The Salkantay Trail Trek is a 7-day lodge to lodge trekking experience that will take you on a historic section of Inca trail through 15 different eco-systems, while you traverse a mountain pass over 15,000 feet, explore villages where locals still maintain age-old traditions and re-discover the mystical beauty of Machu Picchu, the crown jewel of the Inca Empire. The Salkantay experience goes beyond deluxe lodges and a great trek. It is a unique opportunity to experience ancient history in the Land of the Incas, as well as the most interesting and exotic variety of flora and fauna, all in the company of new friends and likeminded souls.
El Mercado Hotel Cusco
As we planned this tour for the Women's Travel Club it was decided that my husband and I would go to Peru and experience the trek first hand. This would enable me to better market the tour and to be able to give an accurate description of the difficulty of the trek. I knew the trek was coming for months and had great plans to get to the gym and start training for this trek...of course, that never happened. My husband on the other had was in great shape. He goes to the gym every day, lives for boot camp type workout classes and used to run marathons. However, always the optimist, I knew I had this!
Buying a little art in Cusco
We arrived at Cusco and were immediately delighted with this quaint and beautiful town. Our hotel was the El Mercado (which is the same for our Women's Travel Club Tour). The hotel has a perfect location, just an easy walk to the main square. El Mercado is amazing. Loving the atmosphere, feels very old , rustic and definitely Peruvian but still has every amenity you could ask for. We had a fabulous dinner in the hotel restaurant.
We used our free day to explore the town. Bought way more than we thought we would (oops), held a baby alpaca!!!(Yay!!), had lunch in a Irish pub (why not?) and visited a local market.
An Irish Pub in Cusco
The night before our trek started we had a welcome meeting at the hotel with our guide. We immediately liked him and felt that we were in good hands. He ran over what to expect and answered any questions we had.
The next day we were picked up at the hotel and our trek was officially starting.
We were kept very busy. First stop was Killarumiyoq archeological site. It was very interesting to start learning about Inca ruins.
Lunch at El Pedregal
Next stop was an NGO cooperative. We learned about the skills that the women used and were passing down to others. We had a delicious organic lunch cooked in an outdoor oven. Bought some great homemade jam that we managed to forget in Peru.
Then for our first trek. 3 hours to our lodge ... and I have to say the uphill at altitude is no joke!!. I am a bit nervous about the next few days. Also, it poured rain for the first half of the trek, thank goodness for our rain ponchos.
The trail is quite thin at points and the drop down ... well let’s just say I didn’t look down! Some of the water crossings were a bit treacherous.
It's almost a bridge!
We finally arrived at our lodge and it is amazing! Walked in to warm towels, a welcome tea and a fire in the fireplace. So perfect at the end of a trek. The views are like nothing we have ever seen.
Only glitch so far is that somehow they didn’t unload Kev’s bag at the lodge and it ended up back in Cusco. It will be 5 hours until it gets here. But as everyone who knows Kev, knows he is taking it in stride and hasn’t complained at all.
Our first view of Salkantay Mountain
Another wonderful day in Peru. Today we hiked in the morning to Lake Humantay - wow! This is one of Peru's most magical lakes with unbelievable turquoise water and surrounded by the impressive Salkantay and Humantay Peaks. Such a beautiful spot. The trek was about 5 hours including the time we spent at the lake.
Had lunch back at the lodge and then Kev had a massage and I went for a horseback ride - what a great way to really take in the views.
When I got back to the lodge I found Kev in the hot tub where I promptly joined him. Talk about a soak with a view!
View from our first lodge
At the lake we partook in an Incan ritual with a medicine man to honor Pachamama (mother earth). During the ceremony we got to ask for something for a loved one, it was very spiritual and moving. Later in the evening we burnt the offering in another ritual, under the stars and surrounded by beautiful mountains. I am so glad we got to do this.
Traditional ceremony to honor Pachamama
Today we had quite the challenge with an eight hour trek to our next lodge. Kev and the other ladies hiked up to the 4600 m pass point. I went by horseback. I wanted to try out the riding option for the tour and it just happened to coincide with the hardest trek 😉. My horse was amazing and the views from horseback were unbelievable. I would love to come back and do the whole trip by horseback. It took us almost 8 hours to get from one lodge to the next. Of course, amazing scenery all the way. We were again blessed with excellent weather and sunny skies.
We made it!
We got to our next lodge just in time for a delicious late lunch. The ladies and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hot tub with wine.
Unfortunately, poor Kev has managed to pick up a bit of a cold. He rested up and spent the afternoon in bed. He did feel a bit better after and came out for dinner. They are taking such wonderful care of him here, even made sure we had chicken soup at dinner.
Santa Teresa River Valley
Definitely a hike with a view
I was looking forward to descending to the cloud forest as I mistakenly thought that coming down would be easier that going up. Well, as it turns out coming down has its own challenges. The trail is a true trail with dirt and rocks, you had to be very careful of your footing. The coming down is also harder on the knees and feet but my lungs were very happy. Entering the cloud forest had a beauty of it's own with our very knowledgeable guide pointing out the different plants and their uses. The next day we continued walking through the Santa Teresa River Valley, I must say the mountains were a sight to behold but I love jungle and forest.
One of the few fairly flat stretches
Day 7 was a dream. A nice easy 4 hour trek along a relatively flat dirt road. The reason we got
the easy dirt road was due to landslides that had washed the trail out in places. One also washed out a bit of the road. Now for some adventure, wearing helmets and using ropes we crossed the landslide. I must say it was a bit exciting crossing this part!
The easy trek meant that we arrived to the next lodge nice and early. We had a very nice relaxing afternoon, which included some hot tub time.
This evening we took a short walk to a small coffee farm. Everything was done by hand. We got to watch as the beans were roasted over an open fire. It was some of the best coffee I have ever tasted.
Day 8 had us back to the more challenging trekking. A 6 hour trek, 3 hours uphill and the 3 hours downhill. I think this was the second hardest day of trekking. We stopped for lunch at a great restaurant along the trail (yes, the trail had the occasional restuarant and tienda) not only did we have a great lunch but the restaurant had a view of Machu Picchu across the valley. The trek ended at a tiny train station, simply called hydro electrica station. We took the train into the very cute town of Aquas Calientes.
Yay! A real bridge
Our home for tonight is the outstanding Inkaterra Pueblo. I have to say, with my job, I get to stay in some beautiful and prestigious hotels around the world, this was one of my favourites. I loved the layout of the hotel, rooms spread out through lush foliage, the sitting rooms in the main area were so comfortable and they even tended a fire in the fireplace for us. The food in the restaurant was absolutely outstanding. If you ever make it to Machu Picchu do yourself a favour and stay at this hotel.
Our favourite spot
Then our big day - Machu Picchu! It didn’t take long to see why it is a world wonder. How amazing. Our guide took us around teaching us about the architecture and the uses of the various buildings. The journey was perfect, learning about the Incas along the way and working so hard to get here made it all that more special. It is hard to put into words how it all perfectly came together.
After lunch we boarded our train to start our journey back to Cusco.
Even without being in great shape, I did it! It was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. If this trek appeals to you, even a little, just do it...I guarantee you will not be sorry. You can see full details here of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu we also have a horseback option available.