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Salkantay Trail FAQs

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Salkantay Trail FAQs

The Salkantay Trail is an old alternative trail to the Inca Trail, along the route you can see beautiful places with ecological diversity of flora and fauna, an excellent trekking route for travelers who love adventure. Also this excursion is called 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 best 25 excursions in the world.

 

Are you worried about the degree of difficulty of the walk? Travelers in Peru say it's more difficult than the classic Inca Trail, but it's worth it anyway! The view is spectacular and with these answers to Salkantay Trail FAQ´s, you don't have to worry at all!

 

Best Time of year to do Salkantay Trek

There are two main seasons in the sub-tropical Peruvian Andes – a dry season that runs from late April through to early October, and a wet season that starts mid to late October and draws to a close in April. But, when is the best time of year to do Salkantay Trek?

 

The Salkantay 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, answering the question when is the best time of year to do Salkantay Trek? The best trekking months run from the shoulder wet months March / April all the way through to the shoulder dry months October / November.

 

Salkantay Trek Weather

The weather during the Salkantay trek is very varied, because it winds through very different terrain at different altitudes. The only place where weather is a serious concern is the Salkantay Pass and the affected areas. Temperatures here and at the nearby Soraypampa camp may fall below the freezing point. The other camps are much warmer, due to its proximity to the cloud forest.

 

Salkantay Trek Weather Month by Month

Salkantay Trek Weather from October to March: The rainy season is presented during those months. The days are sunny (19 ℃) and the nights are not so cold (4 ℃) but the frequency of rains increases considerably.

 

Salkantay Trek Weather from April to September: During those months is the dry season. The days in Salkantay have a stable climate (18 ℃), but the nights have their lowest temperatures in the year (-10 ℃).

 

Changes in the Salkantay Trek Weather:

  • The passage of ‘Abra Salkantay’ is the section where the cold is much more intense at night; the climate in the Abra can reach -10 ℃.
  • In the rest of the sections of the walk, the climate changes to a tropical environment; as for example in the section towards the town of Aguas Calientes the temperature of the day reaches 26 ℃ and at night 12 ℃.

How Cold is the Salkantay Trek?

Temperatures throughout the year follow a very consistent pattern. But, how Cold is the Salkantay Trek? Days are warm, in the high twenties Celsius (70/80 Fahrenheit), and cold at night and in the early mornings (single digits Celsius and sometimes below zero degrees).

 

Temperature fluctuation is further exasperated by the micro-climates that dominate as you ascend and descend in altitude.

 

If you are still worry about how Cold is the Salkantay Trek, the key to staying comfortable throughout the trek is layering (see our equipment packing list section below for details on ideal clothing requirements). 

 

How long is the Salkantay Trek?

The Salkantay trek is a hiking route that takes the visitor to the Inca City of Machu Picchu.

But, how many miles is the Salkantay Trek? The total Salkantay Trek Distance is approximately 74 Kilometers (45.98 miles), which are traveled in 5 days, 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 horas

Day 2 

Soraypampa to Chaullay

22 Kilometers (13.67 miles)

10 horas

Day 3 

Chaullay to La Playa

16 Kilometers (9.94 miles)

5 horas

Day 4 

La Playa to Aguas Calientes

19 Kilometers (11.81 miles)

10 horas

Day 5 

Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu

4 Kilometers (2.49 miles)

2 horas

 

How Difficult is the Salkantay Trek?

For an average traveller or tourist, Salkantay is considered a challenging but certainly not impossible hike.

 

The Salkantay Trail Difficulty depends a lot on the physical condition that one may have, in addition to having experience in some similar route and in the state of health that one may have.

 

But how difficult is the Salkantay Trek? In general, Salkantay trekking is considered by many travelers with greater effort, since the degree of Salkantay Trail Difficulty is "High", thus considering a great response for people who do it, especially considering the altitude.

 

The most complex day is the second, where the maximum point is Salkantay Pass, at 14,760123 feet above sea level, but with a good acclimatization of the first days it will not be so hard.

 

The Salkantay Pass elevation, at approximately 4,650 meters above sea level is the most difficult section in the trail. These challenges are a result of several factors: the challenge of an uphill climb, bitter cold winds, low temperatures in general, and the fact that you are trekking at a low-oxygen altitude.

 

In general, Salkantay is considered to be slightly harder than the Inca Trail. Other trails, such as Choquequirao, are considered to be slightly harder than Salkantay.

 

What's the most challenging section of the hike?

The Salkantay Pass, at 14,760123 feet above sea level, is the most difficult section in the trail. Expect wind and cold temperatures. Some hikers might experience symptoms of altitude sickness. Symptoms will disappear as soon as you start your descent. Oxygen will be provided if needed. The Salkantay Pass, at approximately 4,650 meters above sea level is the most difficult section in the trail. These challenges are a result of several factors: the challenge of an uphill climb, bitter cold winds, low temperatures in general, and the fact that you are trekking at a low-oxygen altitude.

 

How High is Salkantay Trek?

The minimum height is 2,200 m.a.s.l. in the last camp in Sahuayaco and the maximum altitude of Salkantay Trek is just over 4,600m (4,900m if you do the Salkantay and Inca Trail Trek), which might be the highest altitude you have ever gone to outside of an aeroplane.

 

At this altitude, available oxygen per breath is nearly 45% less than what is available at sea level, and results in a number of physiological impacts.

Cusco rises to 3,400 meters above sea level, which can be a problem for some people, so we recommend that you be in Cusco at least 48 hours before starting the tour, during which you should drink a lot of liquid, Avoid alcohol and rest.

Here is the Salkantay Trek Elevation Map. As you can see the first two days are tough, after which the trek gets a lot easier!

 

Day Destination Salkantay Trek Elevation Distance
Day 1 Mollepata to Soraypampa
  • Starting Altitude: Mollepata” - 9,515 feet (2900 meters)
  • Campsite Elevation: “Soraypampa” – 3850 meters / 12631feet
  • Considered: Moderate
  • The area: Andes
  • Walking distance: 15 km (aprox.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude point: 3,800 m (aprox.)
  • Campsite altitude: 3,800 m (aprox.)
Day 2 Soraypampa to Chaullay
  • Highest Elevation: “Salkantay pass” – 4600 meters /15090 feet
  • Campsite Elevation: “Challway” – (3000m/9842f)
  • Considered: Difficult
  • The area: Andes, Salkantay Glaciar
  • Walking distance: 16 km (aprox.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 6 - 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude point: 2,750 m (aprox.)
  • Campsite altitude: 1,600 m (aprox.)
Day 3 Chaullay to La Playa
  • Starting Elevation: “Challway” – (3000meters/9842feet)
  • Campsite Elevation: “Santa Teresa” – 1811 meters / 7055 feet
  • Considered: Moderate
  • The area: Cloud Forest
  • Walking distance: 16 km (aprox.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 6 - 7 hours
  • Maximum altitude point: 2,750 m (aprox.)
  • Campsite altitude: 1,600 m (aprox.)
Day 4 La Playa to Aguas Calientes
  • Walking Distance: 15km / 9 miles
  • Starting Elevation: “Santa Teresa” – 1811 meters / 7055 feet
  • Hotel Elevation: “Aguas Calientes” – 2050 meters / 7986 feet
  • Considered: Moderate
  • The area: Cloud Forest
  • Walking distance: 7 km (aprox.)
  • Estimated trekking time: 2 - 3 hours
  • Maximum altitude point: 2,700 m (aprox.)
  • Campsite altitude: 2,700 m (aprox.)
Day 5 Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Machupicchu Inca City: 7,972' (2,430 m)
  • Huaynapicchu Sacred Mountain: 8,924' (2,720 m)
 

 

Is the altitude a problem?

The altitude is something that effects everyone differently. We had been at high altitude for a while, and this wasn’t as high for us–so we had no problems :)  If you haven’t had experience at this altitude, give yourself 2-3 days of time in Cusco to adapt. Drink lots of water, chew cocoa leaves, and you can even take medicine if it’s really bad. Probably though, the worst you’re going to feel is breathlessness while hiking and headaches and a little nausea.

 

Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness

Now you know how high is Salkantay Trek, remember that comes with obvious altitude sickness risks.

It is nearly impossible to predict how Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness will effect you as there is very little correlation between altitude sickness symptoms and age, fitness level, gender etc.

We do however know that going too high too fast is a key determinant of Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness. Given enough time the body can adapt to how high is Salkantay Trek – this is called acclimatisation. It is important that you spend a few days (2 at a minimum) acclimatising in Cusco, or ideally in the Sacred Valley, which is nearly 1,000m below Cusco before starting your trek.

Also, the best advice to Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness is sleep, drink plenty of fluids and you could also take coca tea. Local people chew coca leaves wrapped around a resin black called llipta, when walking to this can help, since it dilates the vessels to increase blood flow to parts of the body that need it most and have a higher oxygenation.

 

Can I hike the Salkantay at any time?

Weather conditions during the rainy season makes the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu into a risky decision. Therefore we cannot guarantee the availability of the trek from mid-march to the end of February. If the weather is good, we will give the OK for a trek to start. If we think the safety of our porters and clients is being threatened, we will cancel the trek.

 

Salkantay trek closes in February?

Since 2002, and as every year, the Inca Trail along with 18 other archaeological sites, which are along its route, are closed to the public in the month of February, this is because this season is carry out conservation, maintenance and cleaning activities of these places.

 

Another reason, to restrict the entrance to the Inca Trail in February, is because precisely this month, there are the strongest rains of the season, in this area. So in order to safeguard the integrity of visitors with a great spirit of adventure, as well as that of guides and other support staff, the Inca Trail closes during the month of February of each year.

 

But what about the Salkantay trek, it closes in February? Well, Inca Trail closes in February, but Salkantay Trek does not do that, is opening all year. In the month of February you have other very good options when it comes to hiking to Machu Picchu, like the Salkantay trek, Inca Jungle Trail or Lares trek.

 

When to Book Salkantay Trek?

Every year this trek becomes more famous, as well as the Inca Trail, that is why we recommend making the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu reservations 2 or 3 months in advance so as not to have any problem with the income to Machu Picchu and train tickets that sell out quickly.

 

Book Salkantay Trek in Advance or until we get to Cuzco?

Another question when we decide to book this tour is: Can I make the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu reservations until we get to Cuzco?

 

You can book the Salkantay trekking in Cusco during your trip, but we recommend make the Salkantay Trek reservations in advance, and not wait until you get to Cuzco.

 

But why we recommend to book Salkantay Trek in advance and not until you get to Cuzco? The Salkantay trek always includes Machu Picchu at the end of the trip. For Machu Picchu you need entrance tickets that must be managed in advance. Trekking companies always need time to book these tickets. Therefore, it is convenient to book Salkantay Trek in advance online.

 

Booking Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu:

Choose your Salkantay packages, there you will find BOOK ONLINE. choose your date hike and fill all information required. your information is very important for us and it is privacy.. Read our Salkantay policy and click. Then you can pay via credit cards, bank or western union.  It is very important to book this trek in advance!!!

 

Why do I need to make a deposit?

We recommend to make your reservation in advance and we will guarantee your spaces for this hike. Each reservation needs 50% of deposit as first payment. The final balance(50%) will be paid in Cusco (Briefing Day). About Payment you must choose where would you like to make the deposit: Payment system online

  • VISA card
  • Western Union, Money Gram
  • Peruvian Banking Account

We use the money from your deposit to make several important purchases, including the entrance fee to Salkantay, the entrance fee to Machu Picchu, bus tickets, and train tickets. In addition, making a deposit assures us that you will be coming on the trek, and are unlikely to cancel at the last minute. This helps us with knowing how much food to buy, how many of our guides to use for the trek, etc. The deposit is non-refundable once we receive it, because we will immediately use it to purchase the tickets mentioned above. 

 

How much does a tour to Machu Picchu cost with the Salkantay trek?

The Salkantay trek of 5 days and 4 nights has an approximate cost of US $ 350 per person. There are more complete services (better camps, food and train service) that can cost US $ 500 per person.

Most tourism agencies offer a discount of between US $ 20 and US $ 50 for minors (between 3 and 17 years old) and university students.

 

Can I make the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu without guide?

 

The Salkantay trek is free, although it is true that the Government of Peru wants to restrict this trail and turn it into something similar to the Inca Trail. Although for now Salkantay trek is free, there is also the option of hiring an expedition with a guide, cooks, horseman and Salkantay Entrance fee.

 

You don't have one against a trekking company to do the Salkantay trek. Although we do not have the benefit of a guide, organized accommodation, ready meals and carriers, but you can hike the Salkantay Trek by yourself.

 

Doing the Salkantay trek without Guide costs nothing. The only important expenses are the entrance to Machu Picchu, the train services from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.

 

If you are thinking of crossing the Salkantay Trek independent, you should think about the following expenses:

  • Transportation: for the bus to Mollepata, the bus from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco and the bus from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.
  • Accommodation during the tour: for a shared room during the tour.
  • Meals: you will spend about USD 50 on meals during the tour.
  • Machu Picchu and Salkantay Entrance fee: Now Salkantay Trek is free and you don´t need a Salkantay Entrance fee, but you will require the entrance to Machu Picchu and book it in advance.

How much does the Salkantay Trek without guide cost?

Price in dollars

Machu Picchu Ticket

$ 48

Train service (Aguas Calientes - Ollantaytambo)

$ 70

Bus from Ollantaytambo - Cusco

$ 5

Bus Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu (round trip)

$ 24

Food, accessories and other expenses

$ 50

TOTAL COST

$ 197

 

What to Pack for a Salkantay Trek by yourself?

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 15kg, anymore weight will make the trek very tough. If you are overweight, consider acquiring the services of an arrieros (horseman) in Mollepata.

 

They charge between 30-40 Soles per mule per day and an additional 30/40 Soles per day for themselves, but are a great help.

 

As you will be cooking your own food (go with 3 days worth of light food, like sachets of soup, ramen noodles etc), you will need to have fuel ignition cooking gear. Here are some good examples of camping cookware and camping gas stoves.

 

There are a few key equipment items that you will need to take with you on your independent tour to Salkantay trek: 

  • Duffel Bag: We suggest bringing all your gear including your rucksack in an 80-90L duffel bag. This can then be left in Cusco, 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 or duck down, and synthetic. Down sleeping bags are generally lighter, warmer and better quality. They are however, more expensive. To decide between the two types, think carefully about how often you will be using the sleeping bag for future adventures or treks. A lightweight, warm down sleeping bag will serve you very well on most challenging classic world treks. On the other hand, if the Salkantay Trail is just a one off with little likelihood that you will be going to high altitude or on winter trekking trips in the future, then a good synthetic will suffice.
  • Regardless of season, it can get pretty cold at night on the Salkantay Trek (as seen on the temperature chart above). The coldest months coincide with the dry popular trekking season of May through September. During this time sub-zero temperatures are common at night. We recommend a four season bag for all year round with a rating of -10 C (14F).
  • During the dry shoulder months of March-April and October-November you can get away with a three season bag (-4 C / 25F). December, January and February are very wet and not great for trekking.
  • Mummy-shaped sleeping bags are the best as they are designed to fit the contours of your body and hence provide great insulation. Try get a bag that is no more than 2.5kg.
  • Sleeping Mat (Optional): You can get a self-inflating version. We recommend Therm-a-rest mats.
  • Sleeping Bag Liner (Optional): If you decide to go for a three season sleeping bag or rent a sleeping bag in Cusco, it’s worth bringing a sleeping bag liner for additional insulation should 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.
  • Ear Plugs (optional): It can get a little loud at the various camps. If you are a light sleeper basic ear plugs will prove to be very effective in giving you an uninterrupted nights rest. 

10 Important Tips for Salkantay Trail

In this article I will give you 10 training tips for Salkantay Trek so that you can enjoy this tour that offers a huge biodiversity and will make you fall in love at every step.

 

  1. Do hikings with weight

A very good advice to train and have your legs and body strong enough is to do a few hikings with weight. Leave your house for a walk in the mountains and load your backpack, start with little weight and as the days go by and you strengthen your muscles, increase the weight you load, you can even reach up to 15 kg. But that depends on each one.

 

  1. Travel long distances (spend a whole day on the mountain)

It is important to accustom the body to long journeys, since the kilometers traveled per day in Salkantay will make you spend at least seven or eight hours of travel, keep in mind that the second day takes about nine hours walking!

Try to spend a whole day on the mountain, make several kilometer routes that force you to spend more than seven hours on the mountain, so that you can know how your body reacts to different circumstances.

 

  1. Walk slowly

We tend to want to walk fast or get ahead of everyone, you have to remember to be patient, to enjoy the moment and what nature offers us. Walk slowly, do not accelerate, because it is not the same to stay accelerated for an hour to be in constant effort for more than nine hours.

 

  1. Sleep in height

In the first camp of the Salkantay route it is 4,000 meters above sea level. Do you know what the body feels when sleeping at this height? Sometimes we feel that we suffocate, that we lack the air, our head hurts and we struggle to sleep.

That is why as part of the training to enjoy the trekking it is important to spend a few nights at least more than 2,500 meters. This will allow you to know the reactions of your body when sleeping at height and it will know what it is to be several hours in height and develop more red blood cells, which are the particles of blood that carry the body's oxygen.

 

  1. Do breathing exercises

When you walk, try to find a rhythm between your breathing and your steps, this will help you get less tired and coordinate your movements well.

  1. Weigh your equipment before leaving

Get ready to get rid of the luxuries! Every gram in the mountain counts.

There are many stores that sell ultra light special equipment for the mountain, such as boots, jackets, backpacks, thermos, etc., sure if you are looking for you will find the best for you.

 

  1. Eat properly

Before your expedition, try to eat foods high in water, such as vegetables and fish. Green vegetables contain a high degree of iron and vitamin B, which will help you produce a greater amount of red blood cells so that the blood circulates better in your body.

In Peru, everywhere they have the famous coca tea, which is a millenary drink consumed to cure various discomforts, including mountain sickness, try to drink tea at times, you will like it!

 

  1. Train cardio

The physical condition is essential, you can start by running 5 kilometers and then 10, if you can not go out to the mountain every day, go to the gym, I am sure there is one near your house.

 

  1. Sleep well

The body needs to rest, after the time you have spent training, devote yourself to rest the days before your trip, you will need energy!

Try to fall asleep early the previous days so that you arrive in Peru with all the energy and the possible spirit.

 

  1. Hydration

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

 

 

 

 

What is difference between to the Salkantay 5 and 4 days?

On the 5 day hike to Salkantay, you will be visiting the Humantay Lake and 4 day hike, you don´t visit.

What is difference between to Salkantay 5 and 4 days?

 

 

Is it possible to enter with 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 old are not allowed to do the trek, and children who are over 14 years old should be in good physical shape and used to hiking long distances. 

 

Before to hike to Salkantay, where could I stay in Cusco?

You can choose your hotel by yourself, our guide will visit your hotel a day before the trek and he or she will pick you up from there.

Are there alternative routes?

Yes, you also have the following:

  • Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu 3 Days (Moderate)
  • Cusco - Mollepata – Salkantay – Machu Picchu 5 day trek (Moderate to Difficult.)
  • Inca Jungle To Machu Picchu (Easy To Moderate)
  • Cusco - Mollepata – Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu – Santa Teresa – Machu Picchu 5 day trek (Moderate to Difficult)
  • Cusco - Mollepata - Salkantay - Machu Picchu 4 day trek (Moderate to Difficult)
  • Ausangate 6 to 7 Day Trek (Moderate to Difficult)
  • Lares Valley To Machu Picchu 4 Day Trek (Moderate)
  • Choquequirao 4, 5 or 9 Day Trek (Moderate)
  • Vilcabamba 7 Day Trek (Moderate)
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