JASON BOYETT

ADVERTISING COPYWRITER / LOCAL JOURNALIST / AUTHOR / GHOSTWRITER

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu

Jason BoyettComment

My wife, Aimee, and I just returned from a bucket-list trip to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. Due to the epic scenery we were told to expect, we opted to take the less-regulated Salkantay Trek rather than the more famous Inca Trail. Over five days, we walked 60-plus miles (according to my Fitbit), reached elevations higher than anything we've experienced before, and got a tiny glimpse of the incredibly diverse, spectacular Peruvian landscape.

"Amazing" barely begins to describe it. We booked the tour with Valencia Travel and highly recommend them. One note for anyone interested: The elevation is no joke. You will walk and climb some serious trails. It can be done by people of all ages and body types (we saw all kinds) but definitely prepare for it before you go.

Some photos from our experience:

Cucso, Peru

Cucso, Peru

Half a mile into the Salkantay Trek

Half a mile into the Salkantay Trek

Scenery for days

Scenery for days

These mountains are thousands of feet higher than anything in the continental U.S.

These mountains are thousands of feet higher than anything in the continental U.S.

First night's campsite, in the shadow of Salkantay Peak

First night's campsite, in the shadow of Salkantay Peak

Chilly morning at 12,600 feet

Chilly morning at 12,600 feet

The trail to Salkantay Pass was like trekking into the Lord of the Rings

The trail to Salkantay Pass was like trekking into the Lord of the Rings

Top of Salkantay Pass and our highest elevation of the trek (15,000+ feet)

Top of Salkantay Pass and our highest elevation of the trek (15,000+ feet)

One of our campsites at a lower elevation

One of our campsites at a lower elevation

Following the tracks to Aguas Calientes

Following the tracks to Aguas Calientes

Here's Machu Picchu, surrounded by early morning fog

Here's Machu Picchu, surrounded by early morning fog

The view from atop Waynapicchu (the triangle-shaped mountain overlooking the site)

The view from atop Waynapicchu (the triangle-shaped mountain overlooking the site)

If you don't take a selfie here, it's like you never came

If you don't take a selfie here, it's like you never came

Some of the gear we used:

  • We take this collapsible, lightweight Chico Bag backpack everywhere. An ideal daypack for travel or backpacking.
  • Packable, lightweight raincoats are a necessity.
  • These Saucony Ulti-Mitts are my favorite gloves. I bought them for running but they were great in this cold, high-elevation environment.
  • Saucony Drylete arm sleeves allow you to stay warm even in a t-shirt. And they're easily removable once the temps rise.
  • Bug repellent is an absolute at the lower elevations. These 30% wipes travel well, but in some locations you're going to want 100% Deet products.
  • I wore these Makino quick-dry hiking pants the whole time and love them—especially the zippered pockets. They're Chinese, so even though I usually wear 30x34 pants in the U.S., I got an XL (I had to take up the waist about an inch).
  • This Ex Officio BugsAway shirt worked well in the buggy rainforest portion. However, it's heavier and bulkier than I prefer.
  • At the highest elevations, we saw temps around 35ºF. The 20º-rated Marmot Trestles sleeping bag was perfect—and super lightweight.
  • Aimee and I both used our old GoLite backpacks, which proved to be a little large for this trip (porters carried the majority of our stuff). If we did it again, we'd probably take something in the 35-50L range, like the Osprey Kestrel.