Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trek

July 6-14, 2023

About the Trip

Operated by AWE & local partner Peruvian Mountains

Experience one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and explore the magnificent 15th century city of Machu Picchu after completing the picturesque and challenging 4-day Salkantay trek through the mountain peaks, passes and valleys surrounding Machu Picchu.

With our 9-day itinerary from Cusco to Cusco, you’ll have ample opportunity for acclimatization, cultural immersion, exploration and photography while spending time in the heart of the ancient Inca empire.

We choose the Salkantay Trail instead of the Inca Trail for our AWE teams’ approach to Machu Picchu because it is arguably even more scenic than the Inca Trail yet less well-known and more remote than the Inca Trail, which makes this trek much less overrun than its over-popular cousin. The Salkantay Trail’s scenery includes unparalleled views such as Humantay Lagoon and the snowy peak of 20,574 Nevado Salkantay.

For the most intrepid hikers, this itinerary also offers the chance to visit picturesque 17,060ft Rainbow Mountain on your final day in Cusco, the day after we explore Machu Picchu.

About the Salkantay Trek

Machu Picchu via the Salkantay Trek is a moderately strenuous 46 mile multi-day trek that includes the crossing of a 15,026ft pass as the physical highpoint of the trek. Altitude is a consideration for this trek: if you don’t have much experience above 10,000ft, you may want to consult with your physician and explore the benefits and disadvantages of acetazolamide (Diamox).

Participants must be in good physical condition. Previous hiking experience is required. Previous backpacking experience is highly recommended but not required.

Trip duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Max group size: 8 guests & 2 guides


Trip Details

All of our expeditions kick off with a welcome dinner on Day 1.  Please plan to arrive at your destination by mid-afternoon of Day 1, with plenty of time to clear immigration and customs and/or check into your hotel prior to meeting your teammates for the welcome dinner, which typically starts around 7pm local time. If you are flying in for an international expedition, your flights should land no later than 3pm local time.

This is your itinerary for AWE’s Salkantay & Machu Picchu Expedition:

  • Day 1 Arrival in Cusco, Peru; welcome dinner
  • Day 2 Cultural tour of Sacred Valley; gear check
  • Day 3 Start of the Salkantay Trek (~12 miles)
  • Day 4 Soraypampa to Andenes (~10 miles)
  • Day 5 Andenes to La Playa (~11 miles)
  • Day 6 La Playa to Aguas Calientes (~13 miles)
  • Day 7 Machu Picchu
  • Day 8 Rest & relaxation in Cusco, or Rainbow Mountain; final dinner
  • Day 9 Departure

The last official business for all of our adventures is the final team dinner on the expedition’s penultimate day. While your expedition fee includes a hotel stay after the final team dinner, you may make departure plans for any time after 12:01am on the indicated departure day, including red-eye departures.

All itineraries are subject to change based on weather, team condition, and local logistics.

You will receive a detailed packing list in your expedition handbook after reserving your spot on this expedition.  AWExpedition and local partner Peruvian Mountains provide the team, cooking and emergency gear for this adventure including sleeping & dining tents, and donkey support; you are responsible for your personal backpacking gear including the following items:

  • 40l+ backpack
  • 20 degree (F) sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Trekking poles
  • Trekking shoes
  • Backpacking attire including
    • Warm layer (down jacket)
    • Wind/water-proof jacket

A broad selection of rental gear is available through national brands such as REI or Kit Lender. In addition, it is easily possible rent gear on location in Cusco. 

Inclusions

  • Airport transfers in Cusco
  • Hotel accommodation in Cusco (3 nights) and Agua Calientes (1 night), double occupancy
  • Most meals (as detailed in the expedition handbook)
  • Professional guide team including AWE expedition leader and local Peruvian guide(s)
  • Cook, cooking equipment & dining tent
  • Team gear including four-season tents (double occupancy) & team medical kit
  • Donkey support
  • On-trail real-time GPS tracking and communications
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu

Other costs 

  • Flights to/from Cusco, Peru
  • Meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Gratuities for expedition leader and local guides & staff
  • Personal trekking gear including hiking boots, backpack, sleeping bag, and trekking poles
  • Personal medications
  • Sodas & alcoholic beverages
  • Personal trekking snacks (such as bars, trail mix, or beef jerky) for on-trail sustenance
  • Medical, travel, and rescue insurance
  • Single supplement - contact us to discuss availability and pricing

  • How fit do I have to be? This is a moderate to advanced high-altitude backpacking adventure. You have to be able to comfortably hike 10-12 miles on with 5,000ft+ of ascent (and not feel utterly exhausted at the end of it) in order to enjoy this hike.
  • How difficult is the route? Each individual day is a moderate-to-challenging hiking with a significant amount of elevation gain. In addition, we will spend half of our time at or above 9,000ft and going as high as 15,000ft which means that altitude becomes a big factor.
  • Should I be taking acetazolamide (Diamox) for this high altitude trek? That's a question for you and your physician. Many trekkers are able to complete the Salkantay Trek without Diamox, but if you haven't been to 15,000ft before there is no telling how your body will react to extreme altitude: our bodies' ability to acclimatize is mostly determined by genetics, and the best predictor for your ability to acclimatize is prior performance at high altitude.  In addition, Diamox takes 24-48 hours to become effective. Here's what that means for those who don't have prior experience at extreme high altitude, i.e. no insights into their ability to naturally acclimatize: if you'd like to minimize your odds of experiencing AMS (acute mountain sickness) Diamox may be advised; note: Diamox does carry negative side effects; consult with your physician when you seek to obtain a prescription.  If you'd like to find out what your body is naturally capable of, pass on the Diamox.
  • How much weight will I have to carry? You'll need to carry your personal gear except for your sleeping bag, which will be transported via donkey. Depending on how efficiently you pack, you'll likely be looking at ~20-25lbs.
  • Is is possible to hire porters? Yes, it is possible to skinny your weight down more by securing additional porter (or really: donkey) support.  Contact us to discuss details & cost.
  • How many miles will we hike each day? Daily mileage ranges from 10-13 miles, with anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000ft of ascent.
  • Do we hike straight into Machu Picchu? No. Our trek ends in Agua Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu after catching glimpses of Machu Picchu on the final day of our trek.  We will spend a night in Agua Calientes and then head up to Machu Picchu, after a hot shower and a night in a real bed.
  • Is traveling in Peru safe? Mostly, yes. Peru has a lower murder and overall crime rate than the US, yet make sure to take standard safety precautions - don't leave your belongings unattended, avoid venturing solo after dark. You'll find that Peru is overall very welcoming and tourist-friendly.

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