| Cusco & Sacred Valley
If you’ve ever thought about traveling to Peru, chances are that a visit to Machu Picchu is going to feature somewhere on your itinerary. Being one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu gets a lot of footfall but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most captivating places on the planet. Standing on top of the hill looking down at the complex of ancient ruins is a feeling unlike any other. Suddenly, the ache in your muscles, after days of trekking, evaporates and all you can think about is the jaw-dropping sight before your eyes.
Of course, it is all well and good being at Machu Picchu and admiring its exquisite scenery but before you can do any of that you need to get there. The easiest and best way to get to Machu Picchu is to hire yourself a tour guide who will take you all the way to the ruins, showing you the best of your chosen trail as you go. Whether you take the Inca, Lares or Salkantay Trail, you are guaranteed to encounter some of the most incredible natural beauty on the continent. But, that’s not your only option. If you have a bit of an inner daredevil and think you’re up for the challenge of getting there on your own then you might want to try your hand at hiking the Salkantay Trail without a guide.
Although the Salkantay Trail isn’t littered with ancient ruins like the famous Inca Trail, it is still one of the most beautiful hiking routes in South America, and maybe even the world. It is clearly marked so hikers need not worry about getting lost and there are various campsites and guesthouses scattered along the way so you will always have somewhere to stay. Once you know what you are doing, you are guaranteed to have the best time hiking the Salkantay Trail so let us help you get clued up.
Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu
The first thing you need to do is stock up on camping equipment. The street called Procuradores, just off the main square in Plaza de Armas, is a great place to go for cheap camping rental equipment. Grab yourself a tent, sleeping bag, roll mat, gas canister and cooking accompaniment, water purification tablets and a saucepan. Then head directly to the supermarket and buy enough energy bars, dried fruit, nuts and pasta to feed yourself for a few days. The first day or two of your trek you aren’t likely to encounter any restaurants and if you do they will be expensive so you are better off making your own food.
99% of people who embark on the Salkantay Trail will be leaving from Cusco so if you fall into this category of people then the first thing you need to do is to get to Mollepata. There are colectivos (minivans) that go there throughout the day but it is best to leave at 4am for reasons that will be clear in a minute. Alternatively you can catch a ride to Mollepata the night before you want to start your trip and just stay in a hotel or guesthouse there.
From Mollepata you have two options. You can either start walking – ask around for the beginning of the trail, everyone knows where it is – or you can hop in an open air truck and drive along the route to Soraypampa. This will save you a day of walking and this section of the route is far from the most scenic (although it is still beautiful). If you choose to take the truck then be aware that it leaves the main square once a day at around 8am, it takes about 1.5 hours and will cost you 10 soles (just under $4). This early departure time is the reason you need to leave Cusco at 4am. The truck only goes once so if you miss it then you either spend the entire day in Mollepata and try again the next day or you walk.
Once you’re on your way you will encounter a mountain pass: this is the hardest part of the trek. It is very steep and goes up to 4,600m so the altitude takes it out of you. Once you’ve got through this, the rest is mostly downhill until you get to Aguas Calientes and not so difficult. On the way back you just need to get to the Hidroelectrica and from there you can take the 6-hour colectivo back to Cusco, which will cost you between 30-40 soles ($9-12)
Trekking to Machu Picchu is something you will only ever do once and although you might have times where your whole body hurts and you want nothing more than to give up, stay strong! There is no better feeling than the sense of achievement you will feel when you stand on top of that hill and survey Machu Picchu: the fruits of your labour. For more information about booking a Salkantay Trail tour, please contact us or cal 1-888-215-3555.