Salkantay is considered a challenging trek with dramatic changes in elevation. For 35 km (21.7 miles), the trail’s traverses the distinct ecological niches of the Vilcabamba mountain range as you travel from just over 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) to ;4,700 meter (15,420 feet) at the Apacheta pass. You will walk past alpine meadows, astounding glaciers, fluvial valleys and the subtropical cloud forest of Peru.
The stark relief yields remarkable biodiversity in the ecozones of the Andes: the Quechua zone (2300-3500m; 7,546-11,483 ft) whose microclimate is dry and temperate (0-21C; 32-70F), the Suni or Jalca zone, located 3,500-4,000m (11,483-13,123 feet) above sea level, the Puna (4000 – 4800m;13,000 – 15,750 feet) whose high elevation and icy weather limits plantlife to small shrubs and grasses, the Janca, glacial landscape, and the Fluvial Yungas (Yunga is the Quechua for warm valley) which are the transitional zones between Andean highlands and lower eastern slope forests; 1,000 – 2,300m (7,500 – 3,300ft.)
Yungas are characterized by subtropical climate: rainy, humid and warm. As you walk along the highland jungle and Santa Teresa River valley, you will have excellent opportunities to see the fractured geology of the area and the immense diversity in plant, bird, and other wildlife species.
Cusco’s climate hosts temperatures ranging from 14-46C (57-61F). Days are warm and nights can be quite cold. The rainy season in Cusco is from December to March. The rest of the year is dry from May through September.
Machu Picchu’s semi-tropical climate is characterized by warm days with high humidity, and cool nights. The rainy season in Machu Picchu starts a month earlier than Cusco (November to March). The wettest months are January to April (low season). During the rainy season it is possible to experience road closures and blocked railways due to flooding or landslides. To prevent transport delays, a bimodal transportation system is used for travel between Cusco and Machu Picchu. The trails are very muddy during the rainy season and heavy snowstorms may result in delayed trek starts. Keep this in mind if you are traveling during the rainy season. The ideal time to visit Machu Picchu and the Andean trails is from April through October.
As you prepare for your trek, keep in mind that the higher the elevation the colder and drier the air will be. As you descend into the fluvial valleys, the temperature and humidity will increase. It’s important to bring along clothing that can be easily adapted or changed to fit your hiking needs.