Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek? Trekking to the famous Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, is a bucket list for many travellers. Often travellers frantically browse to determine the best option to reach Machu Picchu on foot. Both Salkantay Trek and Inca Trail are distinct from each other and offers unforgettable experiences in their own ways.
The Classic Inca Trail takes you through the Royal Road of Incas that the Incas used while travelling from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Salkantay Trek takes you through the scenic route with some captivating views of the Peruvian highland.
Although it is not simple to answer which of these two trek is the best option to reach Machu Picchu, we have curated the best part and challenges of these treks on this post.
Inca Trail Highlights
Salkantay Trek Highlights
Inca Trail Challenges
Salkantay Trek Challenges
Inca Trail is a perfect combination of all sights. It takes you through high mountain passes, cloud forests and plenty of archaeological ruins of Incas. Some of the exclusive ruins that can be visited only on Inca Trail are, Llactapata, Wiñay Wana, Sayaqmarka. The best, this is the only trail to Machu Picchu that allows you to see the sunrise through Sun gate before reaching Machu Picchu.
Although you won’t be passing through many ruins on Salkantay Trek, it offers captivating views of the Peruvian highlands. Most part of the trek is around the snow capped Salkantay peak. The trek is relatively longer and higher than Inca Trail. You will also be spotting many Andean wild animals like spectacled bears, deers, alpacas and more. Unlike, Inca Trail, Salkantay Trek attracts less number of people.
Being the most popular trek to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail is the most expensive trek. However, as the saying goes “You get what you pay for”, the camp sites on Inca Trail are much organised and have better facilities. On an average the four days Classic Inca Trail costs USD 500.
Salkantay Trek is ideal for budget travellers wanting to experience the best of the Peruvian highland. There are tour operators who offer competitive price with basic facilities. However, you can also pay more and sleep in a proper bed in a beautiful setting. On an average the five days Salkantay Trek could cost anywhere between USD 248 to USD 655 (depending on the facilities).
Classic Inca Trail is more of a moderate trail. Any person with a reasonable fitness level will be able to cover 26 miles of trail in four days. The toughest part of the Inca Trail is the hike to the highest point of the trail, Dead Woman’s Pass (13,828 feet).
Salkantay Trek is somewhat challenging. If you are doing the Classic Salkantay Trek, you will be covering 46 miles in five days. The trek has many high mountain passes. You will have to be extremely fit and well acclimatised.
Inca Trail being the most preferred option to most, it tend to sell out soon. To protect the trail, local authorities have imposed permits. As of 2020, only 200 tourists are allowed to enter each day. Normally, it gets booked six to seven months in advance.
Salkantay Trek is quite flexible, there are almost daily departures and it requires no permit. So you can even book your trek at last minute.