Lares Trek And Machu Picchu Overview
The Lares Trek: a quieter, four-day alternative to the Inca Trail; no permits required
Hidden within the magnificent snow-capped Andes, the beautiful Lares Valley has all the natural beauty of the Inca Trail - magical mountain scenery and the legacy of the Incas - but without the busy tourist crowds. In fact, the Lares Trek is so far off the beaten track that it has changed little over the last 500 years. Visit this page to view the Lares Trek itinerary and route map.
With stunning landscapes and remote settlements, the area has remained largely untouched by tourism and retains its authenticity, offering a glimpse of life the way it used to be in Peru. You will meet traditionally dressed Andean farmers, and wander markets trading as they have done for centuries, see thatched stone and adobe houses and watch herds of llamas and alpacas roaming free.
The Lares Trek is a similar grade to the Inca Trail Trek (with one challenging high pass) and is fully escorted, with 2 nights camping and one night in Aguas Calientes before an early bus ride up to Machu Picchu on day 4.
The trek involves days of walking. You will be accompanied by a team of porters, llamas, a cook and an English speaking guide. You can walk entirely at your own pace as your guide will be at the front and either a porter or tour leader at the back with the last person. The second day is the hardest with two very high passes to cross (4560m and 4520m). The trail is certainly not easy but you do not need to be an athlete or a trekking expert to complete it. Fitness naturally is important, but if you really want to do it and you have a positive attitude then you will be fine. Surviving a trek such as this is really all about how you walk it. You must take it slowly and simply wander along at your own pace. If you find you are short of breath and can't talk normally then slow right down and take very small steps (it can actually be quite hard to change from your normal walking pace but it is very important to try to slow down as much as possible). Don't let yourself get swept along in a race with the group, just plod along and do your own thing and give yourself time to take in the scenery. It's really important not to stop and sit down all the time. We recommend you buy a bamboo walking stick in Cuzco for only a dollar or so, and then when you need a breather you can stop and lean on this for a few minutes. It is best to only stop and sit down to rest every hour or so.
Altitude can affect anyone at moderate to high altitude (generally anything over 3,000 metres). Altitude sickness is caused by the lack of oxygen which can be up to a third less than at sea level. No one understands why some people are affected and others not and age, level of fitness and strength is no indication of how well you will fare. Be aware that altitude sickness can be serious, so if your guide advises you to rest or descend, please do as instructed. As the trek is a mixture of ascents and descents, altitude sickness is often short term and suffering from it does not necessarily mean you will be unable to complete the trek. Drugs are available to combat the effects of altitude sickness, for more information please ask your doctor before you travel.
Staff and support
The trek will be led by an experienced guide with extensive local historical and archaeological knowledge. You will pass many Inca ruins along the way and your guide will conduct short tours wherever it is possible to do so. A team of porters will carry all equipment leaving you with just a small daypack to carry. The cook will prepare three meals a day (while camping) plus provide hot drinks and snacks.
Your cook and porters will prepare three meals a day on the trek usually consisting of bread, eggs, tea and coffee for breakfast; soup, guacamole, cheese, tomato, cold meat and rolls for lunch and a two or three course dinner usually accompanied by rice, pasta or potatoes. There is usually a constant supply of coca tea and coffee and meals will be supplemented by tea breaks with biscuits and fruit. Meals are not included in Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. It is a good idea to bring a large bottle of water and some additional empty bottles (depending on the weight you wish to carry) to the start of your trek. After this you will refill your empty bottles from boiled water provided by the porters and carry them yourself. Boiled water will be provided during the trek when it is possible to make camp.
Your porters, guides and cook have amazing strength, stamina and skill and you would almost certainly not be able to complete the trek without them. It is therefore commonly accepted that the standard combined tip for guides, porters and cook is US$30 per trekker.
The weather in the Andes can be very unpredictable and you should be equipped for bad weather. Peru is located in the southern hemisphere meaning the winter extends from June to August. In the summer months daytime temperatures can be extremely hot and humid, but the nights can be very cold. During winter it can be cold during the day and particularly cold at night. It is usual to encounter some rain all year round so a poncho is ideal along with thermal underwear if you really feel the cold. (Cheap ponchos which fit over everything including your day pack can be bought in Cuzco for approximately US$1).
See our Peru tours page for the full list of packages that include the Lares Trek.