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Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 11-02-2022

The Salkantay trek is one of the most popular treks in the Cusco region after the Inca Trail. What you need to bring, what is the best time to do the Salkantay trek, how tough is it and how can you prepare yourself adequately? Some planning ahead can help you have the trek in the Andes of a lifetime and here, we may even convince you that you should do the Salkantay trek instead of the world-famous Inca Trail!

View over the valley

Background Information

The Salkantay trek in Peru is one of the most stunning and breath-taking experiences you can have on your visit to Peru. During this 5-day trekking experience, you will cross different climatic regions, different elevations, from tropical jungle to icy snow peaks and different flora and fauna. These action-packed days are where you can enjoy Peruvian hospitality and the picturesque mountain villages that you pass through. Let’s be honest, The Salkantay trek isn’t a walk in the park and going well -prepared is the key to an amazing trekking experience.  Acclimatize adequately to avoid altitude sickness, what to take and what to expect, are all things you can plan for before you even start trekking!

The first day trekking

Fact - check

Location: Cusco region, Peru
Hike duration: 5 days
Start: Mollepata
Finish: Aguas Calientes
Distance: 74 km (46 miles)
Highest point of the Salkantay trek: 4580 m

Take in the views

 Best time to do the Salkantay trek

Cusco has two seasons, the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season is from April to October. The rainy season is from November to March. The rainy season is the worst time for hiking the Salkantay trek.
The best months to hike the Salkantay trek are between May and August. It doesn’t rain much and the temperatures are pleasant, with sunny days and crisp nights. June July and August coincide with high season due to the summer holidays in Europe and the US, so stick to the shoulder seasons of April and September when there are fewer people, but the weather conditions are still good.
 How fit do you need to be to do the Salkantay trek?

Unique  reflection time

It isn’t necessary to be a marathon runner, to hike the Salkantay trail, however, it is strongly recommended that you do some extra training at home before the trip. In general, the days are long but not excessively difficult. There are adequate resting spots and a long lunch break on each day of trekking. Our advice is to build up a fitness level a month before you travel in which you are used to walking for a few hours.  To prepare yourself physically, it is best to do the Salkantay trek after a minimum of three days acclimatising at high elevation (3000m or more).


The scenery is spectacular!

The main reason to choose the Salkantay trek has to be the surrounding scenery that will accompany you along the trail. The 5 day hike traverses a number of very different environments and terrains Arguably, other treks to Machu Picchu, have quite similar terrains which can become monotonous. This isn’t the case with the Salkantay trek! Every step of the way, the landscape changes, and the mountains reveal different things to admire. The rolling clouds, the breath-taking terrain, the towering mountains, or the smiling locals. There is a new adventure around every corner!

Close to the glacier

Altitude sickness

Even if you are in tip-top condition and exercise daily, this still hasn’t any influence on lowering the risk of altitude sickness. Altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of your fitness level. It is therefore important to acclimatize because once you go beyond 3000 metres elevation, you will definitely feel it. If you travel directly from Lima to Cusco via aeroplane as most people do, you will definitely need to acclimatize for 3 days or more. Walk at a leisurely pace, rest often and drink plenty of water.

Base of the Salkantay mountain

What to bring

Only bring what you really need. You really shouldn’t carry more than 8kg on your back, you will feel it! So, the less you carry the better. You can also hire mules for the first few days to carry your pack (or you!) if need be.  The lighter your bag, the more enjoyable the trip. In terms of clothing, it is important to wear layers instead of very heavy clothing and pack for all seasons.
Backpack with rain cover
Waterproof shoes
5 pairs of underwear and 5 pairs of socks
2/3 shirts
Hiking pants Zip offs are perfect
A Fleece jacket
Thermal undershirt
Thermal pants
Down Jacket 
Water proof Jacket
Waterproof pants
1 Hat, 1 Bandana
1 pair of walking sticks
Personal hygiene products
First-aid kit
Water purifying drops
Money + snacks

Pack light!

You will experience all 4 seasons in one trek!

The Salkantay trek is the hike to experience all 4 seasons. One day you will wear a T-shirt and shorts for the incredibly hot weather, the next day you will wear all the clothes possible because you at a higher elevation in the mountains near the snow. The fact that you walk through all types of climates and elevations, this will offer a number of challenges to your body. Before the day starts, ask your guide what weather they expect so that you dress adequately and don’t have to change during the trek.

Expect rain

Salkantay vs Inca trail

One of the most frequently asked questions: which route is the best to hike to Machu Picchu? The Salkantay vs Inca trail are often compared with each other and there are advantages for each route. The Salkantay trek offers different scenery every day, the height gains are better distributed and it is less stressful for your knees. Unlike The Inca trail which has many high steps. The Inca trail is of course the most famous trek and the trail that the Incas used to walk to Machu Picchu. The cultural experience of the Inca trail is better, with more archaeological sites along the way. The disadvantage is that you have to book months in advance because only 500 people, including porters (only 200 trekkers) can hike the trail each day. Many trekkers also who have walked both, indicate that the scenery and terrain during the trek remains the same, the Salkantay trek is much more varied one day you hike through glaciers and mountains, the next, you are trekking in the jungle. 

Furry friends along the route

Of course, the ultimate destination of this trek is Machu Picchu itself, and all the details will be taken care of in the next blog! Watch this space!