The SALCANTAY mountain (6271m) is one of the Cusco region’s main apus, or gods. Its splendid snowcapped peak dominates the landscape to the northwest of Cusco and it makes for relatively peaceful trekking territory. The main route joins the Machu Picchu railway line and the Urubamba Valley with the lesser-visited village of Mollepata in the Río Apurímac watershed. The trek usually takes from five to seven days and offers greater contact with local people, a wider range of ecological niches to pass through and higher paths than the Inca Trail: a good option for more adventurous trekkers who have already acclimatized.

Most people start on the Urubamba side of Machu Picchu at Km 82, where the Inca Trail also starts. From here you can follow the Inca Trail path up the Cusichaca Valley, continuing straight uphill from the hamlet of Huayllabamba (mules and muleteers can be hired here, when available, from around S/30 and S/40 a day, respectively), ignoring the main Inca Trail that turns west and right here, up towards Dead Woman’s Pass – La Abra de Huarmihuañusca. Throughout the trail, the landscape and scenery are very similar to the Inca Trail, though this route brings you much closer to the edge of the glaciers. The trail is steep and hard, up to the high pass at 5000m, which takes you around the southern edge of Salcantay glacier, before descending directly south to the village of Mollepata.

The trek is increasingly approached in reverse, with guides and mules hired at Mollepata where there is less competition for them than there is on the Huayllabamba side; this route means you finish up in the Urubamba Valley, between Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. There are no official camping sites en route, but plenty of good tent sites and several traditional stopping-off spots.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Peru features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
20 pictures of Peru that will put the country on your bucket list

20 pictures of Peru that will put the country on your bucket list

Peru is has long been a favourite destination on the South America backpacker trail, but there's more to tempt you here than the oft-photographed llamas and …

05 Aug 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month