Whilst the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu may not be the favoured choice over the ‘Bucket list’ Inca Trail, this scenic route is not for the faint hearted or for those wanting the easy option. With varying landscapes of jagged rock faces, snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes,and dense forest, The Salkantay trek is far more than a back-up option.
Waking up with a hot cup of cocoa leaf tea and a hearty breakfast after a comfortable night camping, we headed off along a rocky path with the crisp cold air filling our lungs. Approaching the increasingly steep terrain, the landscape was like that of a scene from the Lord of the rings, minus any hobbits or Trolls! Getting to know everyone in our group from around the world and encouraging each other with each step, the light at the end of this tunnel was that view point at Machu Picchu, so there was no turning back.
As we continued to ascend towards the high pass, we were in the shadow of the jagged Humantay Mountain and one of the most stunning peaks in the Andes, the towering snow- capped Salkantay mountain at 4,600m. A short descent across the rugged terrain and we approach the vivid turquoise blue lagoon, stepping aside to let the Mules pass along the path. Needless to say, standing in awe of the Peak in bright white with clear sunny skies with those sights, that memory will be with be forever.
This route surely has it all, from the crisp air with sheer rock faces in the morning, to the humid jungle in the afternoon. The camping is comfortable and warm, plenty of nutritional tasty meals with the guides and porters enthusiastically painting a picture of what everyday life is like across this barren landscape.
The last night of the Salkantay trek is spent in a Hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes (Quechua for ‘Hot Water’ due to the natural hot springs in the area) with a soft mattress and pillow. Believe me when I say it will be the best night sleep you’ll ever have!! We stood by the advice to start queuing early to avoid the masses (Of which there were hundreds behind us) for the short 15 minute bus journey the day after to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Looking out at the view point of Machu Picchu (Translated as ‘Old Mountain’ in Quechua) it was clear a real-life picture post card. For an elevated aerial view, a blood pumping 40-minute hike up the path and you arrive at the Sun gate, where hikers from the Inca Trail emerge to take in the sights.
It really is a magical place as you find yourself getting lost in the history, the sheer scale of the ancient remains, let alone Llamas casually strolling pass and you try to get that all-important Llama Selfie.
Don’t think about booking the Salkantay, just do it. The sense of achievement and experience is immense!