Discover a different side of the great Andes mountain range and get the most amazing views of the mountains by taking this alternative route to Machu Picchu. Ascend to the highest pass at 4,650 meters above sea level for up-close-and-personal views of the massive Salkantay and Humantay mountain peaks in the Cordillera Vilcanota range, which are among the highest in Peru. This pristine high altitude trail is the perfect opportunity to get into nature and see abandoned Inca sites. This is the most challenging hike but you’ll get to walk very close to the glaciers and revel at the wondrous mountain peaks towering overhead as you breathe fresh mountain air.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Trek Briefings: All travellers are required to visit the Cuzco office one day prior to the trek for a mandatory briefing. At this meeting you will receive detailed information on the route, a list of what to bring, confirm your accommodation pick-up for the morning of the trek and be able to ask questions.
*Note: You will have a guide during the trek and on the Machu Picchu tour. However, during your bus and train transfers you will not be accompanied by a guide.
Day 1: Cuzco to Mollepata to Challacancha, Trek to Soraypampa Camp (3,920m) (L/D)
Today we pick you up between 5:00 - 6:00 am and travel by tourist-class bus to Mollepata (2,900m) where you can stretch your legs and buy snacks. Continue by car to Challacancha where we will make final preparations and double check our equipment. Embark on a 3-hour walk that will take us to Soraypampa (3,920m) where we will have lunch with panoramic views of beautiful snow-capped mountains. Hike up to Laguna de Humantay (approx. 1.5 hours each way) for more incredible views of the Andes mountains and then return to camp for the night. Our first campsite is located at 3,920m and is the highest and coldest campsite of the trip. Take some time to rest up, and enjoy your first night immersed in nature. Have dinner and go to sleep early.
Inclusions: Accommodation pick-up, Transfer Cuzco - Challacancha, 1N Camping, Meals 1L/1D. (14km, 6hrs)
Day 2: Trek to Challhuay or Colcapampa Camp via High Pass (4,650m) (B/L/D)
We will have breakfast at around 6:00 am and begin our 4-hour walk to the highest pass on this trek (4,650m) located halfway between 2 huge mountains; Salkantay (6,267m) and Humantay (5,900m). (Optional horse rental available to reach high pass for approx. 100 - 120 soles). From the pass, the views of the 2 snow-capped mountains are incredible with a possibility of snow here. After a 2-hour downhill hike, a well-deserved lunch will be served at Huayracpampa, followed by another 3-hour trek to our campsite at Challhuay or Colcapampa as we near the beginning of the high jungle region at 2,900 meters.
Inclusions: 1N Camping, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (22km, 9-10hrs)
Day 3: Trek to La Playa & Transfer to Santa Teresa Town (1,700m) (B/L/D)
After breakfast at 6:30 am, we start trekking for the day through the upper jungle crossing the Santa Teresa River and a variety of little brooks. Today we will pass through valleys and have wonderful views of waterfalls, tropical fruits and plants. We will have lunch at La Playa (2,200m) and continue by car to Santa Teresa town (1,700 meters), our camp for the night, with a warmer climate. After a rest, we have the option to visit the hot springs in Santa Teresa town (extra cost) and enjoy the well-deserved soothing water, a real treat after 3 hard days of trekking!
Inclusions: Car La Playa - Santa Teresa Town, 1N Camping, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (15km, 5.5hrs)
Day 4: Trek to Hydroelectric Station & Aguas Calientes (B/L/D)
After having breakfast at 8:00 am, our last day on the trail will take us from Santa Teresa (1,700m) along a relaxing path for 3 hours to reach the hydroelectric station (1,880m) where a box lunch will be served. From here Aguas Calientes (2,010m) is another 3 hour slight uphill walk where we will finally have time to relax, recharge our batteries and get ready for our visit to Machu Picchu. Dinner at a local traditional restaurant.
*Optional bus transfer from Santa Teresa to the Hydroelectric Station is available for an extra cost.
*Optional train transfer from Hydroelectric Station to Aguas Calientes is available for an extra cost.
Inclusions: 1N Aguas Calientes 3* Hotel, Meals 1B/1L/1D. (18km, 6hrs)
Day 5: Explore Machu Picchu & Return to Cuzco (B)
We will catch one of the first buses (05:30 am) to Machu Picchu (25-minute ride) in order to appreciate the magnificent city in the early morning light as the mist dissipates. A walking tour (approximately 2 hours) is given by your guide and after this you can explore the mysterious city on your own. If you still have energy you can also climb the optional Huayna Picchu Peak inside the archaeological site (to be booked in advance at an extra cost). Take a bus back down to Aguas Calientes. Return by train to Ollantaytambo and take a bus to Cuzco. You will be dropped off late in the day at the Plaza San Francisco. Upon arrival you will need to make your own way to your accommodation.
DESCRIPTION OF MACHU PICCHU GUIDED SITE VISIT: The one and only, the most spectacular (and not to mention most popular) archaeological site in all of South America. Your guide will take you on a 2-hour tour of Machu Picchu walking you through the most important sites and covering the history of the place (if you haven't already heard it all during the Salkantay Trek). Then you will have free time to explore on your own and take pictures at your leisure.
Take an OPTIONAL hike up the steep peak named Huayna Picchu, which is located inside the Machu Picchu archaeological site. This sometimes muddy peak takes about 45 - 60 minutes to hike up and awards you with unforgettable views of Machu Picchu from a coveted perspective. Keep in mind that if you want to take this optional hike, you must now purchase your ticket at least 2 weeks in advance for an additional cost in order to get one of the 400 passes (200 people are allowed up at 7:00am and 200 more at 10:00am). Please send us an email directly to request this extra ticket.
Inclusions: Round trip Bus Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu, Train Aguas Calientes - Ollantaytambo, Bus Ollantaytambo - Cuzco, 2-Hour Machu Picchu Guided Visit, Meal 1B.
*If desired, an extra night in Aguas Calientes town can be arranged. (Please let us know whether you would like to stay an extra night when booking your tour.)
Typical Meals on the Trek
On all of our Inca Trail Treks and Alternative Treks to Machu Picchu we search for the best cooks who put forth their best effort to provide you with the best tasting meals on the mountain.
All of our cooks pride themselves on their delicious specialty menus with the freshest local ingredients available. Every meal is prepared fresh with plenty of variety and an abundant quantity of food including a vegetarian option for every meal (please advise prior to departure). Here is an idea of what you will be eating during your trek.
Vegetarian Option Available Upon Request (please advise at least 2 days in advance).
Hot porridge, quinoa or oats, fried eggs, egg omelet or pancakes with fresh bread, fried bananas and boiled water for hot tea, coca, coffee, chocolate and milk.
LUNCH & DINNER:
First Course: Quinoa, corn, noodle, asparagus, mushroom or vegetable soup, stuffed avocado or potatoes
Second Course: Chicken breast, beef stew, quinoa, fried rice, hamburgers, fried chicken, spaghetti bolognese, typical dishes: aji de gallina (chilli pepper chicken), escabeche de pollo (marinated chicken) or ajiaco de olluco (spicy potato stew).
Deserts: Fried plantains, chocolate pudding, chocolate or vanilla cake and boiled water for hot tea, coca, coffee, chocolate and milk.
Boiled water for hot tea, coca, coffee, chocolate and milk with popcorn, cookies, crackers.
Brief History of Machu Picchu & Advice:
Machu Picchu was (relatively recently) "discovered" by American historian, Hiram Bingham, in 1911 while searching for the legendary "lost city of the Incas". Hiram Bingham and his local guides stumbled across the site which was then covered in thick vegetation which was later cleared revealing the magical mountain-top archaeological site and opening up the possibility for archaeologists to conduct research on the site by 1915. Whether arriving via Inca Trail or entering from Aguas Calientes don't miss the excellent photo opportunities from the following spots: Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock (a restored building with a thatched roof), Sacred Plaza with views of the Cordillera Vilcabamba in the distance and Rio Urubamba below. Take a short walk out to the Inca Drawbridge (30 minutes) and Inti Punku (45 - 60 minutes) for great views of the site as dawn breaks and the clouds lift over Machu Picchu.
Days 1-3: Single travelers will share a tent with another traveler & couples will have a tent to themselves.
Day 4: Single travelers will share a room with another traveler & couples will have a private room.
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: This hike is demanding, it is important to be in good physical condition. There are important temperature changes associated with altitude changes (from 4000 meters to 2000 meters).
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST: Bring or Rent in Cuzco: hiking poles, rain pants, rain poncho, trekking boots, sandals, warm socks, sweater, thermals, hat, gloves, sun hat, sun block, sun glasses, flashlight/torch, camera, extra batteries and memory card (there is limited to no electricity available during the trek), waterproof bags for your camera, hand sanitizer, personal first aid kit, water bottle. Bring extra cash for snacks, water, gatorade which doubles or triples in price along the trail. Bathing suit for hot springs in Santa Teresa Town (this activity is available at an additional price).
DON'T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS: Original passport, visa (if applicable), insurance card, personal medications.
Departure dates for trek:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday (Daily departures with a group of 2 or more)
* No Departures in January and February due to unfavorable climatic conditions *
** Travellers who booked their trip using one passport, then renewed or replaced it afterward, must carry the old passport they used to make the booking or a photocopy with them on the trip.