Article by Natasha Moon
Salkantay trek is the next most popular trek after the Inca Trail trek because both of them go to Machu Picchu. When we were researching about different treks to do there was a lot of speculation about whether you need to have a guide for the Salkantay trek or not. You don’t need a guide for the Salkantay trek neither you need a permit or to pay any fees. Maybe things will change in the future because of the high volume of people but for now it is a free game.
Take a taxi to the avenida Acropata and tell the driver that you need a bus to Mollepata. The taxi should take you to the “colectivo’ and I think we paid 18 soles each. Make sure you get there early enough. We got there around 6am. From Mollepata many people hike the dirt road up to Soraypampa. We decided to spend a little more money and get a taxi from Mollepata to Soraypampa which saved as an entire day of walking. We paid for the taxi 120 soles. It will be much cheaper if you have more people with you to split the cost or you could ride half way up and then walk. The first part of the dirt road is climbing up so it is a little bit of a workout, but the second part is not so bad plus it offers beautiful views. In Soraypampa we passed big group camps and headed up to the laguna Humantay which is located at around 14,000 feet. Most groups come up there just for half an hour or one hour and then go down to the group campsite. We camped by the lake and it was an awesome experience because we were able to enjoy the lake and have it to ourselves most of the time. It was also nice to wait for the perfect light to illuminate the lake for pictures.
The nice thing about doing this trek on your own is that you can make your own schedule and change it whenever you want. We loved staying at the lake so much so that we decided not to rush and instead to spend a lazy morning by the lake. We stayed there until about lunch time and then started to make our way down and to the main trail. We did a part of the trail and since the heavy clouds started to move in we decided to camp by the trail. In the evening the clouds cleared and we had a beautiful view of the mount Salkantay (20,574 feet).
This was the hardest and longest day of the trek. We made our way up the Salkantay pass in probably about four hours. The pass is not that hard but the altitude was getting the best of me. I kept sucking on coca leaves but it was still a hard climb for me, and I felt sick when I reached the pass. Salkantay pass is at 15,200 feet and from there it was all downhill. Descend made me feel much better and soon my headache and nausea were gone. We passed the group camps and kept on hiking. Salkantay trek is fun because you get to see different floras and faunas throughout the trek. We made our way all the way down to almost 9,000 feet to the village of Colpapampa. Once in the village, we asked where we could camp and found a nice place for only 5 soles per tent. They had a nice clean bathroom and cold shower. It was a very long day and my feet could definitely feel it.
From Colpapampa we followed the dirt road to the village La Playa. As we were walking we saw other people hiking on the other side of the valley. Later we learned that right around where you pass hot springs you can take a different trail. That trail might be a little bit harder but much better than hiking a dirt road. We got to La Playa at lunch time and stopped at the restaurant to get some food. There were also many other groups but all of them got on the bus right after lunch and went to Santa Teresa. We ended up staying at the restaurant and camped there for the night. It was a little weird to camp at the restaurant but it was safe plus we had delicious food cooked for us.
After a big breakfast we started our way to Llactapata. We asked few people and they directed us the right way. It is hard to miss the beginning of the trail to Llactapata as there is a big sign. I really enjoyed this hike. It was very unique and beautiful. I am glad that we decided to do it instead of skipping it like most groups do. The hike is not easy because it climbs up and it is also very humid. At the beginning of the trail there are also some options for camping at people’s backyards. We stopped by one of them for the future reference, and it was a very nice place to stay. They had beautiful view, shower, and meals cooked for you for 10 soles each. I think that if we knew about this place we would have kept walking and camped there instead of the restaurant in La Playa. It is very rewarding to get to the Llactapata ruins on top and look across at Machu Picchu. After following the trail down from the ruins for about 10 minutes you will get to a campsite which is by a family owned restaurant. This was our favorite place on the whole trek. We really enjoyed getting to know the family and they cooked us very delicious meals. We were tempted to just stay there and chill for couple more days but at the end we kept on going. Many people come to do Llactapata as a day hike but I would definitely recommend camping there if you have extra time.
After a delicious breakfast we said goodbye to the family and went down the muddy trail to Hydroelectrica. It took us about 2 hours to get there. From Hydro we followed the railway tracks for another 4 hours until we got to Aguas Calientes. Once in Aguas Calientes we bought tickets for Machu Picchu for the next day. We stayed in Pirwa Hostel for the night, and I was excited to take a hot shower. We also bought return bus tickets from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes.
We woke up early, had breakfast at the hostel, stored our backpacks there, and took off to Machu Picchu. It probably took us one and a half hour to get to Machu Picchu. There are many stairs to climb to Machu Picchu but we felt pretty light without our backpacks. After we spent several hours in Machu Picchu we came back to Aguas Calientes to get our backpacks and we left the same way we came by walking the railroad tracks back to Hidroelectrica. From there we took a taxi to Santa Teresa and camped at the hot springs. Santa Teresa hot springs were our favorite because they were so big and clean. We just paid an admission fee for the hot springs and camping was free. There was also some good cheap food available and some snacks and drinks to buy. It was the right decision to come to Santa Teresa hot springs at the end because we definitely needed some relaxation.
In the morning we basically had hot springs to ourselves. What a great way to start a day and prepare to move on. After this relaxing morning we took couple of buses to get to Ollantaytambo where we spent couple of days to recuperate our strength and prepare for the next trek. We stayed at Mama Simona Hostel and enjoyed it very much. It had a very chill atmosphere with hammocks and beautiful mountain views. Ollantaytambo doesn’t have great internet but it was enough to do some research and get ready for Lares trek.