In the imposing shadow of the snow-capped Salcantay, a unique experience unfolds: the Salkantay Trek, an alternative route that rivals the famous Inca Trail to the Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. On this 5-day, 4-night trek, we will explore the extraordinary landscapes, cultural richness and spiritual connection with the ‘Apu’ Salcantay.
Discovering the ‘Apu’ Salcantay
The snow-capped Salcantay, majestic at 6,271 meters above sea level, is much more than a natural wonder. For the Incas, this ‘Apu’ or sacred lord, played a crucial role. Machu Picchu was strategically built to have a panoramic view of this summit, paying him veneration as a spirit of importance. Today, the Andean cosmovision persists, and the Salcantay remains a respected ‘Apu’.
Inca Trail vs. Salkantay Trek
The Inca Trail, celebrated for its 39.6 kilometers of ancient Inca trails, leads to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu. However, the Salkantay Trek, with its 5-day duration, offers a more challenging and scenic alternative. From the Mollepata Valley to the slopes of the Salcantay, each step tells a story of natural majesty.
The Salkantay Trek Itinerary
Day 1: Mollepata to Soraypampa
We start with a trip from Cuzco to Mollepata, where the trek begins. We cross the jungle’s edge, contemplating the snow-capped Salcantay before arriving at Soraypampa at 3,900 meters above sea level.
Day 2: The ‘Abra Salkantay’ Challenge
The most arduous day takes us to the ‘Abra Salkantay’ at 4,572 m.a.s.l., where the view of the snow-capped mountain is simply unforgettable. We descend to Chaullay, traveling 22 kilometers of pure beauty.
Day 3: Selva Alta and Santa Teresa
Between waterfalls and crops, we cross the high jungle until we reach Santa Teresa at 1,800 m.a.s.l., covering approximately 16 kilometers of lush greenery.
Day 4: Hydroelectric and Aguas Calientes
Following the Vilcanota River, we arrive at the Hidroeléctrica station and walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. A 16 km stretch surrounded by nature.
Day 5: Discovering Machu Picchu
This day is dedicated to exploring Machu Picchu. We ascend early to enjoy the sunrise at the Wonder of the World before returning to Cuzco, usually by train.
Tips and Recommendations
- Physical Preparation: The trek is challenging, it is recommended to be in good physical condition.
- Altitude and ‘Soroche’: Prior acclimatization in Cuzco is essential to combat altitude sickness.
- Equipment: Tourist agencies usually provide tents and guides, but for those who prefer independent adventure, carrying everything necessary is key.
- Climate and Season: The best time is the dry season from April to October, avoiding the rains from October to March.
The Salkantay Trek, recognized by National Geographic magazine, is not only an alternative to the Inca Trail, but an enriching experience. Each step on this 72-kilometer journey is a connection with the natural majesty, Inca history and Andean spirituality. Dare to explore this jewel of the Andes and discover a world that defies the limits of beauty.