chaullay to La Playa

16 kilometers (9.94 miles)

5 hours

Day 4 

La Playa to Aguas Calientes

19 kilometers (11.81 miles)

10 hours

Day 5 

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

4 kilometers (2.49 miles)

2 hours

 

How Difficult Is the Salkantay Trek?

  • For the average tourist, Salkantay is considered a challenging but certainly not impossible hike. 
  • The Salkantay Trail difficulty depends a lot on the health and physical condition that one may have in addition to having experience with a similar route.
  • The most challenging section of the trail is the altitude of the Salkantay Pass at an altitude of approximately 4,650 metres (14,760123 feet) above sea level. These challenges are the result of several factors: the challenge of climbing uphill, bitterly cold winds, generally low temperatures, and the fact that you are trekking at low oxygen altitudes.
  • Some hikers might experience symptoms of altitude sickness, which will disappear as soon as they start to descent. Please note: that Tierras Vivas provides oxygen if necessary.
  • In general, Salkantay is considered slightly harder than the Inca Trail, but easier than other trails such as Choquequirao

What is the Altitude of the Salkantay Trek?

  • The minimum altitude is 2,200 m.a.s.l. at the last camp in Sahuayaco and the maximum altitude of the Salkantay Trek is just over 4,600 m (4,900 m if you go on the Salkantay and Inca Trail Trek), which may be the highest altitude you have ever experienced off the plane.
  • At this altitude, the available oxygen is almost 45% lower than at sea level, resulting in a number of physiological effects.
  • Cusco is located 3,300 meters above sea level, which can be a problem for some people, so we recommend that you stay in Cusco for at least 48 hours prior to the trek, during which you should drink plenty of fluids, completely avoid alcohol and relax.
  • Below you can see the Salkantay Trek Elevation Table. As you may notice the first two days are difficult, but they are replaced by subsequent days, which are much easier! 

 

Day Destination Salkantay Trek Elevation Distance
Day 1 Mollepata to Soraypampa
  • Starting altitude: Mollepata - 2,900 metres/9,515 feet 
  • Campsite elevation: Soraypampa – 3,850 m/12,631 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Andes
  • Walking distance: 15 km (approx.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude: 3,800 m (aprox.)
  • Minimum altitude: 2,900 m
Day 2 Soraypampa to Chaullay
  • Starting altitude: Soraypampa – 3,850 m/12,631 ft
  • Campsite elevation: Challway – 3,000 m/9,842 ft
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Location: Andes, Salkantay Glaciar
  • Walking distance: 16 km (approx.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 6 - 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude: 4,600 m
  • Minimum altitude: 3,000 m (approx.)
Day 3 Chaullay to La Playa
  • Starting altitude: Challway – 3,000 m/9,842 ft)
  • Campsite elevation: Santa Teresa – 1,811 m/7,055 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Cloud forest
  • Walking distance: 16 km (approx.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 6 - 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude: 2,750 m
  • Minimum altitude: 1,600 m (approx.)
Day 4 La Playa to Aguas Calientes
  • Starting altitude: Santa Teresa – 1,811 m/7,055 ft
  • Hotel elevation: Aguas Calientes – 2,050 m/7,986 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Cloud forest
  • Walking distance: 15 km
  • Estimated trekking time: 2 - 3 hours
  • Maximum altitude: 2,700 m (approx.)
  • Minimum altitude: 1,811 m
Day 5 Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Starting altitude: Aguas Calientes – 2,050 m/7,986 ft
  • Machu Picchu: 2,430 m/7,972 ft
  • Huayna Picchu: 2,720 m/8,924 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Walking distance: 4 km
  • Estimated trekking time: 1.5 hours
  • Maximum altitude: 2,430/2,720 m 
  • Minimum altitude: 2,050 m

 

 

Is the Altitude a Problem?

The altitude is something that affects everyone differently. Locals have been living at high altitude for a while, so they do not experience any problem. But if you have not experienced this altitude, give yourself 2-3 days of time in Cusco to adapt. Drink lots of water, chew or drink cocoa natural leaves, and you can even take some anti-soroche medicine if it is really bad. Probably though, the worst you will feel is breathlessness while hiking, headache, and little nausea.

 

Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness

Now you already know what is the altitude of the Salkantay Trek, so remember that it comes with obvious altitude sickness risks. It is nearly impossible to predict how altitude sickness on the trek will affect you as there is very little correlation between altitude sickness symptoms and age, fitness level, gender, etc. We do, however, know that ascending too high too fast is a key determinant of the sickness. Given enough time the body can adapt to the Salkantay Trek altitude – this is called acclimatization. That is why it is important to spend a few days (2 at a minimum) acclimatizing in the Cusco city, or ideally in the Sacred Valley, which is nearly 1,000 metres below the city before starting the trek.

The best piece of advice is to beat the sickness by sleeping a lot, drinking plenty of (non-alcoholic!) fluids, preferably tea of coca leaves. While walking, locals chew coca leaves wrapped around a resinous black called elliptical, because it dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the parts of the body that need it most for higher oxygenation.

 

Can I Hike the Salkantay at Any Time?

Due to the weather conditions during the rainy season, the Salkantay Trail on Machu Picchu is a risky business. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the availability of the trek from mid-January to the end of February. If the weather is good, we will give a thumbs up so we can start the trek. If we think the safety of our Porters and clients is at stake, we will cancel the trek.

 

Does the Salkantay Trek Close in February? 

Since 2002, the Inca Trail has been close to the public in the month of February to carry out its conservation, maintenance and cleaning activities. Another reason to restrict access to the Inca Trail in February is the very month when the heaviest rains fall in this area. Therefore, the Inca Trail closes every February to ensure the safety of visitors of a very adventurous spirit, as well as guides and other support staff.

 

But what about the Salkantay Trek? Does it close in February? The answer is NO! The Salkantay Trek is luckily open all year round! In the month of February, therefore, you have other very good opportunities when it comes to hiking on Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay Trek, the Inca Jungle Trail or the Lares Trek.

 

When to Book the Salkantay Trek?

 

Booking the Salkantay Trek in Advance or Once in Cuzco?

When you decide to book this trek, another question arises: Should I book a Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu before I get to Cuzco? You can book the trek once in Cusco, but we advise you to book it beforehand and not wait until your arrival at Cusco. Why do we advise you that? As the trek always includes Machu Picchu at the end of the route. At Machu Picchu, you need tickets which must be purchased in advance. Trekking companies always need some time to book these tickets. Therefore, it is convenient to book Salkantay Trek online beforehand.

 

How Long Time Beforehand to Book the Salkantay Trek?

Every year the trek becomes more famous, as does the Inca Trail, so we recommend booking the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 2 or 3 months in advance to avoid the problem of buying Machu Pichu tickets and the lack of train tickets, as they sell out quickly!

 

Booking the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu

  • Choose one of our Salkantay packages, then click on "BOOK ONLINE", choose your preferred date to hike, and complete all required details. Important note: we process your details in accordance with the protection of personal data!!
  • In the next step, check and tick "Read and accept our service policies". After that, click on the "Registration & Payment" button.
  • You then can pay by credit card, bank transfer or Western Union. 

Why Do I Need to Make a Deposit?

We advise you to make a reservation in advance to secure your spot on this hike! Each reservation requires a 50% deposit! The final balance (50%) is paid once in Cusco (usually, at the briefing day). When you pay, you need to choose a payment method for the deposit payment as follows:

  • VISA card,
  • Western Union/Money Gram,
  • Bank account.

We use the deposit to buy tickets for Salkantay, Machu Picchu, bus, and train tickets. It also helps us to determine how much food to buy, how many of our guides to employing for the hike, etc. Last but not least, by making a deposit payment, you assure us that you will take part in the trek and not cancel it at the last minute.

Please note that the deposit is non-refundable once we receive it because we will immediately use it to purchase the above-mentioned tickets for you!  

 

How Much Is the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu?

The Salkantay trek of 5 days and 4 nights has an approximate cost of US$ 350 per person. There are more complete services such as better camps, food and train service. If this is the case, the hike can cost US$ 500 per person.

The majority of travel agencies offer a discount of between US$ 20 and 50 for minors (between 3 and 17 years old) and university students (with a valid ISIC card).

 

Can I Hike the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu without a Guide?

Unlike the Inca Trail, access to Salkantay is not limited by the number of permits. However, the Peruvian government plans to restrict this path and turn it into something similar to the Inca Trail. It is also possible to hire an expedition with a guide, chef, horsemen, and a Salkantay entrance fee.

 

Although you will not have the benefit of a guide, organized accommodation, camping equipment, ready meals, and carriers, you can arrange a trip to Salkantay Trek yourself. It costs nothing to do the Salkantay trek without a guide. Or, almost nothing since the most important expense will be the entrance to Machu Picchu and train transport from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.

 

If you are thinking of passing the Salkantay Trek independently, you should consider the following expenses:

  • Transportation: a bus to Mollepata (the trailhead), a bus from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco or a train Aguas Calientes to Cusco.
  • Accommodation: renting camping equipment during the trek.
  • Meals: you need about USD 50 to purchase food supply for the trail.
  • Machu Picchu and Salkantay Entrance Fee: Salkantay Trek is free now, but you will need to buy a Machu Picchu ticket beforehand.

How Much Does the Salkantay Trek without a Guide Cost?

Prices in USD

Machu Picchu ticket

$ 48

Train ticket (Aguas Calientes - Ollantaytambo)

$ 70

Bus Ollantaytambo - Cusco

$ 5

A shuttle bus Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu (a round trip)

$ 24

Food, equipment and other expenses

$ 50

TOTAL COST

$ 197

 

What to Pack for the Salkantay Trek without a Guide?

If you are doing a Salkantay Trek by yourself, you will need to carry your own gear, including food and a tent. This means that you will need to pack light, avoid taking too many duplicate items on the packing list (for example, take only one pair of trekking trousers instead of two). Try to keep your pack under 15 kg, any overweight will make the trek very tough. In case there is overweight, consider hiring the services of horsemen (arrieros) in Mollepata. They charge between 30-40 Soles per mule/horse per day and additional 30-40 Soles per day per horsemen. They are of great help!

 

Important note: mules and horses are often overloaded. Please ensure that your mule/horse is not overloaded. A couple of Soles are not worth making the animals fall ill or die !!!

 

As you will be preparing your own food (take light food for 3 days such as soups in a bag, ramen noodles, etc.). You will need to have fuel (gas), a cooker and camping cookware

 

A Few Key Equipment Items that You Will Need to Take with You: 

  • Duffel bag: We suggest bringing all your gear including your rucksack in an 80-90 litre duffel bag. This can be left in Cusco then, storing your non-trekking gear, and your rucksack can be used solely on the trail.
  • Sleeping bag: A good quality and warm sleeping bag is a must on the Salkantay Trek. Sleeping bags come in two types – goose/duck down and synthetic. Down sleeping bags are generally lighter, warmer and of better quality. They are, however, more expensive. To decide between the two types, think carefully about how often you will be using them for future adventures or treks. A lightweight, warm down sleeping bag will serve you very well on the most challenging classic world treks. On the other hand, if the Salkantay is just a one-off with little likelihood that you will be going to high altitude or winter trekking trips in the future, then a good synthetic will suffice. Regardless of the season, it can get pretty cold at night on the trek (as seen above). So we advise you a four-season bag for all year round with a rating of -10°C (14°F). During the dry season at the turn of March-April to October-November, you can go away with a three-season bag (-4°C / 25°F). December, January and February are very wet and not suitable for trekking. Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are best because they are designed to match the contours of your body and therefore provide great insulation. Try to take a bag not heavier than 2.5 kg.
  • Sleeping mat: You can get a self-inflating version, Therm-A-Rest brand is a great option.
  • Sleeping bag liner (optional): If you decide to go for a three-season sleeping bag or rent such a bag in Cusco, it is worth bringing a sleeping bag liner for additional insulation because temperatures get really cold at night.
  • Inflatable pillow (optional): A simple inflatable pillow can come in handy if you are one of those people that needs a soft surface to rest your head. Alternatively, just stuff the hood of your sleeping bag with some spare clothing.
  • Earplugs (optional): It can get a little loud at the various camps. If you are a light sleeper basic earplugs will prove to be quite effective in giving you an uninterrupted night rest. 

9 Important Tips for the Salkantay Trail

This article will give you 10 training tips for Salkantay Trek so you can enjoy its vast biodiversity and fall in love with it every step of the way.

 

1) Do hiking with carrying weights: Very good advice on how to train and have strong enough legs and body is to do a few tours with weights. Leave your house for a walk in the mountains and load your backpack, starting with little weight and as the days go by and you strengthen your muscles, increase your weight. You can even reach up to 15 kg, but it is up to you.

 

2) Travel long distances: It is important to get the body used to a long journey because the kilometers traveled daily on Salkantay will force you to spend at least seven or eight hours hiking. Keep in mind that the second day even takes about 9 hours! Try to spend the whole day on the mountain, walking routes several kilometers long, which will force you to spend more than seven hours on the mountain to learn how your body reacts to different circumstances.

 

3) Walk slowly: We tend to walk fast or overtake everyone. You must remember to be patient, enjoy every moment, and what nature has to offer. Walk slowly, do not accelerate because you cannot accelerate for an hour, and then keep doing the effort for nine hours.

 

4) Sleep at high altitude: The first camp of the Salkantay route is situated at 4,000 meters above sea level. Do you know what the body feels when sleeping at such an altitude? Sometimes, it feels like we are suffocating, we lack air, we have a headache and we struggle to sleep. That is why it is important to spend a few nights at least more than 2,500 metres as part of trekking training. This will allow you to know your body's reactions during sleep at high altitudes and learn how it feels like as well as to develop more red blood cells, which are the particles of blood that carry oxygen in the body.

 

5) Do breathing exercises: When walking, try to find a rhythm between your breathing and your steps, that will help you get less tired and coordinate your movements well. Weigh your equipment before leaving. Get ready to get rid of luxury! Every gram on the mountains counts. There are many shops that sell ultralight special equipment for the mountain, such as shoes, jackets, backpacks, thermos, etc. If you search, you will find the best for yourself.

 

6) Eat properly: Before your expedition, Before shipping, try eating foods high in water, such as vegetables and fish. Green vegetables contain high levels of iron and vitamin B, which will help you produce more red blood cells so that the blood circulates better in your body. In Peru, they have the famous coca tea everywhere, which is a thousand-year-old drink consumed to treat various discomforts, including mountain sickness. Try drinking this tea at times, you will like it!

 

7) Train cardio: Physical fitness is essential, you can start by running 5 kilometres and then increase to 10. If you cannot go up the mountain every day, go to the gym, there is surely one close to your house.

 

8) Sleep well: The body needs to rest. After the time you spent training, take a break a few days before the trip as you will need energy! Try to go to bed early to arrive in Peru with all your energy and cheerful spirit.

 

9) Get hydrated: You have to stay hydrated during the expedition, this will save you headaches and energetic wear. Hydrate yourself very well during your workouts too, the body will perform better and you can train in the best way.

 

What Is the Difference Between the Salkantay of 5 and 4 Days?

When doing the 5-day hike to Salkantay, you will visit Humantay Lake which the 4-day hike does not involve.

 

 

What is difference between to Salkantay 5 and 4 days?

 

 

Is It Possible to Enter with a Different Name?

No, you need to carry your valid ID (passport) to enter the trek park! Make sure you carry your passport with you and get the Machu Picchu stamp at the entrance.

 

Can I Do the Salkantay with Kids?

Children under 14 years of age are not allowed to do the trail. Children who are over 14 years of age should be in good physical shape and used to hiking long distances. 

 

Where to Stay in Cusco Before Hiking the Salkantay?

You can choose your hotel by yourself, our guide will visit your hotel a day prior to the trek, and s/he will pick you up from there.

 

What Alternative Routes Can I Choose From?

You can check here or see the below options:

  • Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, 3 days (moderate).
  • Inca Jungle to Machu Picchu, 4 days (easy to moderate).
  • Salkantay - Machu Picchu, a 4-day trek (moderate to difficult).
  • Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, a 5-day trek (moderate to difficult).
  • Ausangate Peru Hike, 6- or 7-day trek (moderate to difficult).
  • Lares Valley to Machu Picchu, 4-day trek (moderate)
  • Choquequirao, 4-, 5-, 8- or 9-day trek (moderate to challenging).
  • Vilcabamba, 7 days (moderate).

 

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