The Salkantay Trail Peru

| March 7, 2011

Latin America expert Nick Wilkins took a trip to Peru where he trekked along the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu, rather than the usual Inca trail.

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The trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic travel experiences in South America, but there is another way that hikers can reach the Inca citadel, without experiencing the increasingly crowded Trail.

Last year I hiked along the Salkantay trail to Machu Picchu staying in the luxury lodges that now line the route. This is a very different experience than the Inca Trail, where you can be sharing the route with many other people. On the six day trek I experienced we barely saw anyone else. Whilst there is a lot to be said for the traditional Inca Trail, those who wish to avoid the crowds should consider this alternative route.

The other major difference is the accommodation. Along the Inca Trail the only option is to camp. Along the Salkantay Trail the lodges that now line the route mean that after a long day’s walking you end the day in total comfort. The lodges are so well equipped that it is easy for the aches of a day’s walk to melt away.Comfortable rooms, delicious food and cosy living rooms are a stark contrast to tents and sleeping bags. Most of the lodges even have an outdoor jacuzzi, so you can soak tired limbs whilst enjoying the stunning mountain scenery around you.
I would say that the trail itself is a little harder than the Inca Trail, but the comfort you experience at the end of each day more than makes up for it. One of my group had never done any serious hiking and certainly not at altitude, she experienced no problems whatsoever, even at the highest point on the trail at 4,600m high.

Another major difference in the two treks is that whilst the Inca Trail for the most part runs along ancient Incan roads, on the Salkantay trail this is not the case and you only experience a short section of Incan path on the last day before reaching Machu Picchu. This alternative route though does provide a view of Machu Picchu that very few others will get to see.

On the final day, after climbing the last pass, past the Incan ruins of Llactapata you emerge to see Machu Picchu from the “reverse” side, away from the small town of Aguas Calientes as it’s base. It really does give you a different geographical context for the site as you see it from across the valley, clinging to the top of the saddle between two higher peaks.

Overall, I would heartily recommend the Salkantay Trail for those who still want to hike to the ruins but want to do so in comfort and style.


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