Salkantay snow capped mountain in Cusco

nevado salkantay trek
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Salkantay snow capped mountain in Cusco 2023

The route to the snowy Salkantay is one of the 25 best places in the world ranking of National Geographic Adventure Travel magazine.

It is the snowy peak that you will meet when visiting the famous Humantay Lagoon, located in the city of Cusco, with crystal clear turquoise waters that descend from the Apu Salkantay. Keep reading this article and get to know this impressive snowfall.

Salkantay Mountain
Distance from Cusco 120 km
Climate Cold
Elevation 4800 m.s.n.m
Best time to visit April to October
Things to do Salkantay trek, Humantay lake visit and camp near to the mountain

History of the Salkantay

In Inca times, the Salkantay was venerated and offerings were given to it in special ceremonies. This system was based on the possibility of achieving a safe and abundant production linked to a continuous and complex ritual dedicated to the land, water and the mountain itself. Having the liquid element made the Incas and their ancestors practice sacrifices, offerings or rituals significant.

How is the Salkantay?

The Salkantay presents 2 peaks or heads; one on the east side and the other on the west, it is known as a two-headed mole. The west side was slimmer and more attractive than the east side.

How high is the Salkantay?

Currently, the lower edge of the Salkantay glacier area is above 4,800 meters above sea level, and due to the accelerated deglaciation process, this level will continue to rise in the coming years.

The base rock of the Salkantay is of a granite type and today it can be seen in many parts of the mountain due to the deglaciation process.

What does “Salkantay” mean?

Etymologically, its name in Quechua could be translated as “wild mountain” which comes from the words: Salqa, which means wild or wild, and Antay, which refers to the action of producing cloudscapes or avalanches. This summit is known as ‘Apu’ (‘Lord’) for its majesty and elevation. In the city of Cusco and other Andean regions, it is customary to call the sacred snow-capped mountains as Apu.

Andean Cosmovision of the Salkantay

In the popular Andean religious imaginary, the Salkantay apu is classified as a “protector lord” that protects the towns of Limatambo, Mollepata, Machu Picchu and Choquequirao located in the Vilcabamba mountain range. Within the traditional symbology of Andean dual thought, the snowy Waqay Willke, also called Verónica, is considered the complement of Salkantay. In the local Andean thought Salkantay is considered one of the most powerful and active deities, he is the father of all mountains.

The Salkantay in the Inca period

For the Incas, the Salkantay would also be involved in the life cycles of the Urubamba or Willca Mayuc river, since the waters of its melting feed this sacred river.

According to legend, the waters that fertilized Mother Earth (Pachamama) came through the Urubamba River, which the Incas saw disappearing in the Amazon jungle, without seeing it reach the ocean; for which they believed that its waters returned during the night to their sacred snow-capped mountains from the jungle in the form of a celestial river, which were the stars of the Milky Way.

How to get to Salkantay?

In order to get to this extraordinary snow-capped mountain that is located in the Vilcanota Mountain Range, you must take the Mollepata road. Keep in mind that Salkantay is an alternative route to reach the citadel of Machu Picchu, or in the event that you have not managed to make your reservation for the Inca Trail, this would be your best option, the Salkantay tour runs through the mountain range from Vilcabamba. Likewise, you will be able to enjoy the diversity of fauna and flora that exists throughout this route.

Flora in Salkantay

Erodium cicutarium, is a forage plant that grows in almost all temperate regions. Ichu, is a grass of the South American Andean highlands Orchid, they have been appreciated since pre-Columbian times for their infinite shapes and their variety of colors. Salicornia ramosissima, a halophytic perennial plant that grows in different saline tidal zones.

Wildlife in Salkantay

  • Alpaca
  • spectacled bear
  • Condor vizcacha
  • Chinchilla
  • Calls

Trekking to Salkantay

If you are one of the people who likes adventure and extreme hikes, the snowy Salkantay is the perfect place to go trekking for 5 days and get to know this beautiful snowy peak.

Salkantay Trek Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay trek can be done without a tour, on your own and without a tour guide. To carry out this walk you must take all the necessary precautions.

The route to follow is the same as the Salkantay trek with tour. The journey on your own can take more or less days, depending on the capacity of the visitor.

The first step is to get to the town of Mollepata from the city of Cusco. The cars are taken at the Arcopata bus terminal, in the city of Cusco. From Mollepata the ascent begins. We advise you to bring what you need (food for 5 days and sleeping equipment) to avoid carrying excessive luggage.

What to bring for the Salkantay Trek?

  • Sleeping bags.
  • Cap or hat.
  • Trekking shoes.
  • Waterproof jacket.
  • Trekking pants.
  • Rain poncho.
  • Water purifying tablets.
  • Sunscreen.

Inca Trail to the Nevado de Salkantay

Towards the Apu Salkantay there are three pre-Hispanic roads of Qhapaq Ñan, the Inca roads of Choquechurco, Choquequirao and the colonial road of Mollepata.

It presents two types of peaks, which years ago had some differences between them, but now after the collapse of the Serac to the WEST of the snow, it shows that both peaks are really identical.

Cult and adoration of the Apu Salkantay

Nowadays, different offerings continue to be made to the Apu Salkantay for different reasons, against the natural phenomenon of hail and crop diseases, in order to increase the production and multiplication of herds, as well as general protection.

To get to know this snowy peak, Machu Picchu Peru Tours reminds you that you must be physically prepared to trek without worry. It doesn’t matter what month of the year you decide to visit this incredible snowfall, the important thing is to live this unique experience and get your backpack ready.

Nevado Salkantay

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