There are several ways to get to the ruins of Machu Picchu, from express tours of a day, to hiking several days to reach the magical citadel. Since the 70s, routes and trekking circuits have been added that have expanded the possibilities to reach the Sacred City. In this article we show you the two main trekking routes: Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail.
The Peru - Inca Trail is an icon thanks to its history of being a real traditional road that united with the Inca Empire. This history is shown through various remains of Inca paving along the parts of the trail. Thanks to this, combined with the natural environment and the impressive end in Machu Picchu, it is considered the number one trek in South America. For those who do not have 4 days off to complete the Classic Inca Trail, there is also a reduced version of 2 days, which skips the exhausting passage of Warmi wañusca (dead woman), but includes the highlights such as Wiñaywayna and the Gate of the Sun (Inti Punku).
Of the alternative excursions to Machu Picchu, the Salkantay trek is the most popular. Although it is more exhausting than the Classic Inca Trail, it shows the best landscapes of all the excursions to Machu Picchu. Bordering the Salkantay Glacier on the way to Machu Picchu, it takes 5 days, including the final day at the citadel of Machu Picchu, although it can be done in 4 days for those who have a very tight schedule and are in good physical condition. Unlike the Inca Trail, cargo mules are used to carry camping equipment and cooking utensils, instead of porters, and can be carried out independently or with a group.
Any of the routes you choose, you will spend a last day in Machu Picchu, exploring and admiring the Lost City of the Incas - The perfect culmination of a rewarding walk.
Both routes have different geographical characteristics. The Peru - Inca Trail stretches 42 kilometers from its beginning at kilometer 82 of the railway line, in the sector of Piscacucho. The maximum height is in the Warmiwañusca pass, at 4215 meters.
During each of the four days, we will have different terrains, including trails in hard ground, slopes on mountainsides, stone steps, slightly muddy terrain among others.
On the other hand, the Salkantay trek has a length of approximately 46 kilometers, which are traveled in five days. Start in the town of Soraypampa, south of Machu Picchu. The highest place will be the pass of the snowy Salkantay, at almost 4600 meters high.
The walk goes along more rustic trails than the Inca Trail. We will go by horseshoes roads in extensive Andean pampas, trails with cloudy landscapes in front and the occasional puddle out there.
The experience in both routes will offer you views of the geography of the Andean highlands from two different points of view.
In the four days of the Inca Trail you will first have the mountains of the low mountain range, with eucalyptus forests and some plants of the sub tropical region. The sun will be a faithful companion. Do not forget to bring a hat and sunglasses in your backpack for the Peru - Inca Trail.
During the second day, the ascent through the mountains will show us a wild but charming landscape. A mist that dominates the peaks of the peaks and the cold typical of the Warmiwañusca pass. The scarce vegetation makes the view of shades of browns.
The third day of walking will be starred by the change of landscape. The return of the vast flora of the jungle eyebrow and the overwhelming heat as they move along the path. Finally, on the fourth day, you will wake up in the ruins of Winaywayna and make the great entrance to Machu Picchu.
The views of the Salkantay trek offer a more rustic nature. Being a less popular option, the path is freer and you will feel the disconnection you are looking for.
The first day of walking will be dominated by the landscapes of the Peruvian highlands. Small plants and the mid-day sun until you reach the extensive pampa of the first camp. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to visit the magical lagoon of turquoise waters, the Humantay lagoon. The second day will be the ascent to the Salkantay Pass, where depending on the season, you can have a white landscape next to the great sacred snow.
The third and fourth day will be the descent where the streams and fruit tree plantations reappear. You will see waterfalls, forests and others. Finally we will arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes where we will rest for the guided tour during the fifth day.
The charm of the Andean nature such as wild birds, the whisper of the eucalyptus forests, the mosses in the high mountains, the rocky landscapes and the blue sky will be present in both options.
The Peru - Inca Trail, being the way used to communicate the ancient peoples in the times of the ancient Peruvians, has ruins of different enclosures used at the time. During the hike we will explore the following archaeological sites of Wayllabamba, Llactapata, Runcuracay, Phuyupatamarca and Winaywayna.
The attractions of the Salkantay Trek are more of nature. The great variety of landscapes and the feeling of being in the middle of the flora and fauna is one of the best experiences you can enjoy in Peru.
Both routes are destined to have the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu as its final point. However, the way to access is different.
On the Peru - Inca Trail, after traveling the 42 kilometers of the route we will arrive at the Puerta del Sol Inti Punku, where we will directly enter the citadel. On the Salkantay trek, the end of the fourth day is in the town of Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night. It is on the fifth day where you can get to know Machu Picchu.
In short, to choose between Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail, you have to take into account the type of trip you want to make.
If you want to know the spectacular ruins left by the Incas, in one of the classic routes to the Sacred City, the Inca Trail is your option. While it can be difficult to find and buy tickets for this trek, it is definitely worth it.
If your budget is limited and you planned it with less anticipation, you should take Salkantay. Although in this tour there are no archaeological ruins, it is possible to connect with nature in a deeper way, with less people around you and with all the beauty of this area of Peru, visiting from mountainous landscapes to the jungle.