Yes, the Inca Trail is absolutely beautiful, but if you’re searching for an alternative trekking route to transport you through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, consider the Lares Trek for your Andean adventure. If you’re under the impression that the Lares Trek is a less-spectacular version of the Inca Trail, you’d be wrong. This trek starts at 3,200m and ascends to 4,600m, and will reveal to you some of the most beautiful views in the world.
The Lares Trek may not include as many Inca ruins, but in no way does that mean the trail is devoid of any personality. You can set your eyes on marvellous agricultural terraces, fortresses, and rugged mountains, and enjoy views of the Andes that stretch as far as the eye can see. The best part is that you can enjoy all of the above (and more) without any disruption from other trekkers: you can almost bet on having the trail all to yourself.
- The location:
The Lares Trek officially starts from the town of Lares. However, most tour operators will pick up travellers in Cusco and take the 3-hour drive to Lares.
- Highest point:
The highest pass on the Lares Trek will be on at the Ipsaycocha Pass, which reaches a height of 4,450 metres.
The Lares Trek is a popular route for travellers searching for an alternative to the Inca Trail, mostly because it is the shortest route at just 33km and can be completed in just 3-4 days, plus time to explore Machu Picchu.
- Trail conditions:
On the Lares route, travellers can expect to see uninterrupted views of the snow-capped Cordillera de Vilcanota range while passing remote communities, farms, and crossing over rocky mountain trails.
Lares Trek difficulty rating
The Lares Trek can be completed in 4 days, covering a total distance of 33 to 45 km, depending on the route you choose. To hike this trek you don’t need any previous trekking experience, but you must be capable of walking 5-7 hours daily. With the highest altitude reaching 4,450 m, be prepared for potentially experiencing altitude sickness.
Lares Trek tips
- Don’t forget to look around you and take in the beauty as you trek along the trails in the Sacred Valley.
- Listen to your guide, as they are an invaluable resource and source of knowledge.
- You don’t need to be an athlete to trek through the Sacred Valley, but you will need to start training beforehand, to physically and mentally prepare yourself.
- Just because you’ll be trekking at a high altitude doesn't mean the bugs won’t be able to reach you, so don’t forget to pack insect repellant.
- A local’s tip is to chew on coca leaves to help alleviate any symptoms of altitude sickness.
Machu Picchu weather
How to climb Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
How do I prepare for Machu Picchu?
The best way to prepare for a trek to Machu Picchu is to participate in plenty of cardiovascular activity. Activities such as swimming, cycling, or long-distance running will place you in a strong position to complete the trek with ease. Remember; a happy heart makes for a happy hiker. Learn more.
When should I climb Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu can be climbed year-round, but travellers should be aware that the Inca Trail is closed in February every year for necessary maintenance. The most popular time to hike the Inca Trail, for example, is June-August and is known to be quite crowded. Learn more.
What permits do I need?
Only 500 permits are allocated per day for the Inca Trail due to the overwhelming popularity of the route and must be booked in advance. Other trails and routes in the area do not need a permit. Learn more.
Do I need a guide to climb?
From 2001, it is a compulsory requirement that travellers on the Inca Trail, in particular, must travel with a registered guide. Many of the alternative trails, however, do not require a guide, and you are able to hike as you wish unassisted. Learn more.
How do I get to Machu Picchu?
The best way for travellers to reach Machu Picchu is to fly into Cusco, Peru. Spending a few days in Cusco prior to embarking on a trek to Machu Picchu will help travellers acclimate, and reduce the impacts of altitude sickness. Learn more.
What should I pack and what equipment do I need?
Walking poles, hiking boots, waterproof clothing and plenty of layers are just a few of the essentials that you will need for your hiking adventure. As for tents and cooking equipment, be sure to check with your tour operator as this may be provided for you. Learn more.
Machu Picchu routes
- Inca Trail. Distance: 45 km, average duration: 4-5 days
- The Lares Trek. Distance: 33-45 km, average duration: 4 days
- The Salkantay Trek. Distance: 55 km, average duration: 5 days
- The Choquequirao Trek. Distance: 65 km, average duration: 8-10 days
- The Vilcabamba Trek. Distance: 62 km, average duration: 5 days
- The Huchuy Qosqo Trek. Distance: 20 km, average duration: 3 days
- The Quarry Trail. Distance: 26 km, average duration: 4 days