If you are looking for an itinerary which covers everything there is to see and has accommodation, guides and porters included, you can opt for the 5-day Salkantay Trek as offered by our partner Alpaca Expeditions.
Transfer to the Cabañas de Cristal
You will start this Classic Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu on the afternoon of Day 1. We will pick you up at 3 p.m. from your hotel, where you will meet your Alpaca trekking team. From here, we will head in our private van for a 3.5-hour drive to the Cabañas de Cristal in Soraypampa, located at 3,800 m.a.s.l. We will arrive just on time to take photographs of the sunset over the glacier peaks.
At the Cabañas de Cristal, your guide will settle you in your rooms before enjoying your dinner, along with some hot drinks. Your night will also have many stars in the night sky.
Cabañas de Cristal - Humantay Lagoon - Salkantay Pass - Wayracmachay
After a good night’s rest, you will have early wake up to enjoy your breakfast before your trek. During this morning, there will be a short team introduction between all trekkers and the Alpaca Staff to ensure a positive, family-like experience. Following the introduction, you will give your duffel bag to the muleteers for carrying. The day´s hike will begin by visiting Humantay Lagoon. You will hike approximately 1.5 hours along a steady uphill. Once at the lagoon, you will enjoy the serene views of the crystalline-blue water of Humantay Lagoon. If the skies are clear, you will see the first sun rays peeking through the snow-covered peaks. If you are brave, you will also have the chance to touch the almost-frozen water so that you may stay young forever! The advantage of visiting Humantay Lagoon in the early morning hours is the quiet surroundings with no other trekkers besides those in your group. Due to the popularity of this location, this is not something everyone can enjoy!
After breathing in the beauty of such a magical place, you will begin making your way back down to the starting point to continue with your hike to the lunch spot in Soyroccocha on gradually ascending terrain. On your way, you will pass places such as Salkantay Pampa and will enjoy the outstanding views of the surrounding peaks and snow-covered mountains. After lunch and well-deserved rest, you will continue with your hike for about 1 hour more until Salkantay Pass at 4,650 m.a.s.l.- the highest point of the trek. You will be rewarded once here with hot drinks before continuing!
From Salkantay Pass, it will be mainly hiking downhill to our last campsite for the day, Wayracmachay. Upon arrival at the campsite, the trekking staff will have your tents set up and with your duffel bags ready. They will provide you with warm water to get washed up, so that you may change into something warm. We will have a happy hour with hot chocolate and coffee, followed by dinner. If the weather allows, you will get to enjoy the blue sky, along with a brief introduction to the visible Inca constellations.
Wayracmachay – Chaullay – Ccollpapampa Loreta (Hobbit House)
Your trekking team will wake you up early with a hot drink to help you start the day. Hopefully, as you open your tent, you will see the sunrise over glacier peaks and clouds, lifting from the green cloud forest. You will have time to pack up and enjoy a nice breakfast prepared by your trekking chef.
At around 7 a.m., you will begin the day's hike by hiking downhill until reaching the lunch spot at Ccollpapampa (2,700 m.a.s.l.). In this hike, you will begin to notice the micro-climate and fauna & flora changes. You will go from cold glacier views to warmer green jungle surroundings. There will be many different species of orchids to see, as well as ferns, begonia flowers, and Hummingbirds.
After lunch and well-deserved rest, you will continue with your trek to the next private campsite called La Loreta at 2400 m.a.s.l. on gradually downhill terrain. Along the way, you will explore beautiful waterfalls, rivers, and again, flora and fauna. Here you will have another tropical forest micro-climate, where local people farm coffee, passion fruit, papayas, oranges, and avocados. Upon arrival at the campsite, your trekking staff will welcome you. You will have time to enjoy a free hot shower, hot Jacuzzi, and perhaps even swim in our swimming pool. There will also be time to walk around our ecological garden to see some of our coffee, avocado, chilies, tomatoes, and pineapples. Dinner tonight will be at our building with views to the Salkantay River, which you will hear below as you fall asleep at night.
Ccollpapampa Loreta (Hobbit House) – La Playa Sahuayaku – Lucmabamba Coffee Farm – Llactapata (Camp in front of Machu Picchu)
After a delicious breakfast, you will start the shortest but most exciting day of the trek. Today you will experience the most beautiful sights along your trekking route to Machu Picchu. You will explore the tropical forest and will have a visit to a local, organic coffee farm. Here you will have the opportunity to explore some of the orange and avocado plantations and taste some of the freshly-brewed coffee. There will be a brief introduction to the region's coffee and its importance as the main farming product. You will then learn that coffee in this region was introduced after the Spanish conquest, and most of the coffee is exported overseas to North America, Asia, and Europe.
After the coffee farm visit, you will continue with your trek to Llactapata by hiking along a section of the Inca Trail. On your way to the Llactapata Inca site, you will see amazing views of the Santa Teresa valley. At Llactapata, you will get the first glimpse of Machu Picchu, including the main archaeological sites Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain. You will also have the opportunity to explore the Llactapata Inca site along with your guide and take photographs for the books! From here, it will be an additional 15 minutes downhill to your lunch and campsite area. Owned by a local family, only Alpaca Expeditions has permission to stay at this campsite.
You will find the campsite to be a great place to enjoy the sunset and sunrise over Machu Picchu. After lunch, you will have some free time to enjoy the views and relax from hiking. Again, we will serve a lovely happy hour with tea and coffee, and your chef will prepare a delicious meal for dinner. Once the stars come out, you can enjoy the Milky Way and the Inca constellations – just like the Incan astronomers did to predict the weather.
llactapata Lookout – Waterfalls at Hydroelectrica – Mandor Hiram Bingham Farm – Aguas Calientes
Your trekking team will wake you up early with a hot drink to help you start the day. You will get ready for today’s activities and enjoy your last breakfast prepared by your trekking chef. The day's hike will begin with a downhill path, with views of Machu Picchu, until Hydroelectrica Station. The most impressive part of this area is the natural 300 meters high waterfall, which generates electricity for the region of Cusco. From Hydroelectrica Station, you will then continue to the famous Intiwatana (sundial rock). According to history, this Inca stone used to work with the legendary sundial rock in Machu Picchu during the winter solstice, which was the beginning of a new farming season for the Incas.
Following the Intiwatana, you will continue to the path on the train tracks. The hike along the train tracks will lead to the town of Aguas Calientes, located at the foot of the valley of Machu Picchu. This part of the hike will be interesting as it was the trail used by the American professor, Hiram Bingham, when rediscovering Machu Picchu.
On his way to Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham met with local farmer Melchor Arteaga, who eventually guided him to Machu Picchu. On your trek, you will hike past Melchor Artaega´s farm. Here you will see many species of flora and fauna, the national bird called cock of the rock, Tucanes, Oropendolas, Parrots, and Orchids. Finally, upon your arrival in Aguas Calientes, you will enjoy your packed lunch.
You will then go to your hotel to enjoy a hot shower, and a visit to the famous hot springs (10 soles, not included), of Aguas Calientes. In the evening, you will enjoy your final dinner with your trekking chef and say goodbye.
Machu Picchu – Return to Cusco
Today will be the most important day of your expedition. To get the most out of the day, we encourage every group to have an early breakfast before catching one of the first buses up to Machu Picchu (starting at 5:30 a.m.). The hotel will hold your bags for you while in Machu Picchu. This way, you will only be required to take your backpack with all essentials up to Machu Picchu. The bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu will take approximately 30 minutes.
Once in Machu Picchu, your guide will introduce you to the beauty of Machu Picchu. You will head directly to a well sought out location from where you will watch the sunrise and take photographs. Your guide will then guide you around the main sectors of the citadel, for a total of 2.5 hours. During this guided tour, you will learn some more about the history and culture of the Inca Empire.
At the end of the tour, you will have some time to yourself or, if you arranged to hike Huayna Picchu* (must be booked in advance, as it sells out and costs $75 per person), your guide will show you where to begin this hike, which will take no more than 2 hours round-trip.
For your return from Machu Picchu, we recommend heading back to Aguas Calientes no later than 2 hours before your train departure. The train return from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo will take approximately 2 hours. In Ollantaytambo, our Alpaca Staff will be waiting for your right by the station´s exit door, ready to bring you back to Cusco by car. The car ride to Cusco will be approximately 2 hours and will have you dropped off at your hotel in Cusco.