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Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek

Inca Trail vs. The Salkantay Trek: Deciding Which One is Right For You

Are you ready for an adventure? A trek through the Andes mountains in Peru is an experience like no other, and the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek are two of the most popular routes to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel in the clouds. But which one is right for you? So today, we’ll compare the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek to help you decide which trek is best for your needs.

Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu


The scenery on both treks is awe-inspiring and unforgettable. The Inca Trail takes you through the Andes Mountains, past Incan ruins, and ends at the iconic Machu Picchu. The Salkantay Trek offers diverse landscapes, including snow-capped mountains, lush rainforests, and high-altitude passes. Both treks provide ample opportunities to witness Peru’s natural beauty and unique culture.

Deciding on a Peru Trek (Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek)

Before we look into the comparison, it’s important to note that both treks require a certain level of fitness and preparation. But don’t worry, with a little bit of planning and training, you can do it!

You’ll be hiking at high altitudes, which can be physically challenging for some people. You should consult with your doctor before starting on either trek, especially if you have any health concerns. Additionally, you need to get a permit when choosing the Inca Trail, which must be obtained well in advance of your trip.

Difficulty (Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek)

Both treks have their own difficulty levels, but whichever you choose, you need to be prepared.

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is a challenging hike, but with the right preparation, you can do it! The trail includes steep ascents and descents, narrow paths, and high altitudes. The highest point on the trail is 4,215 meters (13,825 feet) above sea level, which can be a challenge for some hikers. You’ll need to be in good physical shape and mentally prepared for the trek. But don’t worry, with the right and experienced guides, you can ensure your safety and enjoyment.

Salkantay Trek Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Trek is an alternative route to Machu Picchu that is becoming increasingly popular with hikers. This trek is longer than the Inca Trail, covering approximately 51 miles over four days. Along the way, you’ll pass through high mountain passes, glacier-fed lakes, and remote Andean villages. The trek culminates in a stunning view of Machu Picchu from the Llactapata Pass.

When it comes to difficulty, the Salkantay Trek is a challenging hike, but it’s generally considered less difficult than the Inca Trail. The highest point on the trek is around 4,650 meters (15,252 feet) above sea level, which is higher than the Inca Trail. However, the ascent is more gradual, which can be easier on hikers.

Plan Your Trip to Peru

When planning your trip to Peru, there are a few things to keep in mind, such as costs, flexibility, and availability.


The cost of the Inca Trail and Salkantay trek are about the same, with prices ranging from $700 to $1,000 per person. The cost includes porters, cooks, guides, permits, meals, and camping equipment.

The cost of the Salkantay Trek is slightly lower, ranging from $690 to $800 per person, with more options for accommodation at Aguas Calientes as this trek ends at this town after completing the trek itself. This is because you can opt to upgrade your hotel in Aguas Calientes which could make the trip a little expensive but this is based on your preference.

The Salkantay cost includes horses to transport the equipment and food along the trek, Machu Picchu permits, horsemen, cooks, and guides as well as camping equipment.

Flexibility and Availability

The Inca Trail requires permits, which are limited to 500 per day (including guides and porters). This means that the Inca Trail can sell out months in advance, especially during peak season (June-August). The Salkantay Trek requires fewer permits, which means it’s more flexible and available year-round. However, due to Machu Picchu’s strict restrictions, the Salkantay trek is also recommended to be booked in advance in order to secure Machu Picchu entry permits as they are limited per day and hours.

Inca Trail vs Salkantay Trek: Which is Best for You?

Deciding which trek is best for you depends on several factors, but don’t worry, we’re here to help! Our team of Peruvian natives and local experts at Action Peru Treks can help you plan the perfect trip to Peru, whether you’re an experienced hiker or a first-time traveler. Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of each trek:

Inca Trail


  • Offers the chance to hike on an ancient pilgrimage route
  • Includes visits to Inca ruins and archaeological sites
  • Culminates in a stunning sunrise view of Machu Picchu
  • Has basic facilities along the trail


  • Requires permits that can sell out months in advance
  • Can be more expensive than the Salkantay Trek
  • Is more challenging than the Salkantay Trek
  • Human porters transport everything—equipment, food, and everything needed for the trek

Salkantay Trek


  • Offers stunning views of the Andean mountains and glaciers
  • Includes horses to transport all equipment, food, and everything needed for the trek
  • Includes visits to remote Andean villages
  • Offers a visit to Humantay Lake which is a must-do in the region of Cusco
  • Culminates in a stunning view of Machu Picchu
  • Is generally less expensive than the Inca Trail
  • Does not require permits, making it more flexible and available year-round
  • Enables travelers to enjoy a coffee tour along the trek


  • More rustic than the Inca Trail
  • May not include all services (e.g. guides, porters, camping equipment)
  • Is still a challenging trek, but less difficult than the Inca Trail

Action Peru Treks is Rated highly on TripAdvisor, our reputation echoes through hundreds of elated trekkers. The praise from our travelers propels us to continually refine our offerings, ensuring an exceptional journey for every adventurer.

No matter which trek you choose, a trip to Peru is an adventure of a lifetime. At Action Peru Treks, we have experienced guides who are committed to providing you with an unforgettable experience. Contact us today and check out our Classic Inca Trail Tours or our Classic Salkantay Trek Tours!

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