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Cow | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip
Cow | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

25 Photos That'll Make You Want to Hike the Salkantay Trail

Picture of Brandon Dupre
Updated: 20 December 2017

There are many treks that you can take to Machu Picchu, but none are more satisfying then the Salkantay trail. You’ll trek up and over a mountain pass that puts you face to face with the sacred mountain Salkantay while passing countless other beautiful, snowcapped mountains along the way. You’ll go from highlands to mountains and then jungle, all in five exhausting days – but it’s all more than worth it. Here are 25 photos that prove that the Salkantay is the best trek to Machu Picchu. 

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Trekking | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Bus | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

The Mountains

Hiking the Salkantay trail means that you’ll be seeing the tallest mountain in the Cusco region and Inca’s most sacred mountain, Salkantay. At 20,574 feet (6,271 meters), it is an awe-inspiring sight to behold, but it’s by no means the only snowcapped mountain that you’ll see along the way.

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Mountains | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Mountains | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

The lagoon

On the first day, you’ll have the opportunity to hike to a lagoon surrounded by mountains. The pristine lake is so blue it seems to glow with life.

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Cow | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip_DSC0844Lagoon | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

Horses

Unlike the Inca trail, where porters carry all your baggage, on the Salkantay trail it’s horses that carry everything for you. They also make fun companions, if only for a brief time, as you hike along the trail to your next campsite.

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Mountains | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Horses | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Horse | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

The landscape

You’ll be picked up from Cusco and then begin your ascent up the Andean mountains towards Salkantay. After you go over the Salkantay pass, you’ll then make your way through the jungle towards Machu Picchu. From freezing temperature to warm, mosquito-filled jungles, the trail takes you through several of the different ecospheres that make Peru so unique.

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Mountains | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Cairns | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Rest stop | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

The people

Along your trek you’ll stay in little mountain villages and then jungle towns, giving you chances to meet the diverse Peruvian people who still inhabit this land.

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Peruvian woman | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Peruvian woman | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Peruvian woman | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

 
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Toilet | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

The thermal baths and zip line

Two of the highlights of the Salkantay trek are the thermal baths and zip line. The baths are by far the best in Peru (and maybe in all of South America) and the perfect respite from the constant hiking. If you choose to do the zip line for an extra 100 soles (around US$33), you’ll enjoy the experience of soaring over the valley and the Urubamba River below.

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Baths | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Zip line | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Urubamba River | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Snack bar | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

Llamas

You can never have enough encounters with llamas and alpacas, and by choosing this hike you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot them.

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Llama | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Urubamba River | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

Machu Picchu

The trail ends at the famous citadel in the sky, Machu Picchu. There is no better way of ending a five-day trek then spending the last day at these incredible Inca ruins. Make sure to get plenty of sleep the night before, because you’ll want all the energy you can muster to explore them.

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Machu Picchu | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip

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Machu Picchu | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip 

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Machu Picchu | Mia Spingola / © Culture Trip