Salkantay Trek vs. Inca Trail: Epic Andean Trek Showdown!

Are you caught in the “Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail” conundrum and wondering about the Machu Picchu trail length and asking, 'Is the Inca trail worth it? How about the Salkantay?'
Each trail offers a tapestry of breathtaking views, physical challenges, and a final, awe-inspiring entrance to the ancient city of Machu Picchu. 
At Skyhook, we understand choosing between the Machu Picchu circuits is the first step in an unforgettable journey through history and high-altitude landscapes of the mountains of Machu Picchu.
5 day salkantay trek

Salkantay Trek vs Inca Trail: Choosing Your Andean Adventure

Most Peru tours present the thrilling dilemma of selecting the perfect path to Machu Picchu. Let’s help you navigate this choice to trekking Machu Picchu, ensuring your Peruvian adventure is extraordinary.

Scenery and Sights

Embarking on the Salkantay Trek, travellers are treated to an ever-shifting canvas of nature’s artistry, from rugged highlands to lush rainforests. 
The trail circles the imposing Mount Salkantay through less travelled landscapes, offering untouched wilderness vistas and the opportunity to witness rare Machu Picchu animals in their natural habitat. 
In contrast, the Inca Trail is a journey through history, with each step on the cobblestone paths along the Stairs of Death Machu Picchu, revealing storied ruins and ancient sites, culminating in the iconic Sun Gate entrance to Machu Picchu. 
Both treks traverse a range of ecosystems and excellent Machu Picchu attractions, from the cloud-kissed Andean heights to the subtropical underbrush, promising a sensory feast for the intrepid explorer.
7-day inca trail hike

Difficulty and Physical Requirements

The overall Salkantay trek difficulty is a test of endurance, stretching over 46 miles with a high point at 15,000 feet, demanding a robust fitness level and acclimatisation to the altitude. 
Conversely, the Inca Trail, at 26 miles, presents a moderate challenge. Yet, it still requires good physical condition, especially for the ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass. 
For both treks, training for Machu Picchu hike and spending a few days at high-altitude locations before the journey is crucial for acclimatisation and reducing the risk of Machu Picchu altitude sickness, ensuring a more enjoyable and successful hike to the ancient citadel.
raxpixel - inca trail

Cost Comparison

When it comes to the Machu Picchu hike cost, the Inca Trail often bears a higher price tag, reflecting its global renown. The package includes permits, guides, and porters, typically ranging from $600 to $1000. 
In contrast, the Salkantay Trek, which is less trodden and has no permit requirements, costs between $400 and $900.
To manage expenses effectively, consider booking early and preparing your Inca trail packing list and Salkantay trek packing list accordingly, especially for the Inca Trail, to secure your spot and benefit from early-bird rates.
Don't forget to also secure some Machu Picchu travel insurance while you're at it to give yourself peace of mind during your trip.
salkantay trek accommodation
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Accommodation and Facilities

On the Inca Trail, accommodations are typically structured around organised campsites, providing a blend of communal camaraderie and convenience, with amenities such as shared bathroom facilities and porters to carry gear. 
The Salkantay Trek offers a more varied experience, from basic campsites to comfortable lodges, depending on the chosen package. You also have the option of hiking the Salkantay trek without guide.
Both trails provide meals prepared by cooks, but facilities like showers may vary, with the Inca Trail offering more established setups. 
Sleep comes in the form of tents on the Inca Trail and a mix of tents and lodges on the Salkantay, ensuring restful nights under the Andean sky.
machu picchu circuit

Flexibility and Booking

Due to Machu Picchu permit limitations, the Inca Trail’s popularity necessitates booking months in advance, with only 500 daily slots, including crew. So, it's important to consider the best time to do Inca trail before making your booking.
Conversely, unrestricted by permits, the Salkantay Trek offers greater last-minute flexibility. 
However, both treks can be affected by seasonality, with the dry season (May to September) being the busiest. Planning is advisable to ensure availability, especially for the Inca Trail, where spaces fill quickly for the high season. 
Off-peak seasons may offer more spontaneity for bookings but always consider the weather in Machu Picchu first before booking.
machu picchu porters

Guides and Porters

Guides play an essential role in both treks, enriching the journey with historical insights and ensuring safety. 
On the Inca Trail, a guide is mandatory, and porters carry up to 15 lbs. of each trekker’s load, reducing the Machu Picchu hike difficulty and allowing for a focus on the trek itself. 
While the Salkantay Trek can be undertaken without a guide, most opt for one for navigation and local knowledge. Pack mules replace porters, and the service tends to be more basic. 
Regardless, both support teams are invaluable for their assistance and expertise throughout these challenging treks.
machu picchu view

Which Trek is Right for You?

Choosing between the Salkantay Trek and the Inca Trail is pivotal for any trekker looking to explore the Peruvian Andes and the mystical Machu Picchu. 
We’ve compiled a comprehensive table contrasting the two paths across various critical factors to aid in this decision. This comparison should provide a clear snapshot to guide you towards the trek that resonates most with your adventure spirit and practical considerations.


Salkantay Trek

Inca Trail


46 miles

26 miles


5 days

4 days


$400 - $900

$600 - $1000


High, no permit required

Limited, permit required


Up to 15,000 feet

Up to 13,828 feet



Moderate to challenging


Camping & optional lodges

Organized campsites

Bathroom Facilities

Varies by package

Usually available at camps


Not mandatory, but recommended



Pack mules for gear

Human porters for gear


Flexible, with last-minute options

Must book months in advance due to permit limits


Less crowded, weather-dependent

Peak during dry season (May-Sep), closed in February

This table is a starting point and part of our must-have travel Machu Picchu tips for what will be a transformative journey, no matter which trail you choose.


Whether you choose the rugged, solitary paths of the Salkantay Trek or the historic steps of the Inca Trail, each promises an unforgettable journey to the ancient spectacle of Machu Picchu with us at Skyhook Adventure.
Whichever path you take, the splendour of the Andes and the majesty of Machu Picchu await to leave you with stories and memories for a lifetime.

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