The Salkantay trek is an alternative route from the famous Inca Trail. The track starts in Cusco and ends in Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas located in Peru. This trek consisted of 5 days and 4 nights.
We got picked up at our hostel at 4:30 in the morning where we met up with different people that were also going to do the Salkanty hike. Our group consisted of about 11 people from brazil, USA, England and italy. After meeting everyone we waited for our bus that would pick us up from the city of Cusco and take us to our first point of the trip, the breakfast. After breakfast we had to select 5kg out of our bags so the horses could carry it to our campsites (like sleeping bag, cloths, food). We got back into our bus and drove to our starting point of the trip. From this point on we started to hike for about 5 hours to our first
campsite were we received lunch and had some time to relax. After lunch we went hiking for a lagoon high in the mountains. It was a pretty hard hike actually, the hike was very steep and we hiked about 400m in 1 hour. It may not sound much, but its high! Specially when our base camp was located at 3900m, which by the way was quite cold after the sun had set and during the night! However the lagoon was beautiful and definitely worth the effort and energy! After we returned to our basecamp the sun had set in the valley and we received hot coco tea, which its a very good cure for altitude sickness.
Apparently you can get altitude sicknesses at about 3000m which causes headaches, being out of breath and other stuff depending on how severe you are suffering from it. After a nice hot tea we received our first dinner which was cooked by the staff that was traveling with us. (During this trip we had cooks that would prepare our breakfast, lunch and dinner). We finished our dinner around 8 pm and everyone of our group went straight to bed. The first day of the hike was over and we were all tired after the hike towards the lagoon and considering the fact that we had to wake up at 5 in the morning.
Our first night was over, it was quite cold even though I was wearing thermal clothing and a sweater in my sleeping bag. At 5 am we got woken up with hot coco tea to help with the altitude sickness. Luckily I was not effected by the altitude sickness but others were already noticing the fact that we were high up the mountains.
At the beginning of the trip we received a briefing where they told us the second day would be the hardest day of the trek. This was because we would hike to the highest point in our trip, the salkantay pass which is located at 4600m and it would take us around 4 hours to reach this pass (all uphill). So I was kind of nervous because I did not know if I would be effected by the altitude sickness and because the hike to the lagoon at day 1 was ready quite demanding for me and others in my group. Being effected by altitude sickness would make a hike like this quite hard because the air is very thin.
We started the hike at 6 am after we prepared our daypack, cloths and sleeping bag for the horses and ate our breakfast. The first part of the hike was quite okay as it started uphill and got a little flat along the way. The second part was longer, steeper and also more demanding but still
okay to hike (with the motto, slow and steady). From here we arrived at our meeting point located at 4450m and took a little break to hike the last part, the salkantay pass. The hike was around an hour more and when I arrived at the salkantay pass the view was stunning! During the first day hike I saw great views too but this view was magical. The salkantay mountain was still covered with clouds but over a timespan of 20/30 min it started to clear up and revealing the rest of the Salkantay mountain. An amazing view. In the distance I could see that we where above the clouds and other mountain peaks sticking out the clouds. On my right I had the amazing view of the salkantay mountain.
Luckily for me I did not notice much of the altitude sickness and looking back, I think the overal hike was more easier then I expected (the lagoon hike was more intense in my opinion) mainly because on day 2 you accent at a slower and the overal hike is less steep most of the time. After the hike we had to go down, which was another 3,5 hour walking until lunch. Going down took less effort then going up but it does make your feet tired and with a rocky path like that it wasnt a easy and fun hike. However I enjoyed looking back at the great scenery that I was leaving
behind as I stopped multiple times on my decent. After the 3.5 hour walk we received lunch and enjoyed a nice sunny break with tempatures already increasing because of the lower altitude. After lunch we started to decent even more. From here the landscape started to change into a more jungle scenery. Day 2 consisted mostly of walking downhill over rough, rocky and mudy paths. All the way to our second basecamp.
When I arrived in the second basecamp I took a nice shower and had some coco tea again and enjoyed a great dinner. Like Timon said during dinner: being in the nature all day you really appreciate food. I was so tired that after dinner I went straight to bed, pretty much like everyone else in our group. The second day of this hike was a long day, I walked about 10 hours up- and down hill. But overall I didn’t had any problems. The scenery changed from the cold windy valleys with snow on top of the mountains to the wet jungle where our second basecamp was located and my towel did not dry at all, why did I decided to take that shower again?!
Day 3 started earlier in the morning again, I got woken up at 5 am with a hot coco tea, which is quite nice to wake up to. After our breakfast consisting of tea, coffee, pancakes and bread we were ready to start our third hiking day. Today was the last day for the horses to carry our luggage as we would take a bus from lunch to our 3rd campsite. So we thanked the guy that guided the horses and took care of our luggage.
After day 2 everything would become more easier. Day 3 was a total of 5/6 hours hike where we walked up and down the hills, following a river that would lead us to different resting areas and eventually to our meeting point, the lunch. On this day we also had a bus waiting for us that would drive us to our 3rd basecamp.
The altitude for day 3 was a lot lower and I could notice the difference in my stamina. It was easier to go up and down however my feet were still not fully recovered from the second day hike and they where quite tired.
After 5 hours of hiking we arrived at our lunch spot, from here we took a 1 hour bus that took us to our 3rd campsite. When we arrived we had to prepare our tents and get our swimming suits ready because we where going to relax at nearby hot springs. There where 3 different hot springs with the hottest spring at 35 degrees. This was a very nice way to relax and re-new our energy and spirit after 3 days of hiking.
When we returned in the late afternoon we received our last dinner made by the cooks that traveled with us from day 1. This was because we would spend our last night in a hostel at aguas caliente, which is a touristic city build because of Machu Picchu.
In the night a campfire was created by the guides where all the salkantay groups came together to drink and party. I enjoyed to dance salsa again and enjoyed the hole campfire atmosphere. Around 10 o’clock the party was pretty much over as the music went down and most people went back to their tents because day 4 would be an early day again.
On day 3 we decided to take a bus during our dinner time, so we would skip the first 3 hours of the hike. This would save us 2 hours as the bus ride would be only 1 hour and both options would take the same path and view. So it was either 3 hours walking on a road with buses and cars passing by or take a 1 hour bus for 15 soles (which is like 4 euro). Because of this we could wake up a little bit later (yes 6 o’clock) and enjoy breakfast, which wasn’t so great anymore. This was probably because our supplies were getting more limited.
After breakfast we said goodbye to our cooks that traveled with us from day 1. From now on we no longer needed them as we would sleep in Aguas Caliente and have dinner in a restaurant.
After breakfast we go on the bus that brought us to the start of the railway track to Aguas Caliente. To get to Aguas Caliente you can either take a train or walk along the railtrack. From the beginning of the railway track it was another 3 hours walk before we would reach the city of Aguas Caliente. During this walk I could already see the Machu Picchu mountain with the ruins on top. The end of my trip was coming closer.
When I arrived in Aguas Caliente I checked in at the hostel where I and enjoyed a nice hot shower. I shared the room with Timon and 2 American brothers. After a little rest and refreshment our group went for lunch and explored the small city a little bit. Not to mention enjoying
the wifi we didn’t have for 4 days!
In the evening we had our last included dinner with our group and I received my ticket to enter Machu Picchu and my train ticket that would return me to the city of Cusco. After dinner our group visited the local supermarket to get some snacks for tomorrow’s lunch because the prices at Machu Picchu are insanely expensive. Back in the hostel I enjoyed some wifi and made myself ready for bed as I would have to wake up at 4 am to see the sunrise in Machu Picchu (hopefully, because it can be very cloudy in the mountains).
The last day started with an earlier hike. I walked for about 20 min from the small city of Aguas Caliente to the first entrance point of Machu Picchu where everyone has to show their tickets and passport. I arrived just before 5 am in the morning so I and many others had to wait till 5 o’clock for the first gate to open. The city of Machu Picchu is separated by a river and the only way to reach it is by crossing a bridge. After opening we had to climb the the steep Machu Picchu mountain which consists of a lot of stairs, like a lot! It took me 50 min to climb the mountain and during this hike the sun was already starting to reveal the amazing view which was waiting for all of us on top.
At 6 o’clock Machu Picchu opened and our group of adventurers went in with our guide. It was a quite amazing experience as I had hiked for 4 days to reach the end goal, Machu Picchu. The site itself became quickly full with other adventurers who also did hikes or trekkings like the inca trail, salkantay or jungle tour. All of them woke up earlier to find a nearly empty Machu Picchu and to see the sunrise at this amazing place. We were also very lucky with the weather as there was almost no cloud today in Machu Picchu, usually it is very clouded in the mornings.
During the sunrise we got a guided tour around the archeological site and at the end we said goodbye to our guide who guided us a long the 5 day trek.
From this point our group divided into smaller groups as other people had bought different additions to Machu Picchu. Apparently you can buy extra tickets to hike 2 different mountains that provide you with an excellent view on the city of Machu Picchu.
Me and timon and some others didn’t buy extra options so we took the free option which was the sun plaza, which is the entrance of the inca trail to Machu Picchu. This is also a view point but more futher away then the other mountains, however the hike is pretty good and the view is still amazing.
The good part of coming earlier to this site is the amount of people are way less then around the afternoon. About 5000 people a day are allowed to enter Machu Picchu, which is a lot. However visiting Machu Picchu is definitely worth it, even though it’s expensive doing it on your own (train from cusco – aguas caliente is 100 US dollars, the entrance is 45 us and you probably want to stay a night in aguas caliente which is expensive too).
But this site is amazing, the city itself is okay. What made it so beautiful and amazing was the scenery around it. Being build around mountains is just amazing. For me this is the most beautiful 7 wonders of the world, because of the location.
Looking back on this trip, it was an amazing experience. From the breathtaking views to cold nights. The though climbs up mountains with altitudes reaching over 4600m made this trip very special. Meeting new people, pushing and challenging yourself was a great experience. I read a good qoute from Andy de Klek, a climber, who said: move as slow as you need too, just never stop moving. And I find this very true for a lesson of life. Yeah i’m sorry to be cheesy here, haha. As long as I keep on moving foward, on a slow pace i’ll pass other people and reach the top. And yes sometimes it was tough as the lack of oxygen makes hiking a lot harder at high altitude.
From all this I can definitely recommend the salkantay trek for those who never been in Machu Picchu and want to visit it. It’s affordable and a great experience!