The Inca Trail, though undoubtedly beautiful, is not the only way to reach Machu Picchu. For those who want to discover a new and lesser-trodden trail, or those who find the Inca Trail is fully booked (due to restrictions on the number of trekkers allowed), we have a seriously attractive alternative for you: the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. Though it is nowhere near as well-known as its famous counterpart (the Inca Trail) it is, unquestionably, just as magical. On this sample Peru tour, you will travel around the serene Sacred Valley where age-old ways of living and working with the land are still practiced, meet the local inhabitants (both of the human and animal variety), and delve into the world of the Incas. Finally, embarking on the Salkantay Trek you’ll ultimately reach what for many is the top bucket-list destination: Machu Picchu!
- Take the road less traveled by hiking the lesser-known Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, which is every bit as scenic as the Inca Trail.
- Wander the capital Incan city of Cusco with your private guide, discovering local highlights and hidden treasures at your own pace.
- Delight in luxury trek amenities, such as deluxe lodges, Jacuzzis, and nightly massages.
- Scale the ancient stone stairway up Machu Picchu’s neighboring peak, Huayna Picchu.
- Discover the delights of Peruvian cuisine at the country’s finest dining establishments.
- Immerse yourself in local life with visits to remote Andean villages that are, for most travelers, uncharted territory.
- Enjoy enriching experiences with local artists at their workshops.
Itinerary at a Glance
Day 1: Welcome to Lima! – Arrival in Lima
Day 2: Over the Andes to the city of Cusco – Flight from Lima to Cusco – private car to the Sacred Valley
Day 3: Delving into the past and present in the Sacred Valley – Private Tour of Ollantaytambo and Pisac Ruins, and a visit to an artisan market
Day 4: Salkantay Trek – Transfer to Salkantay Lodge (SHARED GROUP)
Day 5: Salkantay trek – Crossing the Salkantay Pass (SHARED GROUP)
Day 6: Salkantay trek – Descending into the cloud forest (SHARED GROUP)
Day 7: Salkantay trek – Following the Santa Teresa river valley (SHARED GROUP)
Day 8: Salkantay trek – First views of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Pass (SHARED GROUP)
Day 9: The Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu – Tour of Machu Picchu / Climb to Huayna Picchu (SHARED GROUP)
Day 10: Return to Lima / Return Home – Fly from Cusco to Lima and then home
DAY 1: Welcome to Lima!
Arrival in Lima
As is the case with all of our private Peru tours, we’ll be waiting in the airport for you as soon as you touch down on Peruvian soil. We know you’ll most likely be a little tired after your long flight, so we’ll save you the stress of trying to navigate and bring you straight to your hotel where you can shake off that icky flight feeling with a shower and a sleep.
DAY 2: Over the Andes to the City of Cusco
Flight from Lima to Cusco – Enjoy the “Imperial City” of Cusco!
Fill up with a complimentary buffet breakfast in the hotel before catching your morning flight to Cusco. The flight time between the two cities is welcomingly short (less than an hour and a half). The views from the plane window – the desert coast at first before the needle-like peaks of the Andes come into view – are a great distraction to pass the time. When you arrive in Cusco, we’ll be waiting and will take you on a private tour of the Inca capital.
Your guide will tell you about Cusco’s illustrious past as the center of the Inca Empire and will draw your attention to this city’s unique layers of history – most plainly evident in the impeccably wrought Inca stones that form the bases of more modern colonial buildings. We’ll stick around Cusco’s historic city center for lunch, where you’ll get a real flavor for the Imperial City of Cusco with a traditional-style meal. If you are interested in trying any particular Peruvian specialties (guinea pig or alpaca, anyone?), please let us know in advance and we’ll make sure you get it.
After lunch, you’ll continue your private walking tour of Cusco with a visit to the chic cafe-filled San Blas neighborhood, the lively San Pedro market, and the acclaimed MAP museum (Museum of Pre-Columbian Art). Later, you’ll return to your hotel for some much-needed rest.
*If you feel ready to grab Cusco’s altitude by the horns and are in the mood for more exploring, you can continue your private tour of Cusco with a trip out to the nearby fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the temple of Q’enko, and Puca Pucara – Consult with your Kuoda Travel Designer to include this in your personalized itinerary.
DAY 3: Delving into the past and present in the Sacred Valley
Private Tour of Ollantaytambo and Pisac Ruins, and a Visit to an artisan market
The Sacred Valley today is a rural wonderland, studded with high-altitude Inca fortresses, hidden-away farming hamlets, and pretty little colonial market towns. The Sacred Valley once formed part of the heartland of the Inca Empire, and the elegantly carved agricultural terraces and mountaintop Inca ruins here show off the skills of the ancient farmers and architects.
Start your Sacred Valley explorations by stepping back in time at quaint Ollantaytambo, a peaceful valley town made for wandering. Street canals trickle down the center of its cobbled lanes, and residents live in Inca-era homes that come complete with trapezoidal doors and niches – both distinctive features of Incan design. After wandering the center of the pueblo, climb up the agricultural terraces with your guide in tow to see the original Inca fortress, one of the most fabulous ancient sites in the valley. Note the incredible mortar-free stonework, which is held together by gravity alone.
Your exclusive tour of Peru’s Sacred Valley will continue in Pisac, a town whose indigenous market has become a local shopping hotspot. Quechua community members from the surrounding mountains come here to hawk all kinds of handmade crafts and unusual fruits and vegetables. After rubbing shoulders with the locals in the market, venture up to Pisac’s mountainside ruins. Perch yourself high up on the ridge among the Inca walls and soak up the eye-popping scenery below; the Inca’s sweeping, neatly carved agricultural terraces are best seen from on high.
At the end of the day, your guide and your drive will drop you off at your Cusco hotel so you can participate in a briefing about your upcoming trek, and rest up before you begin the physically demanding portion of your private Peru holiday: the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu!
DAY 4: Salkantay Trek
Transfer to Salkantay Lodge (SHARED GROUP)
After an early breakfast, you’ll be picked up from your hotel in Cusco up at 7:00am and driven up to the Salkantay Lodge in Soraypampa.
Salkantay Lodge takes its name from the majestic peak at the head of the valley, Mt. Salkantay. Eternally topped with a covering of snow, Salkantay’s 20,600-foot summit is the highest in the region, and is often obscured by the swirling clouds that rise from the jungle. For the Incas, it was one of the most sacred mountains. You’ll be given a characteristically Peruvian welcome to the lodge and will have time to freshen up before enjoying dinner.
Sleep overnight at the lodge, which – at 12,690 feet – is a good place to acclimatize to the thinner air.
DAY 5: Salkantay Trek
Crossing the Salkantay Pass (SHARED GROUP)
Today, the challenge begins! We’ll get off to a mesmerizing start, with the sun illuminating the Andean peaks as we hike up the Rio Blanco valley, circling Humantay Peak across from the summit of Salkantay. Once we reach the highest point on the trek, Salkantay Pass, we’ll take a break. At 15,213 feet, the views from here are – as you can imagine – glorious, with the white-hatted Vilcabamba Range looming in every direction and the glaciated south face of Salkantay towering above. Be on alert for Andean condors zooming by; these majestic birds are often seen soaring around the rocky ledges.
From the pass, we’ll descend toward Wayra Lodge, our destination for the night. ‘Wayra’ means wind, and references the nearby Wayracmachay, literally the “the place where the wind lives.” Hikers will be given ample sustenance, with a hot lunch served en route and dinner at the lodge.
Trekking time: 6–8 hours (including lunch)Hiking level: Challenging, crossing 15,200-foot mountain passOvernight at Wayra Lodge, which sits at 12,812 feet
DAY 6: Salkantay Trek
Descending into the cloud forest (SHARED GROUP)
Start with breakfast at Wayra Lodge, then continue your descent along the left bank of the Salkantay River. The lower we go, the more verdant the scenery becomes. As the warm air from the jungle rises to meet us, so too do the colorful creatures who thrive in its warmer climes: intricately patterned butterflies flutter through the air and attractive orchids can be seen spurting up from the ground.
Our destination is Colpa Lodge, a charming lodge set on an open plateau at the confluence of three rivers. Once we get there, you and your fellow hungry hikers can fill up on Pachamanca – a traditional Peruvian meal made by layering meat and vegetables with hot stones and cooking them in a covered earthen pit. After, you might want to sooth your shaky calves with a soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi and enjoy the mountain panoramas from the tub. Or, should you crave something a little more active, you can ramble along the nearby orchid trail. Dinner will be at the lodge.
Trekking time: 3–4 hours // Hiking level: easy to moderate // Overnight at Colpa Lodge at 9,414
DAY 7: Salkantay Trek
Following the Santa Teresa river valley (SHARED GROUP)
Today, your luxury Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu continues with another bout of hiking. This time, you’ll tramp along the more populated Santa Teresa River valley, where encounters with locals are much more likely. You’ll see evidence of how the valley dwellers make their living. You’ll pass through plantations and may even see the local inhabitants tending their crops of banana, granadilla, avocado, and coffee. Caffeine enthusiasts may be interested to know that some of the best organic coffees in the world are produced in this very valley!
Come lunchtime, we’ll find a suitable spot to stop by the river and refuel with a hot picnic. After lunch we’ll get moving again, though just for an hour or so until a private vehicle comes to collect us to make the 30-minute transfer to the beginning of the Llactapata Inca Trail.
Tucked away into the mountainside among a laden avocado orchard is our next overnight stop: the strikingly set Lucma Lodge. Its here where you’ll have dinner and sleep – that is, if the excitement of finally glimpsing Machu Picchu tomorrow doesn’t keep you awake!
Trekking time: 5–6 hours (including lunch) // Hiking level: moderate to challenging (because of distance, not terrain) // Overnight at Lucma Lodge at 7,003 feet
DAY 8: Salkantay Trek
First views of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Pass (SHARED GROUP)
Today you’ll tackle the last day of your trek. The first two to three hours will be an uphill slog toward Llactapata Pass, which sits at an elevation of 8,974 feet yet pales in comparison to the higher altitudes of your first days trekking. Here, you’ll be treated to your first view of Machu Picchu in the distance. This vantage point – you’ll see the site from the southeast – offers out-of-this-world views and is one that few travelers get the privilege of seeing.
After gawping at the ruins, we’ll take some time out to check out the Llactapata ruins, which were also “discovered” by Hiram Bingham on that fateful expedition in 1911. The site, which has been restored recently, looks better than ever. We’ll sit down for lunch at a special scenic spot, which looks out onto Machu Picchu.
After eating we’ll start descending again toward the Urubamba River, passing through several camera-worthy landscapes comprised of bamboo forest, orchards, and plantations. From there, you’ll ride the train to Aguas Calientes, the closest settlement to Machu Picchu and your final overnight destination before exploring Machu Picchu properly tomorrow. Celebrate your completion of the Salkantay Trail over dinner with your guide!
Trekking time: 4–6 hours // Hiking level: moderate to challenging // Overnight in Aguas Calientes at 6,693 feet
DAY 9: The Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Tour of Machu Picchu / Climb to Huayna Picchu (SHARED GROUP)
After an early breakfast at your hotel, meet your guide and begin the bus ride up switchbacks to the Lost Citadel. You’ll be treated to an exclusive tour of the ancient city, before embarking independently on a climb up Huayna Picchu whose summit provides an eagle’s-eye-view of the Incan construction at the earth’s edge. Meet your guide again upon your descent and return to Aguas Calientes for a late lunch.
Later, you’ll have a chance to rest those legs during a 1.5-hour train journey back to Ollantaytambo. From there, you’ll be picked up by private vehicle and chauffeured back to Cusco, which takes an additional 1.5 hours. By the time the clock hits 7pm or 8pm, you’ll have reached your luxury hotel in Cusco where you can rest and recuperate after the strenuous physical activities of the past few days.
DAY 10: Return to Lima / Return Home
Fly from Cusco to Lima ans then home
This morning we’ll bring you to Cusco airport for your return flight to Lima. You’ll be met by a Kuoda host who will take you to Lima’s lovely Miraflores district. Although it is going-home day, we don’t believe in wasting it by hanging about the airport! Instead, you can eat, drink, or simply stroll around Lima’s lovely seafront Miraflores district. When the time comes for you to depart, we’ll bring you to the airport for your return flight.
If you want to make the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu the centerpiece of your Peru adventure tour, contact Kuoda. Our travel advisors will help and assist you in planning your Peru hiking adventure.
- Make the most of Peru’s natural beauty with outdoor gourmet picnics, which include scrumptious local dishes as well as restaurant-style trappings such as real glassware, tableware, and a professional waiter.
- Take the reins of a Peruvian Paso for a trail ride through the Sacred Valley.
- Sit down with a shaman for a private meditation ceremony.
- Observe local weavers at work during private demonstrations.
- Hone your kitchen skills during Peruvian cooking classes with celebrated chefs.
- Admire views of the Andes from your luxury, vintage-style carriage on the Belmond Hiram Bingham Train on your way back to Cusco.
- Lunch on hearty Peruvian fare hosted by a local family, who will welcome you into their private home.
- Amp up the adrenaline with exhilarating adventure activities, such as riding the fast-flowing rapids of the Vilcanota River or zooming along zip lines in the Andes.
- Personalized itinerary planning: Work with a Kuoda Travel Designer to create the Peru trip of your dreams.
- Kuoda hosts take the hassle out of traveling. They’ll be there to assist you – whether with luggage, check in, transport or translating – at every destination during your private tour of Peru.
- Got a question or query? Kuoda operate a 24-hour, seven day a week customer service operation and can provide updates and assistance whenever you need it.
- With Kuoda, you’ll never be bundled in with big groups; each visit, activity, tour and experience will be completely private and conducted by your very own expert, English-speaking guide.
- Our private tours of Peru are fully flexible, which means we can modify them to suit your travel mood. So if you want to cut an activity or add on a new one, just say the word!
- All necessary adventure and trekking equipment will be provided so all you need bring is yourself.
- Receive a customized Kuoda Travel kit upon arrival.
Our staff handpicks the best hotels in the country to ensure you get comfort and character.
Take a look to our recommendations and let us know if you’d like to incorporate one or a few in to your next trip
This sample itinerary offers the stunning Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, Peru’s lost citadel. This Journey Through a Fabled Past itinerary will serve as the perfect inspiration for you!
Please know we will work with you to change or modify these tours however you deem necessary – all Kuoda itineraries are crafted just for you, built to suit your individual interests and schedules. Interested in customizing this particular itinerary?
The price will be based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.
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