If you’ve heard of Machu Picchu, chances are good that you’ve probably heard of the Inca Trail too. It’s fantastic that this historic trail has gotten so much attention, but we’re finding most people now think that hiking the Inca Trail is the only way to get to Machu Picchu. I am here today to tell you that’s not true! There are many other trails that lead to Machu Picchu!
With the new regulations and limited permit availability for the Inca Trail, it’s becoming more difficult for people to get permits and it’s leading to disappointment among travelers. If you want to hike to Machu Picchu and you a) can’t get a permit for the Inca Trail or b) would prefer to avoid the crowds, there are many alternative ways to get to there. Eventually through our blogs we plan to tell you about every one of them, but today we will start with one of our favorites – the 5 Day/4 Night Salkantay Trek.
The Salkantay Trek begins from a town called Soraypampa (3 hours south of Cusco) and takes you over the snow-capped Salkantay Pass (elevation 15,091ft/4600m) through the cloudy forest and finally to Santa Teresa – Machu Picchu’s backyard. Here are some of the things that make this trail great:
- You will pass small villages and have the opportunity to interact with local, countryside people.
- You will visit a coffee farm and have the freshest coffee of your life. You’ll see the process from the moment they pick the bean all the way to moment the first drop of rich brew lands in your coffee mug.
- You have the opportunity to take a dip in some natural hot springs – they’ll be less crowded than the ones you’ll find in Aguas Calientes and you will get to feel all the benefits of the natural waters known for their healing abilities – perfect after 3 long days of hiking.
- It’s mostly downhill! It’s not often the expression “all downhill from here” is welcomed, but after you reach the Salkantay Pass on day 2, the majority of the hike is all downhill.
- You enter Machu Picchu from the back. This trail takes you around the mountain and into the Santa Teresa region – a part of the Andes that can really only be explored on foot.
- It takes you through several microclimates – more than you would see on the Inca Trail. This trek has green valleys, snow-capped peaks (passing the 2nd highest peak in the Peruvian Andes), crystal clear blue glacial lakes, and the famous cloudy forest – a preview of what you would see in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Salkantay trek really is one you should consider if you’re planning to make the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. Even if this one might not be for you, we encourage you to consider any of the alternative treks over the classic Inca Trail. Calling them “alternative treks” should by no means leave you with the impression they are inferior. Any hike through the Andes will be an unforgettable experience you will never regret.