Reflections from Peru: A Salkantay Trail, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca Travel Tale

Salkantay Trail Peru Travel Hike
I’ve always felt that more important even than great memories, an amazing trip should leave you with a refreshed perspective and renewed spirit. Traveling to Peru earlier this month for a two-week adventure with a wild group of Texans (mostly) left me with all that and more. Seeing how our group – diverse in ages and many facets – grew closer together throughout the trip was revitalizing and inspiring.

In addition to an expedition on the amazing Salkantay Trail, which takes you to 15,600 ft. before descending into cloud forest and emerging to views of Machu Picchu’s back door, we sea kayaked on Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest navigable lake), journeyed deep into the hills of the Sacred Valley to share with unique indigenous cultures, explored Cusco’s pre-Incan roots, enjoyed an impromptu private concert as well as a parade, sang countless ballads, danced, breathed deeply, learned to make pisco sours and, even more important, how to drink them, and much more. To Ed, Sammie, Ezra, Tansy, Dave, Steph, Richard, Jimmy, Robin, Cynthia, Adam, Luis, and the one and only Wilfredo, I say it was truly a pleasure and “viva Peru, carajo!” 

Hiking the Salkantay Trail Machu Picchu Travel Kayaking Lake Titicaca Peru Cooking

Custom Peru trip featuring the Salkantay hike and much more

DAY 1 USA – Lima

Fly from the U.S. to Lima with evening arrivals. Upon arrival you will be met by a Knowmad Adventures representative and assisted across the street where you will check in for the evening.

  • No meals – Costa del Sol Ramada

DAY 2 Lima – Cusco – Sacred Valley

You will be met in your hotel lobby by a Knowmad representative at 7:15 a.m. (please be ready and waiting with bags in the lobby) and assisted in checking in for your onward flight to Cusco. After a short morning flight to the former Incan capital of Cusco you’ll be met by your guide at the airport and taken by private van through the Sacred Valley of the Andes. En route to the Sacred Valley you will have the opportunity to visit impressive and important Inca sites such as the fortress Sacsayhuaman and its megalithic stone terraces; Kenko, with its carved stone surfaces and subterranean altars; the Puka Pukara fortress that protected the royal capital from attacks; and the water temple, Tambo Machay. After your visits relax in the charming setting of Sol y Luna.

day 3 Sacred Valley – Urubamba and Pisac

Cusco Peru Village

After breakfast you’ll head by van along the Sacred Valley past the communities of Calca, Coya, Lamay and Pisac. From here you go completely off the map winding up a small dirt road, which takes you through remote Andean villages until we arrive to the Amaru community. This isolated community holds strongly to their ancient customs and practices a largely subsistence lifestyle on the slopes of the Andes. The Amaru will proudly open their village to you where you will learn of their lifestyle and traditions. Among other things you take part in gathering plants used as natural dyes, learn of their medicinal and culinary properties, and see how the Amaru’s world renowned textiles are woven and brought to life.

For lunch we will enjoy a delicious gourmet picnic (weather dependent) near the Pisac ruins that sprawl down the mountainside towards town. If still energized, you can enjoy a gentle hike through the extensive Inca terracing down the mountainside, or hop in the van, and arrive to Pisac – one of Peru’s largest and most vibrant markets – where you can bargain with Andean campesinos for hand-crafted wares. Return to Sol y Luna for a relaxing evening.

  • B, L – Sol y Luna

Day 4 Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Salkantaypampa

Drive over Tika-Tika pass with a first view of Mt. Salkantay and Humantay in the horizon. Cross the plateau of Anta (Antapampa), an area that is considered the breadbasket of Cusco, important for grains and cattle. We reach the pass of Limatambo with an amazing view of both mountains and the panorama of the lush agricultural valley below. We visit the ruins of Tarawasi with its long asymmetric Inca stonewall. Continue on the paved road for a short while and turn off on a winding road, which zigzags uphill until reaching Mollepata at 2,900m (9,454ft). We continue on a narrower track for another hour passing Cruzpata, Oncopata and Checchicancha getting our first view of Mt. Humantay close up, with a view of Mt. Yanantay. The last part of the drive brings us to 3,900m (12,815ft) at Soraypampa where there are small settlements of cattle herders. From here we’ll begin hiking We’ll continue up to the Pampa, below Mt. Salkantay where we camp at 4,145m (13,599ft). Driving: 4 hrs Trekking: 2 hrs 30 mins

  •  B, L, D – camping 

Day 5 Salkantaypampa – Apacheta – Collpapamapa

Salkantay Trail

Leaving our campsite we head towards the terminal moraine, from here the trail begins to ascend past boulders, reaching a scree slope, which we traverse to reach the Apacheta Pass at 4,636m (15,210ft), a great opportunity to look towards the other pass at Incachiriaska, into a small lake below Mt. Salkantay’s ice flute and the huge expanse of the moraine. The trail winds its way through the landscape downhill towards a large Pampa called Wayrahmachay (3,919m / 12,858ft). We begin our descent all the way to the Sta. Teresa River and arrive at our campsite (2,950m / 9,678ft). Trekking: 9 hours, Distance: 12kms

  • B, L, D – camping

Day 6 Collpapampa – Playa Sahuayaco – Lucmabamba

From our campsite we start a slow ascent to Yuscamayo from where we get an astounding view of Mt. Quiswaq and the valley of Totora before beginning our descent to Winaypoq with views of Unuyhoc. We’ll have lunch at Playa Sahuayaco. From here a vehicle will pick us up for a transfer to your campsite at Lucmabamba at 2,048m / 6,719ft. Trekking: 6 hours, Distance: 7kms

  • B, L, D – camping

Day 7 Lucmabamba – Hidroelectrica – Machu Picchu Villages

Today we begin our ascent to the pass of Q’elloqasa at an altitude of 2,875m / 9,430ft. Traversing dense cloud forest with a chance to hear birdcalls, we pass a pre-Inca site called Llaqtapata, surrounded by an immense avocado tree that gives the area its name. From here we get a magnificent view of Machu Picchu’s southern face. We continue our descent to the junction of the Aobamba and Urubamba valleys and arrive at the hydroelectric station. From here we will take a short train ride to Machu Picchu Village and check into a charming hotel where you will enjoy a delicious dinner. Trekking: 7 hours, Distance: 10kms

  •  B, L, D – Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Day 8 Machu Picchu

Famil Active Travel Peru - Salkantay Trail

Early risers can watch the sunrise from the Machu Picchu citadel. For those who would like you will have permits to climb Huayna Picchu, the adjacent sacred mountain, at 10:00 a.m.  Machu Picch is a vast archeological site – lost to the world until well into the twentieth century – perched amongst Andean peaks and lush cloud forest making it one of the most breathtaking sights in the world. You’ll have the opportunity to get a complete guided tour of the site as you begin to unlock the mystery of the Inca, and will also have plenty of time to explore the ruins on your own. Lunch at the adjacent Sanctuary Lodge means you’re able to enjoy the whole day without leaving awe inspiring Machu Picchu. After this magical day you will have the privilege of staying another night at Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel and soaking in their three different semi-natural thermal baths.

  • B, L, D – Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Day 9 Machu Picchu – Cusco

Taking the train after breakfast (train departure at 8:53 a.m.), you’ll have time to roam through Ollantaytambo town taking in the ancient ruins towering above. Heading into the valley you’ll stop to enjoy lunch at an authentic colonial-era hacienda. From here depending on time we may visit amazing Chinchero ruins and town before continuing on and arriving in the early evening to Cusco. Your accommodation is an artfully restored colonial-era monastery surrounding a traditional courtyard with Spanish arches and fountains, and is also the hottest new property in Cusco.

Day 10 Cusco Culinary Adventure

Peruvian Cuisine

Enjoy the morning at your leisure to relax and explore Cusco. In the early afternoon your guide and chef will meet you at your hotel before you head out to the local’s market where you will learn about Peruvian products and bargain for some of your soon-to-be lunch ingredients. Following your shopping outing you will learn from an accomplished and charismatic Peruvian chef and will cook a delicious lunch with a variety of dishes. After your meal you will be on your own for a siesta or continued explorations.

Note: Cynthia Eiring and Luis Raez will be picked up and transferred to the airport at 3:00 p.m.

  • B, L – Palacio Nazarenas

Day 11 Cusco – Puno

You will be picked up in accordance with your flight to Juliaca at 1:00 p.m. (please have bags ready and be waiting in lobby). Upon arrival to Juliaca you will be met by a Knowmad representative and taken to your lakeside accommodations to relax and appreciate views of Lake Titicaca.

  • B – Casa Andina Private Collection Puno

Day 12 Kayaking Lake Titicaca – Taquile Island

Kayaking in Peru

Heading out early you’ll leave Puno driving along the lake to isolated Llachon Peninsula and passing through traditional villages. Start kayaking from the point and cross the azure waters to Isla Taquile. After a few hours paddling around the island you disembark and hike through the island villages to your homestay lodge with views to Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountains where you meet Alejandro and his family. Enjoy a typical meal of delicious products harvested locally and to learn of the islands lifestyle and traditions. Following lunch you will hike around the island before boating back toward the  Llachon Peninsula. On the way you will visit the authentic and little-visited Uros Titinos floating islands. These islands are actually totora reed vegetation piled atop itself forming the islands which float amongst the lake and support small bands of Uros people. It is believed that they have lived on the islands for centuries after fleeing the stronger Aymara civilization. The lives of the Uros people are interwoven with these reeds, which are partially edible and are also used to make their homes, boats, and crafts. Return to Puno in the evening.

  • B, L – Casa Andina Private Collection

Day 13 Puno – Lima

You will be picked up at 9:00 a.m. and head out from Puno visiting the Sillustani burial towers overlooking Lake Umayo, charming Lampa, and continue on to the airport for your flight back to Lima. After arriving to Lima you will remain in the airport and check in for your onward overnight flight home.

  • B

Day 14 Arrive Home


Big Views, Jordan 

South America Travel - Jordan HarveyJordan is a Co-Founder of Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. He was recently honored by Travel & Leisure as an A-List Top Travel Specialist for South America. 

“Travel brings me incredible experiences and challenges, highlighting the world’s natural beauty while connecting me with inspiring people. I am convinced that travel makes us better people, and better people make a better planet.” Read Jordan’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.