SALKANTAY TRAIL vs INCA TRAIL what to choose ?

salkantay trail to machu picchu
salkantay trail

There are several ways to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu, from express tours of one day, to walks of several days to reach the magical citadel. Since the 1970’s, routes and trekking circuits have been added to expand the possibilities of reaching the Sacred City. In this article we show you the two main trekking routes: the popular Inca Trail and the alternative Salkantay.


This is the most popular trekking to Machu Picchu, because it manages to combine several climates, impressive landscapes and centennial ruins. Due to its beauty, this trek is the favorite for travelers, having to be requested 5 months in advance (a permit is required which has limited quotas per day).

The Inca Trail covers 42 kilometers of jungle and mountains, visiting some archeological complexes such as Patallacta, the ruins of Wiñay Wayna and, of course, the lost city of Machu Picchu. In addition, it provides unforgettable landscapes of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range.

Despite being a very beautiful trekking circuit, getting a place can be a real headache. This is because the Peruvian government limits entry to 500 people per day, including guides (which are mandatory), in order to preserve the ruins and archaeological sites.


Duration 4 days
Distance 42 kilometers
Difficulty Medium
Marked Trails
Maximum height 4200 masl
Entry permit US$ 180 per person
Best time May to September


Just as the Inca Trail is the most popular and classic circuit in the area, there are a number of alternative treks that do not require a permit. Among them, Salkantay is the most popular alternative route to Machu Picchu. This route covers the southern part of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, showing beautiful landscapes that vary from the pampas to the jungle.

As it is a less known route, it does not have the amount of visitors that the Inca Trail has and no permission is needed to do this trek. Although, unlike the Inca Trail, it does not include historical ruins before arriving at Machu Picchu, the Salkantay trek ensures less expense, a route with fewer people and spectacular panoramic views of the mountain range, especially the Abra Salkantay or Salkantay Pass.

With a duration of between 4 and 5 days, this route visits different altiplanic locations, as well as lagoons, thermal baths and the famous snow-capped Salkantay.

Duration 4 to 5 days
Distance 70 kilometers
Difficulty Medium
Marked Trails
Maximum height 4600 masl
Entrance ticket 10 soles per persona
Best time May to September


If you are interested in learning more about what is left of the Inca culture, the Inca Trail is the appropriate option, as the route includes visits to various archaeological ruins, and much of the trail itself is made of stones, which have been preserved since Inca times.

On the other hand, if your interests go more towards the observation of nature and you value more virgin places, Salkantay is an excellent alternative, since you will see less people and landscapes less intervened by man.


Unlike the famous Inca Trail, where you have to pay a permit and a guide, to do the Salkantay trek you do not need any permit or entrance ticket (except the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu). For those travelers who want to save money, Salkantay is a better alternative.


While preparation is required for both circuits, the Inca Trail must be extremely orderly and forward-looking. To be able to do this trek in high season, you must buy the ticket at least 5 months in advance. In that sense, it is always advisable to quote and buy the excursion with a travel agency, where you can relax and just enjoy this trek.

On the other hand, to do Salkantay you do not need so much advance notice, you can go independently or through a travel agency. Although it is always advisable to do this circuit with a guide, because they have the knowledge to be able to help you, guide you and assist you in any emergency.

Which one to choose?
In short, to choose one of these options you have to take into account the type of trip you want to make.


If you are looking to see the spectacular ruins left by the Incas, on one of the classic routes to the Sacred City, the Inca Trail is your option. Although it can be difficult to find and buy tickets for this trek, it is certainly worth it.


If your budget is limited and you planned less in advance, you should take Salkantay. Although in this tour you will not see archaeological ruins, it is possible to connect with nature in a deeper way, with less people around you and with all the beauty of this area of Peru, visiting from mountainous landscapes to the jungle.

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