You want to do the Lares Trek in Peru. Why else would you be here? You’ve done all the research about the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. You’ve found out the permit situation is real or you just know that the Lares Trek is better than all the other treks to Machu Picchu. Good on you! You are right. The Lares Trail will deliver. Nature, history, the altitude, remoteness, no crowds and the beautiful Quechua culture on and next to the trails. Are you hearing Machu Picchu calling? Choose the Lares Trek.
Last updated in April 2020
Most people end up choosing the Lares Trek because they started researching their dream destination Machu Picchu, ended up at the Classic Inca Trail and then found out there are no more permits available for their dream dates. If Machu Picchu is the goal and you realize the Incas built trails all over the place, you will understand that the alternative Inca Trails are maybe not so alternative at all. They served a purpose, just as that famous Inca Trail did.
See what we did there? It doesn’t really matter which trek to Machu Picchu you choose. But what does matter, is that if you have to compare all the treks, the Lares Trek will likely become your favorite.
What Is The Lares Trek?
The Lares Trek is one of many Inca Trail options leading to Machu Picchu. The trail, however, doesn’t stop at Machu Picchu, but every Lares Trek includes some transport from Huaran to Ollantaytambo and from there you take a train to Aguas Calientes. Although you can do the trek in 5 days, most people choose to do it in 4 days. Of those 4 days, you are effectively only trekking for 3 days. The 4th day is spent in Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. In terms of the actual route itinerary, there are in fact a number of variations on the Lares Trek, most finish at Ollantaytambo.
The Lares Trek isn’t just an alternative for an overbooked Classic Inca Trail. The Lares Trek has a lot to offer for people who are looking for a combination of nature, history and local culture. Treks depart in Cusco and take you to the Lares Hot Springs. Before you actually get to tie your laces and get ready for the trek, you will relax your muscles in the thermal bath. After having enjoyed the warm water, you still want to take it easy and thus the first day you only trek for about two hours.
From the village of Quiswarani (Sometimes also Wacawasi) the trek continues via the 4300 meter high Condor Pass to the Canchachanca community. This is where the Lares Trek sets itself apart from other treks in the Cusco Region. Chances are you will be interacting with local Quechua people a lot. The last bit to Huaran or Pumamarka is the crown on the trek. Here you slowly get yourself ready for your personal discovery of the cherry of the cake Machu Picchu.
Lares Trek vs Inca Trail - Why the Lares Trail?
The Lares Trek is dubbed the Ultimate Cultural Trek. On the Lares Trek, you don’t just get to experience the thrill of hiking a part of the Inca Trail system, you actually get to meet the descendants of those people who built the Inca Trails and Machu Picchu. It gives your Inca Trail experience so much more color and it also adds context to your visit to Machu Picchu.
Another drawcard for the Lares Trek is the fact that you don’t need any trekking permits. You just need a ticket for Machu Picchu, but this isn’t as much of a hassle as the permits for the Classic Inca Trail. All trekking packages for the Lares Trek include tickets for Machu Picchu.
The Lares Trek is also considered to be easier than most of the other treks on the Inca Trail system. Compared to the Classic Inca Trail, for example, there are a lot fewer steps and this makes for a more gentle trekking experience.
On top of all of that, the Lares Trek is simply a lot quieter. Fewer numbers of people on the trails make this trek the calm way to get to Machu Picchu. On the Lares Trek, you can experience the Andean for yourself.
Best Season for the Lares Trail
The best time to hike the Peruvian Andes is from April to October when the weather is relatively warm. In the months of June, July and August the nights are cold and a four season sleeping bag is recommended. The rainy season lasts from November to March, with February as the highlight. In this month the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance. Rainy season or not, prepare for sun and rain. The mountains make the weather pattern unpredictable.
Dry season (April – October)
Day: 20’C – 25’C / 68’F – 77’F
Night: -1 – 7’C / 30’F – 45’F
Rainy season (November – March)
Day: 17’C – 22’C / 62’F – 71.6’F
Night: 4’C – 7’C / 39’F – 45’F
Costs of the Lares Trek and Machu Picchu
A typical Lares Trek can be done in 4 or 5 days. The number of days depends the price of the trek. Prices vary between 500 and 700 EUR or USD per person. This always includes accommodation, transfers, food, and entry to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Inca. Here you can find different offers for the Lares Trek.
Lares Trek Peru Itinerary
There are a few different ways to the Lares Trek. There is the Lares Trek via Wacacasi and Pumamarka and then there is the way via Canchacancha. The latter is one of the best sellers at Bookatrekking.com and it is a route we can highly recommend. Below you can find an outline of a standard 4-day itinerary for the Lares Trek. This itinerary is based on the Lares Trek as offered by Trexperience.
Day 1: Cusco - Lares Hot Springs - Kiswarani Falls
The Trekking team will pick you up from your hotel at around 5:00 am and drive you from the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas to the famous Lares thermo-medicinal baths – arriving at approximately 8:00 am. We will jump straight into the medicinal pools – all of which are set at different temperatures. The water is great for your bones, muscles, stress and headaches and therefore this is the prefect way to prepare for your Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. Today’s route is relatively easy with 2 hour trek uphill until we reach Kiswarani village.
Our chef will be waiting with a delicious lunch that has been freshly prepared using natural, organic, local produce. Finally it’s another 2 hour walk to our campsite, located on the bank of a beautiful blue lake at (3750 m/ 1230 ft). We will pass beautiful streams and a waterfall which is the source of the Amazon river – the largest in the world. On reaching our campsite your tents and a hot cup of tea will be waiting for you. This is a perfect place to relax, stargaze, and learn about Inca astronomy.
Campsite Altitude: 3750 m/ 1230 ft
Highest altitude: 3750 m/ 1230 ft
Distance: 9 km/5.5 miles
Duration: 4 hours
Day 2: Kiswarani - Condor Pass - Canchacancha
We will wake you up bright and early with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa tea. Today is our longest and most challenging day of your Lares Trek to Machu Picchu and after breakfast it is a 4 hour hike uphill to Condor Pass (4700 m / 15354 ft) – the highest point of this journey. Along the way we will enjoy beautiful lakes where Wallatas (Andean geese or ‘love birds’) swim in the crystal clear waters and pass the imposing Andean mountains of Pitusiray, Sawasiray, Qolquecruz, all of which are over 18,000 ft. At the summit of Condor Pass we will serve you a well-deserved cup of hot tea and you can take some time to rest while your tour guide performs a spiritual offering ceremony to the sacred mountains.
After Lunch we will start a 3 hour descent through the breathtaking scenery. You will have the afternoon free in Cancha Cancha meet and interact with the local people, visit a local school and help teach and play games with the children. The villagers will welcome any donations of food, school supplies or anything else you would like to give to help support the health and education of this isolated community. Late in the afternoon your guide will take you to visit one of the families’ homes. Here you can experience first hand their traditional lifestyles passed down from the Incas, sample traditional food and see how they raise guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas. Finally by the evening our chef will have prepared dinner for us to enjoy together before a well-earned nights rest.
Campsite Altitude: 3750 m / 12303 ft
Highest altitude: 4700 m / 15354 ft
Distance: 16 km/ 9.9 miles
Duration: 7 hours
Day 3: Canchacancha - Huaran - Ollantaytatmbo - Aguas Calientes
Starting the day with a beautiful view of the mountains and a delicious breakfast we then prepare for our final trekking from the highlands into to the sacred valley. First we will say goodbye to the last remaining village still practising Inca traditions, and isolated from all modern technologies, before we begin our 4 hour trek downhill. Along the way you can observe different types of ecosystems – from the colder highlands, where only potatoes are grown, to the fertile soils of the sacred valley, where maize is the main produce.
Our Lares Trek to Machu Picchu concludes in a small town called Huaran (2700 m / 8856 ft), and from here a private bus will drive us to Ollantaytambo; “Last Living Incan City”. Or as it is sometimes known; “World Capital of the Native American”. We will take some time to explore these ancient streets and the water channel that has been in use since Inca time. We will have dinner in a local restaurant in Ollantaytambo before catching the 7:00 pm train to Aguas Calientes, where we will spend the night in a hotel.
Campsite Altitude: 2700m / 8856 ft
Highest altitude: 3,750 m / 12,303 ft
Distance: 12 km / 7.4 miles
Duration: 4 hours
Day 4: Machu Picchu (Lost City of the Incas)
On our final day we have to get up very early to prepare for the highlight of your Lares Trek to Machu Picchu; visiting Machu Picchu – the Lost City of the Incas. We will go straight to the line to wait for the first bus going up to Machu Picchu at 5:30 am. Arriving as the sky brightens, we will walk for an hour up to the Sun Gate, with incredible views of the city along the way. On a clear day you can watch the spectacular sun rise over Machu Picchu. This is truly an unforgettable sight.
Your guide will take you on a 2 to 3 hour comprehensive tour of the city before leaving you in Machu Picchu to explore on your own or climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (tickets must be booked as far in advance as possible). Your guide will explain how to take the bus from Machu Picchu back to Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included) and then take the train and bus back to Cusco. The Trexperience Team will meet you off the train and return you safely to your hotel.
Highest altitude: 2700m / 8858ft
Distance: 6km / 3 miles
Duration: 2 – 3 hours
How High is The Condor Pass?
The Condor Pass is your biggest obstacle during the Lares Trek. The pass has an altitude of 4,300mt/14,107ft above sea level. On a typical Lares Trek, you are most likely to cross the Condor Pass on the second day. It is key to take it easy while crossing the pass. If you are prone to altitude sickness, then this is where it can happen. Fortunately, once you have crossed the Condor Pass, you will descend pretty quickly. This will aid your acclimatization and should settle the worst symptoms of altitude sickness.
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Lares Trek Altitude - How High Is The Lares Trek?
The Lares Trek is high. It is basically as high as the Salkantay Trek and you could say it is also just as difficult. The highest point, the Condor Pass, is about 300 meters lower than the highest point of the Salkantay Trek, which lies at 4600 meters.
During the Lares Trek, you also sleep at fairly high altitude. The first two nights you will be staying at around 3700 meters and the last two nights you will be spending at around 2700 meters. It is high, but with the right acclimatization, the Lares Trek is definitely doable.
Altitude Sickness during Lares Trek
Altitude Sickness (AMS) can ruin your trip to Machu Picchu. Often people wanting to do an Inca Trail like the Lares are in a hurry and fly in via Lima, which is on sea level. They then find themselves in Cusco, which is on an altitude of 3399 meters. To give you some perspective, mountaineers like to ascend so-called three-thousands, mountains at 3000 meters above sea level. You can understand that Cusco is high. From Cusco, you go even higher, because the Lares Trek crosses the Condor Pass at 4300m. There’s a solid four-thousander. The dangers of altitude sickness should be taken seriously.
Our trekking experts always advise people who are interested in the Lares Trek to spend at least one day in Cusco. Ideally, you spend two days in Cusco. And why not? There is plenty to do. It is a great city and spending some time there will help you to get used to the altitude. While on the trek you are probably going to use some coca leaves.
Our trekking experts are well aware of the hazards of Altitude Sickness. They have written blog posts about AMS when trekking in Nepal and know that you shouldn’t rush your way up Mount Kilimanjaro. One golden rule applies while trekking on altitude: Listen to your body.
Listen To Your Body
When your body needs rest, your body tells you. Listen carefully to your body. Be aware and talk about the symptoms of altitude sickness. If your body wants you, let your friends, your guide, your porters know how you feel and take a break. Don't let that get worse.
Eat as much as you can. Don’t skip your meals, even if you don’t like what you have on your plate. Believe us, you will enjoy the food in Peru. Your body works hard and needs a lot of carbohydrates in order to make more distance and to be able to bridge more altitude. Forget about your slimmers diet and buy those extra snickers. Trekking is hard work and can easily burn more than 4,000 calories a day. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why you can like trekking! Eat, your body will thank you.
If you drink alcohol, you will probably also drink it during your Lares Trek. Some trekking companies make it a ritual to have a shot at the Condor Pass. Be careful though, because it won’t help your acclimatization. You will have to increase your water intake. This is a lot easier when it’s hot and you’re sweating, but at a high altitude, you need to be disciplined. Drink 3 to 5 liters per day and drink some tea when you can. You’re hiking and not partying – so leave (most of) the alcohol for after the trip. Alcohol stimulates mountain sickness and that’s not just because alcohol dehydrates you.
The Incas used coca leaves as a remedy for loads to illnesses and physical problems. Today, locally, coca leaves are still used to suppress the effects of altitude sickness. Don’t tell your mom we told you this, but go ahead and try it out.
Last but not least: Choose a longer itinerary. You can do the Lares Trek, but doing it in 5 days will not only make you enjoy your Lares Trek more, but it will also aid your acclimatization. Longer is always better.
What To Pack for Lares Trek
If you are trekking the Lares solo, you will have to carry everything on your own. If you make this decision, we trust that you know what you are in for and that you know how to make it yourselves as comfortable as possible. You will need a lot of stuff; stuff that you won’t need if you are trekking with a trekking company. This packing list is for those who have booked with a trekking company and are wondering what they do and don’t need. Don’t need, that’s right: This is one of the added benefits of booking your Lares Trek with a trekking company.
When packing your bags for Peru and the Lares Trek, there are some things you can not leave behind. The following items are a no-brainer :)
- Valid Passport (a copy will not be accepted)
- Valid Student Card (if you booked as a student)
- Immigration Card (That piece of paper you receive on the incoming plane)
- Hiking boots (light, comfortable and broken in)
- A good quality daypack (light, small and comfortable)
- Water storage for at least 2 liters; either a camel bag, flasks or bottles
In Your Daypack
The benefit of booking with a trekking company is that you won’t be able to bring all your belongings along on the trails. You only need to carry your daypack and can leave some stuff with the amazing porters that will make your trek more comfortable. Don’t compromise on the quality of your daypack. It is important to note that due to local regulations, your backpack should not exceed 25L. All larger backpacks can not be taken into Machu Picchu and will need to be stored outside the gates.
- Hat and sunglasses
- Rain gear
- Warm layers (fleece / long sleeved tops)
- Sun cream, bug spray
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- Personal medication
- Camera, extra batteries
- Head torch
- Extra snacks, power bars, chocolate
- Extra money for souvenirs, drinks & tips (small change is useful for paying to use the villagers’ toilets on the first day.
Your trekking company will supply you with a duffel bag which you can fill with all the other stuff you won’t be needing during the day. The maximum allowed weight is usually 7KG and that includes your sleeping bag and your air mattress. We advise you to bring the lightest stuff and to definitely not bring too much. Bring at least the following items:
- Sleeping bag (usually for rent at trekking company)
- Air mattress (usually for rent at trekking company)
- Light shoes for around camps
- Warm jacket, hat, and gloves
- 2-3 t-shirts (wicking)
- 1-2 hiking pants/trousers
- 4 sets of undergarments
- 4 sets of hiking socks
- 1 fleece
- 1 Warm, down jacket for the coldest nights
- Quick-dry towel
- Wet wipes
- Toothbrush and paste
- Face moisturizer
- Power pack/battery chargerPlastic bags to keep wet or muddy clothes separate
If you are comfortable wearing some of the items again the next day, you can definitely save on some weight for the porters. Your excess luggage can normally be stored at your trekking company. This service is free of charge or a small fee is calculated.
How To Get Fit for The Lares Trek
One sure way to get good at what you do is to practice. The best practice for hiking is hiking. Seeing that you are interested in the Lares Trek, we assume that you already like hiking. Hike a bit more. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by hills or even mountains, it is time to see them more often. When? If you are new to this, we suggest starting six months before your planned departure by simply going for an hour (or two) hike a week. When you get the hang of it, after about three weeks, it’s time to beef up your intensity. Bring a pack of 10 to 15kg and add a longer hike of three hours to your week. If this lifestyle is new to you, you will soon reap the benefits of trekking.
After a good few months of solid hiking, it is time to put your endurance to the test. Do back to back long hikes. You can simulate a few days of constant trekking by going hiking for a few days. Easy at that. Plan a smaller trekking holiday or keep it simple by hiking your favorite route on repeat. If you are comfortable hiking for 4 hours a day, 3 days in a row while carrying a 10kg to 15kg backpack, you will be fine.
Moderate Strength Exercise
You will need to get a bit stronger. One way to get stronger is to do some basic strength work. You don’t need a gym membership, as merely using your bodyweight can already give you the results you are looking for. Once or twice a week, depending on how you are feeling, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats, and 10 step ups. If you want to push yourself a bit more, you can try to add some pull ups and push up to your routine. Going the extra mile in your strengthening is, however, really not necessary. You can already enjoy trekking when you just stick to the basics. This is not a fitness competition.
That should get you fit!
Where To Book the Lares Trek?
You can book the Lares Trek in Cusco during your travels but it is better to book your Lares Trek in advance. The Lares Trek always includes Machu Picchu at the end of the journey. For Machu Picchu you need tickets and they need to be organized in advance. Trekking companies always need some time to book these tickets. It is therefore convenient to book in advance, online.
On Bookatrekking.com you can easily compare and book local providers and hikes. In addition, we have the lowest price guarantee. Have you found the Toubkal ascent of your dreams? In that case, you can proceed with the booking. At Bookatrekking.com you pay a deposit of 15% of the total amount. You pay the remaining amount on location prior to the trek directly to the trekking company.
Find here all our trekking options for Peru and check this page to get all our quotes for the Lares Trek. Have you checked our Peru travel guide yet?
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