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Although Machu Picchu is the goal at the end of the trek, this route has so much along the way you will be surprised at how much the area has to offer besides the world-famous ruins. Hiking along the Salkantay Trail (Salcantay) to Machu Picchu, you will camp between snow-capped mountains, visit small towns nestled in the Andes and even have a chance to soak in medicinal hot springs. The hiking will get your blood pumping but the gorgeous views and the friendly people will definitely be enough to keep your mind busy.
The Andes are the longest continuous mountain chain in the world, running through seven countries in South America. Hidden in this magnificent mountain range is a vast collection of archaeological sites dating back to the ancient Inca empire and an abundance of flora and fauna. Within Peru, many people associate hiking in the Andes with the well known and well-trodden Inca trail. However, the Salkantay Trail offers a pretty impressive alternative trail to Machu Picchu. Voted by the National Geographic as one of the world’s most beautiful treks, the hike involves traversing the high pass of the Salcantay mountain and culminates in a visit of course to see Machu Picchu, the amazing Inca city only discovered in 1911.
Mother nature (or Pachamama, as the indigenous people of the Andes call her) is the real highlight of this trip as you walk in the shadow of Humantay, a snow covered mountain and beautiful little valleys called Checchicancha and Soraypampa - and that's just on day one! You will also hike past many different kinds of indigenous trees, plants and orchids and see how nature and humans coexist as you pass villages and farmers' corn and fruit fields. This is more than just seeing Inca ruins, this will give you a sense of how the communities in the Andes live - it is a living place after all. After days of tough hiking, you will be able to dip your weary body in the natural hot springs near Santa Teresa a welcome relief for your muscles! The final day of the trip starts off with watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu before enjoying a guided tour of the ancient city. Afterwards its back to Cusco by bus, with a smug feeling that not only have you achieved a great physical challenge and seen some magnificent ruins, but you’ve chosen to trek the path less trodden!
If you want to participate on a trek where you will push yourself physically, but at the same time gain an insight into an ancient people and culture, then this will be right up your street. If you need to be surgically separated from your hair straighteners, then please stop reading, there is not a plug socket in sight on the Salkantay trail!!
Let’s not beat about the bush here, this trek is about hiking so you do need to be in good shape to participate. It is recommended that you do some regular exercise in the month before you depart. That said, you don’t have to be a fitness freak; children as young as 7 and adults of 68 have completed the trail. You will be hiking at altitude, so it is recommended that you acclimatise for a couple of days before embarking on the trip.
The high season on the trail is from May – September so you will need to book quite a way in advance. If you want to trek in quieter times, you may want to consider dates outside of the high season, but avoid January and February as the paths are too boggy then.
The maximum group size is 16 people. The guide to walkers ration is 1 : 9. Don’t worry about being rushed along too fast, there will be plenty of time for comfort breaks and chances to admire the views along the way. The guide will always walk at the back with the last person in the group, so you really don’t need to be concerned about taking too long. This is a cultural journey, not a running race!
This trek is organized by a professional and licensed tour operator who has been operating in the region for the past 12 years.
I cannot imagine a better guide than Odon. From the very first time we met, he has been funny, kind, supportive, very knowledgeable and a real pleasure to be with. The fact is I was not fit enough to do this like some of the other young fit people, but he made me feel welcome and cared for - a wonderful man and a wonderful experience. Apart from my shame at taking the horse, I have loved almost every minute of this trek and Odon has been the second best part of it - countryside came first :)
Charles reviewing The Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu