The Salkantay Trek without a guide or tent

Salkantay range

The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular trekking routes in Peru, however, is it possible to do it on your own and sleeping at guesthouses, avoiding to hire a guide or carrying your tent and your own food? We found out it was and, moreover, it was amazingly easy and cheap! So here we provide all the information for you to also live this experience.

The basics of our Salkantay Trek without a guide:

Duration: 5 days/4 nights
Date of travel: from June the 23rd to June the 27th, 2019
Number of travellers: two people
Time of preparation: a month for the organisation, way longer for the physical training

In this post you will find everything you need to know to prepare for the Salkantay Trek without a guide, on your own and even better, without carrying a tent to sleep or food for the whole trek! We will cover where to sleep and eat, all the transportation you will use to get to the starting point of the trek and return to Cusco and how is every day of the trek going to look like.

When you finish reading, you will know everything you need to prepare for this trekking that will take you right to one of the World’s Seven Wonders: Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu citadel
Machu Picchu citadel

Also, if you want to have some useful information about the difficulty of the trek and how to determine if you are prepared to do it, how to prepare the track and what tools you can use to navigate the route, information on altitude sickness and how to minimise its effects, safety along the route and what does your backpack need to contain, check my other post ‘Salkantay Trek on your own: 5 essentials to prepare‘.

Salkantay Trek on your own: 5 essentials to prepare

1. The business around the Salkantay Trek

When we were preparing for our trip to Peru, we learnt that we could arrive to Machu Picchu by trekking instead of taking the train or a bus and we instantly knew that was the option for us. However, almost every piece of information we found regarding the Salkantay Trek was directed at those trekking with a guide or alternatively on how to trek on your own but carrying tent and food. Either was the experience we were looking for. We wanted to carry a light backpack and sleep and eat at guesthouses.

After many searches, we found the amazing blog of Career Break Adventures and their post ‘Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu (Without a Tent or Guide)‘. It was our inspiration to prepare our itinerary to trek by our terms: without a guide, without a tent and without carrying the food we would eat for five days.

Down from Abra Salkantay in the Salkantay Trek without a guide

Once at Cusco and along the trek we spoke with locals and we understood the Salkantay Trek is a huge tourist attraction. Travel agencies are not really interested in you going on your own. For this reason, if you search in the web and if, once in Peru, try to gather information from travel agencies, they will tell you that the trek is not safe and that it’s not possible to do it on your own because you won’t find accommodation or meals. This is absolutely not true.

Can I do it on my own?

If you keep reading you will find that the Salkantay Trek passes through several towns and small villages. Almost all of them have accommodation and provide food for their guests. Depending on the day of the trek and your budget, this accommodation may be a private room, a shared dorm or a tent. Your hosts will provide you with everything you need.

Winaypocco village
Winaypocco village

Moreover, we were able to keep the cost of the experience at a little less than 150 € per person. All expenses are included in this sum, even the Machu Picchu tickets to the citadel and Machu Picchu Mountain. This is significantly lower than the average cost of a guided tour, ranging from 240 to 420 € (tickets to Machu Picchu -60 € for the citadel, 75 € if you visit also one of the mountains- not included in this price). Later in this post, you will find a compilation of all the expenses we had in the Salkantay Trek without a guide.

Therefore, the only question that will remain is if you are physically and mentally prepared for this trekking, so be sure to read my post ‘Salkantay Trek on your own: 5 essentials to prepare‘ for information on that matter.

2. The trekking experience

2.1. In a nutshell

The Salkantay Trek is a trekking route to arrive to Machu Picchu. It is an alternative to the more famous, but much more regulated Inca Trail, which has a limited number of trekkers allowed per day and gets full months in advance. This is not the case in Salkantay, as there is not a limit in the number of trekkers allowed.

It lasts five days and four nights, visiting Machu Picchu on the last day. With 92 km (57 mi) and almost 8,000 m (26,245 ft) of accumulated elevation gained/lost (3,000 m / 9,840 ft gained and 4,880 / 16,010 ft lost), it is a high demanding extremely beautiful trek. Also, one of the coolest experiences you will have in Peru. Cusco is the ‘base-camp’ you will leave from and where you will return after the adventure.

Altitudes and distances for the Salkantay Trek without a guide

The Salkantay Trek can be done on your own (either sleeping and eating at guesthouses or carrying your own tent and food) or with an organised group with a guide and porters.

The Salkantay Trek does not require any special skill apart from general fitness and determination. The path is clear and easy to walk, although you can expect some altitude sickness. I believe everyone who is in a good physical condition, has some general knowledge of mountaineering and has thoroughly prepared this trip can do it.

Our route

We chose to go on our own and do the Salkantay Trek without a guide and without carrying a tent and food. However, we did carry plenty of snacks (nuts and dehydrated fruit) to substitute most lunches during the trek. We slept every night at guesthouses or campings, where we also bought our meals.

Map for the Salkantay Trek without a guide

On the first day, we got up early and took the bus to Challacancha, where we started our trek. We walked to Soraypampa, found accommodation, had lunch and left our bags to climb to Humantay Lake.

We slept in Soraypampa and the next morning headed to Abra Salkantay, the highest point of the trek, and started our way down to Chaullay, where we slept on our second night.

The third day we followed a down and easy trail that took us to Lucmabamba to rest.

We started the fourth day climbing to Llaqtapata, then we descended to Hidroeléctrica. From there we followed a long, flat and easy trail to Aguascalientes, but we stopped roughly 3.5 km / 2.2 mi before the town to sleep closer to the Machu Picchu entrance. We still were about 2km / 1.2 mi from the entrance, so we would recommend finding a closer accommodation. We never visited Aguascalientes.

Train rails
Train rail to Machu Picchu

On the fifth day we woke up early again to be among the first ones to enter Machu Picchu. We had a hard, short climb to the entrance still at night. Once at Machu Picchu, the first thing we did was climb the quite demanding Machu Picchu Mountain. When we returned to Machu Picchu archaeological site, we took a guided tour and then raced down to Hidroeléctrica to take a direct bus to Cusco.

The second and last day were definitely the most challenging ones.

The Salkantay Trek without a guide in figures

These are the main numbers that can help you get an idea of what you will be facing:

Starting pointChallacancha
3,600 m
11,811 ft
3,910 m
12,828 ft
2,860 m
9,383 ft
2,008 m
6,587 ft
1,920 m
6,299 ft
Highest pointHumantay Lake
4,221 m
13,848 ft
Abra Salkantay
4,326 m
14,192 ft
2,860 m
9,383 ft
2,711 m
8,894 ft
Machu Picchu Mountain
3,082 m
10,111 ft
Final pointSoraypampa
3,910 m
12,828 ft
2,860 m
9,383 ft
2,008 m
6,587 ft
1,920 m
6,299 ft
3,399 m
11,151 ft
Total distance12 km
7.45 mi
21.5 km
13,36 mi
18.5 km
11.49 mi
19.7 km
12.24 mi
20.3 km
12.61 mi
Elevation gained621 m
2,037 ft
416 m
1,364 ft
-852 m
2,795 ft
1,162 m
3,812 ft
Elevation lost311 m
1,020 ft
1,466 m
4,809 ft
852 m
2,795 ft
940 m
3,083 ft
1,311 m
4,301 ft
Cost for two people39,69 €
148.83 PEN
29,02 €
108.83 PEN
29,02 €
108.83 PEN
39,69 €
148.83 PEN
153,17 €
(includes Machu Picchu tickets)
143.83 PEN
(does not include Machu Picchu tickets)

* We slept roughly 3.5 km / 2.2 mi before Aguascalientes, to be closer to the Machu Picchu entrance

2.2. Where to sleep

In general, you can sleep in guesthouses, home-stays, campings (in which case your hosts will provide you with the tent, sleeping bag and even a pillow). You will even find fancy expensive domes at some towns. You can’t book these accommodations in advance if you don’t travel with a group, so it’s generally recommended to arrive early to ensure you find a place.

What would happen if you didn’t? You would need to walk a few extra kilometres to reach the next, less popular town. You would for sure find a place to sleep there, but you will probably be tired from the long day walk.

There is hot water everywhere. In general, showers are not included and you need to pay about 10 PEN per person. Toilets can be either private or shared. This will play a role on the price of the room and whether the shower is included or not.

First night – Soraypampa

In Soraypampa you will find plenty of guesthouses, campings and domes so just ask around to find the option that works for you.

We slept in a camping. We rented a tent which our hosts prepared for us under a hay cover. Sleeping bags, mattress and a pillow were included, although we didn’t have a shower available. It was a slightly cold night, but we attribute that to the altitude as we were very sheltered from the wind.

Soraypampa campsite - first night of Salkantay Trek without a guide
Soraypampa campsite

For two people, we payed 20 PEN for the accommodation, being our cheapest night in the Salkantay Trek.

Second night – Chaullay

We found that most guesthouses offer either rooms, a space for your tent and tents to rent. Showers are available at an extra cost. We arrived at 16.30h and were able to secure one of the last rooms available for 40 PEN for the both of us, so we would recommend to try to arrive earlier, even this is one of the hardest days of the trek.

If rooms are not available when you arrive, you can rent a tent or keep walking to Collpapampa if you still have the energy. It is about 1 km / 0.6 mi from Chaullay and also has plenty of options for accommodation.

As a curiosity, in Chaullay our hosts asked us to have our meals in the kitchen, isolated from other guests. They didn’t want us to share with them that we were doing the Salkantay Trek without a guide.

Third night – Lucmabamba

We found that Lucmabamba was the less crowded place where we slept, because many groups sleep at Santa Teresa to visit its hot springs. There are a very few guesthouses or home-stays, but it is unlikely you find yourself without options because of the low number of tourists visiting.

For us, it was the best night of the whole trek. We rented a room with shared bathroom and a big comfortable bed at Sonia and Walter home stay, in the middle of a coffee plantation, for 50 PEN for both. It was the first night we had electricity.

Lucmabamba homestay - third night of Salkantay Trek without a guide
Lucmabamba homestay

Some alternatives for this day are the lodges you will find near the main road, just before taking the trail to Lucmabamba (1km / 0.6 mi before Lucmabamba). Also, the nearest towns of Playa Sahuayco or Sahuayco, although they are roughly 4 km / 2.4 mi before Lucmabamba and this would mean a very long fourth day.

Fourth night – Near Aguascalientes

The most popular option is to sleep in Aguascalientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo), in which case you will have a lot of options. However, we decided against this for several reasons:

  • We were not going to take the train from Hidroeléctrica to Aguascalientes, nor the bus from Aguascalientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Therefore the closer we slept from the Machu Picchu entrance the better. We avoided to walk a few kilometres at the end of the fourth day.
  • If we had stayed in Aguascalientes, that would mean returning there to get our backpack once our visit to Machu Picchu had ended. Therefore, 4 extra kilometres.
  • Everything we read and were told about Aguascalientes prevented us to go there. We understood it is a town filled with tourists coming from the Salkantay Trek, the train to Machu Picchu and the buses to Hidroeléctrica from Cusco – Santa María – Santa Teresa. It has hot springs, party and drunk tourists. We don’t like either of these things, so we decided we could miss it. It is a very personal choice.

We stayed at Mandor (formerly Gea Lodge), which is the only hostel you will find before Aguascalientes. A dorm with 4 beds, shared bathroom and electricity cost 40 PEN per person.

Gea Lodge - fourth night of Salkantay Trek without a guide

Around Mandor and until Aguascalientes, there are a few campings available. When we were there on June 2019, they only had tents, however, they were building some bungalows that were supposed to be ready in a couple of months. If we had to recommend you what to do, we would tell you to look for the closer camping to the Machu Picchu entrance, and rent a tent or bungalow to sleep there.

2.3. Where to eat

You will have breakfast and dinner in the guesthouse or camping where you sleep. The cost will range from 10 to 15 PEN per person per meal. Don’t expect anything fancy: it will probably consist on an omelette with vegetables and rice, coca tea (mate de coca), juice and coffee. Hot, abundant and nutritive, what else could you need?

Regarding lunch, you may be able to ask for it to-go. You definitely can just stop at any town during the route. However, when we are trekking we always skip lunch and eat plenty of snacks during the day instead (mostly nuts and dehydrated fruits). We prefer this option because we don’t want to waste time waiting for our lunch and, anyway, our body constantly needs the energy from nuts and fruit, and the rest you get from these short stops along the way.

As of water, we carried purification pills and were able to refill our bottles every few minutes for almost the whole trek. The only stage were we couldn’t find water was from Llaqtapata to Hidroeléctrica, on the fourth day. It is also possible to buy bottled water in guesthouses and in the villages you pass, but I would recommend you just to purify it to reduce your plastic waste.

Filling water

2.4. Transportation

  • Bus from Cusco to Challacancha. Leaving from the intersection between Av. Arcopata and Av. Apurimac in Cusco, you take the bus to Mollepata. Once at Mollepata, from where the first bus left you, take another bus or taxi to Challacancha, where you will be starting the trek. You will need to wait for each bus to fill before you leave.
  • Train from Hidroeléctrica to Aguascalientes. It will save you from a two hours flat and easy walk at an awfully expensive price: 31 USD per person. Also, if you want to sleep closer to the actual entrance to Machu Picchu, not in Aguascalientes, you will need to walk down some part of the trail, as the train only stops at the end of the line.
  • Bus from Aguascalientes to the Machu Picchu entrance. The fact that it costs 12 USD per person is the reason why we decided to walk instead and why we didn’t sleep in Aguascalientes but closer to the Machu Picchu entrance. However, it will save you from a considerably demanding climb.
  • Train from Aguascalientes back to Hidroeléctrica.
  • Bus from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco. The last direct bus leaves at 16h and arrives at 21.30h, so you better plan your visit to Machu Picchu accordingly. The alternative is changing the bus at Santa Teresa and then again at Santa María, which would take even longer.
  • Alternatives for tiredness or sickness. From Playa Sahuayaco (end of third day of the Salkantay Trek) it’s possible to take a bus or taxi to Santa Teresa (popular alternative, particularly among guided groups, because of its hot springs), and another one from Santa Teresa to Hidroeléctrica. Also, the trekking trail goes in parallel to the road during the third day of the trek, so you could take a bus or taxi there.

3. Salkantay Trek without a guide – day-by-day route

Before you start…

Before the trek, we had stayed two nights in Cusco, having previously spent two days in Titicaca Lake and two days in Arequipa, so altitude sickness was not new to us. Also, in this high altitude we had been very active and done a few short treks and a lot of ups-and-downs in the streets of Cusco, so we were better equipped to walk in altitude.

Cusco streets
Cusco streets

Cusco is also the perfect place for last-minute purchases for the Salkantay Trek without a guide: topographic map and compass, hat, trekking poles… There are plenty of stores with mountaineering equipment around Plaza de Armas so just take the time to visit a few of them to find products and prices that convince you.

In the case of the trekking poles, we bought a pair of them for 80 PEN instead of renting. When we returned back to Cusco, we sold the poles back to one of these stores for 30 PEN. It was way cheaper that if we had rented them, although we had to visit a few stores to find one that would take them.

It was not easy for us to buy a topographic map at Cusco (we had to visit several stores) because, as I said, everything is prepared for you to go in an organised group, so it may be a good idea to buy it online.

Day 1: Cusco – Mollepata – Challacancha – Soraypampa – Humantay Lake

We woke up at 2.45h to be at 3.45h in the Bus Station to Mollepata. We arrived by Uber for 6 PEN from the centre of Cusco. After waiting for half an hour for the bus to be full, and for 15 PEN per person it took us to Mollepata, arriving at 6.15h. Just before entering the town, we passed through a control were we had to pay our 10 PEN per person entry fee to the Salkantay Trek.

We were supposed to take another bus from Mollepata to Challacancha but were told that a taxi was the only option we had available. Apparently, buses are only for organised groups.

So we took a taxi. We were lucky enough to find another couple of travellers that were following the exact same route we were following (also inspired by Career Break Adventures), so we shared the 15 PEN per person 50 minutes ride. This was the only price we were able to bargain during the trek.

To Soraypampa
Trail to Soraypampa

The 2.5h trail from Challacancha to Soraypampa is generally easy. It is steep at the beginning and just before arriving to Soraypampa. In between, it goes next to a river and is flat and narrow.

Side trek to Humantay Lake

Once we had found accommodation we took a short nap, had lunch and started our way up to Humantay Lake. It was not long (about 1.5h) but harder than we expected, even with our bags at the campsite. The path was very steep and you definitely felt the lack of oxygen.

To Humantay Lake
Trail to Humantay Lake

You forgot about all that once you arrived to the lake. It is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. We lingered there for a little longer than we should have, relaxing, taking pictures and exploring the surroundings. We watched the sunset from that point. On the way down, the sun was already leaving. It was considerably easier, but a little hard on the knees.

Humantay Lake
Humantay Lake

The weather had been very pleasant the whole day, we weren’t cold even at the Humantay Lake (4,221 m / 13,848 ft). However, at night temperatures were notably lower and we were glad to have the shelter from the hay cover and the sleeping bag. The sky was clear and full of stars.

Day 2: Soraypampa – Abra Salkantay – Chaullay

In the second day of the Salkantay Trek without a guide, we started walking at 6.30h. A very steep trail with plenty of zigzags that allowed us to gain altitude fast, let you arrive to Abra Salkantay in 4.5h.

We felt lightheaded and fatigued all the way up, having to stop several times to catch our breath. We even had to stop once for half an hour because I felt extremely dizzy. Rest and food helped and healed us every time. Don’t try to hurry to the Pass, listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. Luckily the surroundings are amazingly beautiful.

Abra Salkantay
Abra Salkantay

Once at the top, having completed one of the hardest sections of the trek, the landscape was spectacular. We were not cold at all and we spent a few minutes soaking on the beauty of the mountain range. Then, we started the long 5.5h descend. Very welcomed at the beginning because it was easy and the amount of oxygen was higher and higher. However, 13 km / 8 mi and 1,800 m / 5,905 ft of descend are no joke. It truly felt like the day never ended and the last few hours were nothing short from infernal.

Down from Abra Salkantay
The start of the trail down
To Chaullay
Trail down to Chaullay

We arrived to Chaullay at 16.30h, got a room, took a shower, had dinner and went to sleep exhausted.

Overall, it was one of the most physically demanding days of my whole life.

Day 3: Chaullay – Lucmabamba

We started walking once again at 6.30h. This third day of the Salkantay Trek without a guide was generally easy and downhill, but long. During the first few minutes we walked in the road, until we turned left across the river and took the trail.

From Chaullay to Playa Sahuayco, the path goes down with a few easy and short climbs. For most of the time it crosses the jungle, so be prepared for heat and insects. Once you arrive to Playa Sahuayco and until you turn left for the trail to Lucmabamba, you walk again in the flat road.

To Lucmabamba
To Lucmabamba

Playa Sahuayco and Sahuayco are real towns, not the small villages you will have encountered so far. It will be possible for you to have lunch there, however, we decided to continue.

The last climb from the main road to Lucmabamba is short and not particularly steep. However, we were so tired that it was a huge effort for us. We passed the first home stay we found and settled in the second one because it was slightly cheaper.

Desviation to Lucmabamba
Turn to Lucmabamba

It was 13.30h and we had already finished the trekking of the day, so we were really proud – and tired. We rested for almost an hour, took turns on the shower and spent a great part of the afternoon massaging our muscles and stretching. The dinner was amazingly good and we went to sleep feeling a little repaired.

Lucmabamba homestay
Lucmabamba homestay

Day 4: Lucmabamba – Llaqtapata – Hidroeléctrica – Aguascalientes

At 3.21h, the rooster that lived next to our room started crowing and didn’t stop. There was not a single ray of light in the sky, so we couldn’t understand what was wrong with that animal, but we slept OK despite of that.

We started walking on our fourth day of the Salkantay Trek without a guide at 6.30h after an amazing breakfast. The first stop of the day was a swing on the way to Llaqtapata viewpoint. We arrived there at 9.30h, after a generally easy climb that combined demanding and relaxed stages. We entertained ourselves for a few minutes swinging and taking pictures.

Swing to Llaqtapata

The short climb from the swing to Llaqtapata viewpoint, where we arrived at 10h, was a little more demanding. There you have views over the whole range of mountains, including the Machu Picchu, so it’s also one of the most spectacular landscapes of the trek.

Llaqtapata viewpoint

The descend from Llaqtapata to Hidroeléctrica was long, hot and infernal again. The first stage was easy and fun until you found the zigzags, which descended very steep and lasted for a lot of time. It was not friendly on the knees. After the zigzags, you walked about 2 km / 1.2 mi in the flat road under the noon sun.

Arriving at Hidroeléctrica

Our main problem in this descend and the road, apart from its steepness, was the sun and the lack of water. The shadows of the trees ended almost at the beginning of the zigzag. Also, from Llaqtapata and right before arriving to Hidroeléctrica, there was nowhere were you could refill nor buy some water. You better remember to fill your bottle up before starting this stage!

From Hidroeléctrica to Aguascalientes

We left Hidroeléctrica at 13h . The first 10 minutes you will be following an intense climb through the forest. After that, you will find yourself again in the train rails, which you will follow until you arrive. This path is mildly ascending and easy.

Tran rails
Tran rail to Machu Picchu

We arrived at Mandor (formerly Gea Lodge), the hostel were we slept, at 14.45h. The room was not the best: we had a beehive next to our window. However, they had a nice terrace that overlooked the river. We spent most of the afternoon there tending to our muscles. We had dinner at Mamá Angélica (our only option) and went to sleep really early. An exciting adventure was waiting for us the following day!

Gea Lodge rest
Resting at Mandor (formerly Gea Lodge)

Day 5: Machu Picchu – Machu Picchu Mountain – return to Hidroeléctrica and Cusco

On the fifth day of the Salkantay Trek without a guide we started walking at 4.15h. We were very light having left our backpack in the hostel, which was an improvement! However, it was still dark night, so we relied on our frontal lights to check the path.

We arrived to the queue to the Machu Picchu entrance at 4.45h and were among the first ones there. The entrance opened at 5h and at 5.10h we passed the control. Then, we started the race to the Machu Picchu citadel trying to beat the buses that were already arriving. Our goal was to see the archaeological site without the massive amount of tourists that would arrive.

Hiking trail to Machu Picchu entrance
Hiking trail to Machu Picchu entrance

We were at the second control to Machu Picchu at 6.15h, exhausted and kind of overwhelmed after a very demanding climb filled with steps and still at night. There, we found that if you wanted to hire a guide you needed to do that before accessing the citadel. As our ticket was also for Machu Picchu mountain, we could first go to the mountain and then enter the citadel again with a guide. We guess this will also be possible if the ticket you have is for Huayna Picchu.

We also found that our trekking poles, in which we relied heavily after four days of trekking, had to be left in the lockers. Apparently, to protect the runes, they are only allowed for people over 65yo and with a certified medical condition. Even then, they need to wear a plastic cover.

Machu Picchu mountain and citadel

When purchasing our tickets for Machu Picchu, we decided to climb Machu Picchu Mountain instead of Huayna Picchu because it is higher. And, you know, the higher the better. We didn’t factor that we would be extremely tired from the previous days of trekking, but still we don’t regret this decision.

Machu Picchu citadel and Machu Picchu Mountain
Machu Picchu citadel and Machu Picchu Mountain

We checked at the Machu Picchu Mountain control around 7h, where we could stay for four hours. Desperately missing our trekking poles, we started the exhausting and difficult 2h climb. It was very steep with irregular and high steps. After four days of trekking, our legs almost couldn’t carry us. But nevertheless we arrived at the top, having left behind a few people that turned down because of the difficulty.

To Machu Picchu Mountain
To Machu Picchu Mountain


Machu Picchu from above
Machu Picchu from above

After resting for a while, we took the mandatory pictures and raced our way down in 40 minutes. Once at the citadel, we were lucky to find a guide who had just started the tour. We joined the group for 20 PEN per person, without having to go outside to look for a guide and enter again.

We truly recommend hiring a guide to be able to appreciate all the history and details of Machu Picchu. For us, the two-hour tour was extremely interesting but also exhausting. At this point, even standing still listening to the explanations of the guide was a huge effort.

Machu Picchu citadel
Machu Picchu citadel

The guide was the one who told us that the last direct bus from Hidroeléctrica to Cusco left at 16h. Otherwise we would need to stop at Santa Teresa and then again at Santa María, and we would arrive to Cusco very late at night. It was already 12.45h.

To Hidroeléctrica and back to Cusco

With this new information and no energy left, we started racing down the stairs to the first Machu Picchu entrance. Once at the train rails, we stopped for a couple of minutes to eat a sandwich and have a sugary drink to try to regain some strength. It greatly helped.

Machu Picchu train
Machu Picchu train

We were at our hostel at 14.10h, picked up our backpack and at 14.40h we were back on the train rail, walking non-stop to Hidroeléctrica. It was not the best moment for us, because we had a very close deadline, 7 km / 4.3 mi to go, and we were exhausted. Mind over body, as they say it, so we kept walking. We arrived to Hidroeléctrica at 15.58h and were able to secure passages in the last direct bus to Cusco for 35 PEN per person that left a minute after we arrived.

The first part of the road until you leave the mountain range is interesting, so to speak. The road is very narrow and irregular, drivers tend to drive faster than they should and you have mountain at your left and a very high cliff on your right. It was without a doubt the most dangerous part of the Salkantay Trek. The rest of the drive, using more conventional roads, is only long and boring.

We arrived at Cusco at 21.30h and had enough energy only to take a shower and go to sleep without having dinner.

Salkantay range
Salkantay range

4. The cost of the Salkantay Trek without a guide

We have been giving information about prices during the whole post, however, we have also compiled all the costs we had so you can get an idea of how much will you be spending for each category:

Food5,33 €10,67 €13,33 €16,00 €6,67 €52,00 €
Accommodation10,67 €10,67 €13,33 €21,33 €-56,00 €
Shower-5,33 €---5,33 €
Transportation16,00 €---18,67 €34,67 €
Entry tickets5,33 €---114,81 €120,14 €
Guide----10,67 €10,67 €
Snacks2,36 €2,36 €2,36 €2,36 €2,36 €11,78 €
TOTAL39,69 €29,02 €29,02 €39,69 €153,17 €290,59 €

In case it is easier for you, here you will find these same amounts in Peruvian soles (PEN):

Entry tickets20---114.81 €20

Note: the cost of the Machu Picchu tickets are not included in the totals of this table

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Also, if you want to have some additional useful information about the difficulty of the trek and what you need to assess to determine if you are prepared to do it, how to prepare the track and what tools you can use to navigate the route, information on altitude sickness and how to minimise its effects, safety along the route and what does your backpack need to contain, check my other post ‘Salkantay Trek on your own: 5 essentials to prepare‘.


  • Mila

    Qué bien detallado, con esta guia me atrevería a ir por mi cuenta‼️

  • Keith

    Nice detail! Appreciate that. I’m going without a guide and my tent etc. Can you setup a tent at Soraypampa? Or do you have to rent one of the huts? Doing Lake Humantay for a couple days and wanted to camp one night at Soraypampa. Thank you in advance!

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      In general there are places along the trek where you can set up your tent. If I remember correctly, you’ll need to pay for the spot where you will set it up in most places. This applies to Soraypampa, there are several spots where you can sleep with your tent (they are also protected with hay which is nice).

  • William Dougherty

    Hi there

    Thanks for the fantastic blog post – going to solo-hike now thanks to this!

    Just had one questions. On your itinerary it says that you went to Playa S before going to Lucmabamba, but when I look at the map it seems you would hit Luc before Playa S if you are coming from Chaullay. Was this just a mistake on your part?



    • William Dougherty

      all sorted now! Thanks

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi William!
      I had to check it, it was a very specific question you had! From Chaullay you do arrive first to Playa Sahuayaco and then to Lucmabamba. Maybe the confusion came because most groups, after Playa S, go to Santa Teresa instead of Lucmabamba, which is a less popular (but spectacularly beautiful) trail.
      Hope you enjoyed!

  • jorge adriazola

    thank you so much, a lot of info

  • Melanie

    Hi there! Thanks so much for the great post! We would like to do the trek in 2 weeks without guide/tent as well, according to your itinerary :). The only thing I am worries about is thag we don‘t speak any spanish (I am currently learning some basics). Do you think this would be very problematic when you’re without guide/group? Thanks a lot in advance! Best, Melanie & Kim

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Melanie and Kim! I don’t think this will be problematic as you really only need very basic interaction with the locals to get food, accommodation or bus ticket/taxi drive. The area has usually been crowded with tourists (I think it is more quiet post-covid) so I’m sure locals will know the basics. Hope you have a great experience! I’m sure you will 🙂

      • Dominika

        Hi! Thank you for the perfect itinerary. We are going to do the same itinerary, but we was wondering if there is a possibility to skip one more day (we have not so much time). Is there possbility to take any collectivo or taxi from Chaullay to Lucmabamba so we could skip day 3 and immediately start walking from Lucmabamba to Mandor?
        Thank you! 🙂

        • Miss Wanderitall (author)

          Hi! Thank you for your comment!
          I don’t think it will be easy to skip day 3 entirely, I don’t recall seeing anything similar to a bus station near Chaullay, buth there is a road next to the trail during a good part of the day so maybe you can explore there if there are buses or taxis. Maybe some local has some car and can offer the taxi service? But I don’t think that would be possible to arrange or to know in advance. So, several thoughts in case they help you organise your trek as you need:
          – Lucmabamba is like in the middle of nowhere and there is no road available for cars to arrive there, as I recall the path was narrow and only for walking (from Playa Sahuayaco).
          – You could easily skip going to Humantay Lake on day one and sleep not in Soraypampa but further in the route, for example around the area of Wayra. It would definitely be an intense first day, particularly in terms of altitude gain with respect to Cusco.
          – From Playa Sahuayaco it’s possible to take a bus or taxi to Santa Teresa (popular alternative instead of Lucmabamba, and another one from Santa Teresa to Hidroeléctrica. From Hidroeléctrica to Aguascalientes you have an 8km mostly easy trek.
          I hope these thoughts are useful for you and you really enjoy the trek!

  • Rüdiger

    Details changed (as of June 2022):
    The place formerly known as “Gea Lodge” (Day 4) is now called “Mandor”
    In Machu Pichu some Treks are closed AS a consequence of Covid. Tickets now have time slots (1 hour) during which you may enter. Make sure to book at least one week in advance if you want to enter the site in the early morning. Two days before starting the Salkantay Trek there were only tickets for midday/afternoon left.

    I can also recommend using the App “” as it contains many popular Treks, amor which is alsonthe Salkantay Trek. So you can follow it conveniently on your smart phone. As of 2022 basically almost all of the places where you will sleep will have electricity and at least a basic form of Wi-Fi, good enough to send messages on your messenger app.

    Very well written article about the Salkantay Trek. It helped me make up my mind for doing the trek on my own. After seine how the people Are “stuck” with those guides Tours, I am sure that I would habe not liked it. Being free to walk the trail at your own pace is so much better. The trail is completely fail-safe to walk, especially when you have your smartphone with a downloaded map with you. I can totally recommend that Trek to anyone who loves nature and hiking.

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Rüdiger thank you for your comment and the update on the situation there! I will update the details regarding Gea Lodge on the post. As of, I know the app and it is indeed very useful, the thing is you need to have a map which you understand and can follow along the trek, and is a user-friendly option.
      Very glad you enjoyed the experience!

  • Christian


    I was curious if there are signs in front of the various places for accommodation or do you simply knock on the doors of the homes within each village?

    Also, does it appear that most places would rent a tent to you if full? My partner and I are beginning the trek in one week and are wondering if we should bring our tent for backup..

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Christian!
      I don’t recall seeing any specific sign but then it was clear that there were guest houses instead of homes, as there were trekkers around or you could see the facilities for hosting people.
      Regarding the tent, I only rented it the first day and didn’t inquire further, but I don’t think accommodation will be a problem. If the most common villagea to stop are full, you can also walk one or two extra kilometers for the next village. It is an extra effort, but carrying a tent also is. I would personally not carry the tent.
      I hope you both really enjoy it!

    • Sylwester

      Hello Christian,
      Did you have any problems with finding an accommodation? I am going to do the trek next month and my main concern is whether I will find a place to stay as the trek seems to be much more popular than it used to be few years ago.

  • Elisa

    Wow! Thanks for the post, so much information! Just one question, you did this trek in june, any clue about doing it in november (rain season)? Could it be dangerous?

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Elisa! I’m so glad you liked the post!
      Yes I did the trekking in june and we were so lucky as to didn’t walk any day with rain.
      However I have walked under the rain in my trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal (not rain season – just every afternoon we had a bunch of water). We were prepared and that didn’t stop us from continuing or enjoying the experience, but in the afternoons we basically rested in the guesthouses so it’s not like the rain prevented us from doing anything. There was one day when a heavy storm came while we were walking through a forest and we raced to get out of there in case lighting hit, but nothing happened.
      Also from what I know about the weather in Peru, in november rain season will be just starting and even then it doesn’t rain every day.
      So my recommendations if you do the trek:
      – Have a waterproof cover (jacket and pants), also for your backpack.
      – Use waterproof trekking boots. You don’t want your feet to get wet.
      – Have an extra pair of socks in case they get wet, so you can change when you need to.
      – Try to start walking early as rain in the mountains usually comes in afternoon.

      I hope you really enjoy!

  • Alex

    Thank you for the detailed information Miss Wanderitall!

    My friend and I are doing the trek in two weeks. I wanted to ask about the food options. You mentioned carrying dehydrated fruits and nuts. That sounds like a good idea!

    I’m just not sure where to get them. Should I just bring them from Europe? Is it possible to buy them in Cuzco? And should we buy them for the whole trek? Or we can buy more during the trek in the hostels?

    I’m just worried about the weight of the backpacks, so I would prefer to pack as little as possible.

    Thanks for your blog!

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Alex! I am so happy you liked my blog!
      We bought our nuts and dehydrated fruit in Mercado Central de San Pedro in Cuzco (which is also a great place to explore and to have your meals!). We bought them there for the whole trek and it was not that heavy, as the trek lasted just for five days and we didn’t eat a lot of them each day.
      I’m not sure that guesthouses have this kind of products to sell, although they generally can pack you a lunch to go. Also along the trek, you will from time to time find some places to have lunch or stalls with water and other beverages, as well as chocolates or ice creams. I can’t recall if you can count of them each day of the trek.
      I hope you find my thoughts useful!

  • Dani

    Hi. Very nice details. I was looking for this. I am from Nepal and knew from comments you did Annapurna circuit. I have done many treks in Nepal.
    I have a question : i am slow hiker, i am not sure i can finish this trek in 5 days, looks like there is lot of distance to cover in high altitude. Can i break it into like 7-8 days of hiking? Is there in-between guest houses between where you stay? I mean to ask that if there are all along the way or there are only certain places you must walk that day to get into guest house.

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Dani!
      Nepal is so far my favourite place in the world, I wish I can return soon! I did the ABC as I felt the Annapurna Circuit would be too much for me.
      Regarding your question: for us the hardest days were definitely the second (climbing to Abra Salkantay and then de loooong descend to Chaullay) and the fifth, but this one mainly because we also climbed Machu Picchu Mountain (which is a side visit to the citadel, not mandatory).
      I think it is possible to split the trek in more days but maybe some of them are quite long anyway. Some of my thoughts are these:
      – From Challacancha to Soraypampa you have about 6km with mild elevation gain. Traditionally, to this first day you add the side visit to Humantay Lake (roughly one hour up and one hour down). You could leave that for another day or avoid it altogether (although it is very very beautiful).
      – Continuing from Soraypampa the next place to sleep you’ll find is Huayracmachay, after Abra Salkantay and approximately 10km from Soraypampa. For me the problem to sleep there would be the elevation, 3,700m above sea level, and potential altitude sickness during night that difficulted the rest. However, if you don’t sleep there, the next town would be Chaullay, 10km further (all of them a hard descend).
      – Next you could spend the night at Chaullay or Collpapampa (they are like 15 minutes walking from each other). There are a few options in both towns.
      – The next day would be a little long, as the next place with accomodation is Playa Sahuayaco, at 16km from Chaullay. I really enjoyed spending the night at Lucmabamba (which was at the beginning of the alternative route through Llaqtapata instead of Santa Teresa), but it is 3km further from Playa Sahuayaco.
      – Then, the options broaden. You can follow the alternative route through Llaqtapata, in which case you could sleep in Llaqtapata (two stars hotel, expensive from the trekking standards, need to book in advance) at roughly 10km, or continue to Hidroeléctrica (15km). I think you cannot sleep at Hidroeléctrica, but you could take the train to Aguascalientes.
      – If you went through Santa Teresa instead of Llaqtapata, you could sleep at Santa Teresa (10km from Playa) and next day to Hidroeléctrica (7km) and Aguascalientes by train or walking (10km).
      – Depending on what you plan to visit on Machu Picchu, if the citadel or also some of the mountains, you could return to Hidroeléctrica (and then back to Cuzco) of leave the return for the next day, sleeping again around Aguascalientes.

      If you split it like that, your trekking could look like this:
      – Day 1: arrive to Challacancha and walk to Soraypampa. Visit to Humantay Lake. 6/12km (depending on visit to Humantay or not)
      – Day 2: from Soraypampa to Huayracmachay. 10km
      – Day 2: from Huayracmachay to Chaullay/Collpapampa. 10/12km
      – Day 4: from Chaullay/Collpapampa to Playa Sahuayaco. 16/14km
      – Day 5: from Playa to Santa Teresa. 10km
      – Day 6: from Santa Teresa to Aguascalientes. 17km
      – Day 7: visit to Machu Picchu and return.

      Or if you went through Llaqtapata:
      – Day 1: arrive to Challacancha and walk to Soraypampa. Visit to Humantay Lake. 6/12km (depending on visit to Humantay or not)
      – Day 2: from Soraypampa to Huayracmachay. 10km
      – Day 2: from Huayracmachay to Chaullay/Collpapampa. 10/12km
      – Day 4: from Chaullay/Collpapampa to Playa Sahuayaco. 16/14km
      – Day 5: from Playa to Llaqtapata. 10km
      – Day 6: from Llaqtapata to Aguascalientes. 15km
      – Day 7: visit to Machu Picchu and return.

      This is just an idea, but I do hope it helps you to prepare the trek. Also, if you check google maps, I have seen that most restaurants and accomodations are registered, so you can see if there is an option for a specific location or not.

      Enjoy the trek!

      • Dani

        I really appreciate all time you have given to reply. I went to Manu jungle this time but i am going to do follow your itinerary for Salkantay trail when i get permit for machu picchu .

        • Miss Wanderitall (author)

          Great! I hope you liked Manu jungle.

  • Teodora Matavovszky

    Thanks a lot for the description of this trek. It was a huge help for us. We were able to manage Salkantay trek without a guide 2 weeks ago. We followed your instructions and it was super easy. Thanks again! Greetings from Germany, Agnes, Rouven and Teodora

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hey Teodora! Thank you so much for your words! Your comment made me so happy, I’m so glad the post was useful for your trip!

  • Natalia

    Thank you for the blog! I completed this solo guided trek last week. I stayed in the same camp site in Soraypampa and I don’t recommend it. It is really your last resort! It’s called “camping” opposite the Salkantay hostel. The pandemic took its toll and the camp is not in the best shape. It was overpriced and the owner was very grumpy. Even with fluent Spanish, it was difficult to bargain with her. She charged 40 PEN for a tent+mattress+sleeping bag (I was a solo traveller). The tents have holes and are not 100% windproof. It was so cold that night that I didn’t really sleep and take a proper rest before the most challenging day of the trek. Dinner/ breakfast is 15 PEN each and was super basic and not worth it. I wouldn’t stay in this camping but unfortunately on that day it was the last affordable option left (some ecolodges starting at 150 PEN were available…). For those considering doing the trek on their own, I recommend getting to Soraypampa as soon as possible in the morning and get one of the rooms available at Refugio de Nacho (just next to the terminal/parking lot). I arrived at 9.30 am and their rooms were already taken! This trek has become very popular amongst solo-guided travellers. I spent an hour asking around the lodges but most of them seemed to be reserved for the tours only and just replied “it’s a private camping”. Otherwise, there’s no issue in Chaullay and Lucmabamba. I paid 60-70 PEN/night in a private room (also private bathroom!) with breakfast, dinner, wifi, shower included. So it’s only Soraypampa that’s a bit tricky. It pays off to get up early in Cusco and catch a collectivo before 5am.

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi Natalia!
      Thanks for coming back to explain your experience! This is very useful. I was fine in Soraypampa Camp but it was more than three years ago, so it’s normal than things change…
      Besides that, I hope you enjoyed the trekking!

      • Hilde

        Thank you, Miss Wanderitall, for this post! And thank you, Natalia, for your reply. I am thinking about doing this hike, but then a friend of mine told me I shouldn’t do it because it so crowded and chaotic. Is this the case?
        Best regards

        • Miss Wanderitall (author)

          Hi Hilde!
          When I went in 2019 I didn’t feel the trek was crowded at all, but we did take the alternative through Llaqtapata instead of the most popular Santa Teresa (I guess Santa Teresa is more crowded) and didn’t visit Aguascalientes, which I think it will be full.
          Machu Picchu citadel was crowded, that’s why I recommend getting there as early as possible.
          I guess your main concern is finding accommodation. We only needed to look around for a bit on the second day (but found in the town we intended to), in the rest we were almost alone. But as Natalia says, it has changed recently, so I really don’t know how it is now. I think I would still go and try to start as early as possible to beat everyone to destination!
          If you go, I hope you enjoy the trek!

  • Natalie

    Hi, thanks for the detailed description! Did you need a sleeping bag or did the guest houses provide sheets and blankets?

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hi! We didn’t need any sleeping bag, everywhere they provided us with blankets and everything 🙂

  • Scott Macdonald

    Hi Gisela,
    Thanks for the details of this blog post. We just returned home to Vancouver from our trip to Peru that included a self guided Salkantay Trek. We are a blended family with 5 boys aged 12 – 20. Yours was one of a few blogs that gave us the confidence that we could manage this demanding trek. We stayed in the same locations as you, though Mandor was the only accommodation that was the same. I’m very glad that we stayed there instead of Aguas Calientes. It made the day 4 hike much more manageable and the location is gorgeous. So thanks for that.
    I just wanted to let those that read this blog know that Manuel, who runs Salkantay Hostel in Chaullay, is fabulous. We booked stays though him at Hostel Nacho in Soraypampa, Salkantay Hostel in Chaullay and Lia B&B (Freddie and Ester) in Lucmabamba. All family run by extremely kind and helpful people. Our cost per person with meals was US$95. Truly a bargain. Following the pandemic and the protests, activity in Cusco and on the trek are quite slow at the moment so these small family businesses have been suffering. One side benefit for us was that Manuel had the time to take our group to the zip line adventure in Lucmabamba and the hot springs in St. Teresa before dropping us at our accommodation in Lucmabamba. We only hiked 12 km on day 3 before we met Manuel at a shaky bridge crossing that was fun.
    Thanks again for your blog. I know many will find it (and other similar ones) very useful.

    • Miss Wanderitall (author)

      Hey Scott! Many thanks for coming back to tell us about your experience, I am sure it will be very useful for future trekkers!
      Thank you also for your kindness to recommend Manuel in Salkantay Hostel and the other families you mentioned. It is great to see when our tourism can actually improve the situation of the communities (unfortunately it is not always so), especially in these times when they have been surely struggling a bit.

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