The Salkantay Trek lodge-to-lodge hike is different from the Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu — in terms of comfort. Now, the Inca Trail hike is amazing and those who are lucky enough to experience it say it was an experience that will never be forgotten. But, with that being said, sleeping in a tent out in the elements isn’t for everyone.
Unbeknownst to many, it’s possible to hike the Andes and reach Machu Picchu without having to camp in tents out in the wilderness — and cold. What if you could end each day of hiking at a comfortable lodge with such luxuries as hot tubs and massage therapists ready to help work out the soreness — and not to mention real beds. Would that be something that would interest you?
The Mountain Lodges of Peru is a six day trek through the Andes Mountains, going from lodge-to-lodge, exploring the magnificent views and scenery along the trails, eventually arriving at the incredible destination so many wish to experience — Machu Picchu.
To give you a better understanding of what this six day (five nights) hike entails, the journey is highlighted below, broken down day-by-day. Now, you can experience the trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu without sacrificing modern comfort and luxuries.
Day one of the Salkantay Trek begins when you are picked up from your hotel — it’s suggested that you stay in Cusco — and taken on a three hour ride to the starting point of the hike.
The initial car ride is broken up with a couple of stops. One at the Tarawasi Ruins, which is quite the sight and a great photo opportunity, and then a weaving co-op. The first day’s hike is approximately five miles and the terrain isn’t too difficult. The ascend brings us to about 13,000 feet, where the first night’s stop — the Salkantay Lodge — is located.
Even though the climb isn’t treacherous, it’s nice to have the comfort of a lodge to relax at, complete with food and warm drinks awaiting the arrival of hikers. In the event of a rainy day, this extra comfort is well-received.
Once you slip into the hot tub and allow the warm jets to soothe your aching legs and back, you will really begin to appreciate the value of having a lodge to unwind at after the first day of hiking through the Andes.
Off to an early morning start, you have a nice hearty breakfast to start the day and some tea before starting day two, which is a hike to Lake Humantay, which runs along the mountain of the same name — Humantay.
The hike on day two is the first time you really experience the elevation, as the hike up along the lake has a rapid incline. This is where the preparation prior to arriving in Peru pays off — the more accustomed to incline walking, the less soreness and fatigue you will experience. This is why three to six months of training either outside or on a step-machine at the gym is recommended.
Along the hike you are shown various landmarks and historical sites, each with an amazing story, shared by the tour guides. There are planned stops along the way, both to take in the beautiful scenery and have lunch and snacks, keeping you fueled until you reach the lodge for the evening.
Again, the luxury of a bed and hot meal await, as does another hot tub, which is highly recommended, especially after the incline hiked all day.
The third day of the Salkantay Trek begins like the others’ — a nice breakfast and tea while gathering your belongings for the climb ahead. Day three involves ascending Salkantay Pass, sitting at more than 15,000 feet. It’s a hike with a gradual incline — but the pace is comfortable and pleasant.
Once the peak is reached you are able to take in the view — it’s breathtaking — and at this point in the hike you are 4,629 meters above sea level — higher than most will have ever hiked previously.
What goes up must come down, so after taking in the sights from atop Salkantay Pass, the journey down begins. The steep decline can prove to be wearing on the quad muscles in your legs, especially in the event of wet weather, requiring you to apply more pressure than usual to maintain your footing.
The third day’s hike is quicker than most, and you will arrive at the day’s lodge right around lunch time, where you will enjoy a perfectly prepared meal and drinks. In addition, a massage therapist is available to help your body recover from the journey thus far.
Day four of the hike ventures to the Cloud Forest, which is an incredible sight. After leaving the lodge, the descent begins and you will notice that each leg of the hike features noticeable climate changes.
The difference between temperatures will have a lot to do with the amount of sun visible through the clouds, which is why it’s important to pack for all of the various elements you may possibly encounter along the Salkantay Trek lodge-to-lodge adventure.
Cloud Forest gets its name from the visual effect of the clouds connecting to the jungle — it’s quite the sight and as you hike down you feel like you are sitting at the top of the world — and you are.
After a quick stop to rest and take photographs, it’s straight to the lodge where again, a perfectly prepared meal is waiting for all members of the tour group.
Today’s stay is at Colpa Lodge, which sits just about 9,400 feet. By the fourth day your body is going to really feel the effects of hiking, from sore feet to heavy-feeling legs — it’s normal. Having the comfort of a lodge and amenities like a comfortable bed and hot shower feel like a true luxury at this point in the journey.
The fifth day of the Salkantay Trek is filled with more hiking along the trails with nothing but mountains in the distance. The overall hike isn’t difficult, and there are a couple of fun add-ons that can be included in this part of the tour, which are highly recommended.
The mountainous terrain is perfect for zip lining, and there are stations available for the group to enjoy. This is a nice break from the hike, and flying through the mountains on the zip lines is an incredible feeling.
After zip lining in the Andes, it’s time to hit the Cocalmayo hot springs. It’s enjoyable and a great way to end the day before heading to home for the evening — Lucma Lodge.
This is the last night of the Salkantay Trek, where a nice meal is prepared for all guests, and after everyone gathers for drinks and conversation. After a spank in the hot tub and a massage, it’s time to get a good night’s rest and prepare for the final leg of the hike to Machu Picchu in the morning.
The last day of the Salkantay Trek begins early, as the hike takes travelers’ to Llactapata, ruins that sit just across from the destination. From here, you are able to see the first sign of Machu Picchu — and it’s a sight you will never forget.
This is also where lunch is served, so be prepared to enjoy a nice meal while being able to experience the sights of Machu Picchu from one of the most impressive perspectives available — from behind.
Most don’t get to experience Machu Picchu from this perspective. This is a great place to take pictures from. After lunch, the final hike down to the valley begins. From there, it’s time for a little exploring, taking in all of the surroundings that Machu Picchu has to offer.