Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

It’s Luca’s last week volunteering at our offices and we’re sad, but very happy for all his adventures in this foreign land. Let’s read his adventure hiking to Machu Picchu through the Salkantay Trek.

Visiting the Machu Picchu is definitely a must-do if you travel to Peru. I have been in Peru since September doing volunteer work, and it was finally time to go there and explore the lost city of the Incas. There are several ways to get to the famous ruin: By train, by bus – or with your own feet. A trek seemed to be the best option for me because I could experience the beautiful mountains of the Andes and the wilderness of Peru. In a group of 10 people and our tour guide, we started the Salkantay trek on the January 18th 2020.

Day One

At 5:30am, we met our tour guide and the rest of our group in front of the travel agency. We went in minivans to Mollepata, to have our breakfast and continued in the cars to Soraypampa. Here we started our first stage by feet to Lake Humantay .

The first hike is not too long, but it is quite exhausting because you conquer 300m altitude in a short time. After passing a lot of tourists – most of them only did a day trip to lake Humantay – we could enjoy the rainy, but breathtaking view.

Lake Humantay

After a little break at the lake we started to hike down the mountain to our campsite. Actually hiking down was a lot harder than hiking up the mountain, our joints in our legs hurt a lot when we arrived at our small lodges.

Day 2

We woke up with a hot coca tea at 5 in the morning and had a nice breakfast while the sun was rising. We started walking around 6.30 in between two mountains, all the time with an amazing view on the Salkantay Mountain, the highest point of the whole trek with 4630m above sea level.

A lot of different vegetation crossed our way during the whole trek, from flat grass plateaus and small valleys to high mountains and rocky terrain.

The ascend to Salkantay Mountain was exhausting but definitely possible – and the view was also breathtaking. On this stage of the trek, we still met a lot of tourists passing our way, but later on we walked alone for hours.

While we were walking down the mountain to Huayracmachay, the weather became warmer quite fast. That was because we were hiking into the jungle. After our lunch, we continued to our campsite for the night. We all took a really cold shower (the water directly came from the river, filled with glacier water), had a good dinner, and went to bed early.

Day 3

Waking up every day with a hot coca tea – I could get used to it. Today, on the third day of Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, the whole hike was downhill. Starting at 2900m above sea level our campsite for the night in Santa Teresa will only be at 1550m above sea level.

On our way to the lunch place we passed Collpapampa and a little zipline the local people normally use to transport goods and people. We just tried it out to have a nice view over the river. Later a minivan brought us to our lunch place.

then, we went to the hot springs, thermal baths with three different temperatures, up to 40°C. After already hiking for three days the baths were really necessary. After a nice dinner at a campfire in the evening we went to bed.

Day 4

In the morning, we went to a place to have a chocolate workshop. The minivan picked us up from the campsite, but we couldn’t pass the street, due to a landslide which happened during the night.

Some of our group then went to do ziplining, some people hiked to hidroelectrica, our lunch place. I would definitely recommend to do the ziplining. 6 different ziplines bring you from one mountain side to the other – and back. In between there is also a suspension bridge where you only walk on small wooden planks above the ground.

After ziplining we went to hidroelectrica by bus to have our lunch.

We continued our hike to Aguas Calientes right next to the train tracks, it is a small village next to Machu Picchu where we spent the night. If you want to have a nice souvenir to take with you, put 1 sol on the train track, before the train passes!

Arriving at Aguas Calientes, our tour guide showed us how to get up to Machu Picchu, the ascend we did it on our own.

At our hostel in the town, we finally had a hot shower, a bit of relaxing and a nice juice. Everybody received a lunch pack for the next day. After a nice dinner in the hostel we went to bed early.

Day 5

At 4 am we woke up – without Coca tea and in the dark. There was no electricity in the whole city so we got up with flashlights and walked through the dark city, to the first gate of Machu Picchu. Only one very expensive hotel had a generator and lighted the whole bar and restaurant – at 4 am in the morning.

After passing the first gate we started to walk up the stairs with our flashlights, but it became bright really fast. The stairs where hard, but a nice way to get up to Machu Picchu, then you really deserve the view from Machu Picchu 😉

The bad thing – we didn’t saw anything at Machu Picchu. It was rainy and cloudy the whole time we have been there, but the lost city of the Incas was still very impressive. Especially if you imagine that it was built in the 15th century – without any machines or other techniques. If we would have waited some more time I guess the sky might have cleared up, but we had to be in hidroelectrica around 3 pm and still had to go back all the way to the train tracks.

Back in hidroelectrica, we had lunch and later took the bus back to Cusco, where we arrived in the late evening.

All in all, the Salkantay Trek was for sure the best trip I did in my six months I spent in Cusco. Even if it was hard and exhausting sometimes, and the rain completely soaked us, the breathtaking views, the great vegetation, and the company with the other tourists in our group was great over and over again.

I can just recommend to do the trek to go to Machu Picchu in a different way, not by train, not by bus – by your own feet.

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