Peru’s Salkantay Trek in Pictures

by Amy Rogers on October 27, 2013 · 7 comments

(UPDATE! 5/14/14 I’ve gotten so many questions about the Salkantay Trek, I’ve created a whole page to answering the frequently asked questions from you! Click here for everything I know about water/food/money/camping/itinerary/safety on the trail! )

So we arrived in Cusco, Peru to do what pretty much everyone there goes to do: visit Machu Picchu. But since we’re thrifty drifters and we like to do things a bit more off the beaten path, we opted out of the well-trodden Inca Trail and decided on the Salkantay Trek.

This hike isn’t entirely off the beaten track, of course, and it’s quickly growing in popularity. It’s easy to book a Salkantay tour if you don’t have your own equipment, but if you are carrying your tent, some cook gear, and a sleeping bag, it’s quite easy to do this one independently. And we did.


Amy at the beautiful Plaza de Armas in Cusco.


The Route


Another one of Peru’s rather vague signs. Who is this sign for? To where does this road continue?


We had taken a collectivo to Mollapata and spent most of the day on a long and dusty road into the valley. Here, we are just about to reach the juicy part. 


Here we are, earlier in the day. Full of pep!


And here I am a bit later in the afternoon…taking a quick snooze.


We are glad to have finally reached the trail and be off the road. Nevado Salkantay looks down at us.


Our first campsite. Looking back down the valley. Just us.


Looking the other direction towards Salkantay at dusk. The valley is falling into shadow.


Adam enjoying the open space. Interestingly, the following morning we awoke to the sounds of many feet outside our tent. A tour group of about 30 passed by and a number of them ogled us curiously. One woman asked us how we could stand to “rough it” as we were. Having just crawled out from a warm and cozy down sleeping bag, I responded by saying “roughing it? Ma’am, I thought we were living in luxury!”


The following morning. Gearing up to go over the pass. 



 Boulder fields are cool.


About to make a big push.


Almost there! The Pass is about 20 minutes away to the left and behind the big boulder in the center.


We made it! 


It’s a great time for photos, snacks, and water.


...and a little bit of showing off!


From here, it’s downhill for two days. Check out this little house. I would have built my house in the exact same spot!


Adam is happy. The air has warmed up, the valley has flattened out, and I’ve just fed him his lunch. Could life get any better?


Our second campsite, the Ruinas Andenes. Yes, these are actual Inca ruins and we are camping on them. 


We slept pretty well that night, except for these neighborly pigs (domesticated, not wild) that squealed bloody murder from time to time. Slightly disconcerting.


Here we are beginning day three. An easy downhill trod as the scenery changed dramatically from cold and high to warm and low – the jungle, or something like it.


These orchids take the cake, but there was a lot of lovely fauna as well as loads of butterflies.


We took a snack break by this lovely waterfall.


It gets junglier. Sometime between when this photo was taken, and the next, I was stung by two angry bees. It was not a shining moment for me. I dropped my pack, flailed my hands in the air, and ran like a madman, thinking I was being attacked by a swarm. Thankfully, there were only two. I still lost some of my dignity that day.


We reached the town of La Playa and spent our third night  at a fairly ritzy camping spot.  Hot showers, flush toilets, and a hot meal with cold beer were all available – alongside bouncy music playing playing alongside Rocky VI on the television.



We were glad to go back into the wilderness the next morning. Most tour groups hike down the valley towards Santa Teresa, but we opted for a 800-meter climb along an old Inca road to a campsite that promised views of Machu Picchu. Would it deliver?


Old Inca stairs. 

Sal21It’s a veritable highway. 


Such fine construction!


It took us about 4 hours of tough uphill climbing. Here we caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. See it?


Here, let me help you. ZOOM! See it now?


We arrived at Llactapata, just above our campsite. 


The center door points directly towards Machu Picchu. You can just see it over my left shoulder. 


And here we are at our fourth campsite. It was everything we’d hoped it would be. A stunning view of the ruin. Can you see it?


 Dawn over Machu Picchu.

Another 800 m decent brought us to the valley floor and past the hydroelectric plant. This water fall, blasting out of the side of a mountain was pretty impressive. Next it was 800 meters back down to the valley floor. We joined up with a road leading to a still-under-construction hydroelectric plant. This stunning manmade waterfall shoots out of the side of a mountain.

Finally, we reach the railroad track. The train comes at 3pm and it’s only 11:30. Plus it’s $18 per person for a 20 minute ride. Being thrifty drifters, we didn’t have to think twice. We tightened our hip belts, chomped down on a granola bar, and set out alongside the tracks for the last two hours of walking to Aguas Calientes.

Next up: Our Photos of Machu Picchu…

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

michael eyers October 29, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Lovely photographs great landscape shots you must know the best Chile wine by now your Nan and Grandfather come to our house in the Walshestown this evening for tea their both keeping very well enjoy the rest of your trip in South America. Michael


George Eyers November 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hi Adam Amy
Really enjoying watching your trip through South America with Nan last week
how long are you going to stay to Complete your journey will you go down to teero del faigo or land of fire
that would be very intersting for all the viewers most entertaining keep on trucking along
George Eyers bye for
now xx


Danny February 15, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Thanks for the website and pictures. My Gf and I are planning on taking the exact same trip in sept of 2014. I am a very experienced backpacker, here in the united states. I was wondering how much you relied on dehydrated food and water filters. I have read that there is food available along the trail, sold by the locals. I guess we all know how old dehydrated food can get. I would very much appreciate any information you can give.



Amy Rogers March 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

There are a few places, Danny, that you can buy snacks along the trail. (Things like ramen, Pringles, Lays, chocolate bars, soda). The night we spent in La Playa involved a campground with a restaurant attached, (our 3rd night) so we ate a hot meal there and enjoyed a nice, frosty beer. Dehydrated food is nearly impossible to find down there (are you thinking like Backpackers Pantry a la REI?). Between the main market in Cusco and the grocery store across the street from it, we were able to plan 4 nights meals with angel hair pasta, instant soups, jerky, hard cheeses, nuts etc. Water filters are, in our opinion, much too heavy, so we use (and swear by) aquamira []. Although we drank straight from mountain streams further down the Andes, there’s too much free wandering cattle for that to be okay with us in Peru.

If you’re an experienced backpacker, you’re going to be just fine! Sorry for the late response! and good luck!


Julie March 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

Awesome!! I’m bragging about you and your awesome blog to everyone and they are quite impressed! Love you!


Julie March 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Awesome blog! I am planning on doing the salkantay trek without a guide in a few weeks and it’s nice to see other people did that as well! How did you get tickets for Macchu Picchu? Did you get them in Cusco before your trek? Thanks!


Amy Rogers May 14, 2014 at 8:10 am

Sorry Julie, I’m a little behind in checking my comments. I’m just about to update my Salkantay Trek blog because I get so many questions about it. Stay tuned!


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