Adventure, Advice, Travel

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru

The Salkantay trek, along one of the many Inka Trails takes you through some incredible scenery as you head up over 4600m to the saddle of Peru’s second highest mountain. The trek is a must do if you are in Peru and are fit enough. It’s not too difficult but in all it is about 79km of walking over 5 days over mountain passes, through jungle and in deep gorges, all at altitude which can affect you in all sorts of ways. DRINK WATER and you will be ok! The easiest day is actually up to Machu Picchu Itself.

There are some incredible views and the chance to possibly camp at one of the most amazing spots you will ever come across, a night overlooking the incredible sights and wonders of Matchu Pitchu.

If your thinking of adding it to your Peru experience or you are already signed up, here is a list of kit that will help you enjoy your experience a little better.

Trek Essentials

Machu Picchu tickets – you will not get a ticket on the day, ensure your trekking company has brought them in advance!

Passport – you won’t get into Machu Picchu without it!

Walking boots – make sure they are worn in and comfy

Waterproofs – good mountain quality top and bottoms

Down jacket – as soon as the sun goes it’s like a freezer. I’m used to the cold and was happy in my red, Black Diamond synthetic jacket with base layers and a fleece underneath, but certainly many of my companions appreciated theirs.

Zip off trousers – it’s hot during the day and freezing at night, if your going in the rainy season take a few pairs

Wicking base layer – 2/3 depends how smelly you mind being

Fleece – 2 one for trekking one for the evening more for rainy season

Trekking socks – 2/3 pairs, more in rainy season if you want dry feet the next day

Gloves – wind proof

Woolly hat

Sun hat – the sun is intense at altitude

Head torch – inc spare batteries and/or spare head torch

30L rucksack with hip belt – I used the deuter guide 35+10 which was simple and hard wearing but I was carrying a stash of group kit as well as my personal stuff (you will need a much bigger bag if you are not trekking with a guiding company and porters who carry your tent, sleeping bag, roll mat and spare clothes)


Dry sacks – one for your day bag, 2 if you like to organise but also one for your duffel bag that the porters will carry, no one wants a wet sleeping bag!

2 x 1L water bottles – get 2 different colours so that you can tell which one has purified water in it and which one is currently purifying, (purification takes around 40min dependant on what your using) Also buy Nalgene, they don’t leak, they last forever and you can put hot water in them at night to use as a hot water bottle!

Water purification – if you are with a trekking company then they will provide you with as much water as you can carry but it will be stream water that has been boiled, then cooled. Often it’s done in the same pan as your dinner so by the end of the trek it might be a bit oniony. To avoid this look into water filtration. We used water purification tablets, these are best brought in the UK as you will only find large quantities in Peru. If there are a few of you then investing in a UV pen or water filter is also a good option.

4 season sleeping bag with a liner – it’s cold at night and a liner will add warmth and keep your main bag clean

Wash Bag Essentials

  • First Aid Kit – inc blister plasters, eye wash, compression bandages and the usual stuff. Add extra antiseptic wipes
  • Sudocream – miracle cream will fix anything skin related
  • Arnica cream – great for muscle and joint pain
  • Duct tape – for when blister plasters just won’t work or your bag breaks!
  • Sun cream 50+ – essential
  • Lip balm – do not forget this one!
  • Bug spray – deet or no deet? If you do use deet don’t use it near your tent and don’t get it on your clothes
  • Bite relief – you will get bitten at some point
  • Paracetamol – headaches are common at altitude
  • Ibuprofen – tablets or gel. Swollen knees, in growing toenails and all sorts always appear on a trek at some point
  • Antihistamine – cream or tablet form for insect bites
  • Diorolyte – travellers sickness (dihorrea) can be combatted quickly by rehydrating and getting a packet of this into you
  • Loperamide tablets – to combat severe dihorreah
  • Toilet roll – essential, also in Peru once used it goes in the bin next on to the toilet not down the loo!
  • Sanitary products – altitude can do crazy things to your body? Be prepared!
  • Nappy bags – very handy for containing used products in the wild
  • Anti bacterial gel – hand sanitiser, avoid illness by keeping clean. Try some out before you come as if you don’t use it much it can affect your skin.
  • Wet wipes – showers are available but are infrequent and usually cold, wet wipe showers are the norm
  • Towel – just in case you find a working shower, by the end of the trek you will probably be up for a cold shower
  • Shower gel

Handy Items

Watch – searching for your phone to find out the time in a dark tent is not fun, wear a watch with a light function to ensure you get the most out of your precious sleep

Money – there are shops and cafes along the way and lots of chances to buy fresh coffee to take home! At around £5 for 500g of pure freshly grown, harvested and roasted you can’t complain, make sure you buy the beans and grind it yourself at home, it’s better that way. Also, if you choose to use a bus at some of the rest points you will need to pay for it (it’s probably safer to walk!). You won’t be able to use any notes over 50 sol outside of Cusco city so make sure you have a mix of coins and 10 + 20 sol notes.

Belt – weight loss is common on altitude treks

Camera – of course!

Diary – it’s easy to forget what you did yesterday, keep a journal!

Snacks – something that won’t get crushed, food will be when it will be, that’s just how it goes

Energy – find an energy supplement that you like, I recommend sis gels or blocks for a boost when your low and just need to keep going or for an emergency

Cards – If you don’t know any card games yet you will by the end of the trek, if you are not walking, eating or sleeping you will be playing cards

Coca sweets – you guide will tell you all about coca plants, “medicine not drugs” (Simba 2017) they are widely available and the locals swear that they help with altitude sickness and pretty much anything else. Chewing coco leaves is common but the coca sweets are much nicer and a good psychological boost on a long trail


Air bed – our trekking company provided a fairly comfortable mattress to sleep on but I saw others on the trail with simple roll mats. I took the snug pack air bed with me just to be sure and as usual it gave me a great nights sleep

Power – there will be no (or very little chance) to charge phones, cameras etc so if you need power to take photos then an extra battery pack or a portable solar charger is a great addition. My iPhone 5s lasted only 3 days on power saving mode and with me turning it off when not in use

Trekking Poles – I recommend trekking poles, if you don’t use them at first they will certainly come in handy when going uphill/downhill in the jungle later in the trek. They can be hired in Cusco at around 10 sol per pole per day but at that price it may be worth buying them in advance. Alternatively at the start of the Salkantay trek at the sky lodge we were able to buy wooden walking poles at 5 sol each. Great if you put some tape around the handles to stop blisters but they don’t fold away so some people found them annoying on the flat parts of the trek.

Tip your guides.

They look after you for 5 days in a challenging environment and they work hard all day to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. A tip of around $40 per person trekking is appropriate. To avoid awkward situations agree with your guide that you will tip at the end of the trek. Give all of it to the lead guide and they will share it out between the porters, cooks and guides.

If you are not using a trekking company you will need to find out how to book spaces on the trail with the Municipalidad Distrital De Mollepata. Also, have extra money to pay for showers, toilets and bridges on the trails.

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