No trip to Peru would be complete without seeing the iconic Machu Picchu!


The Salkantay Trek, an alternative to the classic Inca Trail, offers an unparalleled adventure through the heart of the Peruvian Andes. This five-day trek is a symphony of natural beauty, historical intrigue, and physical challenge. There’s no better way to finish your Global Citizenship journey than ticking off this bucket list item with your new besties! 

If you’re thinking of joining us in Peru soon, here's some inspo and insight into each day's experiences, trials, and triumphs. 

University students embark on the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu.

Day 1: Cusco to Soraypampa 

Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles) 

Elevation: 3,800 m (12,467 ft) 


Our journey began in Cusco, where we’d had some time to adjust to the high altitudes. We met our guide at dawn, filled with excitement anticipation. A scenic drive through the Andean highlands brought us to the village of Mollepata. After a hearty breakfast and some coca tea (to help with altitude sickness), our journey officially started! The first few kilometers were a gentle introduction, with some breath-taking views setting the tone early in the trek. 

As the day progressed, the trail ascended steadily, with the air growing thinner. By afternoon, we reached Soraypampa, our first campsite - nestled at the base of Mount Salkantay, this spot offers a stunning backdrop. We opted for an additional hike to the mesmerizing Humantay Lake, a turquoise gem cradled by snow-capped peaks (I'd highly recommend this!). We built small rock towers by the lake, which our guides told us was a tradition started by past trekkers to bring them luck on their journey. Our night was then spent under a canopy of stars, an unbelievable view from an unpolluted sky. 

University students visit Humantay Lake as part of Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

Day 2: Soraypampa to Chaullay via Salkantay Pass 

Distance: 22 km (13.7 miles) 

Elevation: 4,650 m (15,255 ft) at Salkantay Pass 


Day two is the most challenging yet rewarding part. The path leads up to the Salkantay Pass, the highest point of the trek. The climb is strenuous, with the altitude making each step an effort, making the views an even more worthy reward! I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the trek, and I certainly didn’t anticipate reaching snow-capped mountains, but the rugged beauty of the Salkantay glacier, framed by an azure sky, was truly awe-inspiring. 

We quickly took our opportunity to capture our achievement in a photo and the awesome scenery around us, but with the high altitude and cold temperatures, we were happy to quickly start our descent. I was shocked to see how quickly the landscape transformed! Going from harsh alpine terrain to lush cloud forests was a dramatic shift as we continued down towards Chaullay. We arrived at our campsite both exhausted and exhilarated, having conquered the toughest part of the journey. 

Salkantay Pass, Peru

Day 3: Chaullay to Lucmabamba 

Distance: 18 km (11.2 miles) 

Elevation: 2,850 m (9,350 ft) 


The third day offers a reprieve from the previous day's rigors. The trail meanders through the Santa Teresa River Valley, a region rich in biodiversity. We traversed through tropical rainforests, passing waterfalls and coffee plantations, the thoughts of snow-capped mountains feeling very far away in our minds.  

This was a really fun day! When we reached Lucmabamba, we had time to visit a local coffee farm and learn about the traditional methods of cultivation and roasting. After sampling some freshly brewed coffee, made from beans grown on-site, we joined a group of locals who were crowded round a tv to watch the Peruvian football team play against France in the 2018 World Cup – it was a surreal moment to be a spectator of this global event from a tiny wooden shack in such a remote part of the world. Our night was then spent surrounded by the sounds of the jungle. 

university students ground local coffee beans in Peru as part of cultural immersion activities

Day 4: Lucmabamba to Aguas Calientes via Llactapata 

Distance: 15 km (9.3 miles) 

Elevation: 2,040 m (6,693 ft) at Aguas Calientes 


The penultimate day was both scenic and historic. An early start saw us ascending to the archaeological site of Llactapata. This Incan ruin, though less famous than Machu Picchu, offers a fascinating glimpse into the past. From this vantage point, we caught our first glimpse of Machu Picchu in the distance, a tantalizing preview of what was to come. 

The trail then descended towards the Urubamba River, with the route offering stunning views of the surrounding valleys. In the afternoon, we boarded a train at the Hidroelectrica station for a short ride to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. Here we rested, eagerly anticipating the final part of our journey. 

Day 5: Machu Picchu 

Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles) from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu 

Elevation: 2,430 m (7,972 ft) 


The final day is, of course, the crowning glory of the trek! Rising before dawn, we hiked up the steep road to Machu Picchu. As the morning mist lifted, the ancient city revealed itself under the day’s first ray of light. Perched majestically atop the mountain, the first sight of Machu Picchu, bathed in the golden light of dawn, was a moment of pure magic. 

Showing us round the grounds, our guide delved into the history and mysteries of the site. We marveled at the ingenuity and artistry of the Inca civilization, while exploring the stone terraces, temples, and plazas. The sense of achievement was palpable as we stood in the same spots where Inca priests and nobles once walked. 

After the tour, there was time to explore further and climb Huayna Picchu, the steep peak that overlooks the ruins, for panoramic views (again, I highly recommend this!). By afternoon, we found ourselves on the descent back to Aguas Calientes to catch the train to Cusco, bringing the journey full circle. 

Australian university students visit Machu Picchu, Peru.

Completing the Salkantay Trek is more than just a physical accomplishment; it’s a transformative experience! The journey challenges both body and spirit, pushing you beyond your comfort zone and rewarding you with memories that last a lifetime. From the stark beauty of the Salkantay Pass to the lush jungles of the Santa Teresa Valley, and finally the legendary Machu Picchu, every step of the way is imbued with wonder and discovery. 

For those of you seeking an adventure that combines natural splendor, cultural immersion, and historical intrigue, the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu is an unparalleled experience, a journey that will forever resonate in the hearts of those who undertake it! 

Click here to start your adventure.