The Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu in Peru is an excellent hike through the Vilcabamba Mountain Range to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. It offers adventurers the perfect trip to experience many of Peru’s diverse landscapes. You will be able to experience many different ecosystems, from snow-capped mountains, colorful valleys and waterfalls to the cloud forest. Read our 6 Practical Tips Salkantay rek .
Some people choose the Salkantay Trek when the famous 4-day Inca Trail in Peru is sold out, which used to happen (in pre-covid times) up to 6 months in advance. The Salkantay hike is actually the second most popular hike to Machu Picchu behind the Inca Trail and should also be booked in advance.
The Salkantay trek is indeed one of the best alternatives. Considered sacred by the Incas, the Salkantay hike offers a more rugged and remote adventure that offers stunning views and unbridled, breathtaking beauty. The hike to Salkantay was ranked one of the top 25 hikes in the world by National Geographic Adventure Travel magazine.
Are you worried about the difficulty of the Salkantay hike? Travelers in Peru say it’s a little more difficult than the classic Inca Trail, but it’s worth the effort. The difficulty of the Salkantay hike is rated by experts at a difficulty level of 3-4 on a scale that goes up to 7.
Due to the high altitude and steep slopes, you will need a reasonable level of fitness to complete this hike. The highest point of the hike is approximately 4,650 meters or 15,256 feet above sea level (depending on which Salkantay hike you choose). The total distance of the Salkantay trek is approximately 74 km (45.98 miles), which is covered in 5 days during the route.
Your guide will give you the most important information during a special briefing a few days before the start of your hike through the Andean highlands, and will also give you information about what you need to pack.
With the right time for acclimatization and these 6 practical tips for surviving the Salkantay Trek in Peru, you will be fine and enjoy the stunning landscapes. The key is to be prepared for your trip in Peru!
Practical Tips Salkantay Trek
Pack your backpack
Depending on the tour operator and the price you pay, you can give riders a canvas bag weighing approximately 5 to 7 kilograms to carry for the first three days. In your duffel bag, pack essential items like 4-6 pairs of underwear, base layers, 4-7 long and short sleeve trekking shirts, 2 pairs of hiking pants and 1 pair of shorts, general medications, toiletries, a headlamp, a trekking towel, waterproof and very comfortable trekking shoes, sandals, etc. Use a day pack that not only has shoulder straps, but also supports your lower back and hips.
In your day backpack (normally a 30-liter backpack is enough), carry the most important things, such as:
Water bottle or hydration bag (Never go hiking in the mountains without a minimum of one and a half liters of water. As for hydration, choose water or isotonic drinks (never carbonated soft drinks).
- A poncho/raincoat
- a warm jacket
- A wool jacket
- Your camera/phone
- a pocket knife
- extra socks
- Sunscreen, lip balm
- sunglasses with ultraviolet protection
- A hat for the sun and the cold.
- Neck Gaiter
- A rain cover for your backpack
- Your passport
- Cash in Peruvian Soles
- And other small and light personal items.
- Don’t rush, it’s not a competition
This is your vacation and your free time! So, don’t rush and don’t forget to enjoy the incredible landscapes and quiet time in the Peruvian outdoors. The scenery is so beautiful and each day offers plenty of time for all hikers, even the slowest ones! Approach the Salkantay hike as a fun activity and then it will become a less challenging and more fun experience! Due to the small group size, you will always feel like you are traveling among friends and like-minded people with a shared passion for travel, adventure and discovery.
Use the layering system
Number one is comfort! If you feel comfortable, your hiking experience could go from good to the best experience of your life. Wear layers to stay warm and also save weight in your backpack. Polo shirts or thermal shirts are recommended as they can work to cool you down or warm you up. We recommend these breathable and lightweight shirts from Hanes. Alternatively, shirts from Icebreaker or Columbia are good.
Do not bring cotton t-shirts as they absorb moisture. Clothing made of cotton can become very sweaty and hot after hours of walking, and it also takes longer to dry. A combination of short and long sleeve shirts is recommended.
The weather is very unpredictable, changes rapidly and varies seasonally. It’s impossible to say exactly what kind of weather you’ll encounter on your hike, so layers are a must. However, generally the first night will be quite cold. It can drop to about 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Towards the end of your hike, you will be in the Peruvian jungle. These sections of the hike could be up to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time to do the Salkantay Trek is between May and October. It should be noted that the Salkantay hike can be done all year round, but the rainy season occurs from December to March, so this is not the best time to do the Salkantay hike.
Keep an eye out for sand flies!
During your third day, you will arrive at the warmer and more tropical campsite of Santa Teresa. Hot springs are a popular destination for travelers and hikers who need to relax their muscles after many miles of hiking. Of course, be careful with sandflies! Sandflies attack your skin in swarms and bite you when you get out of the water! The best recommendation is to dry quickly and put on long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Sandfly bites can be quite uncomfortable and itchy, so do everything you can to avoid getting stung!
Get some poles
Poles are the secret to saving your knees on long downhill stretches. Poles can reduce stress on your knees and leg joints by up to 20%. You can rent or buy them in Cusco before your hike. The Black Diamond walking poles are excellent, as are the Leki poles . You can also buy a wooden staff at the first camp for a few soles! I thought it was a great investment.
Walk in small groups
As each hiker has their own pace, it is sometimes difficult to find someone with the same walking speed. However, it is better to stay together in a group for more motivation and good company. But be sure to maintain a consistent walking pace. It’s a great feeling to arrive with your hiking buddies at camp after a long day of hiking together to eat a delicious and filling meal!