The Salkantay Trek or Salkantay Trekking is recognized by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful treks in the world and it has become increasingly popular to go to know the natural landscapes of Peru in a way that involves more adventure.
One of them is to walk the Inca Trail and its thousands of trails to reach Machu Picchu on foot after spending several days in the mountains. In this article I am going to give you 10 training tips for Salkantay Trek so you can enjoy this trek that offers an enormous biodiversity and will make you fall in love with every step.
Season recommended for the Inca Trail
The rainy season in Peru is from November to April (wild and green) and the dry season is between June and October (cold and clear). It is possible to hike the Salkantay trek in any season of the year, but if something you should not forget is your rain jacket, because even if it is dry season, it can rain.
How does the body work at high altitude?
The Salkantay trek reaches 4,630 meters above sea level at its highest point, which is located at the foot of the Salkantay mountain. It begins in Soraypampa at 3,950 meters above sea level and ends in Aguascalientes at 2,050 meters above sea level to climb Machu Picchu.
In the mountains, the strongest is not the one with the biggest muscles or the best condition, but the one who adapts more easily to change. The body works in a different way at altitude, the atmospheric pressure decreases the higher you are and the air is less dense, so oxygen does not reach the brain as easily as it does on a beach at sea level. That’s why those who conquer the highest mountains in the world can spend months in a process of acclimatization on the mountain.
As part of the training to be able to climb and acclimatize properly to be at altitude, it is important that before going on the expedition, we spend a few nights at least 2,500 meters above sea level, so that, sleeping at altitude, we know the reactions of our body and it gets to know what it is to be several hours at altitude and develop more red blood cells, which are the blood particles that carry oxygen in the body.
1. Do weighted hikings
A very good tip to train and get your legs and body strong enough is to do a few weighted hikings. Leave your house to do some hiking in the mountains and load your backpack, start with little weight and as the days go by and you go strengthening your muscles, increase the weight you carry, you can even get up to 15 kgs. but that depends on each person.
Due to the amount of people who walk this trek, Salkantay has become very adapted for tourists, so thanks to this you have the fortune to choose a guided expedition with portage service, this means that the guides mount on the mules your equipment and they carry it to the next camp, allowing you to carry only a “day pack”, in which you include only what you need to walk that day as a jacket and your water and food.
If in your city it is not possible to go out to a mountain, a very good option is to climb stairs carrying a backpack. It is very likely that if you choose to do the Salkantay trekking guided, you will not have to carry more than about seven kilos, but anyway, it is recommended that you train for more.
2. Travel long distances (spend a whole day in the mountains).
It is important to get your body used to long days, since the kilometers traveled per day in Salkantay will make you spend at least seven or eight hours of travel, keep in mind that the second day takes about nine hours walking!
Try to spend a whole day on the mountain, doing treks of several kilometers that require you to spend more than seven hours on the mountain, so you can get to know how your body reacts to different circumstances.
Also, sleep in the mountain, the idea is that you have the closest experience you can to what will be your tour, but beforehand, that you know perfectly well what you are going to do. Hike and then camp, this will also help you to practice what it is to walk with weight.
We always have the motivation that after a long day we will get to take a nice bath and sleep warm at home, it is important to practice camping after hiking several hours to adapt to the fact that you will not get to sleep in your bed or at home after a day of long effort.
3. Walk slowly
We tend to want to walk fast or go ahead of everyone, you have to remember to be patient, to enjoy the moment and what nature offers us. Walk slowly, don’t speed up, because it is not the same to keep walking fast for an hour than to be in constant effort for more than nine hours.
Overconfidence is a big mistake, learn to listen to your body that needs to adapt little by little, remember: “let happiness be the path, not the goal”.
4. Sleep at altitude
The first camp of the Salkantay trek is at 4,000 m.a.s.l. Do you know what the body feels when sleeping at this altitude? Sometimes we feel suffocated, short of breath, we have a headache and we struggle to sleep.
That is why as part of the training to enjoy trekking it is important to spend a few nights at least at more than 2,500 meters above sea level. This will allow you to know the reactions of your body to sleep at altitude and it will know what it is to be several hours at altitude and develop more red blood cells, which are the blood particles that carry oxygen in the body.
5. Do breathing exercises
Breathing is very important, personally I have always thought that practicing hiking and mountain becomes a constant meditation in every moment.
When you walk, try to find a rhythm between your breathing and your steps, this will help you get less tired and coordinate your movements well.
6. Weigh your equipment before you leave
Be prepared to get rid of the luxuries! Every gram in the mountain counts, one kg. becomes three and the effort is even more demanding, sometimes we want to take the best outfit or the most beautiful things we have to look good in the photos, however, the most beautiful is not always the lightest.
We tend to believe that something as simple as a thermos “does not weigh” but that thermos better be ultra light so that you really save energy on things that are not worth wearing out. There are many stores that sell special ultra light equipment for the mountain, such as boots, jackets, backpacks, thermoses, etc., surely if you search you will find the best for you.
7. Eat properly (garlic pills, coca tea).
Food is energy and it is essential to stay active during the hikes, so don’t just take your favorite snacks, but make sure they are protein snacks or high in sugar, such as chocolates or dehydrated fruits.
Before your expedition, try to eat foods high in water, such as vegetables and fish. Green vegetables are high in iron and vitamin B, which will help you produce more red blood cells to help blood circulate better in your body.
Garlic is said to be very beneficial in many ways, including improving blood circulation as well, so if you can, buy garlic pills or take a clove of garlic daily in the days leading up to your expedition.
In Peru, everywhere they have the famous coca tea, which is an ancient drink consumed to cure various ailments, including mountain sickness, try to drink the tea at times, it will be very good for you!
8. Train cardio
Physical condition is essential, you can start by running 5 kilometers and then 10 kilometers, if you can’t go to the mountains every day, go to the gym, I’m sure there is one near your house.
Spending time outdoors has many benefits, you can also choose to go to a park to run. It will help you to clear your head for a while, spend time with yourself or with a family member or friend and forget about daily stress.
9. Get a good night’s sleep
The body needs rest, after the time you have spent training, dedicate yourself to rest the days before your trip, you will need energy!
Taking flights and spending time in airports is tiring, sometimes we put pressure on ourselves the last days to train more and more, what I would recommend is that the week before your expedition you do an active rest, run 5K’s or do some cycling or whatever you like, but consider something that does not involve so much physical effort so you do not get tired.
Try to go to sleep early the days before so that you arrive in Peru with all the energy and spirit possible.
Water is life! Our body needs water to function properly and when we are in the mountains, sometimes we forget to drink water, the body becomes a little slower and is slow to give us the signal that it is thirsty, this happens because of the altitude and the low amount of oxygen that reaches the brain.
We must stay hydrated during the expedition, this will save you headaches and energy expenditure. Hydrate yourself very well during your workouts as well, your body will have a better performance and you will be able to train in the best way.
The Salkantay trekking route is about 80 kilometers long, so get ready for one of the best adventures of your life! It is something that everyone can do, no matter if you do it for the love of nature or because you are a sportsman or professional athlete, if you train properly and with the necessary time, you will certainly make it.
Remember that there are several ways to get to the Inca citadel, however the Sacred Trek through Salkantay to get to Machu Picchu is the most beautiful alternative trek I have seen. I recommend you to visit to get to know this experience.