Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail: Which is Right for You?

Salkantay trek

For those dreaming of an unforgettable journey to the iconic Machu Picchu, Peru offers two remarkable trails: the classic Inca Trail and the adventurous Salkantay Trek. Both paths promise an immersive experience through the heart of the ancient Inca empire, yet they cater to different tastes, physical abilities, and expectations. Adventure In Peru invites you on a detailed exploration of these two trails, helping you decide which adventure suits your spirit.

The Path Less Travelled: Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is an alternative route to Machu Picchu that offers a blend of breathtaking landscapes, challenging mountain passes, and a closer encounter with Mother Nature. It’s named after Mount Salkantay, the towering peak that serves as a stunning backdrop to much of the trek. Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek can be embarked upon with minimal advance planning, sometimes even a few days before the hike.


  • Scenery: Traverses higher altitudes, offering spectacular views of snow-capped peaks, lush jungles, and remote wilderness.
  • Wildlife: With fewer travelers, the chances of spotting local wildlife, including the majestic Andean condor or elusive spectacled bear, increase.
  • Flexibility: No permit requirement means more flexibility in planning and the possibility for last-minute adventures.


  • Difficulty: It’s considered more challenging due to its higher altitudes and longer distances.
  • Amenities: While the trek offers basic amenities, it’s a bit more rugged, with options for camping under the stars.

The Classic Inca Trail: A Journey Through History

The Inca Trail is the most famous route to Machu Picchu, known for its historical significance and stunning archaeological sites. It’s a path that allows travelers to walk in the footsteps of the Inca, connecting various Inca ruins leading up to the Sun Gate entrance of Machu Picchu.


  • Archaeological Sites: Unique to the Inca Trail, you’ll explore ancient sites like Wiñay Wayna and Phuyupatamarca.
  • History: The trail itself is a piece of history, offering a deeper connection to the Inca civilization.
  • Popularity: Its fame means you’ll be sharing the trail with fellow history enthusiasts from around the world.


  • Permits: Limited to 500 permits per day, including guides and porters, it requires booking 6-12 months in advance.
  • Cost: Generally more expensive due to its popularity and the inclusion of porters and guides.

Comparing Costs

Generally, the Inca Trail is pricier, reflecting the higher demand and limited permits. The Salkantay Trek, on the other hand, offers a more budget-friendly option with varying levels of accommodation.

Pricing AspectInca Trail (4 days)Salkantay Trek (5 days)
Base PriceFrom $690 USDFrom $670 USD
Duration4 days5 days
Entrance FeesIncludes Machu Picchu entranceMachu Picchu entrance included
Permit RequirementPermit required, included in the priceNo permit required
Accommodation TypeCamping (mid-range to luxury options)Ranges from basic camping to lodges
Additional CostsMay include upgrades for luxury camping, additional porter services Upgrades for lodges or private service
Booking FlexibilityRequires advance booking due to permit limitsMore flexible, last-minute bookings possible
Overall ValueSlightly higher per day cost, includes key historical site entranceLower daily cost, longer trek

A Detailed distance Comparison Table

FeatureInca TrailSalkantay Trek
Distance26 miles46 miles
Duration4 days5 days
SceneryIncan ruins, mountains, cloud forestMountains, glaciers, wildlife
Maximum Altitude13,828 feet15,000 feet
PermitsRequired, limited to 500/dayNo permit required
BookingMust book far in advanceFlexible, last-minute possible
AccommodationsMid-range to luxury campingBasic to luxury lodges
SuitabilityHistory enthusiasts, moderate trekkersExperienced hikers, nature lovers

Which Trek Is Right for You?

For the Adventurous Soul

If you’re seeking solitude, wish to challenge yourself, and are eager to immerse in nature’s untamed beauty, the Salkantay Trek is your calling. It’s an opportunity to push your limits and experience the Andes in their most raw form.

For the History Enthusiast

If your heart beats for history and archaeology, and you dream of walking the paths once trodden by the Inca, then the classic Inca Trail awaits. It’s not just a trek; it’s a journey back in time, leading to the gates of an ancient wonder.

Preparing for Your Trek

Regardless of your choice, preparation is key. Both treks demand good physical condition, appropriate gear, and an understanding of high-altitude trekking. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Training: Engage in regular hiking or walking to build stamina.
  • Gear: Invest in quality hiking boots, a warm sleeping bag, and layers for changing weather conditions.
  • Acclimatization: Spend a few days in Cusco or a similar elevation to adjust to the altitude.


Whether you choose the road less traveled by taking on the Salkantay Trek or follow the ancient steps of the Inca on their iconic trail, you’re in for an experience of a lifetime. Adventure In Peru is here to guide you through these paths, ensuring a memorable journey to the legendary Machu Picchu. Your adventure awaits—choose your path wisely.

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