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SALKANTAY TREK: HOW MANY DAYS IS BEST? (3 DAYS, 4 DAYS OR 5 DAYS)

Fitting in even the tiniest amount of the epic Salkantay trek on your travels to Peru is a must. Every traveller visiting Cusco will be going to Machu Picchu but if you can spare even one or two extra days then why not combine it with one of the top rated treks in the world, hiking through the Andes to the impressive Salkantay Mountain and Humantay Lake?

 

WHICH SALKANTAY TREK IS THE BEST OPTION?

We know time is the most significant factor for backpackers and if you are visiting Peru for only 7 days or two weeks then you may not want to spend the five days on a trek (even though it’s probably worth it).

 

Luckily for you, companies such as Machu Picchu Reservations offer shorter versions of the trek. This is the company we went with and we are using their options as comparisons.  We did the five-day trek ourselves, so we know the ins and outs of it all. 

 

We’ve compared the three options on offer considering price, sights visited as well as the advantages and disadvantages.

BREAKDOWN

3 Days4 Days5 Days
Cost ($)259200210
Places Visited• Salkantay pass
• Santa Teresa
• Hidroelectrica
• Aguas Calientes
• Machu Picchu
• Humantay Lake
• Salkantay pass
• Santa Teresa
• Hidroelectrica
• Aguas Calientes
• Machu Picchu
• Humantay Lake
• Salkantay pass
• Santa Teresa
• Thermal baths
• Llactapata Mountain
• Hidroelectrica
• Aguas Calientes
• Machu Picchu
AdvantagesLess trekking

See the highlights

Easy on the legs
Avoid 4th day which is a long-distance

Less walking
See everything

Thermal baths on the 3rd day

Cheapest option
DisadvantagesMore expensive for fewer sights

Lots crammed into a short time
Miss the thermal baths day

Miss Llactapata mountain

Split up from your group who do five days
Longest distance

Hardest on the legs and body

SALKANTAY TREK - 5 DAYS

Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Humantay Lake
  • Day 2 – Salkantay Pass and Mountain
  • Day 3 – Santa Teresa, Thermal Baths
  • Day 4 – Llactapata, Hidroelectrica and walk to Aguas Calientes
  • Day 4 – Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco
You can find the full breakdown of their itinerary in more detail here.

What To Expect?

We’ve covered the full five-day experience in our guide so we won’t go into too much detail here about the itinerary.

 

As mentioned, day 3 is more relaxed with 4 hours trekking (all downhill) and a fun night at the thermal baths.

 

Day 4 is another early start to trek up to Llactapata viewpoint. This is a long day and physically demanding just from the sheer amount of time spent walking (7+ hours), but the view from the top of Llactapata mountain is incredible, especially if there aren’t any cloud and you can see Machu Pichu off in the distance.

Advantages

  • Only $10 more than the four-day trek
  • Enjoy a night at the thermal baths (extra cost c.10 soles / $3)
  • Get to see Machu Picchu from Llactapata Mountain
  • Get to stay with your crew and new friends

Disadvantages

  • Full five days + days either side for prep and recovery may not suit everyone’s itinerary
  • A lot of distance covered so will be tough on the legs

Our Opinion On The 5- Day Salkantay Trek

If you are going to do the Salkantay trek then do it properly.

 

For $10 more it is a no brainer to stick with the five-day trek. The only reasons we can think of doing four days over five is to reduce the distance you are trekking, but if you are signing up for the trek then you know what you are getting yourself into and one extra day trekking shouldn’t bother you.

 

And again, if you are short on time, then we would suggest moving around some other things in your itinerary to fit the five days in rather than drop down to four. The third evening at the baths and the fourth day trek are both incredible experiences that you won’t want to miss out on.

 

Although it’s a challege, overall it is one of the best experiences we’ve ever been on and would recommend it to everyone. 

SALKANTAY TREK - 4 DAYS

Itinerary

  •  Day 1 – Humantay Lake
  • Day 2 – Salkantay Pass and Mountain
  • Day 3 – Santa Teresa, Bus to Hidroelectrica and walk to Aguas Calientes
  •  Day 4 – Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco
You can find the full breakdown of their itinerary in more detail here.

What To Expect?

The first two days of this option are the same as the five-day trek.

 

On the third day instead of staying in Santa Teresa and visiting the thermal baths, you take a bus to Hidroelectrica and then walk to Aguas Calientes.

 

You miss out on the fourth-day trek Llactapata Mountain which takes you up to Inca ruins opposite Machu Picchu.

 

On day 3 of the five-day trek, after a leisurely day trekking, you spend the evening visiting the thermal baths and enjoying some much need relaxation. At the baths, you can have food and enjoy beers with your crew, and in the evening your guides give you a curfew of midnight to have some more beers and a bit of a party.

 

Day 3 (of the 5 day) or us was one of the most enjoyable. Sitting in the baths, feeling the tension drain from your muscles after two days trekking is a great feeling and the beers/party in the evening was great fun.  So this is what you will be missing out on.

Advantages

  • First two days are the same as the five day
  • Less overall distance trekked, easier on the legs / avoid the 4th-day trek which is long
  • Cheaper

Disadvantages

  • Miss the third night party and hot baths
  • Leave newfound friends on the 3rd day
  • Miss seeing Machu Picchu from Llactapata mountain
  • Fewer people choose this option compared to 5 days, but more so than three days, so harder to find a group and it may end up costing more

Our Opinion On The 4-Day Salkantay Trek

Only go for the four days if you want to really want to avoid another day of trekking.

 

Out of all four days, while still jaw-dropping, Llactapata mountain is the least impressive sight out of them all. Also, day 4 is the hardest and longest day – 3 hours up the mountain, 2 ½ down to lunch, then 3 hours along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes.

 

Our knees and feet were exhausted by the time we were halfway to Aguas Calientes.

 

However, just be warned if you’ve met an awesome crew and most of them have signed on to the 5-day trek then you will leave them on the third day. So, if you’ve made some new travelling friends, this may be a sad moment for you, and you may be left with a bit of FOMO.

 

If you can spare the extra day and $10 then stick to five days, the third day is super fun and is a welcome break from all the trekking.

SALKANTAY TREK - 3 DAYS

Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Salkantay Pass and Mountain
  • Day 2 – Santa Teresa, Hidroelectrica and Aguas Calientes (8 hours walking)
  • Day 3 – Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco
You can find the full breakdown of their itinerary in more detail here.

What To Expect?

This option begins with a 2AM start on your first day and then into 35km of trekking. This is insane.

 

The first day of this itinerary is basically day 2 of the five-day trek, having skipped Humantay Lake.

 

You will have breakfast and then drive to the start of the trek, from there its 20km up to Salkantay pass. After the pass, it’s two hours down to a lunch spot, and then another 3 hours until camp. Pretty intense.

 

Day 2 is a mashup of day 3 and 4 of the complete trek, skipping over Llactapata mountain. The first part trekking down into the jungle is easy, and then transport takes you to Hidroelectrica for lunch which will allow you to rest your legs. After lunch, it’s just 3 hours flat along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes, or you could get the train if you chose that option.

 

The final day is the same as the others. 4 AM start to get up to Machu Picchu, then coming back down and back along the tracks to Hidroelectric before being picked up to go back to Cusco.

Advantages

  • See the best part of the trek – Salkantay pass and mountain.
  • Less overall distance trekked, easier on the legs

Disadvantages

  • A lot crammed into a short space of time
  • Miss Humantay Lake, hot baths and Llactapata mountain
  • Fewer people choose this option so harder to find a group, may end up costing more
  • More expensive than four and five days

Our Opinion On The 3-Day Salkantay Trek

Paying extra to be rushed through the trek doesn’t seem worth it to us.

 

Only do this if you aren’t a big hiker and only want to do one hard day, or if you are pushed for time and have no other options. Even then the four-day costs $200 so try and shift your itinerary around to save the money.

If you are sold on the Salkantay Trek then check out our full guide and 5 essential items you should bring to get you started planning.

 

 

Returning to Cusco for a few days after the trek? If you haven’t planned Cusco yet then our city guide will help you get started. 

 

 

And you’ll want to make sure you’re staying in a nice hostel when you get back for a day or two of rest and recovery!

 

 

After 5 days of trekking you will want to find yourself a great place to eat in Cusco to refuel, or if you have the energy, why not a night out on the town?

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