The Lares Trek is probably the third-best alternative trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and comes in several versions, from a 3-day tour to a 5-day trek. Instead of entering Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, all of these Lares treks end in the Sacred Valley of Ollantaytambo, where tourists board trains to Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu. Here’s a must-read travel guide if you ever make this trek, so here we go.
Explore Wakawasi to Lares and Patacancha
Lares is the only safe trek in the rainy season regarding landslides. But you have to go in a proper rain jacket.
There are many routes to do the Lares trek. We recommend the Huaran to Kiswarani route or vice versa because it is the only place you can see the glacier from very close.
While trekking, children will come up to you to ask for candy. Bring school supplies; candy is not for their teeth.
The best time to trek from Lares to Machu Picchu is during the dry season, from April to August. Also, the trail does not crowd with tourists or large groups of people and much more in the rainy season from December to March. While in September through November, the days are often sunny, but sometimes it just gets cloudy, threatening rain but rains or fades; overall, it is still a good season.
Take the Lares Trek to get to know the mountain life of the Peruvian Andes because you will witness a more authentic way of life of the Quechua people living in this part of Cusco. You will have the opportunity to learn about their wisdom, religion, and philosophy. In addition to the mountain villages and local culture, enjoy the clear blue lakes, the valleys inhabited by alpacas, the seductive mountain peaks, and the many wonders this trek still offers.
Altitude sickness can affect some people, so be prepared and carry appropriate medication. Most guides have first aid kits and an oxygen bottle because headaches and nausea can be very unpleasant. Also, depending on the season, altitude and rain can make the climbs even more difficult, but you will never be so sick that you can’t appreciate the views.
Anyone with difficulty with altitude sickness and not in good physical shape may not make it up the high-altitude mountain passes. If not, before arriving in Peru, try to do cardio exercises and plan enough time to acclimate to Cusco’s altitude. After that, there will be nothing you can’t handle.
Expect cold temperatures at night and in the early winter hours from May to August, but these are advisable months to do the trek (temperatures can drop below freezing). While in the summer months, from December to March, the temperature is warmer but followed by showers. The rest of the year is mild.
It is not necessary to book the tour months in advance, as it receives an unlimited number of tour groups throughout the year. Find a reliable tour operator and ask about the excursion, and they will start organizing the hike. There is always availability.
There are no age restrictions for this particular hike, but a few things to keep in mind: First, older people need to be aware of how their body responds to a mountain hike. If going with children, the key is to stay hydrated, have snacks, and take breaks. It all depends on if the child has previous experience, then route 02 would be recommended for children 08 years and older.
If you are used to hiking with poles, take them, they will be worth it. You will use them to avoid nasty falls on the descent and to keep your ankles and knees safe on the mountain trail.
No, for most of the hike, there is no internet on route 02 up to the town of Ollantaytambo, or if there is, it will be a slow and broken internet connection.
No, the streams along the route are unreliable, so bring bottled water or fill your camel bag with boiled water before leaving camp.
This information is a reminder because not everyone can take the same medications. According to specialists and pharmacists, having some Paracetamol and ibuprofen as painkillers is essential. The next thing that can be annoying on a trek is diarrhea, so to help stop it, consider taking Imodium tablets and Acetazolamide for altitude sickness.
No guide or tour agent can prescribe any prescriptions or pills. They carry a basic first aid kit with pharmacy medicines, and if the tourist agrees to take it because it is the same as the doctor’s suggestion, he takes it.
You will surely see the local people concentrated on their daily tasks. Most of them are dedicated to agriculture and are llama herders, dressed in their traditional clothes as they were supposed to be in Inca times. They live in adobe huts plastered with mud and secure their llamas and alpacas in stone or fences woven with wire in the summer months.
Camping sites are less crowded because they are less busy and have several versions. There are only outside toilets, so be prepared for them. The water may not be safe, so purify it as well. As for showering, it will depend on the time and weather conditions. Generally, the temperature is cold, so you can hardly take a bath.
Most Lares treks pass through the town of Lares so you can soak in the Hot Springs. It is a lovely place to relax, but before starting the walk, ask your tour operator if there will be time for it since, as mentioned on route 3, the hike begins far from Lares.
Hiking Lares on your own is possible. However, it will depend on your previous experience doing solo treks above 13 000 feet and the time spent acclimatizing in Cusco before heading to Lares. As you know, the Lares trek is not just one trail, it is more than one, and each one presents a different difficulty level.
Still, want to do it on your own? Well, let’s talk a little more. The changeable weather in the mountains, especially in the rainy season, makes it difficult. Sometimes heavy snow covers all signs of the trail. Unless there is a guided group, you can follow them; although the locals are friendly, they will not speak English, so Spanish or Quechua is a handy resource to communicate. It would help if you also were careful with the dogs in the countryside, as they are sometimes aggressive.
The most common Lares trek covers a 37 km trail, starting at the Lares Hot Springs, through the Quiswarani campground to the hamlet of Huaran in the Sacred Valley. This adventure is a 3-day trek, and after the 37 km trek, the experience ends with a magical visit to Machu Picchu Park on the fourth day.
The highest point reached when doing the standard Lares to Machu Picchu trek is the 15 400 ft / 4 700 mountain pass, a mountain pass by the name of Pachakuteq pass. And this mountain hike is completed on the second day of trekking, then on the third day is the entrance into the Sacred Valley of Ollantaytambo, and subsequently, the train ride to the town of Aguas Calientes.
Because it is a multi-day trek, it varies each day, but depending on the route you choose, here is a general estimate:
Tour groups drive the road to the town of Calca in the sacred valley, where they can stock up on some recommended essentials if needed, then turn into another valley road up and down on the other side to the Lares valley. This adventure is the most common route among all the trekking routes from Lares to Machu Picchu, starting at the Lares Hot Springs. In the next few days, the trail goes up to 4,700 m, the Pachakuteq pass. It is a 37 km hike over three days, and Machu Picchu does visit on the fourth day, so this is a 4D/3N Lares trekking package. Some other tour companies do the same route but start on the opposite side; it’s like Huaran – Quiswarani – Lares. Don’t be surprised!
As in route 1, travelers arrive in the town of Lares and set off for Huacahuasi, an Andean village northwest of Lares. Then, for the next couple of days, the trail climbs to the Ipsaycocha pass, reaching 4,400 m, and again descends to the villages of Patacancha and Huilloc on the last day of hiking, almost approaching Ollantaytambo. This is about a 35 km hike that requires three days of trekking plus the visit to Machu Picchu on the fourth day.
Unfortunately, there is no way to visit the hot springs of Lares because the hike starts in the village of Quiswarani, which is before the town of Lares. Then the trail ascends to the Huilquijasa pass at 4,200 m to reach the Andean city of Cuncani for the night. It continues to Huacahuasi and the Ipsaycocha pass as in route 2. Then through the Patacancha valley to Ollantaytambo. This hiking adventure is a three-day trek, with a distance of 39 km, plus the visit to Machu Picchu on the fourth day.
This route takes the same road as route 03 up to the town of Huacahuasi. From Huacahuasi, it takes a different path, crossing the Huacahuasijasa pass at 4,500 m. and then descending to the village of Yanahuara in the sacred valley near Ollantaytambo. It covers a length of 45 km, this being a less traveled road.
Another route that is not popular among the ways is its strenuous trekking, but it is well suited to more experienced hikers. Beginning in a small hamlet called Huaran in the sacred valley, tourists ascend to the Cancha Cancha camp before the Pachacuteq pass at 4,700m. The next day begins the descent behind the mountain pass while seeing some lagoons in that magical valley of Lares approaching the village of Quiswarani. In the following days, the trail reaches the towns of Cuncani and Huacahuasi to camp and continues to the Huacahuasijasa pass as in route 4. The trek ends in the village of Yanahuara, near Ollantaytambo, in the sacred valley, before taking the train. This outdoor hiking is a four-day trek plus a visit to Machu Picchu on the fifth day, in this case.