Reaching heights of 4600m in elevation, walking 70km over 5 days and 5AM wake ups - these aren’t the things that make you jump with joy when signing up for any activity. But there’s a reason why the Salkantay Trek is consistently voted as one of the top 25 best treks in the world. Here’s 6 reasons why it's totally worth it.


No one said this was going to be easy. This will most likely be one of the toughest treks you do in your entire life — five days with an average of 20km per day and the last two days being close to 30km.


By the end of it, you will be in pain no doubt – we certainly were. But that feeling of pain and exhaustion never drowned out the sense of accomplishment and contentment at the end of each day once we reached our camp.


Once the boots are off and you’ve showered, then all there’s left to do is eat a hearty dinner, shoot the breeze with your new hiking buddies and then get snug in your sleeping bag for a good night’s sleep. And trust us, you will sleep like a baby.


On the final day, you wake up at 4:30 AM to climb 1,600 stairs up to Machu Picchu, only to then climb back down and walk all the way back to Hydro Electrica to get picked up by bus.


However, once on that bus back to Cusco, you will have the biggest grin on your face knowing you went way out of your comfort zone, conquered your inner bitch and completed one of the toughest treks in South America.


Pristine high-altitude lakes, snow-capped mountains and jaw dropping views unlike anything you will have seen before –  the Salkantay trek will take you from Laguna Humantay to Salkantay mountain to Machu Picchu over the course of 5 days.


Aside from the highlights just mentioned, it’s the beautiful scenes and landscapes you will experience in between these moments that make it such an unforgettable trip.


On your first night, watching from your tent as masses of clouds roll across to cover the valley. Seeing the peaks of snow-capped mountains in the distance as the weather clears. Sitting in the thermal baths on your third night watching the sun dip behind the mountains.


All of these little moments, combined with the epic sights such as the bright turquoise lake at Humantay and the towering size of Salkantay Mountain, all add up to a once in a lifetime experience that you just can’t get on a single day trip.


Your group will be a total of up to 15 people, including your guide. If like us you decide to go with Machu Picchu Reservations, then your guide will be one of the best.


Our guide ‘Su’ was an absolute legend, who clearly loved trekking, nature and educating others about the beauty of this region of Peru. He kept our spirits high and made sure everyone was happy and safe.


The other 13 people we did the trek with were all heroes and heroines who only had positive vibes to give and made the entire experience that much better.


By the end of the 5 days, you should have made some friends for life – we certainly did.


Disclaimer – we can’t guarantee who you will end up on the trek with, and they may all be terrible people, and if so, we apologise. Obviously, we got lucky having such a great bunch on our team, but you would hope that only likeminded and positive people would decide to go on a 5-day trek in the Andes anyway.


On the trek you will burn on average 3,000 calories each day.


Your guide at the start of the trip will jokingly mention that you won’t lose any weight on this trek, and no one ever does. You don’t believe him, that is until you get fed on the first night after reaching camp.


Three-course meals, continual plates of food, home-cooked Andean recipes and all made fresh with ingredients coming from the surrounding area –  you don’t get anywhere close to being hungry on this trek.


Your guide and trek company understand the amount of energy required for this trek and make sure you are well fed the entire way.


We’re going to be completely biased here and say the Salkantay trek is one of the best options for getting to Machu Pichu.


On the 5th day of the trek, you will wake up be up before dawn and queuing for the gates to open by 5:00 AM. Once they’re open and you’ve climbed the stairs, you’ll be one of the first at the top, for what we hope will be a clear sky and a beautiful sunrise.


Although this is never guaranteed, so leave your expectations at the gate.


Why do it this way? Well once you’re on your 5th day of waking up early and trekking 20kms, this final day feels like a walk in the park. You will have slept in a bed for the first time in four days to give you that added bit of energy.


You will also avoid a large number of tourists that start arriving early morning.


Not selling it to you? Technically you can do this same method by travelling on your own to Aguas Calientes without having to do a 5-day trek but where’s the fun in that?


Also, booking with the Salkantay trek means you’re guaranteed to get the earliest tickets for Machu Picchu possible as they get priority booking.


For $210 for all your food, sleeping arrangements, transport, and entrance to Machu Pichu, it is great value for money, especially for budget backpackers.


We went with Machu Pichu Reservations who provide one of the best value for money tours. They also do shorter 3 and 4 day treks which we’ve broken down here if you are short on time. 


That’s $42 spent a day total – perfect if you are looking to extend your trip in Peru or Cusco without spending lots of money.


If you were to stay in Cusco for 5 days in a hostel and visit Machu Pichu on one of these then the total cost would be much more than $200.

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?


For more on backpacking in Peru and South America, check out our itineraries and travel routes:



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