Lares Trek – The Culture Hike To Machu Picchu (With Video) - Mountain IQ

Lares Trek – The Culture Hike To Machu Picchu (With Video)

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Are you planning a trip to Machu Picchu and want to try a more secluded option than the Classic Inca Trail

This guide will provide you with detailed information on the Lares trail, helping you decide which routes to take, how to adequately prepare and what you can expect on arrival.

Lares Trek To Machu Picchu Overview

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The Lares trail is a lesser-known alternative to the Classic Inca Trail in the Andes, starting near the town of Lares which is 40 miles north of Cusco. From here you will trek through the Lares Valley, which crosses part of the Sacred Valley.

You can have the option of simply hiking the 2 to 3-day trail, or incorporating a visit to Machu Picchu by extending your tour by a day or two.

Notably, you will not need a permit to trek the Lares trail, which means that you can arrive in Cusco and be on the trail within a day or two of your arrival.

However, it is still necessary for you to book train tickets to Aguas Calientes, accommodation in Lares and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu in advance to avoid disappointment. This will be done by your tour operator, but do check your itinerary to ensure that everything has been booked.

The Lares Trek itself can follow a number of different routes, all of which will be outlined below. Generally, the routes end in Ollantaytambo from where trekkers can catch a train to Aguas Calientes to visit Machu Picchu, or simply return to Cusco.

Some of the considerations that influence hikers to choose the Lares Trail over the Classic Inca Trail are the fact that it’s relatively quiet and more physically manageable than the alternative.

The route also meanders through regions home to 500-year-old traditional Andean communities and you are likely to encounter local farmers or weavers in their iconic, colourful garb.

You may even be lucky enough to take part in some of the weaving activity. The handmade textiles are gorgeous and popular with tourists, so see if you can save a few Soles to bring back an authentic souvenir.

Regional Map

Recommended Guidebook

Lonely Planet Peru Travel Guide is one of the most detailed, yet easy to digest guide to the Peruvian Andes and has most of the treks and routes in it. 

Route Options And Typical Itineraries


There are a number of routes that will provide a variety of experiences of the area. Below we will summarise 5 of the most popular options, none of which require a permit.

Route 1: Lares to Patacacha (aka Weaver’s Way)

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Photo by Margaret

The shortest, easiest and most popular of the alternative trails to Machu Picchu, the pride of South America. The route requires 3 days to hike, plus an extra day to visit Machu Picchu.

The shortest, easiest and most popular of the alternative trails to Machu Picchu. The route requires 3 days to hike, plus an extra day to visit Machu Picchu. 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Route 2: Quishuarani to Patacancha

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Photo by Gemma Armit

This is the second most popular alternative to the Classic Inca Trail after Weaver’s Way, which it is a little bit longer.

This hike consists of two impressive passes.

Day 1

Day 2

Days 3-4

Route 4: Huaran to Yanahuara

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Photo by Mike

This is the toughest and least popular Lares route.

It starts in Huaran in the Sacred Valley and follows the Pachacutec Pass (4,200m) to Quishurani (3,700m) and then down to Yanahuara (2,873m). 

Route 5: Huaran to Lares

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Photo by Jared Yeh

This route is worth considering if you have already visited Machu Picchu and you want  the opportunity to meet and interact with locals.

The trail also starts from Huaran (2,885m) in the Sacred Valley and follows the Pachacutec Pass (4,200m) to Quishuarani (3,700m). 

It then follows Huilquijasa Pass (4,200m) to Cuncani (3,750m), on to Vilcabamba, and finally ends up in Lares. Generally, a bus is taken from Lares back to Cusco.

Trail Video Overview

Important Details About Lares Trek

Best Time To Trek

The best time for you to hike the Lares trail is between May and September, which is during the Andes dry season. 

While the Classic Inca trail is known to be overcrowded during these months, the number of different route options of the Lares trail mean that the trails are relatively empty.

Nevertheless, the Machu Picchu Citadel and the hotels in Cusco are likely to be booked up way in advance and very busy, so early preparation is still important.

Remember, that while rain in the dry months is relatively unlikely, it is still necessary for you to pack rain-proof gear because rain is possible at any time of the year.

The shoulder months of the dry season, April and October, are also an ideal time to visit because the trails are especially peaceful and the chance of rainfall is still low.

As November arrives, the rainfall spikes and your chances of encountering rain along your journey is quite high. From December until March, the high rainfall and low visibility due to heavy fog makes hiking the Lares trail quite uncomfortable and we recommend that you do not plan your trip over these months.

Temperatures are moderate and relatively constant throughout the year, averaging around 22°C in the days and dropping to approximately 5°C in the night times, although temperatures are known to fall well below freezing. 

Because of the range in temperatures, it is important to pack layered clothing suitable for all conditions (see Packing List for Machu Picchu). 

To see a more detailed review of the historical weather in the area, see our article on The Best Time to Hike Machu Picchu

Training & Preparation

To prepare for you hike in the Andes, the best you can do is going on hikes in your home country.

Weekly 3-5 hour hikes are a great way to harden your muscles, break in your boots, and give you an idea of what is to come. 

However, taking this type of time is sometimes difficult and so it is a good idea to build your cardiovascular stamina by going to the gym about 3 times a week in the months leading up to your hike.

Exercises like running, rowing, cycling, and swimming will be helpful to improve your aerobic fitness. 

Additionally, although the Lares Trek does not include as many stairs as the Classic Inca Trail, the summiting and descent of up to 3 passes requires strength in your leg muscles.

This can be attained by adding lunges, squats and skipping into your exercise routine.

Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

The effects of altitude sickness – including headaches, fatigue and nausea – can become apparent at anywhere above 3,000m in altitude. 

All of the route options spend most of the hike above this point, so precautions must be taken to limit the likelihood of being badly effected by altitude sickness.

Some of the most important things to remember are to drink plenty of water, to avoid the use of drugs or alcohol and to spend an adequate amount of time in Cusco acclimatizing. 

However, it is important to be fully educated on the potential risks you are taking in entering thinning air, so we recommend you read our guidance article on altitude sickness.

You might also potentially consult a doctor if you would like to procure medication which will alleviate some of the most uncomfortable symptoms. 

Permits

Unlike the Classic Inca Trail, the Lares Trek does not require permits.

This being said, be sure to book accommodation and entrance to Machu Picchu well in advance, especially if you have chosen to do your hike during the dry season.

Difficulty

The Lares Trek is moderately difficult, with slight variation depending on which route you choose. The difficulty ranges from 2/5 to 3/5, requiring trekkers to traverse either 2 or 3 passes or high altitude.

The routes are not technically challenging at all, although many tour companies recommend that you carry a walking stick to improve your balance and lighten the load.

If you are aerobically fit, and have relatively strong leg muscles, you should be able to manage the hike in terms of fitness – it is the effects of high altitude that really pose a challenge to many regardless of age, or fitness levels.

For this reason, make sure you are familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness, referred to under “acclimatization and altitude sickness”.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Am I going to be carrying my own things?

What are the toilet facilities like?

Do I need to get travel insurance?

Is it possible to do the trek without a guide?

Travel Insurance

If you plan to hike in the Hindu Kush, make sure that you are adequately insured for up to 4,000m. We recommend World Nomads. Use the calculator below to get a quick quote.

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