Salkantay Trek: An Alternate Route to Machu Picchu
Having not originally planned to visit Peru, it was only a couple of weeks before arriving in Cusco that I really considered heading to Machu Picchu. While exploring Hauraz, my guide, who had previously worked in Cusco, recommended the trek via Santa Teresa, known as the Salkantay Trek. I recognized the name as I had met a couple of people who had done this trek, and had either lost toe nails or said it was incredibly difficult. So I am not quite sure why, but a couple of days after arriving in Cusco, I handed over my $400 and signed up!
The trek is 5 days and 4 nights, with the option of only 4 days and 3 nights if you are short on time. On both tours, the last days are spent visiting Machu Picchu. Although the route is generally pretty much the same with all of the agencies, the beginning differed from the generic route. Instead of starting in Mollepeta, like a lot of groups do, we started further down at the trail in Challacancha. This meant we arrived at our camp by lunchtime and had the afternoon to walk up to the Humatay Lake, a bright blue laguna with hanging glaciers in the back drop.
I recognized the name as I had met a couple of people who had done this trek, and had either lost toe nails or said it was incredibly difficult.
The second day was the longest and started with a 3-hour uphill walk to the Salkantay Pass at 4600 masl. Yes, it was tough, but it was bearable and the views were amazing. Being properly acclimatized will help you out too. The Salkantay Pass afforded us with incredible views and from there, the trail was downhill. At the end of the third day, we also visited thermal springs in Santa Teresa, which were unbelievable, especially after three days of hiking.
As I had not really planned on doing this trek, I booked last minute in Cusco through Salkantay Trekking. All the tents, sleeping mats and sleeping bags were of good quality and the food was incredible. I’m talking fresh fish, ceviche and avocado. The guide also spoke great English, which is rare in Latin America.
Most companies organise your Machu Picchu tickets ($40) and train ticket back towards Cusco (anything from $60 upwards) so be sure to check what’s included when you book. Prices for the whole trek range from as low as $200 to over $500 and like with most things you pay for what you get when it comes to equipment, quality and food. Our chef boiled water for us everyday, which meant that we didn’t have to buy it as other groups did. Group size is a also a key thing to check when booking. The last night is spent in Aguas Calliente, the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu, so be sure to check what your hotel will be like–especially if it has hot water.
All the tents, sleeping mats and sleeping bags were of good quality and the food was incredible. I’m talking fresh fish, ceviche and avocado.
I really enjoyed the Salkantay Trek. Unlike the Inca trail it is not necessary to get a permit for the trail so booking last minute isn’t a problem. I was in a group of three and we met a couple of other groups on the way but mostly had campsites to ourselves, unlike on the Inca Trail. From snowcapped mountains to the more tropical scenery around Machu Picchu, it was a varied and beautiful trek.
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