Can You Do The Salkantay Trek Without A Guide? What You Need To Know

Can you do the Salkantay trek unguided? The simple answer is yes. You can hike this Machu Picchu trail solo. It just takes some decent planning.
The Salkantay trail has become increasingly popular, so you won't struggle to find accommodation, food, amenities and other solo hikers along the way. Doing this trek solo is an incredible experience but it does involve more hassle than going with a tour group.
Not to worry! We can take you through everything you need to know and consider in order to make your solo Salkantay trek an enjoyable journey.
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Leading Up To Your Salkantay Trek

The trail stretches over 75 kilometres and typically takes 4 days to complete. You can kick off your adventure from Cusco and snake through the majestic Salkantay Pass before concluding with the awe-inspiring sight of Machu Picchu.
It's a good idea to spend a couple of days in Cusco before the trek to acclimatise. Cusco itself is at a considerable elevation (3,399m), so it helps to spend some time here before going higher on your trek.
Do some research on altitude sickness before you leave, so you understand the symptoms you might experience well before you hit the trails. The most common symptoms include headaches and nausea, so it's important to stay hydrated and ascend gradually.
There are many enjoyable things to do in Cusco before you begin your trek, and it's certainly not wasted time.
pexels-kenny-alexis-sánchez-villalobos-llama-machu-picchu
Kind weather offers a beautiful view of Machu Picchu

Is it Safe to Hike Salkantay Without a Guide?

Yes, it is safe to hike the Salkantay Trek without a guide.
The path is clear, and you'll find that locals are quite welcoming and ready to lend a hand when you need it. Just a touch of planning, and you’re good to go!
For starters, the trail's popular and well-trodden, with plenty of rest stops where you can grab a snack or just chill.
You’ll be sharing the path with other adventurers, meaning help and company are never far away if you need them - even though going with a guide and a group is even better.
Lastly, accommodation options vary, and you can find something for every budget. Meal options are also plenty, with restaurants and snack bars dotting the villages and campsites along the trek.
Salkantay 5-day trek

The Cost of Hiking Salkantay Solo

Going solo can reduce your expenses. You're looking at roughly $175 - $200 to cover your meals, places to stay, the basic travel bits and bobs, and of course, your entry to Machu Picchu.
Keep in mind that this estimate is a starting point. Your final spending might vary based on your choices for accommodation, food, and any extra experiences you decide to add on.
salkantay trek accommodation

Accommodation on a Solo Salkantay Trek

Finding a spot to rest your head after a day on the Salkantay is quite easy.
Whether you're after a homestay, a dorm in a small town, or a campsite under the stars, options are aplenty.
But here’s a tip - carrying your tent to camp gives you freedom and a backup plan.
Booking accommodation is pretty straightforward too, especially if you're not too picky. However, you might be jostling for space with tour companies that book spots way in advance.
And, while cold showers are the norm in most accommodations, you can usually find hot showers for a few extra Soles.
hiking the salkantay
Hiking along the train tracks on the Salkantay Trek.

Meals on Your Solo Salkantay Trek

You'll find eateries and snack bars dotted along the route. Yet, embracing the spirit of adventure means being prepared, especially when it comes to grub.
Before you hit the trail, you can stop by Cusco's San Pedro market and stock up on nuts and dried fruits. They're lightweight, packed with energy, and don't spoil easily, making them ideal trail companions.
Carrying hydration is a no-brainer – water is your best friend on the trek. You can also consider boosting your water with electrolytes or packing Kiwichi bars for an extra energy kick.
Fancy cooking your own meals? That's an option too, but you'll need to lug around cooking gear. Simple, quick-cook meals like instant noodles or pre-packed rice dishes can be a saviour after a long day's hike.
lares trek to machu picchu
There's a reason why Machu Picchu gets more than a million visitors annually.

Packing for Your Solo Salkantay Trek

Heading off on the Salkantay Trek solo requires packing smart. Start with a tent so you always have a place to crash, come rain, or shine.
Then, sturdy hiking boots, a reliable backpack, lightweight clothing (think layers), a rain jacket, and a good sleeping bag are essentials.
But very importantly, you want to keep it simple; avoid packing doubles, especially extra trousers and shoes. The goal is to keep your gear under 15kg to prevent fatigue.
If you plan to cook your meals as you go, pack the necessary cooking gear but remember, this adds weight. In this case, you can hire arrieros (horsemen). For about 30-40 soles ($8-$11) for a mule and the same for their service per day, they can carry the extra load while you focus on the trek.

You also may like: Salkantay trek packing list.

machu picchu trekking poles
Pack your trekking poles!

Self-Guided Salkantay Trek: Day-by-Day Route Information

Day 1: From Cusco to Soraypampa

You can start your journey from Cusco with a bus or a taxi to Mollepata, which will cost you about 20 soles ($5) for a collective or more for a private taxi.
From Mollepata, continue your journey to Challacancha, then hike towards Soraypampa, located at 3,900 metres above sea level. You can set up camp with stunning views of the Salkantay and Humantay mountains as your backdrop here!

Day 2: Soraypampa to Challway

You can wake up early to tackle the trek's most challenging section towards the Salkantay Pass, peaking at 4,600 metres.
This leg requires good physical preparation, as you'll face a steep ascent and descent, but the unparalleled views of the Salkantay glacier make it worth it.
After reaching the summit, you'll descend to Wayraqmachay and probably settle down for lunch, followed by a trek through diverse landscapes to Challway, where you can camp for the night.

Day 3: Challway to La Playa, Camp at Lucmabamba

You can have a gentler trek through the jungle, passing waterfalls and fruit trees.
After about 5 hours, you'll arrive at Playa Sahuayaco near Collpabamba for a rest and lunch. In the afternoon, a few more hours of trekking will bring you to Lucmabamba, where you can settle down for the night.
Here, you can explore organic coffee farms and enjoy the warmer weather.

Day 4: Lucmabamba to Aguas Calientes via Llactapata Ruins

You can hike from Lucmabamba up to the Llactapata archaeological site and get a unique chance to explore the Inca ruins with a view of Machu Picchu.
After delving into the past, descend to Hydroelectrica for lunch. Then, it’s a leisurely walk along the railway to Aguas Calientes, where you can relax in a hotel, readying yourself for the next day's early start.

Day 5: Machu Picchu Exploration

You can rise early to catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu to beat the crowds and enjoy the sunrise over the citadel.
After exploring the iconic ruins and soaking in its history, head back to Aguas Calientes for lunch. In the afternoon, you can catch the train back to Ollantaytambo and then a bus or taxi to Cusco.

Here's more about the Machu Picchu train.

salkantay trek group trek
A local guide ensures a full experience.

Conclusion

There you have it, a very simplified solo hike to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay route.
Ultimately, a solo Salkantay trek is possible and can be easy, cheap and enjoyable. However, it does require educating yourself on many, many factors. From acclimatisation to what to do and where to go should you encounter illness or injury, and what pace of hiking would keep you on track - there's a lot to plan, pack and consider.
The entire experience could be made more hassle-free and enjoyable by going with a group of like-minded adventures with a local guide. But, if solo is your choice, you are still sure to have a cracking time!

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