The 5-day Salkantay trail takes you up close to the glistening, ice-clad flanks of Salkantay before descending through orchid-rich cloud forest.
The Salkantay trek is a beautiful though at times tough walk, and a truly rewarding way to reach the Inca capital of Machu Picchu.
We experience an impressive sweep of altitudes from the 4,600m/15,092ft pass down to 2,000m/6,562ft of sub-tropical jungle buzzing with humming birds.
We visit the stunning ruins of Llactapacta, trekking an old Inca Trail, and from here get our first view over to Machu Picchu.
After a night in Aguas Calientes, we enjoy a tour of the famous Machu Picchu ruins before heading back to Cusco.
A true Andean odyssey, this trek through the dramatic Cordillera Vilcabamba offers a wonderful alternative for those who want to take a less-travelled and beautiful route to Machu Picchu.
Please note: You must be well acclimatised before starting this trek – ie a minimum of 3 nights in Cusco (or higher).
Alternative trek to Machu Picchu ruins.
High mountain trek gets you close to the glaciers of Salkantay.
Experience a variety of eco-systems from high passes to sub-tropical jungle.
Wonderful first view of Machu Picchu from Llactapata.
The Salkantay trek was definitely one of the highlights! We barely saw anyone for the first 3 days so we really felt like we were on an adventure.
T. McGrath, Salkantay
On the first day we leave Cusco early and drive to the sub-tropical town of Marcocasa (5-6 hour drive), situated in a citrus growing area. We stop in Mollepata for any last minute snacks, and drive onwards to our starting point.
This is a beautiful spot, affording view of the Humantay massif as well as Salkantay. We have lunch, and it is here that we wave goodbye to our driver and meet up with our mules that will carry our gear.
After lunch we follow a gentle path towards today’s destination, Soraypampa campsite at 3,800m/12,467ft, a distance of approximately 8 km, and 2-3 hours walk.
You can see the large, white, ice-clad head and shoulders of Salkantay up ahead.
Our camp features a dining tent, toilet tent and spacious personal tents, and is rooted in the valley at the foot of the towering peak of Salkantay (6,271m/20,574ft). The cooks will bring warming soups and meals, washed down with steaming hot teas and coffees.
Distance: 20.5km/12.8 miles
Highest point: 3,929m/12,982ft
Starting altitude: 2,823m/9,262ft
Finishing altitude: 3,929m/12,982ft
Height gained: 1,254m/4,114ft
Height lost: 155m/509ft
On the second day we wake up early with a cup of tea delivered to your tent, and head towards our target, the pass at4,572m/15,000ft, between Salkantay and Humantay, which is the highest point on our trek.
It’s straight uphill, a series of switchbacks taking us to a small plateau used for farming. Then it’s up again for the final 300 metres to reach the pass. This is dotted with small piles of stones, or apachetas, left by locals and travelers to honour the mountain gods. From this point we can see glaciers on the mountains on either side of us. This is a challenging but spectacular day’s walking.
Our descent takes us through very different landscapes from screes, to high puna glasslands and finally to the beginning of the cloud forest, in Spanish appropriately named ‘ceja de selva’ – literally ‘eyebrow of the jungle’.
The flora and temperatures change dramatically and the warm winds from the Amazon basin start to blow into our faces. Orchids and flowers appear and we spend the night camping at a small village, where a beer or soft drink can be bought to celebrate the day’s efforts. 7-8 hours walking.
Distance: 20.8km/12.9 miles
Highest point: 4,643m/15,232ft
Starting altitude: 3,929m/12,982ft
Finishing altitude: 2,897m/9,505ft
Height gained: 726m/2,382ft
Height lost: 1,779m/5,837ft
After a good night’s sleep in the oxygen rich valleys, we continue to descend on the ‘Peruvian flat’ through a now verdant landscape, where there is a good chance of seeing exotic birds like parakeets as well as farmers going about their daily work.
We may take a break at the natural hot springs by the edge of our path. The ice cold mountain river running alongside provides sharp contrast to the warm relaxing water of the springs. Fully revitalised, we continue on to the village of La Playa.
We encounter bright flowers, butterflies, parrots, and lush groves of tropical fruit, cocoa, and coffee. At La Playa, we set up camp for the night.
Distance: 16.6km/10.3 miles
Highest point: 2,883m/9,459ft
Starting altitude: 2,897m/9,505ft
Finishing altitude: 2,081m/6,830ft
Height gained: 175m/577ft
Height lost: 974m/3,196ft
We continue through sub-tropical vegetation to the village of Lucmabamba, where an original Inca trail remains. A gradual uphill climb through lush sub-tropical forest brings us to Llactapata (2,700m/8,8568ft), from where we enjoy a back-side view of Machu Picchu and vistas of the surrounding peaks.
At the hydroelectric plant, you catch the train (45 minutes), or if the group wishes, you can walk to Aguas Calientes along the train tracks (2-3 hours), a rewarding and interesting walk. Here you spend the night in a hostel.
Distance: 24km/15 miles
Highest point: 2,814m/9,232ft
Starting altitude: 2,081m/6,830ft
Finishing altitude: 2,042m/6,700ft
Height gained: 800m/2,624ftt
Height lost: 1,100m/3,609ft
On the final day of our expedition we visit Machu Picchu. We take an early bus to the site.
Here we will have a guided tour of approximately 2 hours. Then we have time to explore the mysterious remains on our own before returning to Aguas Calientes for lunch and the late afternoon or evening train to Ollantaytambo and bus to Cusco.
Prices From $958 / £812 per person
Enquire about booking
Transfer to trek, large dome tents for 2 people, basic camping mat, dining tent with tables and chairs, kitchen tent, basic toilet facilities & a tap at each camp, English-speaking guide, cook and equipment, horsemen and horses (to carry tents, food, cooking equipment and 7kg of personal luggage), meals whilst on trek, first-aid kit, entry and guided tour of Machu Picchu, bus to and from site, train ticket back to Ollantaytambo/Cusco.
First breakfast, last lunch and dinner, sleeping bag, tips, items of a personal nature, hot spring entry (USD 5), flights
Camping with dining tent and toilet tent, plus one night hostel (2*) in Aguas Calientes.
All guides are certified, bilingual, English-speaking guides who have worked with us for many years.
Cooks, mule drivers and additional staff are all from the local, nearby communities and we have worked with them for a long time.
Vegetarians and many other dietary requirements are catered for without problems. Please let us know in advance of any requirements you have.
You wake early, usually around 07.00. Breakfast is served in a dining tent, and consists of hot drinks, porridge, toast, jams and bread, and your guide will explain the day’s trekking plans.
Lunch is usually around 13.00 and can feature soups, meats, salads and fish, with vegetarian options and hot drinks too.
The campsites are comfortable and around 17.00 hot drinks, popcorn and other snacks are served to help you recover energy.
Dinner is served around 19.30, and will feature pasta, mashed potatoes, meat, fish or vegetarian options, followed by hot drinks and a pudding.
We have classified this as a moderate trek, and you need to be in good physical shape for it.
You hike 4-7 hours a day on 4 consecutive days, over rugged mountain trails at elevation.
There is a high altitude pass to cross at 4,572m/15,000ft before dropping into lower elevations en route to Machu Picchu.
Pre-trip preparation should include challenging cardiovascular exercise (including regular hikes on varied terrain) and a healthy, balanced diet.
Well-worn hiking boots and additional acclimatisation nights in Cusco (3-4) before the trek are both highly recommended.
All guests are encouraged to hike at their own pace, taking breaks whenever needed, to ensure a successful and enjoyable trek for all.
Most people go to bed fairly early after a long day trekking, to recover energy for the morning.
Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.
The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.
The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.
Peru is made up of 3 distinct geographical areas: the coast, the mountains and the jungle.
The costa or coastal region is a narrow ribbon of desert 2,250 km long, crossed by fertile river valleys flowing from the Andes. It takes up 11% of the country and holds more than 40% of the population.
The cold Humboldt current gives rise to a blanket of mist – the garua – which hangs above coastal cities like the capital Lima from May to November.
Heading east, you’re soon climbing above the garua and into the Andes. The sierra, or mountainous region, covers some 25% of Peru’s territory and contains 50% of the population. The sierra inhabitants are mainly Indigenous or Mestizo, and many still speak Quechua or Aymara.
The sierra contains dozens of 6,000-metre snow peaks and volcanoes, including Huascaran (6,768m) the highest mountain in the tropics. The deep valley basins contain most of the towns and arable land; the terracing and canal systems of the Incas and pre-Incas are often still used today.
The eastern Andes are heavily forested up to 3,350m and sweep down into the Amazon Basin.
Peru’s selva or jungle makes up almost two thirds of the country’s area, but holds only about 6% of the population: the only towns with significant populations are Iquitos and Pucallpa.
You can also read about the weather of Peru in our blog.
Peru is located in the southern tropics (latitudes 0º to 18º), but climate varies significantly according to season, altitude and region.
Lima & the coast
From May to October, Lima is often overcast, but with minimal precipitation. There are sunny spells, and it’s a fresh to pleasant 13-20ºC.
At the same time, inland areas and the north coast mid to high 20’s ºC.
November to April is generally warm and sunny and Lima enjoys warm temperature of 19-25ºC, with the coast averaging 22-30ºC.
Climate depends largely on altitude. As a rule of thumb, below 2,000m climate is mild and above 2,000m warm clothing is required for evenings, nights and early mornings.
The Andean sun is very strong.
May to Oct (dry season in The Andes)
Cusco (3,300m): Average max/min temps: 22ºC /2ºC. Average 3 or 4 wet days per month.
Arequipa (2,380m): Average max/min temps: 26ºC /9ºC. Sunny more than 340 days/year with minimal precipitation.
On highland treks: Conditions are generally dry. However, at this time of year, expect a range of conditions within a single day: cold/freezing nights at camps above 4,000m, where pre-dawn temperatures can be -5ºC; warm, spring-like mornings and afternoons; and cold evenings.
Note that mountain weather can be fickle and localised, and that precipitation is not unknown in the dry season. Expect temperatures to swing between sun and shade, sheltered and exposed ground and with altitude gain and loss. A quick-setting sun means temperatures drop fast.
In the cloud forest, e.g. around Machu Picchu, daytime conditions are generally warm or hot, and evenings cool.
Nov to March/April (wet season in The Andes)
Cusco: Average max/min temps: 23ºC /6ºC. Average 13 wet days per month.
Arequipa: Average max/min temps: 25ºC /14ºC.
On highland treks: Wetter conditions, with cooler days and milder nights than dry season. Jan-Mar usually the wettest months.
The Amazon rainforest
Year-round, weather conditions are hot and humid and there is always the risk of rain
There is a ‘dry season’ in Tambopata and Manu between May and October. The average daytime high temperature is between 25°C and 34°C and the average nighttime low is between 16°C and 22°C. Heavy downpours typically occur every few days.
Around 80% of annual average rainfall – approx 2,000 mm in Manu and Tambopata and 1,400 mm in Iquitos – occurs in the wet season Nov-April.
On rare occasions, between May and September, cold fronts from Argentina – ‘friajes’ – can sweep into southwest Amazonia and push temperatures down to 9° C. (Friajes usually last between 1 and 3 days).
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
When planning for the climatic conditions encountered in the High Andes, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.
To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:
First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.
Mid layers: These isloating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.
Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
We provide thermarests on the trek but you have to bring (or RENT, please ask) a sleeping bag (-5ºC).
We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.
Below is a more detailed guide.
Detailed kit list
All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Peru boasts in its Amazonian region a vast swathe of world-class tropical wilderness with several rain forest and cloud forest reserves which are home to an immense diversity of wildlife.
Accessible from Lima, Iquitos or Cusco, the Amazon jungle is just a short flight away.
In Peru’s southeast lies the extraordinary region comprising the Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene and Manu National Parks, with the greatest animal and plant diversity anywhere in the world.
Whether you choose to base yourself at a comfortable lodge or enjoy a more demanding camping trip, you can be sure of a unique, exhilarating and unforgettable experience.
The beautiful colonial city of Arequipa is replete with history and culture, and is the gateway to the condors of Colca Canyon.
Nestled at 2,325m/7,627ft, the ‘white city’ sits at the foot of three tremendous volcanoes: El Misti (5,821m/19,098ft), Chachani (6,075m/19,930ft) and Pichu Pichu (5,542m/18,182ft).
Arequipa’s attractions include the Cathedral, Compañía de Jesús Church, Santa Catalina Convent and the Dama de Ampato (Juanita Mummy) Museum.
With a year-round spring climate and sunshine guaranteed for 300 days of the year, it is the perfect place to begin acclimatising before continuing upwards.
Nearby is the famous Colca Canyon. At hundred kilometres long, this incredible gorge is said to reach a maximum depth of 3,400m/11,155ft – twice that of the Grand Canyon.
An overnight tour to Colca gives you the chance to see the iconic, soaring condors of the canyon.
Cusco is the archaeological and cultural capital of South America.
The one-time centre of the vast Inca Empire is a bustling highland city with bags of character.
Its whitewashed streets and plazas feature a fascinating blend of Inca and Spanish colonial stonework and offer endless possibilities for exploration.
You don’t have to venture far to find outstanding examples of high quality Inca architecture, including the monumental temple fortress of Sacsayhuaman.
There is also the fertile farming land of the Sacred Valley on the doorstep, with many Inca terraces, temples and fortresses, plus colourful local markets and small villages.
At night, Cusco offers an excellent array or restaurants and bars plus the continent’s best Andean folk music scene.
In the northeast of Peru lies Kuelap – the jewel in the massive archaeological crown of the Chachapoyas Cloud People.
The mystical structure of Kuelap – dubbed the Peru’s second Machu Picchu by locals – is 1,200 years old.
It features massive limestone walls towering 60 feet, pottery, bones and hundreds of mysterious round stone structures, and away from the crowds of other sites.
This is a remote area of sub-tropical valleys, half way down the eastern slopes of the Andes. The jungle is impenetrable, dense with low trees, bromeliads, bamboos, orchids and mosses.
Lake Titicaca, at around 4,000m/13,123ft above sea level, is a vast shimmering body of water on the Peru/Bolivia border.
It is the world’s highest navigable lake, set against a breathtaking background of towering ice-covered Andean mountain peaks.
The islands and shoreline of Lake Titicaca support many Indian communities, including the well known floating islands of Uros and the more remote islands of Taquile and Amantani. Here, traditions are strong and it appears time really does stand.
Agriculture, fishing, knitting and weaving are important to the islanders and by staying a day or two you gain just a small insights into this traditional way of life.
Islanders welcome tourists into their homes and this is a wonderful opportunity to experience island life.
Lima, the capital city of Peru, is a vibrant bustling place with a wide variety of things to do.
Stroll or bike around the historic centre, visiting the many museums or just chilling out in a café or restaurant in Miraflores.
In Parque Kennedy you can sit outside in Parisian fashion and watch the world go by in cafes and restaurants, or walk to the shore and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There are a number of artisan shops & market stalls, plus a big silver jewellery trade, and a burgeoning number of top end restaurants with delicious food.
The centre of Lima is home to impressive Colonial architecture – Plaza de Armas has the Palace, official residence of the president, on one side, and on another is the Cathedral.
San Francisco Church, home of the Catacombs, is well worth a visit, as is the Inquisition museum.
Nothing says Peru quite the way Machu Picchu does.
The Lost City of the Incas, perches dramatically on a ridge-top 400 metres above the Urubamba river. The extensive site, with its many terraces, temples and palaces, is set amid a beautiful landscape of deep gorges and thickly forested mountains.
When Machu Picchu was rediscovered early in the 20th century and cleared of forest, it was found to be very well preserved. It has since presented archaeologists with many unanswered questions regarding the role it played in Inca times.
The sense of grandeur, whether you arrive on the Inca Trail or not, is impressive.
Try to arrive early at the site to enjoy it at its best – and late afternoon can often see you almost alone in the ruins.
North east of Lima, the Cordillera Blanca offers fantastic mountain scenery and some of the best trekking and climbing in the Andes.
The Cordillera Blanca boasts dozens of peaks over 6,000 metres, including Peru’s highest Huascaran at 6,768m/22,205ft above sea level.
The Blanca range also contains the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers.
This is an ideal destination for treks, from just a few to 12 days or so and also an ideal starting place for learning or improving mountaineering skills.
The nearby Huayhuash mountain range contains a dazzling array of snow peaks including seven summits above 6,000 metres.
This is a trekking paradise with breathtaking majestic panoramas and stunningly remote and picturesque camping spots. There is no better place to visit to get away from it all.
2023 price, per person, shared tent basis.
Price based on six people per group.
2 people: USD 1,530 per person
4 people: USD 1,065 per person
Departures any day
Single supplement applies
Enquire about booking
Can’t find what you’re
looking for? Get in Touch
+44 (0)131 378 5593
+44 (0)131 554 6025
What's a group trip?
Join a small group of like-minded travellers on a guided trip.
What's a tailor made trip?
We put together a bespoke tour to fit your requirements.
Prices From $1,148 / £974 per person
Dates: From March 2024 to January 2025
Capacity: 16 people
Enquire about booking
Prices From $1,340 / £1,136 per person
Dates: From March 2023 to January 2024
Prices From $1,004 / £851 per person
Dates: From March 2023 to November 2023
Prices From $997 / £845 per person
Dates: From March 2023 to December 2023
Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
Sign up here to receive the latest news and info from Andean Trails