Here you will find an overview of all basic information, if you want to hike the Santa Teresa Trek to Machu Picchu.
The Santa Teresa Trek is one of several multi day hikes, which ends in Aguas Calientes, the town from where you start your trip/visit to Machu Picchu. Different from the most famous Inca Trail, you don’t have to buy your permit in advance. It is possible go with a tour group with a guide and as independent hiker. Easy to be mistaken with the Salkantay Trek, which passes Mt. Salkantay the east, the Santa Teresa Trek leads you to the west side of the glacier. It get its name from the town Santa Teresa, which lies in valley where the trail goes trough. You start with an ascent towards Mount Salkantay and pass it at over 4500m and follow the trail with a long gradual descent through the valley along Rio Santa Teresa. A short steep climb brings you to a camp site with a unforgettable panorama and view of Machu Picchu. After descending you connect to the railway towards Aguas Calientes.
- Distance: around 70km
- Days: 3-4 (depending on your fitness or if you just want to take it slow)
- Climate: November: Daily rain showers for 2-3h, Temperatures between 20C during the day to 0C at night
- Start: Mollepatta or Soray Pampa
- End: Aguas Caliente
- Highest Point: 4512m / 14,803ft
- Wildlife: dogs (CAUTION: those dogs will be very aggressive if you are getting to close to the property that they are supposed to protect. We had our hiking poles always ready to you as protection.
- Permit: 10 Soles at the Checkpoint in Mollepatta
Before the Trek:
– If you have just arrived at Cusco, you will already feel the elevation. Give yourself at least 2-3 full days of acclimation.
– Tell your family/friends where and when you leave
– If you want to take a private driver, go to the pick up the day before
– Enough food plus an backup meal
– If you want, buy some little toys or a baseball for kids in the towns (it is better then giving them candy)
– Prebooking the camp sites is not really necessary when you hike independently
– Write down some Spanish phrase like greetings, questions (Water, food, camping)
– Since Iron is necessary for your blood production (link), it is helpful to assure that your levels are in a normal range. Due to the lower ratio of oxygen in the air, your body is in the need for more in the blood and will adept your hemoglobin levels, since that is responsible for collection and transferring the oxygen to your organs. If you supplement with iron, be sure to add some Vitamin C, since it helps with the absorption of the body. Also, please see that only as advice and either way, you should check with your doctor before heading to Peru due to vaccinations. More information about altitude sickness can be found here. So be aware of the symptoms, have medication for emergency, drink and eat enough.
We bought a map in Cusco in a small book store. You can find them in the center of the old town. There are also several outdoor store which might have some.
How to get there:
There are shared buses, called Collective, which are leaving Cusco in the morning. There are no fixed schedules, you can walk there (link) and ask drivers for a ride to Mollepata. We offered 40soles each and he was happy about that, so you might get a cheaper price 🙂 It takes about 3-4 hours.
If you decided to start from Soray Pampa, its another hour and you probably have to switch cars in Mollepata, since it is a dirt road. It is another 60 soles each for an hour but will save you a day of rough hiking right in the beginning.
– start in Mollepata or from there by car to Soray Pampa
– from Mollepata the path leads over the hill to the north, which can take a whole day
– arrived in Soray Pampa, north-east past the village through the valley towards Mt. Salkantay
– the path leads to the left along a field of scree, there are 2-3 routes that merge towards the pass. Santa Teresa Trek leads west (left in walking direction) past the glacier
– Arrived at the pass, it goes downhill for a long time through the valley past several small villages to the village of Chaullay
– Cross the road through Chaullay and cross the river over the bridge
– another small village that is traversed before you come down the serpentine down to the Rio Santa Teresa
– a road leads on the east (right) side, a trail through the forest on the west (left) side along the river through the rest of the valley (I recommend the trail).
– This goes through several villages until you reach the largest town La Playa. There are many accommodation and dining opportunities here
– At La Playa you cross the river eastbound in direction to Lucmabamba (very good local cafe and quiet camping)
– The mountain further up (2-3h) you pass halfway a small waterfall and hut (Recommendation: Hike up to the top of the hill .. The indication of the residents that it is another hour up, is greatly exaggerated !)
– Arrived at the top, a sign direct you to the campsite 100m left of the trail (Amazing views and camping, see highlights)
– Go down steeply towards the bridge and follow the road to the Hydroelectria station
– From here, 10km along the tracks to Aguas Calientes with the rest of the tourists gone, many small shops and cafes along the way (the most beautiful were at the beginning)
How to get back:
As you walk into Aquas Calientes, you realize that there is only a train in/out to/off town. You have 3 Options, depending on your budget and time.
Cheap and long: hike back to the hydroelectrica station (2h) and take a collectivo/taxi to Santa Teresa. You probably have to stay there overnight but it sounds to be also a nice town. From there is a bus to Cusco which takes about 7hours and costs around 15soles. (whole day)
Moderate: We took the Train vom Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo (50USD) and from there a Collective to Cusco (15 Soles) (4h)
Expensive and quick: Directly from Aquas Calientes to Poroy (cusco) and from there a cab to town (starting from 100USD) (2-3h)
– Food: We payed each around 50 Soles at the grocery store for meals and snacks for 3 days (Orions supermarket should have all you need)
– Transport: 40+60 to Soray Pampa, about 200 soles back to Cusco
– Camping: 5-15 Soles each
– Water: If you need to buy water, its around 5 soles per liter
– Snacks: Avocados/Bananas/Snacks etc. 1Soles each
Depending on our experience level, the trail itself was easy. On higher elevation, the trail was rocky and as soon you get to the forest, you had a even ground. You could do it with trail runners but i was glad to have some support for the rocky parts.
The most challenging parts were the climbs due the elevation. I had less then 2 days of acclimatization (I know also from experience that I’m not likely to get altitude sickness, see also preparation)
– Soray Pampa: It is a tiny community which provides shelters for guided tour but also if you are by yourself. Half an hour detour is a trail to a huge laguna, which we skipped but sounds to be really pretty
– Salkantay: A huge glacier which you are going to pass on the highest point of the tour. Beginning the day, we had a great view. As soon we arrived the pass it turned to hail and thunder. So be aware of the weather. There is also a side trail towards the mountain on the pass, which leads in 30-45min to a glacier tarn. Due to the weather, we had to skip that one sadly.
– Camping in a field of fireflies: On the way down from Mt Salkantay, you will reach Chaullay at the end of the first descent. We camped there for 10 soles under little shelters. As we cooked and ate our dinner, with the darkness of the night hundred of fireflies started to glow around us and up the hill.
– Camp site and view Point of Machu Picchu: The only camp you reach if you hike independently. All the tours take the bus from La Playa to the Hydroelectric Station. Your trail leads up the mountain to the west after La Playa. At the top lives a family with a little shop. The mother was building another house and camp site as we were there in 2017 and told us, she wants to bring guided tours up here. Luckily, we were by ourself and she was really lovely. There is a cold shower and toilet as well. The best is of course the view over the valley and the first good view of Machu Picchu.
– Agua Calientes: Due the off season, it was not as crowded and we loved that there are no cars in town. For local and cheaper food, go to the mercado to the top floor, where they serve meals all day.
– Machu Picchu: Two options: Hike up or take the bus from Agua Calientes. We hiked to the top: The bridge is closed till 5AM and as we got there at 4:30AM, there was already a line of 100people. The buses arrive at 5:35PM at the entrance of Machu Picchu, so if you hike fast enough you get there first (450m elevation gain only by stairs). We got there first and had the ruins about an hour for our self. It was really magical having not tours in our ways. you can hire a guide at the ruins.
What to bring:
– be prepared for all kind of weather, especially before or after the dry season. So bring warm, water repellent clothes and a warm jacket since the nights are cold. Don’t forget the sunscreen as well due the high elevation.
– Bug repellent: There were only a few moments necessary but it was good to have it, small flies with tiny bites which are itching as hell (Or have just long clothes 😉
– Trash Bag!!! Due the increasing amount of guided tours, the trash on the trail is a serious problem in my opinion. Locals do not really care as well, so its on us to pick up some litter additionally to carrying our own trash. Please help as well. In towns you’ll be able to throw it away.
– Water Filter and iodine tabs: Due to mules and donkeys on the trails, its safer to filter all your water you get from streams.
– Toys: It is a great gesture to bring small toys like baseballs for kids. I heard that pencils and paper books are also gladly appreciated but as hiker i know as well that pack weight is important