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Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail: Which one choose?

Trekking to Machu Picchu is a dream for many travelers—but there’s more than one way to get there. The classic Inca Trail lets trekkers walk in the steps of the Incas, while the more remote Salkantay route offers solitude and wildlife. We are going to compare Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail to know your options for getting to Peru’s most famous place on foot, from distance and cost to overnight options.

Making the decision to go to Peru

Machu Picchu: Which one choose?
Venturing on a walking pilgrimage through the Andes to the Lost City of the Incas is far more satisfying and impressive than reaching the Inca citadel on a boring train. The most traditional way is the ancient Inca Trail or Qhapaq Ñan , which was part of the system of royal roads that connected the Inca Empire. The Salkantay route, on the other hand, is more challenging and famous for its mountain scenery. Whatever your choice, both routes offer pros and cons, but without doubt if you are a lover of adventure and spectacular scenery, do not hesitate to choose the Salkantay trek.
 Salkantay trek Inca trail
Distance59 km42 km
Height4600 m4200 m
Suitable forAdventurous hikers looking for extraordinary, beautiful scenery and a variety of wildlife.Fit walkers who like to walk in large crowds of people. All those who want to see the ancient constructions and explore the path of the Inca lords.
TrekkingClassic Inca Trail 4 DaysClassic Salkantay Trek 5 Days
Comparison Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail


Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is less elevated, but you will spend most of the hike above 3000m.

The highest elevation along the trail is the Dead Woman’s Pass (4215m).

Inca Trail 4 days stairs

Salkantay Trek

The highest point of the Salkantay trek is the Salkantay pass at 4650 m. Our camp is at the foot of the Salkantay. That said, you will be walking at high altitude (3000 m) for only a couple of days.

Salkantay Trek


Inca Trail

You will experience dramatic and beautiful mountain passes through cloud forests, passing many ancient Inca settlements along the way, including Llactapata, Sayaqmarka, Phuyupatamarca-all culminating in the highlight: the terraces of Winay Wayna and the sunrise arrival at Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate or Intu Punku.

Inca Trail route
Inca Trail sites
Inti Watana

Salkantay Trek

There are not many ruins, but the mountain scenery is indescribable. The trek is higher and longer than the Inca Trail, going around the 6,000m glacier mountain APU Salkantay. Unlike the Inca Trail, with its constant foot traffic, this less crowded route offers a good chance of seeing wild animals such as deer, chinchillas and spectacled bears. The Salkantay route does not take you directly to Machu Picchu, but you visit the site on the last day before arriving in Aguas Calientes. You will then visit Machu Picchu the next day.

Salkantay Trek
Inca Trail
Salkantay Mountain

The local villages and the local community

Inca Trail – The Inca Trail is covered with bushes and vegetation, there are no families living in these isolated mountains. Even this whole area is under preservation to protect the wildlife of the Machu Picchu sanctuary. Only on the first day you will see some local shops and homestays.

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Salkantay trek

Our first stop is in Mollepata, and on the way to Soraypampa, the starting point of the trek, the local people are dedicated to agriculture and raising some animals such as cows, sheep which are their source of food. But they also raise mules and horses to work on the road as muleteers. On the way to the Salkantay pass, in the valleys, like Soraypampa there are cottages where the locals started to implement small implements either local food or trekking implements to offer tourists an experience of local food.

Salkantay trek domes
Salkantay trek porters

Trail closures in February

Inca Trail – Yes, closed for maintenance.

Salkantay trek – No, it does not close in February. But in some cases it is closed due to the rains, but this does not prevent the trek from being exciting.

Camping establishments

Salkantay trek – From the car park near Soraypampa there are small shops where we are offered herbal teas and soft drinks. Our campsite is located in Salkantaypampa, a privileged place to enjoy a beautiful view of the snow-capped Salkantay and to witness a spectacular sunrise and to recharge our batteries in this sacred APU for the Incas.

But not before tasting the food prepared by our chef that will satisfy your expectations.

Salkantay Trek camp site
This is the camp at the foot of salkantay
Salkantay Trek - Conde cookers and guides

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