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Cusco Journeys

Cusco Journeys


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Salkantay Trek vs Classic Inca Trail


Salkantay trek vs Classic Inca trail are 2 of the best hikes in the city of Cusco (Peru), the destination is the same, although there are different paths that can take you there. For some the Inca Trail provides the most reasonable option with its classic route, moderate level of difficulty, and trek-friendly facilities. Others may prefer the road less traveled the Salkantay Trek, with more robust scenery, less traffic, and limitless accommodations.

When it comes to the perfect trip to Machu Picchu, it can mean a completely different experience for each person. Looking at the best and worst aspects of each trail, it is helpful to choose the route that suits your schedule, abilities, and needs. Here are the benefits of the two trails, each with a brief overview. This will help you determine your path up to the glowing wonder of the Peruvian Andes

Here you can see the differences between Salkantay Trek vs Classic Inca Trail


Salkantay Trek Classic Inca Trail
Trek Duration 4 days  4 days
Why do it Experience the wilderness of the Peruvian Andes, looping around the glacial and verdant path of Mount Salkantay en route to Machu Picchu, avoiding the Inca Trail crowds. Considered the best short trek alternative to the classic Inca Trail without having to worry about permits.

Expert bilingual guide

Earn bragging rights for visiting one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and completing one of the greatest short treks on earth. Trek along the ‘original’ route Incas travelled from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Visit intriguing Inca sites every day and enjoy your first glimpse of Machu Picchu at the dramatic Sun Gate entrance.

Expert bilingual guide

Highlights Trek to magnificent views of Mount Salcantay (6270m), regarded as one of the most sacred snow peaks in Inca mythology and is the highest peak in Vilcabamba mountain range.

Hike slightly higher than the highest point on the classic Inca Trail.

Climb to the pristine turquoise waters of Lake Humantay.

Enjoy a nature-rich experience, from highland to cloud forests, with vistas of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range in every direction.

Pass through banana, granadilla, avocado and coffee plantations and spot Andean condors along the way.

Gain a special view of Machu Picchu sanctuary from the southeast that few travellers get the chance to admire, with lunch served in a scenic viewpoint that looks out to Machu Picchu.

Discover the enigmatic ruins of Machu Picchu on a guided tour with time to explore the site at your own pace.

Enjoy two scenic train journeys from Hydroelectric train station to Aguas Calientes and from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo.

Trek the famous ‘Royal Highway of the Incas’, built more than 500 years ago.

Hike past centuries-old Incan terraces, camp in picturesque valleys and marvel at stunning Incan architecture.

Enjoy a guided tour of the Machu Picchu sanctuary with time to explore the site at your own pace.

Get an extra visit to Machu Picchu with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes to fully appreciate the majestic site at its best, early the following morning.

Enjoy a scenic train journey from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo after the trek.

Lowlights You do not enter Machu Picchu through the Inti Punku ‘Sun Gate’, instead a train is taken to Aguas Calientes. (However, the longer Salcantay Base Camp trek does include this in the itinerary.) A limit of 500 permits available per day for trekkers and crew and must be booked far in advance (If you’re thinking of going within the next year, you better start booking now). April to August permits sell out fast.

This is the most popular and thus the busiest route where strict permit rules do not allow for date changes and cancellations fees would apply.

Permit? No. Yes. If there is a shortage of Inca Trail Permits and they aren’t available for your trip date at the time of booking, we offer the Salcantay trek as an alternative option at no additional cost (except on the Inca Trail Adventure trip).
Difficulty and level of fitness This will rarely involve flat terrain. It is harder than the Classic Inca Trail with daily physical exercise around six to eight hours due to more rugged trails. Daily physical exercise on the trail is around six to seven hours with some long steep ascents and rough ground to cover. Expect a lot of stairs.
Max. elevation Salcantay Pass (4617m) Warmihuañusca Pass (4215m)
Trek start point Challacancha Piscacucho
Bonus climbs Can climb one of the two mountains in the Machu Picchu sanctuary (minimum of 3 hours return) by purchasing a Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permit. (Note: these options sell out if not pre-booked early) Can climb one of the two mountains in the Machu Picchu sanctuary (minimum of 3 hours return) by purchasing a Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permit. (Note: these options sell out if not pre-booked early)
When to go March to January March to January. The most popular time to hike the Inca Trail is between April and August.

Consider planning your Peru trip with Cusco Journeys at your side. In other words, we can help you craft a personalized Peru tour that exceeds your wildest expectations and fits you to a tee. Contact us today to get started.

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