Salkantay Trek

to Machupicchu

4 days / 3 nights – Private Services

Salkantay Trek to Machupicchu

4 days / 3 nights – Private Services

The Salkantay Sacred Mountain and Surrounding Treks

The Salkantay Mountain is located in the Cusco region, north-west of the city of Cusco, and reigns at 6,279 masl (20,595 ft). It is the twelfth highest peak in Peru and the 38th-highest in the Andes Mountain range. However, given its topographical location in a deeply incised terrain, it is actually the second most prominent peak in the country, after Huascarán in Cordillera Blanca. It is not only an absolutely stunning snow-capped peak, with an impressive moraine at its bottom, beautiful turquoise lagoons and an impressive eternal glacier. It is also one of the most technically difficult peaks to climb, with very few expeditions having been successful to date, and most importantly, it is considered a Sacred Mountain or “Apu,” a Sacred Spirit by its ancient dwellers and Incas, and still today by local inhabitants.

The name originates from Quechua, with “sallka” meaning wild, uncivilized or invincible, actually reflecting the nature of the peak itself. The alignment of the mountain summit with the Southern Cross in the Andean skies as seen from Machupicchu’s sundial during the rainy season, was associated with rain and fertility by the Incas, granting Salkantay a sacred or deity status.

Still today, the mountain is highly revered among the local population, with healers always including it in prayers and blessings, and with even our very own guides asking for permission to the Sacred Apu to cross its mountain pass with success.

The area around Salkantay offers several trekking options, with mainly two mountain passes available to cross it through two sides. To the north of Salkantay lies Machupicchu, which has turned these routes into alternatives options to the Classic Inca Trail to Machupicchu. However, although portions of old Inca Trails can be found in its proximity and seen in some of the routes, the Salkantay routes follow mountain trails – none in itself is actually an Inca Trail in its entirety.

About this Trek

This amazing trek runs beneath the sacred Salkantay mountain (6.271m/20569ft), one of the highest and most stunning in the Peruvian Andes, passing through Quechua communities and lesser-known Inca ruins, to finally reach Aguas Calientes on the third day, at the bottom of Macchupicchu. The impressive Sacred Inca city of Machupicchu is visited on the last day of the program. This itinerary is an interesting alternative to the well-known Inca Trail trek to Machupicchu.

Enigma’s experienced trekking guides enrich the days with their knowledge and sharing, covering diverse topics such as Inca history, archaeology, architecture, social structure, economy, politics, astronomy, and fascinating traditions and beliefs. Lodging is within designated and authorized campsites along the route.

This trek is a great combination of high Andean scenery, small communities, lesser-known Inca archaeological sites and of course Machupicchu, visited on the last day. It is operated with the support of mules and horses, providing optional support for those who want or need horse assistance. It runs through high altitude and therefore, an adequate acclimatization process prior to the trek is essential to fully enjoy the experience and minimize the risk of suffering from altitude sickness.

Our Insight

This is a fabulous option to experience the magnificent high mountain landscape of the Andes with one of the most beautiful peaks in all of Peru, while at the same time including some communities and small and charming archaeological sites and, of course, Machupicchu. Enigma used to operate the route going through Abra Huayracmachay instead of Abra Incachiriasca, and following on to Collpapampa and then Playa and Lucmabamba, but we decided to stop given the evident deterioration and the noisy campsites along the route. We love this version, as it also crosses a portion of the Inca Trail, including amazing sites such as Llactapata but also an Inca Canal, usually out of reach in other routes.


Day 1 Cusco to Ichupata

We leave Cusco at 04.00 am by private transport and start a scenic morning ride to our trek starting point at Soraypampa. Along the three-and-a-half-hour drive, we cross the town of Limatambo (2100m/6888ft), an important point of access to the city of Cusco during the time of the Inca Empire, where the archaeological remains of Tarawasi are located. The road continues up a track along the right shore of the Apurimac River and crosses the town of Mollepata (2800m/9184ft) and the small community of Cruzpata (2750m/9020ft) to finally reach Soraypampa (3800m/12464ft), the starting point of the trek, where we meet our wranglers and horses. After a short introduction and a quick breakfast, we start our exploration hike towards the Humantay lagoon (4200m/13776ft), with impressive crystal-clear turquoise waters and where Huallatas (Andean Geese) may be spotted. We then continue to Salkantaypampa, where a temporary campsite has been set for our lunch. In the afternoon, we continue our hike climbing a trail with many level variations and along which we encounter rich flora, small wild birds and spectacular views of the Humantay snow peak (5902m/19359ft). After approximately two hours of walking, we arrive at our campsite in Ichupata (4400m/14432ft). From here we can appreciate the majestic Apu Salkantay (6271m/20569ft). We camp and dine at this place.

Meals: B, L, D

Total distance  12 km (7,47 miles)
Estimated hiking time  6-7 hours
Maximum altitude point  4,400 m (14,432 ft)
Campsite altitude  4,400 m (14,432 ft)

Day 2 Ichupata to Pampacahuana

We wake up early, with the sun usually present as early as 6:00 am. After a hearty breakfast at camp, we start our hike with a two-and-a-half-hour steep climb towards the Incachiriasca pass (4950m/16236ft), the highest of the entire route, offering impressive views of the Salkantay snow peak. We recommend taking some time to enjoy the amazing views and the powerful nature, energy and silence of this place – a very sacred mountain pass for ancient dwellers and current inhabitants alike. We then descend towards our lunch spot at Sisaypampa, a flat area from which one can observe the Salkantay´s neighboring valleys. It is possible to see condors in this area. After lunch we continue towards the Pampacahuana community, a lovely remote area, located next to an impressively well-preserved original Inca canal, where we set our second camp, dine, and spend the night.

Meals: B, L, D

Total distance  13 km (8.08 miles)
Estimated hiking time  6-7 hours
Maximum altitude point 4950m (16,236 ft)
Campsite altitude 3,900 m (12,792ft)

Day 3 Pampacahuana to Aguas Calientes / Machupicchu

We leave camp after breakfast to start a downhill walk along the shores of the Pampacahuana River following its course to Paucarcancha, a local community that hosts a small but charming archeological site, which we stop to visit. We then continue our way to Quiswarpata, another small archeological site, and as we pass by Wayllabamba, we are already entering a section of the Classic Inca Trail route to Machupicchu. Our hike continues downhill towards Llaqtapata (2750m/9020ft), a spectacular Inca complex located on the shores of the Vilcanota River and which can be appreciated in all its dimension from a fabulous viewpoint. We visit the site before we continue to Miskay, another small community en route and finally to Km 82, known as the starting point of the very famous Inca Trail to Machupicchu. From this point our private transport will drive us to Ollantaytambo, where we board an afternoon train that will take us to Aguas Calientes. Upon arrival, we are accommodated at the selected hotel.

Meals: B, L

Total distance  16 km (9,94 miles)
Estimated hiking time  8 hours
Maximum altitude point  3,900 m (13,776 ft)

Day 4 Aguas Calientes / Machupicchu to Cusco

We wake up early and board a bus, which will take us up to Machupicchu where we begin a complete guided tour of the Inca citadel that will take approximately two hours. Then, if you would like, you can choose to climb Huaynapicchu or Machupicchu Mountain, where one can experience spectacular views of all of Machupicchu, the surrounding valleys and mountains, or visit the Temple of the Moon or the impressive Inca Bridge (***). In the afternoon, we meet in the town of Aguas Calientes where, if you like, you can visit and relax in its hot springs. From here we take the train back to the city of Cusco, where we arrive after nightfall.

Meals: —

* Departure and arrival times are approximate
** Campsites are subject to change according to the designation of the governmental institution regulating the use of the Inca Trail, as well as to our guide’s criteria and the group progress
*** The visit to these sites is subject to limited capacity, must be booked in advance and is subject to an additional cost. Please let us know at the time of your booking, if you wish to add any of these options to your visit



Challenging: An acclimatization period of at least two days in Cusco or at elevations above 3000m/9840ft is recommended.

Departure Dates

Daily departures are available throughout the year, except during the month of February. The period March to December is recommended to avoid the heart of the rainy season.

All private service departure dates are adapted to your request.

Group Size

Size requested by client

Price Information

Price per person
Prices per person depend on the group size, the larger the group the lower the price per person.

Please contact us to check our prices, specifying:

  • trekking program
  • number of people in the trek
  • departure date
  • requested train service: Expedition (Economy), Vistadome (Superior) or Hiram Bingham (Belmond Luxury train service)

Available discounts (these discounts are not cumulative)

  • Teenagers: US$ 20.00 (up to 17 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)
  • Children: US$ 40.00 (up to 3 years of age, passport copy required for all bookings)

Additional discounts (may be added to the above)

  • Early bookings: 5% on full program price for all bookings confirmed at least six months in advance. This discount may not be applicable in case a promotional price is offered.

What’s Included

  • Pre-departure briefing
  • Pick up from your hotel in the morning and transfer in private transport to Soraypampa (starting point of the trek)
  • Personal tents: 2 people in each 4-people-capacity tent, to allow for higher comfort and a safe keeping of backpacks. Our tents are 3-season, highly maintained to ensure an excellent performance in the field. Eureka Timberline 4 Outfitter tents are employed when double accommodation is requested and Eureka Timberline 2XT for single travellers.
  • One inflatable sleeping pad per person
  • One sleeping bag per person: our sleeping bags are -18ºC-comfort (0ºF), mummy form and include a sleeping liner. They are cleaned after every use and have a maximum usage of 30 trips
  • One pillow per person
  • Dining tent with tables and chairs
  • Kitchen tent
  • Toilet tent with bio-degradable toilet facilities
  • English-speaking, professional, and official tourist guide (2 guides for groups of over 8 people)
  • Chef and cooking equipment
  • Pack animals (to carry tents, food and cooking equipment) – days 1 to 3
  • Pack animals to carry personal gear up to a maximum of 10kg per person (including sleeping bag and sleeping pad) – days 1 to 3
  • 1 emergency horse every 6 persons – days 1 to 3
  • Wranglers – days 1 to 3
  • Accommodation for all our staff
  • Meals (04B, 03L, 03D + daily morning snack + daily tea service except last day). Vegetarian or special menus are available at no extra cost
  • One textile snack bag per person, to avoid the usage of plastic bags that contaminate our environment
  • Filtered boiled water from lunch time on first day onwards
  • Bio-degradable personal hand soaps
  • Bio-degradable dishwashing detergents used by our kitchen staff
  • Other things: hot water every morning and evening for washing purposes / boiled water to fill in your water bottle every morning and night, and at lunch time if requested with enough advance notice
  • First-aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle
  • Train ticket from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes – third day
  • 1D Machupicchu entrance fee
  • Round trip bus ticket Aguas Calientes – Machupicchu – Aguas Calientes – fourth day
  • Train ticket from Aguas Calientes to Cusco (Expedition, Vistadome or Hiram Bingham service, upon request) (*)
  • Transfer train station to hotel in Cusco
  • 24-hour guest service: please ask for the emergency number available during your time of visit

(*) Should there be no train tickets available in the direct route Aguas Calientes – Poroy (Cusco), a train ticket Aguas Calientes – Sacred Valley with an additional private transportation from the Sacred Valley to your hotel in Cusco will be provided. This does not apply for the Hiram Bingham luxury train service.

What’s Not Included

  • Accommodation in Aguas Calientes on Day 3: please let us know if you wish us to assist you with this booking
  • Dinner on the third day, breakfast, lunch and dinner on the last day: after the guided tour at Machupicchu, you can enjoy free time to further visit the ruins and choose to have lunch either in Machupicchu or in Aguas Calientes at your own expense. Arrival in Cusco is estimated after nightfall, dinner being at your own expense, too.
  • Visit to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes: a relaxing way to wrap-up the trek while you’re awaiting the return train to Cusco, only 10 minutes from the village center, entrance fee is s/20.00 (Peruvian Soles).
  • Huayna Picchu entrance fee: if you would like to climb this mountain, an additional entrance fee applies (US$70.00).
  • Machu Picchu mountain entrance fee: if you would like to climb this mountain, an additional entrance fee applies (US$70.00). This is a separate mountain visit from the Machupicchu citadel.
  • Tips: please note that our agency staff is well paid so please feel free to tip or not as you wish.

Optional services at additional cost

This private service already includes the hire of a pack animal to carry up to 10kg of personal items, a personal sleeping bag and a personal sleeping pad.

Accommodation in Aguas Calientes can be booked for you. Please let us know if you wish us to make the hotel booking and, in this case, your requested hotel category and accommodation, and the number of nights you wish us to book. Our Reservation Department will provide you with a list of our selected hotels, services and prices for you to choose from. Our list of hotel choices is based on previous client reports and is regularly updated.

Please contact us should you require additional services.



Cusco’s climate is divided into two differentiated seasons: the rainy season, from November to April (the heaviest rainfalls occurring usually between January – March); and the dry season, from May to October. The dry season is colder, so temperatures can drop to below 0 ºC at night.

Along the Salkantay route, temperatures range from 10-20ºC during the day if it’s sunny, to 05-10ºC during the day if not sunny and can drop below freezing at night. In Aguas Calientes/Machupicchu, at lower altitude, temperatures are usually warmer though warm clothes are still recommended at night.

Appropriate clothing along the Inca Trail

Hiking pants and T-shirts are recommended during the day, complemented by sweaters, fleeces and waterproof jackets. It is very convenient to have light raingear available in the daypack (rain poncho or jacket and/or rain pants) as the weather changes easily and rains can suddenly occur. At night, warm clothing is required, down jackets can be useful, otherwise a fleece and a jacket. During the third day (if sunny) and in Machupicchu, convertible hiking pants are useful, as can be switched into shorts if necessary. Machupicchu has a warm climate, getting only cold at night. The rest of necessary implements are included in the Pack List.

What’s Included

  • A backpack with a change of clothes for the whole period of the trek
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants if available) or rain poncho (plastic ponchos can be purchased in Cusco)
  • Strong footwear, waterproof trekking boots recommended
  • Sandals or jogging shoes for a higher comfort while at camp
  • Warm clothes, including jacket and fleeces. Thermal clothing is recommended, especially for sleeping
  • Flashlight/headlamp and batteries
  • Camera and batteries (batteries consume more quickly under cold conditions)
  • Hat or cap to protect you from the sun, rain and cold
  • Sun block
  • After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body
  • Insect repellent – minimum 20% DEET – no malaria risk has been reported
  • Toilet paper and tissues
  • Snacks: biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, dried fruits, muesli, etc. Please note that we do provide a daily morning snack and our meal service is very complete and well supplied. This recommendation applies for all clients being used to a specific snack, as it may happen that it is not included in our selection.
  • Water container and water for the first morning.
  • Optionally: water-sterilizing tablets in case you pick up water from streams or rivers along the route. Otherwise, we provide filtered boiled water, which is safe to drink and has never reported any health issues.
  • Small towel
  • Swimsuit (if you wish to go to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes)
  • Cash in soles and/or US$
  • Original passport
  • Optional: walking sticks or poles (rubber covers required in order not to damage archaeological sites)


If you would like to make a reservation for this trek, please follow the process below:

  1. Please make sure to read and agree with the Booking Terms & Conditions as your booking is subject to these terms.
  2. Then click on the Book Now button below. This will lead you to a Reservation Form that we kindly request you to fill out and submit.
  3. Once received by us, one of our travel consultants will reply within 48 hours to confirm or discuss options available for your booking.
  4. When your booking is confirmed, a money deposit will be requested within a specific time frame to secure your reservation.
  5. Once we have received your deposit and if received in time, your booking is secured and confirmed. A service confirmation form will be sent to you including all the details of your program.

In case you have any questions or require additional information, please contact us, we will be very glad to assist you.


  • Because all our treks are only and strictly operated by Enigma and its very professional staff. Other agents claiming daily departures operate their treks jointly with other companies in service rotation. Hence, you book a departure with tour operator A, which risks being operated by tour operator B without you knowing. ENIGMA has a high quality of service and a great reputation, which is only possible by ensuring that only ENIGMA staff operates ENIGMA treks. Even if we only have a single traveller for a set departure date, we will operate this trek.
  • Because we have and can prove an excellent treatment of our staff, including chefs, porters, and wranglers. ENIGMA not only complies with the Porter Law and Regulation, but our wages are above the minimum requested by law and above the average paid by most of the tour operators. All our staff eats well and more than enough, they are provided with sleeping bags, thermal clothes, sleeping tents, trekking boots, thick rain ponchos, harnesses, and lumbar support for their duty on field. Most importantly, they have a program ensuring them a minimum number of departures per month and hence, a minimum income per month as well.
  • Because we are very careful to choose and train the best guides for each group. About 80% of our guides work exclusively for ENIGMA and are highly trained, have excellent language proficiency and communication skills, and are regularly evaluated by the reports each guest fills out after each service. We have specific guides for special requests (ornithology, history and archaeology, flora and fauna, and also generalist guides). Our guides have been trained in Wilderness First Response and/or Advanced First Aid by NOLS and are updated every two years by local authorized schools. We also have guides proficient in several languages besides English and Spanish, including French, Italian, German, Chinese and Japanese. In all of our treks, not only on the Inca Trail, there will be a guide for every 8 guests with one of them being the head guide. This ensures a higher safety and attention to guests versus other operators.
  • Because we have some of the best equipment in field, renewed every year, employing excellent brand and performance tents, surgical steel vaiselle for best hygiene, the best water filters, therm-a-rest sleeping systems, with adequate-warmth bags and inflatable and high-isolation pads, and orthopedic foamy three-level base sleeping pads, among others.
  • Because we have one of the best in-field meal services in the area: throughout our decades of operation, our chefs have been trained by several institutes in Lima and Cusco, with chefs coming from the NY Culinary Institute and renowned chefs from Lima as well, with whom menus have been designed and implemented. Their operation ensures maximum hygiene. Above all, be prepared to not only have a superb trekking experience but also a culinary one, including generous and delicious breakfasts, snacks, lunches, tea services and dinners that we can adapt to your very specific requests. Our menus include a variety of Peruvian and international food and also cater to vegetarian, vegan and special dietary requests (Atkins, Gluten-free, etc.), all at no extra cost. ENIGMA is recognized for its gourmet meals, the quantity and quality of food, as well as for its outstanding menu design. We take natural, locally sourced ingredients on the treks and prepare them in the field; we do not take prepared low-quality food, the meals being an added experience in all of our programs.
  • Because ENIGMA’s responsible operation makes sure to have a minimal impact on the environment of the natural protected areas in which it runs. We train all our staff in our environmental policy, and while ENIGMA used to be the only Inca Trail Official Operator to run a yearly Inca Trail Clean-Up, this initiative has now been taken over by the government, and we continue to participate actively.
    • Because we pay legal taxes on all services contributing to the country’s growth and development. Other tour operators do not declare their sales or most of their earnings, or declare them with a lower value, thus allowing them to lower their prices through a dishonest competition. We always declare our earnings and pay the appropriate taxes.
  • Because all our Group Services have a maximum group size of 12, whereas most tour operators work with a maximum of 16 on the Inca Trail, since this is the number authorized by law, or even higher on other routes. We have established 12 as a maximum since this increases the quality of our service, as there are spots along the treks where being 16 makes it impossible to provide a personalized service.
  • Private Services have no size limit. Enigma guarantees to assign 1 guide for each 8 trekking guests, which means an additional guide is added as of guest number 9.
  • Also, our excellent treatment to our staff is not reduced in the low season: porter wages and guide fees are maintained throughout the rainy season, a gesture highly appreciated by our staff.
  • Finally, due to all of the above, we have very highly satisfied guests, as our numerous testimonials prove. In our Testimonials section of our website, you may find reports dating from 2003 (when we started our operation) to today. The original reports are available at our office in Cusco.
  • We are aware other operators may offer the Inca Trail or other programs at a lower price. This does not mean they are offering the same program at a lower price: the level of service will not be the same. We understand price is an issue, but we kindly request our potential guests and clients to choose a responsible tour operator as otherwise, you risk indirectly promoting the exploitation of rural communities and the growth of informal and illegal operators that do not support the country’s development and growth.

“This was the best trip of my life! Enigma was a huge part of making it so great, Marco was an incredible guide – the entire trip was flawless and I had a lot of fun! I loved the hiking + camping – the crew was so incredibly kind and hard working – it made the experience the best. I will recommend Enigma – and Marco – to any friends that plan to visit Peru.”

Anne Gefer /USA
Salkantay 5d/4n
April 2019