Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu: Before the Trek

There are many things you can do in Cusco, but we decided to spend 5 days on the Salkantay trek. It sounded exciting, challenging and beautiful enough for us (especially for me, as a beginner), and we had sufficient amount of days to devote to it. Here is how we did it.

Machu Picchu mountain

The view is beautiful, but.. how do you like my right hand on this picture?

Choosing a company

On our first day in Cusco we saw a sign that said Choquequirao (which was our initial idea for a trek), and started asking questions. They told us about the tours available in the area, including the Salkantay. The price for a 5-day trip was 280 USD per person. Thinking of pros and cons, we decided to go with that, but since we didn’t have any recommendations, we checked online. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find much information about this company. Thus, we started looking for more reviews online, and found quite popular company – Salkantay trekking.

Their price was 1,5 times higher – 420 USD per person – but their reviews were great. At that point we thought: It’s quite a lot of money, that’s true.. but it’s also once in a lifetime experience (just like our trip to Uyuni Salt Flats). Shouldn’t we just go with the guys we trust more? We wouldn’t want our trek to be darkened by an ignorant guide or a lake inside our tent. Besides, our previous experience showed that many of the smaller companies don’t conduct their own tours and just dump their customers to whatever group has free space. So, after some discussions and long decision-making process (coin flipping involved), we decided to go with Salkantay trekking.

For more information about Choquequirao Trek, check out THIS ARTICLE by Clare from Ilive4travel!

Signing up

As incredible as our tour was (read about it here), our signing up process wasn’t as smooth. There wasn’t really much customer service – we got in, a sales person quickly told us about the tour and that was it. The next day, when we came in to book a tour, they took our payment. Our total price per person was 460 USD for the trek, Machu Picchu mountain entrance (it’s not the same as Machu Picchu entrance) and rent of walking sticks and sleeping bags. Since none of the cash machines in Cusco would give out such an amount at once and our bank charges quite a big sum every time we withdraw cash, we decided to pay with card.

At Salkantay trekking they charge 8% extra for card payment, which is higher than many other places in Cusco, but they made us aware of it in advance so we agreed. How surprised we were when on the total bill there was 3.5% extra just because they charged us in our currency! Normally this is something you can choose on the card reader, and even though the salesman said he didn’t press anything, somehow we ended up paying in Singaporean dollars instead of local currency, which was additional 3.5% for us. Now, it might not seem a lot, but in total it comes up to be quite a high price. The card was however already charged so we couldn’t argue with that. We weren’t given much information, just the receipt and the notice that we have to come to the briefing the evening before the trek.

What’s included

Included in the price (besides the extras we purchased):

  • accommodation

  • all the meals and snacks except breakfast on day 1 and lunch on day 5

  • snacks

  • entrance to Machu Picchu

  • guide

  • Salkantay trekking T-shirt you get in the end of the trek

  • transportation to/from/during the trek (excluding the one to the hot springs)

Salkantay Trek

On our first night we slept in glass domes, under the beautiful sky full of stars

Not included in the price:

  • extra snacks (but there was plenty provided by chefs every day)

  • tips for guide, chefs and horseman

  • entrance to Cocalmayo hot springs (10 soles)

  • transport to Cocalmayo hot springs (30 soles)

  • a horse or a mule in case you don’t want or can’t go up a mountain

  • Salkantay trek entrance (10 soles)

Briefing

Before you go on your trip, normally companies do the briefing. You come in the evening, you meet your team and you get some information. We were a group of 10 people including me and Anders. Our guide, Edgar, told us about the trip, how it’s gonna be, what we need to bring and what we should be prepared for. He also gave us some papers to fill out and handed us our duffel bags. We could fill with not more than 5 kg of stuff that we won’t have to carry through the day.

Gearing up

If you travel for longer time, you don’t necessarily have all the hiking gear with you. That’s what happened to us, so we had to take care of it the day before the trek. As we only travel with our 40-liter backpacks (both are Farpoint by Osprey), we needed something more suitable for mountain hiking. Most companies don’t provide sleeping bags, but we rented them for extra money from Salkantay trekking, as well as the walking sticks. There was no need to worry about the tents, since accommodation was arranged by the company. However, we did lack some other things. Luckily, there’s plenty of unprepared people like us, and Cusco’s tourist industry is well adapted. The city is stuffed with shops where you can buy and/or rent your equipment.

Salkantay Trek

As you can see, proper gear was much needed

Things we ended up renting:

  • one hiking backpack for me

  • hiking pants for me (I know, crazy!! But the only long pair of pants I got with me were jeans, which I dind’t want to hike in, and I didn’t find suitable pants to buy)

  • sleeping bags and walking sticks from the trekking company

Things we ended up buying:

  • one hiking backpack for Anders (we decided that we might need one for when we were in Europe anyway, so decided to add it to our gear – it fit nicely into our Farpoint)

  • thermal underwear for both of us

  • warm hats and gloves

  • hiking socks

  • small stuff like mosquito spray, sunscreen, small flashlights, rain covers etc

Besides gear mentioned above, it’s good to bring:

    • swimming suit in case your tour includes hot springs

    • hard shell or rain cover – most probably you will be wet at some point

    • warm clothing – most probably you will be cold at some point

    • summer clothing – most probably you will be hot at some point

    • hiking boots – most probably you will regret not having them

    • camera, toiletries, whatever else you want

    • cash, as you’ll need it for some extra fees, drinks/snacks on the way and tips for guides/team

    • snacks and water – bring something to snack, cause you never know. But don’t bring too much, because you’ll have to carry it on you. Honestly, I ate so much during the trek! But I think it’s due to all the energy you spend at this high altitude. You’ll be able to refill your water, so bring a water bottles and/or water pouch

    • ladies, for more gear related info check out THIS ARTICLE by Retha from The Roaming Nanny

All in all, there seems to be plenty to consider, and you’ll probably have most of the stuff with you. But, as mentioned above, Cusco is prepared for all kinds of travellers. So don’t be shy, and as Nike says: Just do it!

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our article about how we spent our days on Salkantay Trek!

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