Here is a breakdown of the itinerary :
You will depart early from Cusco to Mollepata by bus. The drive takes 4 hours and brings you at the start of the Salkantay trail. – Some people might prefer to hike from Mollepata to the start of the trail but it is mainly road and a bit boring.
Our group had a roadblocking during the bus drive and we had to wait for the road to clear, delaying the trek start by a couple of hours. Because of that we were dropped off a little further than the usual drop-off in order to not delay the trek even further.
You will have lunch and gather your gear, and will start a 3-4 hour hike towards Soraypampa (3, 760m) where we set camp. – Some itineraries trek strait to Salkantaypampa (about 4000m).
The second day is an acclimatisation day.
You will do a morning hike up to Laguna Humantay or Humantay Lake, one of the most beautiful lake near Humantay Glacier (4200m). The hike takes about 2 hours up and 2 hours down. I highly recommend !
Depending on you or your group you can have the chance to participate at a little ceremony to the Pachamama (a fertility goddess or nature/time mother for the Andes people) according to the involving coca leaves. This is supposed to bring you good luck for the Salkantay Pass and the rest of the trek.
Then you will hike back down to the campsite for lunch and start a short 2 hour hike to the next campsite at Salkantaypampa (about 4000 meters).
This campsite can get really windy and cold at night so bring layers and a warm sleeping bag !
Day 3 is going to be a very long hiking day.
After a very early breakfast and start, you will start the ascent towards Abra Salkantay and then the pass at 4,650m, the highest point of the trek.
The hike will be long, hard and strenuous with a bit of climbing and only uphill with lesser oxygen. Go slow and drink a lot of water !
But the views are magnificent and totally worth it !
Fun fact : we actually spotted a condor flying above the mountains which is a very rare sight according to our guides
Once you arrive at the Salkantay Pass, you have the opportunity to rest and have some snacks with the great views of the sacred Nevado Salkantay mountain and a great sense of achievement !
After the pass, you are going to descend towards Huayracmachay for lunch with a 4 to 5 hour hike, long and steep downhill and rocky path.
THE KEY : GO SLOW
Then you will continue the hike towards Collpapamapa campsite at 2, 900m.
After breakfast you will be trekking down Santa Teresa Valley, with a 6km road towards the campsite at 2,100m.
On your way down you will notice the change in landscape going from rocky dry terrain, to a lush green jungle. You will also have nice views of coffee plantations along the trail.
Today is also your lucky day ! Because you can head to the Santa Teresa Hot Springs for a relaxing afternoon to wash off and soak your sore muscles and feet after the strenuous trek of the day before.
The campsite owners have a coffee bean plantation and after your dinner they will demonstrate their technique for brewing the coffee and you will get a taste test. You will also be able to purchase fresh coffee bean bags from them before you move on.
On day 5 you will be hiking towards the town of Aguas Calientes, the starting point for the ascent to Machu Picchu.
First you will be hiking steep and humid trails through the jungle towards Llactapata. You will also pass through a really cool hydroelectric station.
From Llactapata you will be able to spot a part of the Machu Picchu mountain in the distance. You will then descend to Aobamba Valley for lunch.
After the lunch break you will start the iconic trek towards Aguas Calientes at 1,900 meters, hiking along the train tracks for 3 hours.
Tip: bring some music or entertainment for the hike as it can be quite repetitive and long after a while
After your arrival at Aguas Calientes, you will likely spend the night in a hotel or hostel.
It is also a chance for you to reconnect to the outside world as you will get phone service and internet connection. You will also be able to take a real shower and charge your electronics. Finally you can do some souvenir shopping around the town.
Day 6 – the last day
This is the last day of the trek: the ascent to the ruins of Machu Picchu.
You will wake up very early (around 4 am) to attempt to reach the ruins for sunrise.
The ascent takes about 2 hours with steep steps the whole way. (it feels like never ending) But you will be hiking it with other people who will be in the same struggle as you so it makes it a little more comforting ^^
Once you arrive in front of the gate, you will need a guide to enter the Machu Picchu. The guide will show you around and explain to you the facts and the buildings of the Inca City.
Important : don’t forget to bring your passeport as you will need it to enter Machu Picchu
After the visit and a down time at Machu Picchu you can go back to Aguas Calientes by bus, and you can then take a train back to Cusco.