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"The famous Salkantay Trek (or Salcantay Trek), named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine, is a trek open to everybody, with no limitation on spaces or permits (at least for now). Connecting the city of Mollepata, Cusco with Machu Picchu, the Salkantay Trek is an ancient and remote footpath located in the same region as the Inca Trail where massive snowcapped mountains collide with lush tropical rain forests."


About Us
We decided to create this page after discovering a lack of detailed account of the Salkantay Trek on the web. The experience of hiking this trail is so amazing that it is difficult not to get lost in the beautiful scenery and all of the overwhelming feelings as you follow the path of the Incas into the clouds. We put in our best effort to stay grounded as we wrote this blog keeping a detailed record of the logistics and planning.

Our goal is to serve the independent traveler taking on the Salkantay Trek with only a backpack on their back (and maybe a camera across the shoulder).

We started our Salkantay adventure on June 25, 2010

The Salkantay Trail is very easy to follow most of the time. We made it with only having one - "" map (available on the Map page); waiting for passer by's to ask for directions when needed worked pretty well. In this blog I gave detailed descriptions of several places where the trek direction is not obvious.
The trail is hard ground with gravel, larger rocks in some places. Good ankle support is essential.

Majority of the hike is along a waterway. Therefore, access to water is mostly easy; make sure to have a filter and/or iodine tablets handy. In addition, you will run across at least one kiosk per day, usually at campsites, where you can purchase bottled water.

The hike will be in mostly remote rural areas for the first three days, until you get to La Playa. Therefore, if you are following close to our 4-day trek you will need to carry about 2.5 days worth of food. Pack light. Instant soups do wonders. However, you don't really need to carry even that much. Again, at least once a day you will run across a camp site (or you will camp at one) where there will be a kiosk with some food and snacks; and you can always purchase a hot delicious meal prepared for you by the local hosts, or possibly make a deal with one of the tour groups.
WARNING! Always be ready for the unexpected in the mountains. You may get caught by rain or illness (both of these happened to us), etc and food may not be easily accessible. In the moment when you may need it most there will not be any passer-by locals or tour groups to give you a hand. Be a responsible backpacker and count on yourself - pack one or two emergency meals.

Food Prep
You need liquid fuel for high altitude. Vovachka please fill in this section with your wonderful MSR product!

It will be below freezing on the first night in the mountains. The frigid conditions are also exaggerated by high humidity. You must have winter clothing and a warm sleeping bag. My 0°F down Big Agnes was very comfortable. Bring chemical foot warmers or boil some water for a hot water bottle or regular bottle to keep your feet warm at the bottom of the sleeping bag.
It will get very hot during the day, especially at lower altitudes. Synthetic (non-cotton) light clothing is essential.
Good hiking boots are a must. You will be carrying a lot of weight uphill for 1 day and downhill for 3 days. You shoes must be able to protect your feet; but athletic tape is always a good backup.

Other Supplies
Sunglasses and SPF - you need good SPF protection at high altitudes. The sun is very strong.
Bug spray - at the end of day 2 you will reach a tropical climate and bugs will be abundant.
Medication - as a responsible backpacker you must have a complete first aid kit including (but not limited to) bandaids, disinfectant, and basic medicines; prescription altitude sickness medication is highly recommended. Remember that there are no cell phones, no rangers, no rescue helicopters, and no hospitals.

Dealing With Altitude (Sickness)
The highest point along the trek is at 4,600-4,800m / 15,100-15,700ft. Everyone is different but most people do feel 15,000ft in one way or another; generally, around 10,000-11,000ft you start sensing the elevation effects beyond the basic breathing difficulties. Vova and I have both had bad altitude sickness experiences in the past right around 15,000ft, with nausea, lightheadedness, etc, and were prepared for the worst on the trek.
The key to dealing with altitude sickness is acclimatization. Your body *will* get used to the height and lack of oxygen if you give it enough time. At the very least, spend 2-3 days in Cuzco, which is located at 3,360m / 11,000ft. If you have the time, do your best to plan the order of your Peru itinerary to gain elevation gradually, ie:
      - Arequipa: 2,500m / 8,200ft
      - Ollantaytambo: 2,850m / 9,350ft
      - Pisac: 2,960m / 9,700ft
      - Cuzco: 3,360m / 11,000ft
      - Puno: 3,830m / 12,600ft
This will save you a lot of headache (literally) and you will be well prepared for the hike.

Mild altitude sickness symptoms include headache, possibly increasing to slight dizziness or light-headedness. Moderate symptoms elevate to nausea and loss of appetite. A good comprehensive description is here:

Coca leaves, widely used throughout Peru to cure practically everything, are known to provide significant relief of the altitude sickness symptoms by improving oxygen absorption, reducing fatigue, and providing many vitamins and minerals. We chewed the leaves on our hike up and it sure seemed to help! Coca leaves can be purchased at any Peruvian market. (Note that "it takes 5,000 Coca leaves to make 1g of cocaine"). More info on Coca leaves here:

Money and Fees
Some websites state that you have to pay a fee for hiking the Salkantay Trek with the fee station located in Soraypampa. We did not pay anything for the hike or for campgrounds in either Collpapampa or Santa Theresa (and were not asked to do so at any point). You may want to have some cash to purchase snacks, dinner, or other items at the kiosks and campgrounds.

There are some comments on blogs regarding the dangers of being robbed while hiking the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek; and often one of the marketed "advantages" of going with a guide is that you will be protected from such attacks. No guarantees of course, but in our personal experience - at no point did I feel in danger of being robbed or attacked during our trip. Be smart, like you should be traveling anywhere in Peru - don't carry loads of cash with you, but be prepared to part with anything valuable that you do choose to carry. In my opinion - my most valuable possession are my photos, so take a few memory cards with you and switch them out throughout the trip - if your camera gets stolen you might be out a few / many hundreds of $$, but at least you will keep your memories :)


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This is a *theoretically* comprehensive list of towns/villages/points along the Salkantay Trek:

Town List 1

The list above has been combined from various tour itinerary descriptions and maps available online. The travel times are consistent with our experience; however do keep in mind - everyone walks at a different pace.

The one single thing I wish I had during our travels is a GPS, so I will have to resort to records of others for a true visual of the Salkantay Trek to accompany our blog.

Thanks to "jwheidmeijer" of for his record of the Salkantay Trek:

According to other sources this map for $25 includes the full Salkantay Trail GPS trek:

Some best free maps I found online:

One of the few (if not the only) accurate and mostly comprehensive treks laid out on a scaled, almost topo map. (Follow the left most trek - this is the "Alternative Salkantay"; Inka Trail is on the right):

A minimal representation of the trek on an accurate scaled map:

This map is one of the first results in Google and is pretty good, however note that you should NOT rely on the scale to judge distances, ie: Lucmabamba is actually only ~30 min walk from La Playa while the distance on the map is huge:

 This is a typical map you will find at tour agencies, mostly useless other than examining distances between indicated overnight camping locations:

Getting There

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Start:          4:00AM - Urubamba (3,050m / 10,000ft)
End:            8:30AM - Soraypampa (3,850m / 12,600ft)
Via / Time: Taxi / 4.5 hours
Cost:          200 Soles

There are buses that run from Urubamba to Mollepata (2,800m / 9,200ft). Many tour companies start their hike at Mollepata, however until you get to Soraypampa the route is mostly on drivable roads through villages and small towns, although with very little traffic.
We were recommended to save our legs and a whole day of hiking and skipping this least interesting part of the trek by starting at Soraypampa instead, which is where many tours spend their first night.

In order to get past Mollepata you must take a taxi. We took a taxi directly from Urubamba (where we stayed) in order to start the hike as early in the morning as possible. You must arrange this with a taxi driver ahead of time as the trip starts very early in the morning, it is long, difficult, and requires 4-wheel drive. This can be done by going to the main bus/taxi stop, asking around, and exchanging contact information. Make sure to confirm your ride the night before.

The taxi cost us 200 Soles, which is not bad, considering the distance and road conditions. (Price from Cuzco should be approximately the same, if you look at the relative locations on the map). The route starts with a highway and includes a 4 Soles toll. After reaching Mollepata you will start winding uphill on a dirt/gravel path. Eventually you reach remote villages; the road here becomes very rocky and hopefully you won't lose a muffler or anything worse along the way; the route splits and twists many times and your driver will most likely have to ask for directions.

After about 4.5-5 hours you will reach a large farm field with only mountains ahead. Hike on!

NOTE: We heard that horses can be rented at Mollepata. This could present a couple of adventurous options - either taking horses up to Soraypampa and hiking from there; or potentially taking them all the way up the trek with you - this way you avoid carrying a heavy load but still not going with a group tour. We haven't explored these possibilities, but please let us know your experiences!

Day 1: Soraypampa - El Passo - Huaracmachay

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Start:         08:30 - Soraypampa (3,850m / 12,600ft)
     POI:       10:30 - Salkantaypampa (4,100m / 13,500ft)
     POI:       13:00 - Soyrococha
     POI:       14:10 - Abra Salkantay / El Passo (4,600-4,800m / 15,100-15,700ft)
End:           16:15 - Huayracmachay*** (3,800m / 12,500ft)
Hike:         Shallow turning steep ascent most of the day until El Passo; then a descent.
                   Cold, windy, humid conditions above 13,000ft.
                   Below freezing temperatures after sunset.
                   High potential for altitude sickness.
                   This is the hardest day of the trek due to steep accent, altitude, weather, and weight.

08:30   Soraypampa (3,850m / 12,600ft)

Start of the hike was very pleasant - sunlit pastures, birds chirping, men and horses passing you on the wide trail. For the first time you feel the 4-day backpack on your shoulders and immediately wish you could stop for a very hearty lunch to get some of that weight off. The trail is mostly flat, although even now we could feel 12,600 ft. The trail begins a slight ascent shortly.

*** At this time we were walking on the right side of the creek/river that runs along the trail. You can see a similar trail on the left, but the two soon merge. Then they split again - keep LEFT to the Alternate Salkantay (trail to the right will eventually lead you to the Inka Trail).

10:30   Salkantaypampa (4,100m / 13,500ft)

Reached a wooden plaque that reads "SALKANTAYPAMPA   ALT. 3,800" with many hikers offering their own estimates of the actual elevation at around 4,100m (13,500ft). Considering that you've been going uphill for a while now this sounds right, this is also the elevation you will google for Salkantaypampa (or
Pampa(s) Salkantay, Salkantaycocha).

11:30   The rural road turns into a narrow trail and begins a seemingly never-ending zig-zag into the mountains. The higher you go the steeper it gets. I soon reached slower-than-snail pace while breathing like an (untrained) marathon runner.

11:55   If you are still observant at this point you may find a heart in the moss on your left.

12:00   We are finally done with the switchbacks. Looking down it's breathtaking (literally) to realize how high you have climbed in the past 1.5 hours. The ascent is far from over, however. The trail curves around the mountain and you are soon surrounded magnificent views of Nevado Salkantay on your right. It's getting colder and windier; the clouds are now just above your head.

13:00   Soyroccocha (4,200m / 13,500ft)

Finally, another wooden plaque reads:

13:05   Yanacocha lagoon (?)
Shortly after the sign you see a beautiful small lake on your right. I can only assume this is the Yanacocha lagoon.

Over the next hour we were getting closer and closer to the Salkantay Mountain. Suddenly, in the serene silence of the mountains we heard a very loud rumble, as if a helicopter was flying over our head. To our right - a powerful avalanche was rolling down the Salkantay glaciers.

14:10   Abra Salkantay / El Passo (4,600-4,800m / 15,100-15,700ft)
One last turn... and amidst the frigid clouds you see a festival of your accomplishment. Trail marker pyramids overwhelm this area surrounding a proud sign "ABRA SALKANTAY ALT. 4,800". You have just completed the toughest part of your journey. It's all downhill from here.

Reaching El Passo is an amazing feeling. At this moment you are the closest to the grand Salkantay mountain, to the clouds, and you are finally at the end of your accent and at the end of the hardest part of the trek. "The Pass" goes by many different names including Apacheta Pass, Salkantay Pass, High Pass, etc; but regardless of what you call it - you certainly will not miss it.

16:15   Huaracmachay*** (3,750-4,000m / 12,300-13,100ft)
On the descent past El Passo you can see the tiny village of Huayracmachay (or Huayrac, Huayra(c)pampa, Huayracpunko) ahead.
Unfortunately, the infamous Peruvian bacteria began a 2-day-long assault on my stomach and we had to stop about 30 minutes ahead of the Huayracmachay campsite for the night.***

Don't count on the dry season - anything can happen in the mountains. Rain started at 4:30PM and lasted for about an hour. Getting wet in these conditions - at 13,000ft with the sun setting - is NOT an option! Thankfully, the rain stopped and we were able to prepare a hot dinner.

The night temperature was about 25-28F. A hot water bottle at the bottom of the sleeping bag can certainly help you fall and stay asleep, but if you are prepared for the weather and have warm food in your stomach - you'll be fine. This was the coldest day - and the coldest night - of the trek.

Day 2: Huaracmachay - Collpapampa

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Start:         08:30 - Huaracmachay (3,800m / 12,500ft)
End:           16:15 - Collpapampa (2,850m / 9,400ft)
Hike:          All downhill rocky trail

08:30   Huaracmachay (3,800m / 12,500ft)
It took us about 30 minutes to get to the campgrounds of Huaracmachay from our overnight location. At all camp spots there is a kiosk for your main supplies such as water, snacks, toilet paper, sweets, and possibly some basic food for cooking.
The town of Huaracmachay seems to lay a little further down the trail and goes by many names including Huayrac, Huayra(c)pampa, or Huayracpunko.

This day's hike immersed in observations of rapidly changing flora and fauna as you descend from the mountainous climate to the tropics.

As you leave the clouds and boulders behind, vegetation emerges and if you are lucky - you may catch a hummingbird. 

***     We passed another campsite around 3PM. It may have been Rayanpata or Andenes. 

16:50   Collpapampa (2,850m / 9,400ft)
By the end of the day hiking downhill seems harder than the first day's ascent. The heels are now less of a problem than the sore toes, but thanks to REI for great hiking shoes and athletic tape.
Collpapampa goes by MANY different names including Collpabamba, Colcapampa, Colpampampa, Colpampa, and... Aguas Termales as shown on the most googled map of the Salkantay Trek. Note that there are no hot springs here. You will have to wait one more day until Santa Theresa or Aguas Callientes.

This was our first overnight at a group campground. Again a kiosk with basic supplies was available, and we were offered to purchase a hearty cooked dinner from the hostess, although we resorted to consuming our heavy quinoa instead (and it was OH so good.. maybe because it was my first meal in 2 days).

The night was warm and comfortable. It was still inside-sleeping-bag weather, but the temperature was very mild (I have a 0F Big Agnes down sleeping bag).

Among tour guide's horses, local chickens and pigs we met the cutest three little piggies that loved to play.
I made a friend as well. I named her Bella and she was our companion for the rest of the night and the next morning, until we had to part.

Day 3: Collpapampa - La Playa - Santa Teresa

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Start:         09:15 - Collpapampa (2,850m / 9,400ft)
End:           15:30 - La Playa (2,050-2,400m / 6,700-7,900ft) 
Hike:         Slight ascent in the beginning followed by a descent the rest of the day.
                   Trail splits in many directions and soon becomes a drivable roadway - ask directions.
                   Stay to the left of the river valley to remain on the trail to La Playa.
                   The right side of the river has a parallel drivable road that will lead you to the
                   same destination.

09:15   Collpapampa (2,850m / 9,400ft)

The tropical fauna has certainly shown itself this morning. Avoid the tiny flies that are most active between 9AM and 11AM in the morning, and 4PM to 6PM in the evening. The little suckers surround you like a cloud and bite hard, leaving you very very VERY itchy. This is your best motivation to not hang out around the campsite for too long and start your hike early.

Past Collpapampa the region becomes more populated and the trail splits in many directions. Your best bet is to leave with a tour group and follow them for the first ~hour until you reach the main trail. Otherwise - ask for directions several times along the route, but be aware that you will not encounter many people after 9AM.

- As you leave the campsite you will cross a bridge over a small river. Turn RIGHT immediately after the bridge to head DOWN below it.

On the bridge

Under the bridge

- Follow the trail until it becomes a drivable width road; here it will fork in two directions - keep RIGHT.

Looking forward toward the fork in the path - keep right

- Stay on the wide road switchbacks down along the hillside; do not take the small trail spurs.

Looking forward at the road leading downhill

- Ahead to your right you will see a gondola river crossing and possibly a large market on the other side.

- Right River Bank: Here we followed the main road to the crossing, took the fun gondola ride over the chasm below and headed straight on the main road along the right river bank. This road will lead you to La Playa. If you want you can hitch a ride with a local car passing by.

What the right river bank roadway looks like

- Left River Bank: There are trails before and after the gondola that will take you downhill to the river where you will have the option to walk along the left bank of the river. This is the actual trail that the tour groups take. You will avoid dust from road traffic (although in ~5 hours of hiking we encountered a total of 3 cars) and the trail offers a lot more shade.

Can see the trail on top of the left river bank

And now... the following is proudly presented to you by.......... ok, if this beautiful sketch confuses you more than it helps, please feel free to ignore!

* The description below follows the right river bank *

- Passion fruit trees offered a yummy snack along the way. I am fairly sure that these are on private property, so be discrete :)

- Be ready to cross a freezing mountain waterfall along this path. If you are barefoot - the rocks are sharp but bearable. This was a very welcome refresher for our tired sweaty feet!

15:30   La Playa (2,050-2,400m / 6,700-7,900ft)
After about 6 hours of hiking this day you will see a very large town (it's all relative) sprawl out ahead of you on the left river bank - you have reached La Playa. If you are on the right river bank you will reach the end of the town before you cross the river.


From here you have two options how to spend the next day:

OPTION 1) Catch a collectivo from La Playa to Santa Theresa, soak your achy self in the thermal springs and spend the night; catch a morning bus to Hydro Electrica; hike 2.5 hours to Aguas Callientes.
This was our route, described next as "Day 4".

OPTION 2) Camp at La Playa or continue hiking another 30 minutes along the main road (right river bank) to the next town of Lucmabamba and spend the night; next day up-and-down 3 hour hike to the ruins of Llactapata, another 2 hrs down to Hydro Electrica, and either hike 2.5 hrs or catch a 4PM train to Aguas Callientes.
This route is described from comments of people we've met along the trek as "Day 4*".


16:30Santa Teresa (2,050-2,400m / 6,700-7,900ft)
We stayed at a campground in the back of a private house.

Among a couple of dogs, and an affectionate black cat, one of the cutest household members is a monkey named Poncho.

Again, be aware of the evening and morning biting flies here.

Santa Teresa is a developing town mostly catered to passing by tourists. The thermal springs are certainly worth visiting after 3 days of hiking. There are many restaurants and at least one "very American" dance bar - if you are into that.