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Salkantay Trek Advices and Tips

Tierras Vivas Travel > Salkantay Trek Advices and Tips

Salkantay Trek Advices and Tips

Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Salkantay Trek, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for five days along a path through forests and dense fog, and all the time enjoying majestic views.

The Salkantay Trek 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.

This hike takes the name of the magnificent Salkantay Snowy, natural work belonging to the Vilcabamba mountain range, located in the province of the Convention, district of Santa Teresa and is also one of the highest mountains in the Cusco region.

Are you worried about the degree of difficulty of the walk? Feel the effects of altitude during the trip? The view is spectacular and with these more than 10 Recommendations to survive the Salkantay Trek in Peru, you don’t have to worry at all!

10 Salkantay Trek Recommendations

As we said before this trek is really challenging so you need to be prepared for it. Here we give you 10 Salkantay Trek Recommendations for it:

Salkantay Pass Altitude
Salkantay Trek

1. Your drink should be always on hand.

Yes, we know it, sounds like a joke, “how will I not take my drink by hand?”, but you will be surprised to know the number of people that needs to take a break and remove the backpack to hydrate.

Never go out on the mountain to hike without a minimum of a liter and a half of water. When it comes to hydrate ourselves, choose water or isotonic drinks (never carbonated soft drinks).

In order to hydrate constantly, we will have to choose wisely our container of water in order to transport it within reach of the hand at all times to be able to take small drinks from time to time. There are multiple solutions for that, from the most sophisticated camel bag to the simplest canteen in an accessible backpack pocket. We recommend you always carry a half-filter tank on hand, and the rest of the bag inside.

2. Small steps on the climbs.

There is always an old proverb (which of course, are attributed to the Chinese as all the old proverbs) that says: “Walk like an old man to come as a young man.” This does not mean that we have to be especially slow, what we must do is to keep a constant rhythm and when we reach an ascending slope area we should maintain the rhythm as much as possible, because if we do not know exactly how much of ascension is left, it is possible that we get exhaust early.

3. Use walking sticks.

They help to unload some of the weight of our joints, in addition they offer us extra stability and help us to remove any branch or plant that has grown up cutting our way in some path with lacking maintenance. In the descents you will have to lengthen them, and in the climbs, shorten them. The walking sticks are cheap, they are light and they help a lot in the mountain.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

4. Use trekking shoes.

Yeah… we all know that, but we still insist, it is much safer to walk with a hiking boot than to do it with other type of footwear. But, what shoes should I pack for Salkantay Trek? A comfortable boot with waterproof membrane (for example goretex) will not only prevent kinking and humidity, it will prevent loose stones from hitting our ankles.

Salkantay Pass Elevation
Salkantay Trek Guide

Of course, the use of the boot will remove some mobility, but that will be solved with a correct lacing of the laces. For the descents we will tie the boot firmly, trying to keep the heel of the foot close to the back of the boot and in that way there will be a free space between the toe of the boot and the toes. With that, we will prevent the foot from slipping toward the front of the boot and as a result our fingers are crushed in the descent. For the ascensions we will release the pressure of the loop in the upper part of the boot and we will make sure to keep the instep tight and firm. If you do this, you will restore mobility in the ankle, and this will allow us to have more movement freedom on the ascent.

5. Change the support position on the climbs.

It is quite common that after a long time of ascent, our muscles begin to show the effort. A very simply and effective trick to give these muscles a breath is to slightly change the position in which we support the foot. If we tilt it a little, we will work a different muscle group. We will distribute the load of the effort and we will notice an immediate relief in the overloaded muscles.

6. Dress in layers.

Just like the onions. That is the first thing that the most experienced mountain people will advise you.

Always use clothes as thin as possible to avoid looking like the Michelin doll, imagine not fitting on the jacket. Avoid fabrics like cotton, and always try to use technical fabrics. In case they get wet (rain, fall to a river or simply sweat), they dry quickly… and never, ever take your jeans to the mountain. If they get wet you could not even walk with them. Always wear clothes that do not come too loose, it is better to go relatively tight but without losing mobility. Clothes that are too wide have a bad habit of getting caught in all the branches and protrusions we find on the path.

7. Your backpack should have lumbar support.

Okay, this is another thing that we all have clear, but if we were given a dollar for every time I have crossed with someone on the mountain with a backpack that only supports the shoulders, I would be millionaire.

Use a backpack that not only has shoulder straps, but also supports your lower back and hips. If you choose your backpack properly and tighten it correctly you may even forget that you wear it. Distribute the load inside the backpack properly and just walk, enjoy.

8. Protect yourself from the sun and the cold.

Have you ever heard of the chimney effect? The human body generates a great amount of heat when it is active, releasing calories, that although we are interested in losing them in summer and times of heat, it does not happen in winter. In this way our body becomes a real stove.

As I tell you, in the mountain we lose most of the body head by the feet and by the head. If we wear suitable socks and a correct boot we will have half solved, expect for some case of a minimalist athlete who is going to go barefoot, all the others wear shoes. But instead, there are many people who do not know that the other important part where we lose the body heat is the head, which without a cap or hat is exposed to the elements. The solution is simple, a hat.

Wear a hat or cap with protection at the nape of the neck, in both cases ensure that it has an ultraviolet filter. In that way you will avoid not only burn, but also suffering from heat stroke. In both cases, as with dehydration, the consequences can be very serious. Always use sunscreen, the ultraviolet radiation is more incisive in the mountain, and carrying a hydrated skin will prevent you from cutting and cracking with the wind and the cold winter, you will also delay the aging of it.

9. Instant energy always at hand.

“Okay, I have had tried everything, the climb is endless. I carry walking sticks, I have hydrated, I am taking short steps and changing the support in each of them, I wear the top of the loose boot, my hat protect me from the sun, I like a mime with all the white face by the protective creak and my backpack is fastened, balanced and firm, but I cannot keep going…” That had happened to us too, it is time to put an extra dose of energy, always carry nuts, energy bars or add one of my friends, dried figs (I am particularly not in favor of the gels for the trekking practice, we are not mountain runners). An extra contribution of glucose of fast assimilation will allow you to endure that “little bit more”, which we have been told is missing. Of course, that means by hand, in a pocket or where ever you want, but as with hydration, do not put it somewhere where you need to remove all the backpack to achieve you extra contribution of energy.

10. Avoid eternal stops and heavy meals.

If you stop, enjoy the view, the landscape, breathe deeply, but do not stop constantly and when you do it for lunch or to eat, avoid that these stops go beyond 15 or 20 minutes. Try not to overeat, you better taker the right amount, try to bring fruit and not just sandwiches. The fruit will give us a contribution of sugar and hydration that will help a lot. If we eat a lot of food, very heavy food and also stay on a place for a long time, when we are going to resume our trek it will cost a lot of effort and instead of enjoying the mountain we will suffer.

We hope all this 10 Salkantay Trek Recommendations helps you with your trip to Salkantay, enjoy!

Salkantay Trek When To Go

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 to go to the 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 to go to the 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.

If you travel in June, we recommend you to book the Inti Raymi 2020 Tour that takes place in June 24th, and also hike the Palcoyo Mountain Tour, which is an incredible Rainbow Mountain located in the Andes.

Best Time to do Salkantay Trek
Hiking to Machu Picchu

Best Time to do Salkantay Trek

We advise that the best time to do Salkantay Trek is between May and October. It should be noted that the Salkantay trek is possible to do so throughout the year, but has to take into account that the months of rain are a problem in this trek which occur from December through March, so this is not the best time to do Salkantay Trek.

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 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 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 Difficult is Salkantay Trek?

Salkantay trek guide
Salkantay Trek in 5 days

The Salkantay Trek 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 Salkantay Trek? In general, Salkantay trekking is considered by many travelers with greater effort, since the degree of Salkantay Trek 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 at 4600 m altitude, but with a good acclimatization of the first days it will not be so hard.

If you are still worry about how difficult is Salkantay Trek?, the Salkantay Trek Difficulty depends on the physical condition (see our recommendations of Training for Salkantay Trek below).

How long is Salkantay Trek?

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

But, how long is Salkantay Trek? The total Salkantay Trek Distance is approximately 74 Km (45.98 miles), which are traveled in 5 days of the route:

Salkantay Trek Distances

Day Destination Salkantay Trek Distance Hiking Time
Day 1 Mollepata to Soraypampa 13 Km (8.08 miles) 7 horas
Day 2  Soraypampa to Chaullay 22 Km (13.67 miles) 10 horas
Day 3  Chaullay to La Playa 16 Km (9.94 miles) 5 horas
Day 4  La Playa to Aguas Calientes 19 Km (11.81 miles) 10 horas
Day 5  Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu 4 Km (2.49 miles) 2 horas

How High is Salkantay Trek

The minimum height is 2,200 m.a.s.l. in the last camp in Sahuayaco and the highest Salkantay Trek Elevation that you will reach on this 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 profile for the Salkantay Trek Elevation. As you can see the first two days are tough, after which the trek gets a lot easier!

Salkantay Trek Elevation
Salkantay Pass Altitude


 Salkantay Trek Elevation

Day Destination Salkantay Trek Elevation Distance
Day 1 Mollepata to Soraypampa
  • Starting Elevation: Mollepata” – 9,515 feet (2900 meters)
  • Campsite Elevation:Soraypampa” – 3850 meters / 12631ft
  • 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 ft
  • 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” – (3000m/9842f)
  • Campsite Elevation:Santa Teresa” – 1811 meters / 7055 ft
  • 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 ft
  • Hotel Elevation:Aguas Calientes” – 2050 meters / 7986 ft
  • 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)

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.

What to Pack for Salkantay Trek

We know there is to much to pack for your Vacation to Machu Picchu, so we have written a very comprehensive Salkantay Trek Packing List, which provides a perfect fit for the weather variations on the trail.

What to wear during the Salkantay Trek

The best way to think about what to wear during the Salkantay Trek is through the lens of layering.

The ability to layer your clothing up or down from morning when it is rather cold to the mid afternoon when temperatures reach their peak and then drop back down to freezing at night is key.

Layering also comes in handy as you ascend high passes that are exposed to winds or descend into shaded valleys. Effective layering only works if each layer allows moisture to pass through and escape to the external environment. In fact the best layered clothing, like wool, promotes moisture transfer through its wicking properties. Cotton and denim absorb moisture and should therefore be avoided.

Below we set out the types of clothing you should bring with you and provide specific recommendations on what to wear during the Salkantay Trek.

  • Underwear: You should bring 2-3 pairs of sports underwear, like those made by Icebreaker, or indeed any sporting brand (e.g. Adidas). For women bring two pairs of sports bras.
  • Base Layer: Over your underwear you should wear a lightweight base layer (or next-to-skin layer). You won’t wear this everyday day, just when it gets cold in the mornings, on the high passes and in the evenings.
  • Trekking Shirts: In terms of shirts we recommend 3 x short sleeve shirts and 1 x long sleeve shirt. Ideal fabric is a breathable, lightweight and quick-drying polyester, merino or nylon. Make sure that your shirts are not cotton.
  • Hiking Trousers and Shorts: Bring 1-2 x pairs of hiking trousers – 1 is fine for 3/4 day treks, an additional pair is ideal for treks greater than 4 days. Hiking trousers from Columbia are great. The convertible trousers are excellent. Also bring one pair of trekking shorts.
  • Fleece Jacket and Wind Breaker: For the colder stretches on the trail you should bring one mid-weight fleece jacket or parka top / jacket. Fleeces that use Polartec materials are great. Typically Polartec fleeces come in 100s, 200s or 300s. The 100s are a little light and 300’s too heavy. Two-hundreds provide great warmth and comfort, and are perfect for the Salkantay Trek.
  • Soft Shell Jacket: In addition to your fleece parka or jacket you should also have a water-resistant and wind-proof jacket shell layer. Again, you want this to be relatively light (not a winter jacket), but still warm and sturdy. It needs to withstand any rain that you will encounter (although as you will see below we recommend taking a cheap poncho / rain gear in addition to your shell jacket).
  • Rain Gear / Poncho: Finally, you can never truly predict the weather on the Inca Trail. As an extra precaution you should bring lightweight rain gear, or preferably a poncho that sits over your body.
  • Sun Hat: You should bring a lightweight, easy-to-store sun hat to protect your head and face from getting sun burnt and reduce the probability of heat stroke. We prefer sun hats that have an adjustable neck cover, like the one shown adjacent. Do not bring a large bulky hat, like a straw hat, as these are difficult to store.
  • Neck / Head Band / Bandanas: If your hat doesn’t have a neck cover you might want to bring a neck or head band which can help protect against sun burn whilst doubling as a scarf or head and ear warmer during the cold nights.
  • Fleece Beanie or Head Band: As we have already mentioned the nights get cold on the Inca Trail. We suggest bringing a winter fleece beanie or head band.
  • Sunglasses: Good sunnies are a must. At high altitude (greater than 4,000 meters) the UV intensity is high and visible light strong.
  • This can be damaging to your eyes. A leader in polarized glasses is Oakley. All their lenses provide 100% protection from UV A, B and C and their category 4 lenses block 90% of visible light. This is slightly over-kill for Machu Picchu as you will not be trekking under snowy conditions which intensifies visible light.
  • Gloves: On the Salkantay Trek you are not going to experience blistering cold environments that require seriously insulated, heavy gloves or mitts, but you will likely encounter cold nips on the higher passes and in the mornings and evenings. A pair of lightweight, breathable and weatherproof gloves that are built for high-output aerobic activities like trekking, yet provide some warmth in cool environments, is what you should be looking for.
  • Trekking Socks: You should bring 4 x pairs of trekking socks. Look for a light-to-mid weight trekking sock made of high wicking material.

Salkantay Trek What Shoes

We have listed the clothes and ítems you have to pack for Salkantay Trek, but What Shoes should I pack for Salkantay Trek? Hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of gear in your Salkantay Trek Packing List.

It is important that the trekking shoes are comfortable to not cause damage to the feet. Do not arrive with brand new boots that you haven’t worn yet – you will get blisters, sore feet and even loose toe-nails!

What kind of Shoes are recommended for Salkantay Trek? Mid-weight boots are best for Machu Picchu. Heavy boots provide great cushioning and are very durable but can be a little heavy to trek in.

Medium to high tops to support your ankle. The higher the top the heavier the boot. Ideally we recommend sturdy medium high tops made from leather or a leather-condura material. The sole should be made from rubber and have mid-to-deep lugs for good traction. The deeper the lugs the heavier the boot

The inner membrane should be waterproof. Gore-tex is the best material for this.

What Accessories Pack for Salkantay Trek

There are important accesories that form part of your Salkantay Trek Packing List.

  • Passport – You need your passport to enter to Machu Picchu. We recommend bringing a few copies of the identity page as well
  • Insurance – You should have trekking and travel insurance for the Salkantay Trek. Remember to write down your policy number and ideally carry a copy of your policy on you. If something does go wrong the trek you will want to contact your insurance company immediately. We recommend World Nomads.
  • Trekking Towel (optional) – A medium lightweight trekking towel to dry your hair, face and hands after a rainy days trekking. There is an option to visit the termal baths on day three, so a towel comes in use
  • Swimsuit (optional) – There are hot springs in the route and near Aguas Calientes, just below Machu Picchu, where you can swim.
  • Sweat Resistant Suncream – Don’t just get any sunscreen. You are trekking to high altitude where the sun intensity is high, so you will need a high SPF (greater than 30). Make sure to bring sun protection lip cream as well.
  • Insect Repellant – A basic insect repellant is important. Make sure to get a reliable brand that has a high Deet content – greater than 90% (Repel make a great product).
  • Wet Wipes – Great for cleaning your hands and face, and wiping down your body after a long days trekking. We also recommend bringing a small antiseptic hand-gel for dousing your hands before meals
  • Dry Plastic Bags – Bring a few large, medium and small plastic bags that you can use to source separate your wet and dry gear. Use zip-lock bags for your small gear like your wallet, money, camera, passport etc
  • General Meds – Take Paracetamol for headaches (a common early symptom of altitude sickness) and Imodium.
  • Snacks – Take 2-3 x energy bars for each day on the trail, so 10-15 in total. Nuts are also a good snacking food for the trail, just don’t get salty ones as these lead to dehydration
  • Toiletries – One roll of toilet paper per trekker is a must (remove the cardboard roll to save space) and all your other toiletry basics (toothbrush, toothpaste, small travel soap)
  • Cash – Bring cash in US dollars for tips and Soles (in coins and small notes) for small purchases, access to toilets at Machu Picchu etc.
  • Cameras – The scenery along the Salkantay Trek and at Machu Picchu is extraordinary. Bring a decent camera to capture the experience.
  • Headlamp: You should also bring a headlamp or torch which will be used in and around camp, and as a back-up if you are a little slow on the trail and finish your trek around dusk. Headlamps are preferable as they allow you to keep your hands free.
  • Walking Poles: Walking or trekking poles are a must on the Salkantay Trek. You will be trekking along an undulating landscape for up to 5-6 hours a day, for 4-5 days. Your leg joints, particularly your knees, will take a battering. With the aid of good trekking poles you will reduce the impact on your joints by up to 25% (a 1999 research study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine showed even better results than 25%). Poles also give you better balance.
  • Water Bottle: Due to the effects of altitude you need to stay well hydrated on the Salkantay Trek. You should aim to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. Water is typically supplied by your trekking crew at the beginning of each day.
  • You should check with the operator that your crew boil, filter and treat the water with water purification tablets before providing it to you.
  • As a precautionary measure you might want to bring your own Water Purification Tablets.
  • Backpacks and Daypacks: The type of bag that you should bring really depends on how your support team is composed.
  • Good backpacks are designed to transfer load weight to your hips. The shoulder straps should carry no more than 30% of the weight. Here are the key features to look for in your rucksack:
  • Size: The ideal size backpack for the Inca Trail is a 30-36L lightweight pack. These can easily carry a maximum load of 10kg.
  • Waterproof: Backpacks are generally not waterproof, but good ones should be weather resistant. Look for design materials like pack cloth for the bag and Condura for high friction areas (i.e. inside of the straps). A water-resistant urethane coating is also beneficial
  • Design: For perfect fit the harness and suspension system should be multi-size and adjustable. The shoulder straps should be well padded and not restrict movement, and there should also be a hip belt that’s well padded.

How Much to Tip Salkantay Trek

In our Salkantay Trek Packing List we have suggest you to bring some money to buy souvenirs, snacks or water along the trail, but also is necessary to give some tips to your trekking team, and How Much to Tip Salkantay Trek?

Tipping is part of the tradition of any trek to Machu Picchu. Keep in mind that this is not mandatory and that you should never feel pressured by this. However, if you had a great experience while walking to Salkantay and Machu Picchu, you can show your gratitude to the chef, rider and guide by giving them a tip, but how Much to Tip Salkantay Trek?

The amount is entirely a personal preference: however as a guideline we suggest each hiker contributes $20 per horseman, and $40 for the chef = $60 per trekker. More is always appreciated. 

When to Book Salkantay Trek?

Every year this trek becomes more famous, as well as the Inca Trail, that is why when they ask us when to Book the Salkantay Trek? We recommend making the reservation 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. 

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

Another question when we decide when to book the Salkantay Trek is: Can I book it when we get to Cuzco or should I book it in advance?

You can book the Salkantay trekking in Cusco during your trip, but it is better to book Salkantay Trek 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 the Official Machu Picchu 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.

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.

Salkantay Trek 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 no guide.

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 no guide, 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 no 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

What to Pack for Salkantay Trek if I will go without a Tour

If you are doing a Salkantay Trek without a Guide, 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 Salkantay trek if you go without a tour:

  • 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.

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