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Difference between the Inca Trail and the Salkantay Trail

  • Inca Trail Specialist
  • Updated: August 8, 2023

Both the Inca Trail and the Salkantay route are popular options to reach Machu Picchu in Peru:


It is the classic and emblematic trail that the Incas used. It lasts 4 days and passes through archaeological sites and beautiful landscapes, with a cultural experience and breathtaking views. It requires a reservation in advance due to its demand.

  • Route and Duration:

The traditional Inca Trail has a duration of 4 days and 3 nights.
It begins at Km 82 of the Cusco-Machu Picchu railway and ends at the Sun Gate (Inti Punku), which offers the first panoramic view of Machu Picchu.

  • Attractions and Sites:

During the hike, you pass various Inca archaeological sites such as Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna.
The fourth day culminates with sunrise at Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail is very popular and authorizations are limited to control environmental impact.
You must book with authorized tour operators in advance due to high demand.
The hike can be challenging due to steep terrain and high altitudes.

  • Equipment and preparation:

Wear appropriate clothing for weather variations, hiking shoes, raincoats, and sunscreen.
Being well acclimatized to the altitude of Cusco (3400 m) is important.

The Peruvian government and local authorities have implemented to minimize environmental and cultural impact on the trail.
The Inca Trail offers a unique experience that combines history, nature and challenges. If you wish to undertake this trek, do your research and plan ahead to ensure a safe and enriching experience.


This alternative is more challenging in terms of terrain and altitude, but is less crowded and allows a close connection with nature. It can last 4 to 6 days, and also offers amazing panoramic views and the opportunity to experience different ecosystems.

The choice depends on your preferences: if you are looking for a more historical-cultural approach and a classic route, choose the Inca Trail. If you prefer a greater challenge and a more natural experience, the Salkantay route is an excellent option.

  • Route and Duration:

The Salkantay Route varies in duration, generally from 4 to 6 days, depending on the specific route and stops.
It starts in Mollepata and passes through diverse landscapes, such as snow-capped mountains, rainforests and glacial lakes.

  • Attractions and Challenges:

Highlights include the majestic Salkantay mountain, lagoons such as Humantay and Salkantay, and the Salkantay pass at 4600 meters.
The trek is more challenging in terms of altitude and terrain compared to the traditional Inca Trail.

  • Differences with the Inca Trail:

The Salkantay Route is less crowded and allows for a greater connection with nature.
Limited reservations are not required as on the Inca Trail, which gives more flexibility.

  • Equipment and preparation:

You will need adequate hiking gear, clothing for weather variations, raincoats and sturdy boots.
Acclimatizing to the altitude is crucial, especially for crossing the Salkantay Pass.

  • Experience and Landscapes:

Offers panoramic views, contact with local communities and a more remote environment.
The route passes through diverse ecosystems, from high mountains to cloud forests.
The Salkantay Route is an excellent choice if you are looking for a more natural and challenging experience on your trip to Machu Picchu. However, it also requires proper planning and being prepared to face more difficult conditions compared to the Inca Trail.