JAN 26, 2016 – I started walking at 7:30 on this last day of my trek. An hour later I got to a place that called itself the “Andean Starbucks”: The hut of a local coffee farmer, where I was able to taste some excellent coffee that was grown and processed there, in the village of Lucmabamba. The farmer even showed me how he roasts the beans on the fire. Full of energy, I continued uphill to the Incan ruins of Llactapata. Just before arriving there, I spent about an hour following a trail that supposedly led to the ruins of Punculloc, only to find that it didn’t go anywhere useful. Then I ate lunch at the Llactapata ruins and started descending towards Hidroeléctrica, where I arrived at 3pm. The trail along the railway tracks from there to Machu Picchu Pueblo was full of tourists and very flat, but still beautiful as it followed the river. I arrived at the municipal campground by 5pm and decided to stay there for a night. From the next day I had a hostel reservation, but since I had given myself four days for the hike, I now had a free day to spend in the village before my visit to the Machu Picchu site. After drying my tent and clothing, I went to the Hot Springs, whose highlight are the cocktails that can be ordered from within the pool. Being a municipal facility, they are very cheap to visit, albeit quite dirty.
Route: The turnoff to Llactapata is well indicated and the trail is in good condition. There are signposts towards Hidroeléctrica. Shortly after the waterfalls, the trail ends at a road. Turn right and follow the road for about a kilometer to arrive at the railway station. Register at an information booth along the way (no entrance fee). Again I used OpenStreetMap for verification; the entire trail is on it. No water between Lucmabamba and the campsite/lodge below Llactapata. Carry 2 liters and refill as necessary. Small tiendas sell food along the rails in Hidroeléctrica and in several places on the way to Machu Picchu Pueblo.
Summary: The Salkantay trek is a great alternative to the crowded and expensive inca trail. It is easy to do on your own with proper preparation and does not require any special permits or campground reservations. Thanks to the numerous camping options, you can adapt the length of the trek to your fitness. Doing the Llactapata variant in three days is pretty tough.