Machu Picchu Trek

Machu Picchu is one of the ‘must do’ walks for anyone visiting South America, rightly world famous. I have included two stories of friends trekking experience on one of the Salkantay routes. 

The Classic View

2430 metres (7,979 feet) above sea level but the actual climbing is much less. It is a walk not a climb but the altitude is what makes it more difficult.

Salkantay Route, Macchu Picchu


I have walked for many years with Michele and Sadie over the Lake District hills and they are very competent walkers who are fit and determined. The only possible issue I would have expected them to have is on the steeper down hill sections but then it couldn’t be as bad as a descent from Fairfield to the tarn last year!

Here is their story told by Michele. 

We did this trek in October 2017, which is the start of the rainy season in Peru.
Having decided we wanted to walk to Machu Picchu, we chose to stay in lodges rather than camp as we decided a little comfort wouldn’t be a bad thing.


We opted to spend 3 nights in Cusco before the start the trek in order to acclimatise to the altitude. This along with drinking copious amounts of water throughout the trip meant that neither of us felt the need for any medication to counteract altitude sickness at any point.
We used the days in Cusco to go on a couple of trips that introduced us to the Inca culture which we both felt gave us a better understanding when our guide, Joseph, talked about customs and traditions at various points along the route.

Choosing a Guide

We chose to use Mountain Lodges of Peru for the trek as they are the only company to operate lodges rather than the camping option. They had arranged a briefing for the evening before the trek started when we also got to meet our fellow walkers.

We were both a bit apprehensive about who we might be walking with for the next week, but we shouldn’t have worried.It turned out that we were a very small group, only 5, the other 3 being Americans.

We were provided with holdalls which we were told we could fill and there was no weight restriction. These bags were quite a bit bigger than the ones we’d brought with us so we were pleased that we didn’t have to be quite so ruthless with our packing for the week

The morning of the trek dawned and it was the first of many early starts.
First of all we were taken to a small town with a covered food market, which was interesting to see.

Day 1

Then we were taken to a farm that was sponsored by Mountain Lodges of Peru where traditional methods were used. Here we sampled some of their produce and saw a small guinea pig farm. We carried on up into the mountains and the start of the trek proper. Left in the middle of nowhere and climbed a steep hill up to the canal that carried water from the mountains to Cusco.

We stopped briefly by the canal to have some lunch and our first experience of an outside ‘toilet’. We followed this canal all the way to the first lodge. It had started raining when we arrived so the hot towels and muna tea were very welcome. We also had to remove our walking boots at the door and didn’t see them again until the next day. This welcome was to be the same at each lodge.
The setting at this lodge was stunning. It had been laid out so that all bedrooms faced ‘the’ view as did the lounge area. We also took full advantage of the hot tub and sauna facilities.

 Day 2

The next morning we set off after breakfast at 8am for a practice walk up to a viewing point above Lake Humantay. This was quite a steep climb in places on good paths but with a variety different surfaces.

We both agreed that wearing boots rather than walking shoes had been a good decision, something that was borne out throughout the trek. This walk took us until lunchtime and we were certainly ready for something to eat by the time we got back. The food at all the lodges was excellent. Much more of a variety and quality than expected, especially at the first few lodges where everything was transported by mules.
Having suffered no ill effects from this walk, we were feeling a bit more confident about the next day.

Day 3

The day of the trek proper dawned and we set off on a gloriously sunny day at 7am. The first section was easy pleasant walking through the valley, slowly ascending towards the Salkantay mountain.

As we went on, the going got steeper and the landscape changed to become more rocky and barren. The paths were still good but again very varied. It was a comfort to know that the ‘911’ mule was following us up.
The weather remained clear all the way to the top of the pass, affording us with spectacular views. We took full advantage of the many rest stops to take in and record these views.

Altitude Effects

The rest stops also gave us the chance to catch our breath as the altitude was making walking uphill even harder than usual. We were lucky that we didn’t need any medical intervention from the supplies on the 911 mule. We saw one girl (much younger than us) having to ride on the back of a mule to the top of the pass.
Once all the necessary photos at the top had been taken, we started descending over the other side towards the second lodge. We were lucky on one of the rest stops to see some condors flying overhead. This path down was quite uneven in places and our feet were pleased to get to Wayra lodge. It was here that the group hot tub photo tradition was established.

Day 4

We continued on the next day and the landscape very soon became much greener as we started heading downhill on good if looser paths into the cloud forest. Any uphill was apparently an optical illusion! On many occasions we were glad we had walking poles with us, especially as there was so much downhill.
At the next lodge we had a traditionally prepared meal including guinea pig! The view from the hot tub here was amazing.

Day 5

The following day we continued heading downhill to a fast flowing river which we followed most of the way to the next lodge. As there had been several landslides along the route we had to be picked up at one river crossing by a minibus and transported to pick up the trail further along.

We had a really lovely lunch when we arrived at the last lodge and then the obligatory group hot tub photo.

Day 6

The next morning our luck had run out with the weather, it was a light but soaking rain. We walked 3 miles up in the rain which meant we got very hot with all our wet weather gear on. Lunch was at the highest point when we should have had a fantastic view of the back of Machu Picchu. We did get glimpses of it through the clouds but they stubbornly refused to clear.
Next was a 4 mile muddy descent which was steep in some places and we were told had about 80 switchbacks. We all made it down safely and along a track to the railway station where we boarded the train to Agua Calientes, from where we would catch the bus for the half hour ride to Machu Picchu the next day.

Machu Picchu

Once at Machu Picchu, Joseph took us to see the Inca Bridge following which he took us around the city before leaving us to our own devices. A couple of us decided to climb Huayna Picchu while the others meditated at the bottom.
The climb up was very steep and was mainly narrow stone steps. By ignoring the sheer drops and concentrating on feet, the climb was tough but very enjoyable. The views from the top certainly made it worthwhile and we had a picnic there. As Joseph had told us it would be at least 2 hours there and back, we decided we should try to do it in less.

Going Down

Going down was a lot quicker than up although I had to come down some steps backwards because they were so ladder-like. We had forgotten about the beginning bit that went down before the steep climb. This meant that we had to do a bit of climbing right at the end that just about finished me off. At least we managed to do it in 1 ¾ hours, including the picnic!

This marked the end of the trek which had been an incredible experience and so enjoyable on every level. We’d thoroughly recommend the trek to anyone who enjoys walking. You don’t have to be super fit to do it but a certain level of fitness means that you would probably enjoy it more.

Salkantay Route 2, Macchu Picchu – Barry

Barry visited Peru in July 2014 and he is in little doubt that the Peruvian Andes offers some of the best scenery in the world. Machu Picchu or the lost city of the Incas is spectacular and in some people’s view the most impressive site in the world. The location is fabulous and the ruins have remained largely intact. When visiting the site you can almost feel what it must have been like to live there 500 years ago. 

Here is his story

It is possible to go to Machu Picchu by bus/train but it is good to trek there both to experience the Inca trails, the spectacular scenery (mountains and cloud forest) and the way the local people still live in these remote areas.

The main options

1 The  traditional route which is popular and well known. It runs mainly through cloud forests thus is not as spectacular as the Salkantay treks but you reach Machu Picchu by the sun gate at sunrise on the 4th day,the way to enter. The distance is 44 kilometres with a maximum height of just under 14,000 feet, 4,200 metres. We will look for a traditional route description but it is easy to find route details elsewhere.

2. Extending the traditional route by starting from Mollepata and going past Salkantay, a good route but challenging with a pass at 16,500 feet which can see at least a foot of snow.

3. The alternative Salkantay route viewed as one of the top 25 treks in the world with the option of luxurious accommodation in four mountain lodges. This is the route described below.

It is possible to camp at some good sites along the trek but I chose the lodge to lodge option which was excellent.

My Walk

We drove to Mollepata, a small Andean village with a cafe, a shop, and a small jam making facility. You can start the trek from here but we were transported further up a narrow unsealed road to a place only about 3 miles from Salkantay lodge at Soraypampa for lunch. From here we walked to the lodge in heavy rain at first then brightening skies.

The Trek

Soraypampa is a fantastic location at 12,700 feet and deep in the mountains. On your left Humantay (a similar height to Kilimanjaro) rises up with snow from about 5000 metres or 16,000 feet and straight ahead at the end of the valley is Salkantay, one of the highest mountains in the Andes and first climbed in 1952. In front of us local kids were playing football.

On the following day we walked up to Humantay lake at around 14,000 feet or 4,300 metres. It is possible to swim in the lake but not for long as the temperature is only 5 degrees centigrade, I believe the record is about a minute! Humantay is now straight in front of you and it’s face reflects in the lake, a good spot for photographs. We came back down and in the afternoon most of the group went into the outdoor jacuzzi but I also had a walk round and played football with the kids


At this height you can feel the altitude and it is best to be sensible. I drank plenty of coca tea and water and stayed off the alcohol, electrolyte drinks are also suggested for everyone but particularly if you have taken Diamox.  The tap water in Peru is not considered safe but there was plenty of bottled or filtered water.

The guide was not recommending Diamox and most people managed fine without it. One girl went down with stomach problems but it was not clear if this was caused by the altitude, food poisoning or a combination of the two. The guide was offering injections for people who felt sick which he claimed cured anything!

High Point

The following day we climbed to the high point of the trek, the pass between Salkantay and Humantay at 15,253 feet. Unfortunately the weather was not good with poor visibility and light snow falling so we didn’t get any views. From the pass we dropped just over 2000 feet to Wayra Lodge, just under 13,000 feet.

That night the weather changed and it was sunny with clear blue skies for the remainder of the trek. At first light, 6.30am, there was a frost but this soon disappeared as the sun hit the mountains. We were now on the opposite side of Humantay from Salkantay Lodge.

We walked down the valley which dropped 3,500 feet to Colpa Lodge. There was a variety of flowers, butterflies and birds but no sign of a Condor. The guide said that spectacled bears lived on the opposite side of the valley in the trees but it was rare to see any. We reached Colpa lodge which was superbly situated giving the best views in the area and in this case views up 3 valleys

Sitting in the jacuzzi that afternoon I watched a bulldozer carving out a road so that children could be taken to school by bus rather than having to walk one hour up the valley, is this progress?

Saint Teresa Valley

The following morning we continued down Santa Teresa valley and started to pass banana and coffee plantations and avocado orchards. Lunch was cooked for us at a small hamlet overlooking the valley and then a short bus journey took us to the start of the Llactapata Inca trail. We walked for a further half an hour coming to a hut where coffee was made and it tasted great, certainly the best in Peru.

We were now at Lucma lodge which was warmer with no altitude problems being at a height of around 7,000 feet. A number of the group did Yoga in the garden and later had a game of charades. The lodge was surrounded by coffee and banana plantations.


The following morning we continued up the Llactapata Inca trail going over a pass and then reaching the Llactapata inca ruins. We had lunch overlooking Machu Picchu which was about 5 miles across a valley. With a telescopic lense it was possible to pick out individual parts of the site.

After lunch we headed steeply downhill to the valley floor to a small shop selling locally grown bananas and honey made in their beehives. Then we made our way to the train station situated at the hydro electric station and the short train ride to Aguas Callentes.

The following morning we visited Machu Picchu and could look back to Llactapata on the next hillside. Then it was back to Cusco by train and bus passing Kilometre 82 where the traditional trek starts from.

  • Jonathan says:

    Just to add on Jonny Pyman hill – yes beautiful but needs now to be booked in advance

  • jonny pyman says:

    you must climb the pointy pimple behind Barry’s shoulder. Dramatic view point accessed by a brilliant Incan track climbing past tiny terraced fields that finishes through a small cave. Access at the end of town, you can’t miss (if you then bye bye, you have just had a lovely base jump!).

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