If you read my post Enlightenment In the Jungle , this trek to Machu Picchu came after we left the retreat in Iquitos, Peru. The first thing to decide when planning a trip to trek Machu Picchu is which trail you are going to take and what company you would like to guide you. Luckily I had a recommendation from a friend on this one, so we went with the Salkantay Trail and picked Salkantay Trekking as our guide.
Why the Salkantay Trail and not the Inca?
There’s a few reasons we went with the lesser known Salkantay Trail. The main one being that the popular Inca trail is WAY more crowded and twice as expensive! The classic 5day/4night Salkantay Trek cost us $450 for all accommodations, amazing guide, and chef prepared meals (there are a few other small optional expenses). It is longer, 40 miles vs. 25 miles for the Inca trail. We weren’t particularly looking to hike more, but the point was that there was a LOT more to see on the way there. We absolutely loved our choice! I think it’s worth mentioning too that this was definitely more on the “glamping” side of trekking. Your bags (besides your day pack) are carried for you, all the meals are freshly cooked at each campsite for you, and the accomidations each night are already set up in advance and very comfortable!
The tour starts in the town of Cusco, so that’s where we flew into first a couple days before the trek started to get acclimated to the high altitude. This step is not to be skipped! Arrive in Cusco 2-3 days before the trek starts. My boyfriend and I took all the precautions to not get altitude sickness and we had no problems. We took these Altitude RX capsules as directed, along with putting Nuun hydration tablets in our water and chewing coca leaves/ tea (found ALL over Cusco).
I actually wish we had more time in Cusco because we really loved it! It was such a beautiful historic town with the most incredible food! If you have a chance, our very BEST meal came from Green Point , one of the best meals I’ve ever had and I am not typically vegetarian!
Day 1 – Humantay Lake & Sky Camp
We were picked up from our hotel in Cusco at 4am to drive 4hrs in a comfortable van to the trek start point, Challancha. From here we started our trek with a pretty easy first day of about 7 miles total. Our guide took many breaks and we moved at a slow pace, so it was very enjoyable and leisurely for everyone.
After the first 4.5 miles we arrived at our first camp site at Soraypampa, where we had our first taste of the AMAZING chef prepared meals we would be enjoying the rest of trip.
After lunch, we continued trekking around the campsite up to see the breath taking Humantay Lake and then back down to the campsite to rest for the evening.
Day 2 – Salkantay Pass
For Jordan and I who do not hike all that often….Day 2 was TOUGH to say it lightly. This day broke us down and built us back up! But not to discourage you…we survived! And there was options for those who struggled more then us (ride a Burro for part of the way up).
The first part is an upward climb to the highest point – Salkantay Pass. We wanted to give up a few times, but slow and steady wins the race! We took as long as we needed and it was a glorious feeling to finally reach the top. Not to mention the landscape on the way up feels like you are on another planet! It is truly amazing.
After a break at the top, we started our decent for a few hours until our next Lunch break spot. Then you continue on a downward slope….which sounds pleasant but was still difficult and very painful on my shines. But again, we all survived and it was worth it! We did get a lot of rain at lunch time this day but luckily we had a covered area and also packed water-proof coat, pants, and shoes (highly recommend).
Day 3 – CHAULLAY Camp
We ended at these adorable thatch roof huts on night two for showers and dinner. There is also wifi available for purchase at this campsite! Day 3 was MUCH easier then day 2, thank goodness! We did an easy hike through the mountains, over beautiful rivers and with a few waterfall views!
We stopped at a local coffee plantation for a nice tour and tasting!
The second part of our hike ended up being in a van due to the huge amounts of rain the day before. The rain made the down hill decent dangerous and our group voted to take a van for the remaining portion.
Day 4 – LUCMABAMBA to Aquas Calientes
We ended night 3 at these cool Jungle domes and enjoyed a fun group dinner and evening together! Day 4 was another pleasant day of more leisurely hiking broken up into a few parts. We crossed over an epic bridge, starting to see our first glimpses of Machu Picchu high above, and finally made our way along the train tracks to the town of Aguas Calientes.
Aquas Calientes is whole little town at the bottom of Machu Picchu. Here we were provided with hotel rooms and another chance to shower, yay! We had time to get facials and massages as well before meeting the group for dinner! You can do some shopping here too.
Day 5 – Machu Picchu!
We woke up super early this morning to meet with our group to head up to Machu Picchu! You have the option of climbing a huge set of steps up to the top or if you are totally pooped from the trek, you can take a quick bus ride up. We were SO sore at this point, and it was raining in the morning, so we opted for the bus! Your tour guide will get you up there super early to beat the crowds!
After a nice final history lesson from our awesome guide at the top, we were left to explore the rest of Machu Picchu on our own. We did the small “hike” up to the Sun Gate (free). This is the technical entrance to Machu Picchu and definitely worth seeing! The views along the way are BREATH TAKING!
After resting at the Sun Gate and taking it all in, we made our way to the actual historic Machu Picchu City site. This place is mind blowing and will really fill you with wonder and awe. I am so happy we did this bucket list item and the trek was totally worth it!