The alternative trek takes in three more unusual, quieter campsites along the route, largely away from other tourists. On the alternative Salcantay trek, many choose to take transport further along the road than Mollepata. After drop off on the first day, the hike heads as far as the laguna, which is about 30 minutes after the uphill cross-backs section, and 45 minutes before the main pass. Be prepared-it can get very chilly here at night, and has been known to snow.
On the second day, the trek continues on past the other campgrounds in the cloud forest, and to an area where there is a tiny hotsprings. There is not much space here to camp, so you need to try to arrive early, ahead of other campers. The hotsprings are very welcome after a tough hike that is primarily downhill all day.
On the afternoon of the third day, instead of taking the route from Playa to Santa Teresa, the trail instead follows an old, recently discovered Inca Trail to Llactapata. After hiking for two to three hours (depending on fitness), hikers are rewarded with a small Inca ruins site from which you have a spectacular view of Machu Picchu. It is thought that in the past, this was a watchtower, to protect the city. Hiking down a little from the ruins, the campsite also overlooks Machu Picchu.
On the final day, the hike descends down for a couple of hours to the town of Hidroelectrico, from where you can take the train to Aguas Calientes. The train leaves at around 3 p.m. and you need to buy tickets early, to secure passage.
This hike can be fairly tough, especially the stretch from Playa up to the Llactapata ruins, and it is advisable to have porters or horsemen, at least to help out with this section of the route.
Companies that offer this hike include Sun Gate Tours. Ask for guide Domingo Atao.