We took on the five day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and it was by far the highlight of the trip. We booked in advance with Andean Trekking Peru and we couldn’t recommend this company enough. We booked a group tour and it ended up just being us with our guide, Edwin, and his crew. Edwin is extremely knowledgable of the Andes and Inca culture, he even challenged us by speaking in Spanish (although he speaks perfect English) since we both studied it in college. Although you wouldn’t necessarily expect it on a trekking tour – the food was INCREDIBLE. For the strong and adventurous soul, this is the perfect way to experience the Andes and enjoy your trip to Peru!
The tour company will pick you up in Cusco bright and early and you will head to Soraypampa. Here you will start your hike up to the Blue Lagoon. This is a great warm up – but it won’t be easy! This will be the first test of how your body is working with the altitude. After huffing and puffing your way to the top, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the lagoon and then disappointed when you learn that after all that work, you’ll head back down to where you started and head the opposite direction up towards Salkantay Pass. After a beautifully prepared lunch, you’ll continue ascending as far as your group can go and then camp out for the night.
Today you will summit Salkanay Pass! You will start your day with much needed Coca tea delivered right to your tent, then a warm breakfast before you pack up and get on the trail. Then starts the longest, most challenging day of the trek. We made it up to Salkantay pass fairly early, but then you will descend, which is the much longer part of the day. You will descend over 5,000 ft, completely changing climates from rocky and mountainous, to luscious cloud forest. We crossed rushing rivers and saw bounties of fruit growing on the side of the trail.
The third day starts off with a six mile hike through Lluskamayo valley where you will be surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. You’ll encounter powerful waterfalls, unique birds, and delicious fruit – if you’re lucky! You’ll continue another four miles to Lucmabamba Campsite where you will learn how to harvest and roast coffee from a local farmer. This was an awesome experience, and a nice rest (and caffeine boost) after some hard days of hiking. Then, the excursion we had been waiting for since the first cold night in the tent, we headed to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs. This felt INCREDIBLE and we came back rejuvenated and ready to take on the last hiking day.
On your last big hiking day, you’ll start off ascending for about 3 hours on the original Inka Trail. You’ll arrive at Llactapata for a breathtaking view of the Urubamba Valley (view pictured above). After taking in the scenery, you’ll head down to the town of Hydroelectric, where you will make your way towards Aguas Calientes. With our taped up feet and tired legs, this part of the trek felt like it went on forever. This made the arrival at the hotel in Aguas Calientes that much more rewarding. You’ll have a nice dinner with the guide and get prepped for the next day’s adventure up to Machu Picchu!
I recommend you get in line nice and early to get on the first bus up to Machu Picchu. Many people that do the trek feel the need to hike up to Machu Picchu in order to complete the “trek experience.” We decided to take the bus and man were we happy with that decision. It is a tough climb and not nearly as scenic as the Salkantay. The second you enter Machu Picchu, climb climb climb as high as you can. You’ll get an amazing photo op before the grounds flood with tourists. You’ll spend about two hours wandering through the infamous ruins with a private tour from your knowledgable guide. I would highly recommend getting tickets in advance to climb Huayna Picchu. You can’t buy tickets at the door, so plan ahead! This is a steep and tough climb, but the view is completely worth it! After spending a perfect day in Machu Picchu, you’ll head down and take the train back to Cusco.