Salkantay mountain is one of the most spectacular places either of us have ever been to. This is the story of two incredible mountains that we found in the Andes; Salkantay and Hummantay. There are majestic views of the untouched mountains in all directions. We came here as part of the Salkantay Trek, which took us over Salkantay Pass on our way to Machu Picchu. For those of you who are always seeking adventure, this one should be at the top of your list!
The only problem is that we had to walk here, which means it simultaneously becomes one of the most challenging places either of us have ever been to. Salkantay Mountain peaks at nearly 7000 meters above sea level and the pass we crossed was 4600 meters. The hike we took crossed the continental divide, where the spine of the Andes splits between draining into the Pacific Ocean or the Amazon River Basin.
This is one of the most popular trekking routes in Peru, which is how we ended up here. Despite the difficulty, we were rewarded with incredible views at every turn and every bit of effort we put in was rewarded ten-fold.
What makes Salkantay so amazing?
We came here while on a walk to Machu Picchu. This 5-day hike is very challenging and visits several different climates – sometimes on the same day – ranging from jungle to high alpine. The long road that we traveled only made the end results even more spectacular.
Salkantay Pass was our second day reward. We had to be up early as it would take us close to 11 hours to make it to our camp for the night. The day begins with 3 hours of uphill walking. The weather is nearly guaranteed to rain, and the chances of the mountain being covered by clouds, mist or fog are high.
But no matter what, it feels great when you finally make it to the top; the summit is 4600 + meters, and the views when clear, it’s worth it. As we arrived at the summit, we had the most incredible view. 20 minutes later a fog lifted up from below and covered the mountain completely. It turns out, we were lucky to see it at all.
The remainder of the day involves another 6 hours of walking down, which sounds great until you realize that your knees take on most of the burden. There are plenty of great pictures that we took along the 5-Day Salkantay Trek. The walk to the summit involves a lot of willpower but neither of us were going to be denied.
Oh, don’t forget about Hummantay Lagoon.
The first day of the trek takes you to the base of Humantay Mountain. From here we were able to take a 3-hour return trip to the lagoon for a better view of the imposing mountain. Hummantay Mountain is smaller than Salkantay, at only 5473 meters above Sea Level but is equally impressive to its more famous neighbor.
We were extremely lucky and there were not too many clouds, so we were treated with some incredible views. Hummantay is a destination worthy of it’s own trip. It took us just under two hours to walk up to the lagoon and was one of the most breathtaking places we have ever been. The views almost brought tears to our eyes, as we looked around at unimaginable beauty in all directions.
We spent the night camped out at the base of these two mountains. It was the coldest night of our 6-week trip to South America.
Where is Salkantay and how do you get there?
Salkantay is located about 60 km North-West of Cusco in Central Peru. There are many different travel agencies that will book this hike for you. It is possible to visit both Hummantay and Salkantay as individual day trips if you don’t want to walk back down the “other” side or pay to be a part of a tour.
We booked a tour. Salkantay is one of the most popular trekking routes and is an alternative to the Inca Trail, which often books up months in advance. Our hike crossed Salkantay Summit as part of the trek to Machu Picchu. We chose this route because we knew there would be more nature and less people.
The trek to Salkantay summit – 4600 meters – was challenging. Day two of the trek is a long 9-hour hike, with the first 3 hours going straight up to the summit of Salkantay. The terrain is mostly rocks, and it’s quite steep.
We were lucky and had some pretty cool views of the mountain during our hike up, but when we made it to the top, the weather quickly blocked the view of the mountain. We only got a few pictures from the summit, which means the ones we did get were extra special.
From here you hike down the other side of the Mountain, and into the valleys that are fed water from the Glacier behind us. We had 3 more days of hiking through the jungle, along the path would eventually lead us to Machu Picchu.
To read more about our experiences of our trek, click here: The Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.