As I had done the Inca trek a few years ago, we opted for the Salkantay Trek. A stunning mountainous range that reaches its highest hiking elevation at exactly 15190ft or 4630mt above sea level. And let me tell you the oxygen is definitely thin up there!
Peru was one of many countries we visited during our time in South America, and they were all amazing which is why we wrote all about our Top 5 Destinations to visit in South America right here!
There are a number of different options for the Salkantay Trek, however we opted for the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, across 4 days and 3 nights in total which finishes with an early day trip to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING IN PERU
I should warn readers, there are many people on the side of the streets without shops who will try and sell you trips to the Sacred Valley, including rainbow mountain and most definitely Salkantay treks. Whilst we did take our chances and book the cheaper option (and it worked out thank-god), this isn’t always the case.
Come pick up in the morning, they simply won’t be a car waiting for you, and you will come to realise that sometimes it’s best to just pay a little more for the comfort of knowing your trip is indeed going ahead.
Despite our guide and trip working out really well, Plaza De Armas is filled with travel agencies and legitimate store fronts of Peruano’s who are all willing to provide you with top notch tours for hiking in Peru. If you prefer your trips planned ahead and hassle free, then visiting the folk at Viator and pre-booking a trip is super simple!
- Overall you can expect to hike 52km from Day 1 to Day 4.
- Reach an overall altitude of 4630m or 15190ft above sea level.
HIKING IN PERU ESSENTIAL ITEMS
Most tour companies will organise the essentials for you like water, food, basic sanitation etc, but it’s always a good idea to come prepared particularly if you want to get involved in your own hiking & outdoor adventures!
Some of the basic things we carry are as simple as multiple clean pairs of socks, water sanitation devices and wet weather gear.
We’ve compiled a list below of the items we took with us trekking in Peru.
- Lots of socks
Multiple pairs of socks come very in handy particularly if you plan on doing multiple day hikes, and your terrain is potentially very wet and muddy. A lot of blisters come from really only 3-4 things, wet socks, small shoes, new shoes & worn out socks!
- Water sanitation device
If you don’t have access to boiling water or cannot clean your own water, the best way to do this is by carrying a water sanitation device like a life straw! They come in the form of either purification sticks that use UV to clean the water, or dissolvable tablets.
- Solar panel portable charger
Not a must have, but definitely a nice convenience if you’re a photographer or carry lots of electronic equipment and don’t like lots of batteries. Most hikes in Peru are generally speaking multi-day hikes, hence the need for longer lasting battery life. The last thing you want are batteries to go flat or freeze up.
These babies can be folded up into your backpacks for storage, and can charge your mobile phones, laptops and camera equipment. They obviously have limited use so don’t expect to charge all 3 things at once, but they can be a real lifesaver.
Salkantay Trek: 4 Day Itinerary
Very early morning pick up from your hostel/accomodation in Cusco to Quiswarniyoc. The beginning of your Salkantay Trek begins with a bus ride from your accommodation in town along windy dirt roads to the municipal town of Mollepata. It will cost you 10 Soles / $3.50 AUD as an entrance fee to the local community for providing breakfast and their hospitality
It’s very basic and most dishes in peru attempt to cater for western tourists, so it is very common to see things like an American breakfast, European breakfast etc.
You have one more hour by bus to the town of Soraypampa where you drop off your main luggage to the horseman, receive your briefing at 3650m above sea level. and begin your hike to Laguna Humantay for 2 hours.
Hiking in Peru doesn’t have to be all camping and slumming it ,however your final destination for day 1 of the hike ends at the base of Laguna Humantay, where you sleep in privately run wooden huts overlooking the beautiful valley at the foothills of Salkantay Mountain.
The morning views are breathtaking, so soak it all in before your next day..
If you’re in need of a rest, take a sleep in the cabins, enjoy a meal in the large mess hall or join the rest of the group to hike an extra 400m up to Laguna Humantay. (This extra elevation almost ruined me)
Laguna simply means lake.
At Chris and Laura Travels, we are big on traveller independence & doing things on our own; however we sometimes make more practical and safe decisions when it comes to multiple day hikes, as we aren’t the most experienced outdoor folk around.
Quiswarniyoc to Chaullay camp – Day 2 gets a little gnarly, as this component of the Salkantay trek brings you to the highest elevation at a breathless 4630m above sea level or 15190 ft. A relatively hard flog for 3-4 hours at a slow pace, but lovely on the way down.
The weather on Salkantay can be very unpredictable at times; being a mountain she tends to have sporadic micro-climates throughout so be prepared for any sort of weather. Once you arrive at Camp Chaullay, you can pay 10 soles / $3.50 AUD to have a shower as well as buying some drinks from the locals.
These Peruanos basically live off the tourism from hikers from all over the world, so bring some extra cash on you to support them. Chaullay is also the entrance to the Peruvian Amazon area. This is also true not only for hiking in Peru, but elsewhere like Colombia & Ecuador.
Chaullay to Aguas Calientes – be woken at 5am with a hot coca tea – It’s all downhill from here as you begin the 5 hour hike to the only major town in the mountains called Aguas Calientes. A small but quaint tourist town seving returned travellers and day visitors the opportunity to rest and recline after a long hike before they visit the famed Incan Empire.
Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu – The sad and celebratory end to your hike in Peru leaves you with two options from Aguas Calientes – buy a bus ticket that will take you from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu, or go on your own little adventure and climb the very steep steps up to the Park entrance for app.1 hour
Laura took the bus up from town but me and a few buddies in our group climbed up to Machu Picchu. In some regards, this short but steep cimb exhausted us more than 4 days of hiking did!
Today is also another early riser, as you meet the rest of your gang at the entrance to the lost city of the Inca’s. Make sure you have your Machu Picchu tickets with you as well as your passport! This is a must, as they only allow a certain number of visitors per day, your ticket will have your passport number on it which you need to be confirmed by showing your passport.
The bus will cost you AUD$12, a little steep for a 3 minutes drive up the mountain but you’re paying for the convenience of it all. As with all trekking in Peru, carry a little extra cash on you as the locals along the way try to make a living by selling you small gifts and foods.
The tour around Machu Picchu takes around 1 hour, as well as free time to explore the lost city of the Inca’s, take photos & if you’re feeling adventurous and have a late departure time, you can always attempt the climb to Huaynapicchu.
Returning to Cusco is very simple. Train or Bus. Most tours have a bus return pre-organised, and although takes a little longer, is far cheaper than the train.
A TOWN HIDDEN IN THE MOUNTAINS: AGUAS CALIENTES
A cute little quaint town that sits at the base of the Mountains, with an active train track going straight through the guts of it. Here you have a number of options on where to stay from simple bunk beds and B&Bs or your more high end hotels.
As a group we had pre-booked a couples room in a hotel which was more than comfortable. A soft mattress and a hot shower is all you will want after 3 days of early risers and 8-12 hours of hiking in Peru.
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