The Lares Trek: a calmer, three day alternate to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, no permits necessary The Lares Valley is one of the most picturesque places in southern Cusco, home of many traditional weavers and farmers. The people of this area cultivate what they will eat and knit what they will wear. The trek is moderately paced with sufficient time to appreciate the marvellous landscapes. This out-of-the-way and not often visited area offers the hiker a taste of Andean life, an ageless world where farmers plant their harvest on the same land that their predecessors attended and watch over herds of llamas and alpacas under the holy frost covered summits they honored as gods. This path is one of the Inca trails.
Lares Trek: Today the route is still used by farmers. The trail joins the communities of Cuncani, Quisurani and Lares and the Sacred Valley. The region has remained to a great extent unspoiled by tourism and has kept its purity. You will see classicly clothed Andean farmers and cruise around marketsdoing their trading as they have for done forever, see thatched stone and adobe houses. The hike includes days of walking.You can walk at your own pace. The second day is the most challenging with two very high passes tobe crossed (4560m and 4520m). This route is doubtlessly not easy though not the hardest either, the most important asset is a positive outlook. It is better to take it slow rather than tiring yourself out. If you start to feel exhausted then slow down and absorb the landscape.
Lares Trek to Machu Picchu
The Lares trek to Machu Picchu is a similar trek and grade to the Inca Trail trek and also has one challenging high pass. Although there are several different routes that you can take to do this hike, with most companies this is a 4 day/3 night hike which includes 2 nights of camping and 1 night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes before visiting Machu Picchu on the last day. This a great alternative to the Inca Trail, since trekkers get to experience the local life and pass through untouched Andean villages where the residents still wear traditional clothing, speak the native language Quechua, and make a living by farming the land. When planning this hike, it is important to check the exact route that you will take, since some companies do not even start this hike in Lares. If you start in Lares, you will be able to first visit the natural hot springs and then you can hike to a local community called Wacawasi. From there, the next day is the most challenging when you hike to the Ipsayjassa Pass at 4,450m. From there you gradually descend until you reach another small community that is next to a lake. As you keep hiking, you will get to see farmers with their alpacas, llamas, and sheep, as well as local children dressed in colorful red ponchos. Next you reach the town of Patacancha which is at the bottom of the valley. This town is has access to a small road, so from there you can take a local car to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, or a better option would be to take a 40 minute car ride and get off at Patalla from there you can hike 1/3 way up the mountain to visit the Inca ruins of Pumamarca which generally has few if any visitors, so you can have the ruins to yourself. There is an old Inca Trail along the mountain by Pumamarca that you can then follow until Ollantaytambo. In Ollantaytambo you can visit the ruins here and rest before taking the train to Aguas Calientes to spend the night.
When to go
Cuzco has a temperate climate with year round temperatures fluctuating between 14-35°C, with warm days and nights. The rainy season in Cuzco is from December to March . Machu Picchu has a semi-tropical climate, with warm and humid days and cold nights. The rainy season in Machu Picchu is from November to March, so be prepared to get soaked and slippery trail conditions. The wet months are January to April, when roads are often closed by landslides or flooding. The best months for visiting Machu Picchu are from April to October. The High season is June to August (book well in advance).
Preparing for your trip
What to take
The tap water in Peru is potable but it is not recommended to drink directly from the tap, so do not drink it. You must either boil water for five full minutes or drink bottled water. However you can brush your teeth with tap water without causing any problem to your stomach.
Because you are visiting Andean areas, don't forget to take precautions to avoid altitude sickness if you are prone to it. Be sure to try a hot tea or an infusion of coca leaves on arrival at altitude. During your first day move slowly and eat lightly, resting the first couple of hours. Sample altitudes above sea level: