A true Andean odyssey, this 5 day/4 night Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu through the dramatic Cordillera Vilcabamba is a wonderful alternative for those who want to take a less-traveled and exceptionally beautiful route to Machu Picchu. Crossing a pass between the peaks of the immense mountains, Salkantay (6,270m) and Humantay (6,070m), offers spectacular glacial views. We descend through a stunning progression of ecological zones ranging from sparsely vegetated alpine meadows to lush, sub-tropical valleys. Arriving to the “Ceja de Selva,” or the “Eyebrow of the Jungle,” we encounter numerous tropical fruit and coffee plantations as well as an abundance of wild flowers and exotic birds.
Day 1: Cusco – Soraypampa
Leaving Cusco early in the morning, we take a 6 hour ride along a scenic route to the small village of Marcocasa, located high above the Apurimac River. Here, we meet up with the mules, horses, and arrieros (wranglers) that will carry our gear during the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. We begin our gentle hike into the green river valley beneath the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, hiking steadily upwards to the high plateau. Along the way, we get our first incredible view of Mount Huamantay (5,917 m). As we approach our campsite at Soraypampa, the enormous Salkantay peak (6,270m) will be towering over us, making for some beautiful views. Mount Salkantay has the highest point in the Vilcabamba mountain range.
Day 2: Soraypampa – Chaullay
Following a series of switchbacks known as `Siete Culebras`, or “Seven Snakes”, our path leads up the side of a mountain before leveling out again in the shadows of the grandiose Mount Salkantay. With Mount Salkantay looming above, we come to a summit marked by small piles of stones, or apachetas, left by locals and travelers to honor the mountain gods. From this high pass (4,750m) flanked by Mount Salkantay and Mount Huamantay, we make our way towards the valley below to camp for the night in Chaullay.
Day 3: Chaullay – Playa
The trail leads us down the eastern slope of the Andes and into a sub-tropical valley, where the temperature is noticeably warmer and we can even see a variety of orchids, wild flowers, and hummingbirds. After a morning of downhill walking, we arrive to the natural hot springs of Ccolpapampa, where we can take a relaxing dip in the naturally heated waters, if we choose to. Continuing through the “Ceja de Selva,” or “Eyebrow of the Jungle,” we encounter bright flowers, butterflies, parrots, and lush groves of tropical fruit, cocoa, and coffee. At the small village called, la Playa, we set up camp for the night.
Day 4: Playa – Aguas Calientes
Today we continue through the sub-tropical vegetation on our way to the village of Lucmabamba, where an original Inca trail still remains to this day. A gradual uphill climb through lush sub-tropical forest brings us to Llactapata (2,700m), where we enjoy a stunning view of the backside of Machu Picchu amongst its neighboring peaks. In the afternoon, we take the hydroelectric train to Aguas Calientes where we spend a comfortable night in a hotel.
Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco
We take the early bus up to the stunning archeological complex of Machu Picchu for a guided tour of the mysterious remains and then we have time to explore on our own before returning to Cusco by train in the afternoon.
*Sleeping bags, blow up mattresses and hiking poles, can be easily rented in Cusco.
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