Santa Teresa Trek

Key information: Santa Teresa Trek

  • Climb higher and more remote than the "Classic" Inca Trail, and under the shadow of the goliath sacred Inca mountain of Salkantay (6,264m). Enjoy the wild and plunging scenery of the high Andes in wonderful, empty landscape.
  • The first stage follows the Mollepata (Salkantay) trek; the middle stage, a high traverse between Salkantay and its neighbouring massif, is unique to the Santa Teresa Trail; finally join the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu route for the final stages, to approach that famous citadel via emptier "alternative" paths from its valley floor.
  • At Soray Pampa (en route), you must buy a permit for the traverse from Soray Pampa to Lucmabamba, between the Salkantay and Tucarhuay massifs. Costs US$46 (as at 2011).
  • This walk is tough and remote. Acclimatise properly first, and come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating97
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest16
  • Human interest15
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating97
  • Note: Negs: altitude

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 4-5 days
  • Maximum Altitude: 4,700m
  • Level of Difficulty: Difficult


This 4-5 day trek, together with the Salkantay Trek, starts at a different place from the rest of the Machu Picchu-bound Inca Trails, in Mollepata (west of Cuzco). A traverse from the Salkantay route unites the trek with the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu route, descending from the high massifs, contouring along the sinuous valleys to immediately below the citadel. It is tougher going than the "Classic" Inca Trail et al - longer and at times exceptionally steep and wild. Significant of just how remote this trek is, you don't encounter any Inca ruins until you reach Llactapata (Patallacta), geometrically aligned with Machu Picchu across a deep and overgrown valle.

Salkantay / Santa Teresa Section

The trek begins with superb and unspoilt walking, climbing from Mollepata towards a (very) high pass on the Salkantay route before branching off just below it at Salkantay Pampa. From there it is an ascent into the disappearing shoulder separating the Salkantay massif from the Tucarhuay range opposite. The pass up above opens huge views across towards the sprawling Vilcabamba range and Sacrayhoc massif out west, evolving into a dramatic traverse underneath the grand, snow-girt mass of the Incan sacred mountain, Salkantay (6,264m).

Santa Teresa Traverse

This is the only section the Santa Teresa Trek may truly call its own; and it is wild, climbing through boulder field and pampa alike, ascending precipitous switchbacks and bypassing frigid lakes until it hits the 4,700m Salkantay Pass, and descending the other side amongst the source of the Rio Humantay and underneath Humantay?s 5.217m bulk.

The trail is indeterminate this side of the pass; stay high and to the left bank of the river in order to pick out the path filtering into the cloud forest below. Ignoring the trail west, up and out of the valley, turn north down the valley, at the river?s confluence, towards the high village of Ccolpapampa, where the Santa Teresa Trek finally joins the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu route.

Choquequirao to Machu Picchu / Santa Teresa Section

From Ccolpapampa, the Santa Teresa Trek follows the exact same route as the Choquequirao to Machu Picchu option, spilling out of the uplands alongside the Rio Santa Teresa.

It is downhill essentially all the way to Lucmabama (at 2,000m), before a steep pull up to a sharp ridge (back to 2,750m) from which the ruins of Llactapata / Patallacta observe Machu Picchu some 5 miles ? and seemingly innumerate forested valleys and gorges ? away.

Luckily, the approach follows a single valley along its floor; following the railway line all of the way to the touristy town of Aguas Calientes. From there, a sharp ascent of approximately 1 or 1? hours gets you to the majestic ruins.

This page is at an early stage of development. Please help us by sending in your tips and photos! Thank you!

See our Mollepata (Salkantay) and Choquequirao to Machu Picchu pages to better understand the shared stages of this trek.


See our Inca Trails page for general information and links to more walks in Peru.

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Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.


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