The wind whips past you as you stand atop, tired but filled with gratitude. It’s surreal to see the ancient ruins with your own two eyes. One of the first things you think about when someone says Peru is the infamous Machu Picchu. Believed to be built in the 15th century, the sophistication of the buildings will take your breath away.
There are several ways to reach Machu Picchu, but on many people’s bucket lists is to trek to it. The majority of people think of the Inca Trail when you consider trekking to the famous ancient city, but what most don’t know is that there is an alternative way. The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay traverses different, more remote landscapes to reach Machu Picchu. Both treks will challenge you and overwhelm you with the stunning and diverse scenery. Below is a quick overview, followed by a more in-depth look at both treks. We will compare the two trails, so you can determine which one is the best fit for you.
Each of the treks offers stunning views as you make your way through peaks and valleys of the Andes. Although the treks vary a bit as to what you will see along the way. For the Inca Trail, the journey begins at the km 82 marker, which signifies the beginning of the world-famous Inca Trail. During the five days, you traverse through lush valleys, breathtaking high alpine passes, dense cloud forests, and rushing rivers. The Inca Trail, being the path built and walked by Incans, means you have an opportunity to see ancient remains of Andean settlements along the way. You reach Machu Picchu via the incredible Inti Punku (the Sun Gate).
The Hidden Valleys of Salkantay trek is a trek that Explorandes created two years ago for those of whom like to consider themselves trailblazers. Compared to the Inca Trail, the Hidden Valleys of Salkantay is genuinely the “road less traveled.” This remote course will guide you through fascinating landscapes. Drink in the southern face of the spectacular snowcapped Apu Salkantay, which is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba Mountain Range. The people of the Andes believe the mountains are powerful deities, which watch over those that live near them. With the remote trail comes abundant wildlife. Due to the solitude of this trail, we will pass by remote communities witnessing how the Andean people live and watch over their herds and land. See small ancient ruins seamlessly blend in with the natural landscape along the way.
Now let us consider the complexity of each hike. Both treks are five days and four nights, but vary a bit in difficulty. Using a scale out of 5, the Inca Trail is considered around a level 3 difficulty, and the Salkantay is regarded as a level 4. Salkantay is valued at a greater difficulty due to the fact you trek more kilometers and reach higher elevations. Over the five days, you hike a total of 45 kilometers for the Inca Trail and 58 kilometers for the Hidden Valleys of Salkantay trek. The highest point of the Inca Trail is Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215 meters compared to the Salkantay Pass of 4,600 meters.
Flexibility & Availability :
Getting down to the nitty-gritty, I want to do one of these treks, but how and when could I do it? Inca Trail, being one of the most famous treks in the world, needs to be booked far in advance and is limited. Tourist permits are capped at 200 people per day for the Inca Trail. It’s a badge of honor to say that you have walked the same steps as those of the ancient Incans.
A benefit for the Hidden Valleys of Salkantay trek is that due to its remote nature, it is easier to book. If you need a more flexible or lenient schedule, then Salkantay would be an excellent option for you. The Hidden Valleys Salkantay trek leaves every Tuesday and Sunday from April to December. The Inca Trail departs every Wednesday and Sunday from March to January.
We value our Pachamama (Mother Earth), and our tours for both trails are sustainable to respect the land and ensure that people can continue to enjoy this incredible trek for years to come. Thankfully visiting Machu Picchu is highly regulated, and the amount of people who are allowed to enter each day is limited to preserve the ancient site.
Now you have a great overview of both trails, which lead to Machu Picchu. The citadel of Machu Picchu
is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Reaching it with your own to feet is an
indescribable and gratifying experience. Whichever road you choose, your journey will be an unforgettable one. Start planning your once-in-a-lifetime experience today by reaching out to one of our many specialists.