This trek is named after the mountain that runs along the main path. The Salkantay mountain itself takes its name from the Quechua “Sallqa” literally translated to “wild”. It is 6271m high which is actually the highest peak from the Cordillera of Vilcabamba, part of Peruvian Andes.
Located approximately 40km from Cusco, this walk brings you along glaciers, lakes and mountains during 4 or 5 days. I highly recommend the 5 days experience, because for an only slightly higher price (20 US $), you have the opportunity to relax in hot springs one day before Machu Picchu, and also to do zip lining (for a very fair price). Those who choose 4 days have to go directly to the final step without enjoying those options.
If you’d like to do the Salkantay trek by yourself, you can refer to the map adjacent. The walk is not particularly hard if you are used to the altitude.
I personally did the trek with an agency during 5 days. We were two groups, with one guide per group, and we met up at each break.
1st day :
You start the trek on a short and easy way. Quite flat and strewn with concrete, you arrive around midday to your first camp. After dropping your stuff and enjoying lunch, you have the possibility to keep walking in the afternoon to see the Humantay Lake. Even if you’re tired or if it’s raining, you should go there : the view is spectacular. The way can be a bit rough for a first day, especially if you’re not used to walking at this altitude. However, the mix between lake, glacier and mountain is incredible and there is no way that you could regret it.
2nd day :
Probably the most tiring day, because you have to walk up to 4600 meters high, which is the highest point of the trek, before going down for the rest of the time. Upon reaching the highest point, I personally did the Pachamama Ritual, to bless the mountains, but this depends of your guide/company if you’re doing the trek with one. Since you’re already at the highest point, you now have to go down for several hours. It’s kind of a long way down, so it would be easier if you are provided with a pole or two. Once back at the camp, you can enjoy a shower and WI-FI for 10 soles each, as well as different other stuff (food, beers, …)
3rd day :
Way easier than the previous day, you have to walk a couple of hours to reach a shelter, only to then directly catch a van to join the lunch place. This spot is a little paradise where you can taste and buy delightful homemade coffee, and learn about all the manufacturing process.
At this point, those who choose the 4 days trip have to join Hydro Electrica, and walk until the last stop before the big day.
This is more relaxing for the 5 days group, who’s got more time for lunch. After this soothing time, you catch a van to go to the next camp, Santa Théresa where you have the possibility to join the famous hot spring for 20 soles. This is a good idea to recover and enjoy a hot bath surrounded by mountains. The camp is also nice and allows you to spend great time around a camp fire.
4th day :
You start the day with the possibility to do zip lining for a very fair price of 150 soles (45 US $). Located behind the mountain that houses the Machu Picchu, it’s 2 hours of glide above forests and rivers. Afterwards, a collective bus brings you to Hydro Electrica, which is the start of the last walk before joining Aguas Calientes, where you spend a night before the big day.
5th day :
Finally ! According to your schedule, given by your guide the day before, you have to join the site’s entrance on foot or by bus (see the article « How to get to: Machu Picchu ») and after all this walking, you now get to reach this magical place that does not need to named anymore…
The National Geographic Adventure Magazine rated the Salkantay trek as one for the 25 Best Treks in the World.
For mountaineers, Salkantay has a reputation of being a very tough summit. Although it was first successfully climbed in 1952 by a French-American expedition, the mountain is not often conquered.
Don’t forget to bring coca leaf with you to prevent the Soroche, Peruvian name for high altitude sickness!
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