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4 BEST Salkantay Trek Tours in Peru (Which One to Choose!)

4 BEST Salkantay Trek Tours in Peru (Which One to Choose!)

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If you’re looking for a truly epic way to experience Machu Pichu and the surrounding area, then you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve hiked all over South America, and the Salkantay Trek really stands out as one of our favorite hikes. It is similar to the famous Inca Trail but isn’t quite as popular, despite being listed as one of the top 25 hikes in the world.

With that being said, this trek is not to be taken lightly (but maybe your pack should be!). It is a tough hike over multiple days, which is why choosing a tour with a reliable company is important. There are so many different tour options out there that it can be quite overwhelming, so we’ve created this guide to help you choose the absolute best one for you!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

If you don’t have time to read the full article, we’ve got you covered! Our favorite Salkantay Trek tour is this 5-day camping tour, which is the exact tour that we did.

The first 4 days are spent hiking through the breathtaking mountains where you will experience highlights such as Humantay Lake, the Salkantay Pass, and the Llactapata archeological site – where you spend the night and get to witness the sunset and rise over Machu Pichu in the distance. The last night is spent in a hotel in Aguas Calientes to rest up before visiting Machu Pichu on the final day for an epic end to your adventure.

This experience costs $698 USD per person which includes all your meals, transportation, guides, porters, chefs, and entrance fees. We think it is a great deal for the amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience you get! And the best part is that it’s available year-round and easy to book last minute – unlike the Inca Trail!

The BEST Salkantay Trek Tours

View from Llactapata – a place you’ll visit on our favorite Salkantay Trek tour.

Not all Salkantay Trek tours are the same. It’s important that you choose a tour that suits you best so you can have the experience that you’ve always dreamed of. Below, I’ve summarized the main types of tours that you can choose between, as well as the tour we did (and loved)!

1. Classic 5-day Salkantay Trek

Bailey with views of the Salkantay Trek in the background
Just one of the amazing views you’ll get on the Salkantay Trek!

This 5-day Salkantay Hike is known as the “classic” tour because it hits all of the major highlights of the trail.

The highlights of this tour include the gorgeous turquoise Humantay Lake, the difficult Salkantay Pass, and the Llactapata archeological site, just to name a few. We loved hiking to the Llactapata ruins on our tour, it is where we got our first glimpse of Machu Pichu, and was definitely one of our favorite parts of the hike!

On this tour, you’ll spend 2 nights in glass-roofed domes. The glass roof domes are so neat because you can fall asleep while stargazing on a clear night. You’ll spend one of the other nights in an Andean hut and the final night will be in a hotel in Aguas Calientes before waking up and visiting the magnificent Machu Pichu the next morning!

I love that this tour is capped at 10 travelers, so you can get to know everyone and work together as a group. I also love that it includes basically everything in the $599 USD per person price tag. You will get all of your transportation, food, chef, porters, guide, and equipment included. You will only have to budget extra for the optional train ride to Aguas Calientes, hikes at Machu Pichu, and lunch and dinner on the final day.

This tour is very popular with over 2000 5-star reviews (check them out here!), so it’s no surprise that it books up quickly! You can book starting mid-June, but if you were hoping for a tour sooner than that, don’t worry, many other great options on this list are available sooner – so keep on reading!

2. 5-day Camping Salkantay Trek (Our personal recommendation)

Hiking up the original trail built by the Incas
Hiking up the original trail built by the Incas!

This 5-day Salkantay trek is the tour that we took and I can’t recommend it enough!

We might be biased because we had such an amazing time on this tour, but we think this 5-day itinerary is even better than the one above. It has all the same highlights, but instead of sleeping in the domes, we camped every night in tents (except for the last night which was in a hotel). This allowed us to spend the night in more unique places, such as Llactapata, where we watched the sunset over Machu Pichu in the distance – talk about a breathtaking experience!

This tour is also great because the trekking is more equally spread out among the days. For example, on the itinerary above you hike 23.5 km on the second day, whereas on this tour you only hike for 16 km. Day 2 on the Salkantay Pass is the hardest part of the entire trek, so I couldn’t imagine having to push myself for another 7.5 km before getting to camp!

Every time we got to camp everything was all ready and set up for us which was so nice. Our guide, Carlitos, was beyond amazing, his knowledge and passion for the area really made our experience so special. And don’t get me started on the food! Our personal chefs made sure we never went hungry and were always cooking delicious meals made with local organic ingredients. They even gave us Coca tea to get us up and out of bed in the morning!

This 5-day tour costs $698 USD per person, which we think is definitely worth it for the authentic experience you get. It includes absolutely everything, but you will need to rent out sleeping bags, mats, and hiking poles if you don’t have your own. It is available daily year round making it very easy to book last minute if needed.

3. 4-Day Express Hike

Standing at a lake on the Salkantay Trek
Beautiful even on rainy days!

This slightly shorter 4-day hike is perfect for anyone who wants to experience the Salkantay trek but thinks 5 days is a bit too long.

Because this tour is only 4 days and 3 nights, you are hiking a slightly shorter trail that doesn’t include the Llactapata Ruins. And while I must say this part of the trek is incredible, it is also a difficult portion. So if you want a slightly shorter/easier option (not saying it’s entirely easy) this is a great choice of tour!

On this tour you will spend your evenings camping at scenic campsites, where you’re tents will be set up for you upon arrival. All of your meals and snacks will be provided by your personal chefs – which are guaranteed to be delicious! The 4th night is spent in a hotel in Aguas Calientes, allowing you to clean up and get a good night’s rest before visiting Machu Pichu the following day.

We also love that you will get to participate in additional activities along with way such as a visit to hot springs and an organic coffee farm. You will even get to experience a traditional Pachamanca barbecue – where the food is cooked using hot stones!

The experience costs $598 USD per person which includes everything you will need on this adventure, except sleeping bags, trekking poles, and air mats which you will have to rent if you don’t have your own. This tour is available daily throughout the year, making it a convenient option that you can easily fit into your Peru itinerary. Plus there is free 24-hour cancellation, making this a super flexible option in case any of your travel plans change!

4. 6-day Extended Salkantay Trek

Views of Machu Picchu from night 3 on our Salkantay Trek
Views of Machu Picchu from Llactapata!

If hiking all day then relaxing in a jacuzzi or glass cabana sounds like your cup of tea, this 6-day luxury hiking experience is made for you!

This version of the Salkantay trek is drawn out over one extra day, making it a bit less rushed. In fact, the first day of this tour includes no hiking at all, just a relaxing evening getting to know your group before going to sleep in a glass dome under the stars.

The next 4 days are spent hiking the trail with some seriously cool stops along the way. On the 3rd evening, you get to stay in a “hobbit house” themed accommodation on the mountain equipped with an outdoor jacuzzi to rest your sore muscles – talk about luxury!

Another unique part of this tour is that you spend one-night camping at the Llactapata Incan ruins. You can actually see Machu Pichu from here, so you will get to watch the sunset and rise over this historical wonder, which we think is a definite bucket-list experience!

Just as with the other tours, your final day will be at Machu Picchu where you will have time to explore on your own, continue your hiking adventures, and gawk at the gorgeous scenery. This tour includes a mix of camping and more upscale accommodations, your guide, porters, and chefs for only $650 USD per person. If we ever hike the Salkantay trail again, I think we will choose this option – just check out the hundreds of 5-star reviews here!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

About the Salkantay Trek

view along the trail of the Salkantay Trek
The trek is stunning!

The Salkantay Trek is one of the most popular ways to get to Machu Picchu. Less famous than the iconic Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek is both easier to book and cheaper. And on top of that, many say the Salkantay is just as beautiful! For these reasons, many people looking for a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu choose the Salkantay Trek – as we did!

The Salkantay Trek is around 74 km (46 miles) long and is most commonly done over 4-5 days with the last day being the visit to Machu Picchu.

It also holds historical significance, and like the Inca Trail, was a route the Incas once took to get to Machu Picchu. The main difference is that the Salkantay Trek is through the mountains reaching nearly 5,000 meters (16,404 ft) above sea level, whereas the Inca Trail is walking on ruins much of the way. It is said that the Salkantay Trek was the route that religious leaders took to get to Machu Picchu because of the high elevations that brought them “closer to god.”

The Salkantay Trek is named after the mountain that the trail passes, Salkantay Mountain. It isn’t just this mountain you’ll see on the hike though as the trail offers varying landscapes including glaciers and tropical Andean forest.

Related Read: Before you plan your trip find out everything you should know before visiting Machu Picchu and the best tours from Cusco!

How difficult is the Salkantay Trek?

Bailey wearing a poncho on the Salkantay Trek
We didn’t have fancy raincoats but we still made it!

To me, the Salkantay Trek was a little challenging. I’ve actually done quite a lot of hiking in Peru, and for comparison’s sake, I thought it was harder than the Colca Canyon but easier than any hikes I did in Huaraz, Peru.

The Salkantay Trek is best suited for someone who likes to hike. I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody who has never done multi-day treks before or doesn’t enjoy full days of hiking.

Day 2 is the most challenging day that takes most people around 9 hours. It climbs 600 meters (1,969 ft) in elevation and then descends 1,780 meters (5,840 ft) over 22 kilometers (13.7 miles). This is a full (challenging day of hiking) but, it is also rewarding and beautiful.

The altitude is also a problem. If you get very bad altitude sickness then the Salkantay Trek might not be for you. To prevent altitude sickness, it is best to spend a couple of days in Cusco before starting the trail and take altitude sickness pills while on the trail.

If you like a challenge, the outdoors, and hiking then you’ll love the Salkantay Trek!

Is there anything to do besides hiking?

Cloudy view on the Salkantay Trek, Peru
Cloudy view on the Salkantay Trek, Peru

If you go on the Salkantay Trek you will have to option to add on a couple of different activities that make your overall trekking experience even more memorable!

The first is the hot springs at Santa Teresa, also known as Cocalmayo Hot Springs. Here, you can soak your sore muscles for a couple of hours for only a couple of extra dollars. After a few days of hiking, you’ll be grateful for this- trust me!

You can also zipline, which is an entirely different sort of adventure from your trekking! Also located in Santa Teresa, this 2-hour zipline tour includes six ziplines, two rappels down waterfalls, and crossing a suspension bridge that will make your stomach drop. While we personally didn’t partake in this zipline adventure, we heard great things from others!

Once you’re at Machu Picchu, there are even more hikes to explore. Machu Picchu Mountain (which we hiked) and Huayna Picchu are both very popular but you must purchase tickets in advance to hike these mountains. There are limited spots and they tend to book up far in advance, so we recommend booking early by contacting your tour company through Viator.

Related Read: Before you take off on the Salkantay Trek, need a place to stay. Check out our guide to the best hostels in Cusco so you can rest up before your big adventure!

Should I book in advance?

Our group of hikers on the Salkantay Trek
Day 4 of the Salkantay Trek

One of the great things about the Salkantay Trek is that, unlike the Inca Trail, it does not need to be booked several months in advance. In fact, there are so many tour companies running this tour that you could literally arrive in Cusco and book a tour for the next day.

However, I don’t overly recommend this.

If you book in person, there is no guarantee of the quality of the tour you will get, and no repercussions for the tour company afterward if they lie to you (or rip you off).

This is why I recommend booking online in advance! This way, you can read other customers’ reviews ahead of time and have the power to leave your own review afterward. This helps ensure the company stands by what it offers.

We book most of our tours worldwide on Viator because they are a credible international organization. They provide detailed descriptions of the tours with the lowest price guarantee, so you know you’re getting the best deal out there. Some tours even offer free 24-hour cancellation, which is a great benefit. And if you have any problems, you can deal with Viator as opposed to having to argue with the tour provider directly which is a huge plus!

Is the Salkantay Trek worth it?

a Llama at Machu Picchu
100% yes!

Absolutely!

I loved the Salkantay Trek. To me, it was the perfect combination of a challenging hike mixed with rewarding views as well as having plenty of time to relax.

Sure, the first couple of days and nights are tough camping and walking far distances. But by the time you reach the hot springs, it gets fairly easy, and spending a night in a hotel at Aguas Calientes feels like pure luxury!

After walking for four days, visiting Machu Picchu seemed even more amazing.

I would easily recommend the Salkantay Trek to anyone who is up for the challenge! It is so worth it!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a photo on the Salkantay Trek in Peru
Thanks for reading!

If you’re looking for an epic way to experience the Machu Picchu area, a multi-day trek will not disappoint! Whether you take the classic Inca Trail or give the Salkantay Trek a go, you will have an unforgettable time, at least we did.

I hope that my Salkantay Trek review has helped you decide which trek to take. If you have any questions, be sure to comment below so I can get back to you! While you’re planning your travels, be sure to check out our other South America blogs, and more specifically our Peru blogs!

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