The Lares Trek is an excellent alternative to the bustling Inca Trail because it takes you off the beaten path. Traveling through the highlands of Peru gives you a taste of the ancient ways. You get to visit authentic Andean communities whilst being surrounded by stunning mountains, lakes and valleys which offers a real insight into how the lives of Cuscanian people once were and in many places, how their lives still are.
The Lares trek to Machu Picchu is most definitely the best option to experience the real life of the Andean communities. You can say without a shadow of doubt that it is a journey through the heart of the Andean world where few tourists have been encouraged to venture. On this incredible trail, you will pass beautiful landscapes, picturesque lakes, and breathtaking glaciers inhabited by local Inca communities. Of course, one would be remiss if one didn’t mention that the Lares Trek also ends in the sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
Day 1 Cusco: Pumahuanca – Puyoq
We are going to leave Cusco at 5:30 in the morning to travel through the Sacred Valley—land of the famous white corn and Chicha, the Inca’s favorite corn beer. Our first day of our trek starts off in Pumahuanca of the Sacred Valley. We will make our way up one of the gentle side valleys covering about 14km in total and climbing about (1,150m / 3,373ft) in order to make our way towards Puyoq. On our way up, we’ll visit a beautiful Pumahuancan ruin where we’ll find native inhabitants such as plants, flowers and birds.
The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is not commonly taken by other tourists so we can enjoy the peace and tranquility of our surroundings without any distractions or disturbances. There is a great chance of seeing wild animals such as viscachas (wild rabbit) and Andean foxes due to the peaceful silence on the trail. We should arrive to our campsite in Puyoq (4,200m/13,713ft) around 4 or 5 in the evening. It is quite barren at this altitude, and it’s not uncommon for it to snow up here during the winter season so gloves and hats are highly recommended.
Day 2: Puyoq – Cuncani
Today is possibly the most spectacular and gorgeous part of the Lares Trek, but it is significantly more difficult than yesterday. We have to hike 13km to the village of Cuncani. From the camp, it’s about 3 hours to the summit which is located at 4,800m (15,600ft) above sea level.
As we make our way to Cuncani, we’ll pass by snow-capped peaks that tower above us, serene mountain lakes such as Yanacocha (Black Lake), and we’ll even get to meet the local people dressed in their traditional bright red clothing. This side of the pass is completely culturally different from the other side. As we wind our way down from the pass, you will have the chance to learn about the natives and all of their traditions from your tour guide. Our campsite in Cuncani is not only a beautiful place situated by a massive glittering lake, but the social interactions one can experience with the locals is always an exciting treat for tourists because these people are incredibly welcoming, and it is great to be able to learn things directly from them.
DAY 3: Cuncani – Hot Springs
If you didn’t the amazing weavers from the village yesterday, you fortunately still have time to do so. It’s an excellent opportunity to see all the amazing woven textiles that they make using alpaca and sheep fibers. You can even take some home as souvenirs at very cheap prices. They make for great gifts.
Leaving Cuncani, it’s just a 6km trek until we reach the hot springs of Lares. Along the Lares Trek, we’ll see several small communities where we can watch the people cultivate a variety of crops such as quinoa, tarwi and many others native to this area. We’ll also probably spot flocks of Andean parrots flying overhead. They’re actually quite easy to spot thanks to their unique, piercing calls. After a much needed relaxing dip in the hot springs, we will catch our minivan back to the Sacred Valley train station. From there, we will catch our train to Machu Picchu.
Day 4: Machu Picchu – Cusco
After a great experience mingling with the locals on the Lares Trek, we are in for a very exciting adventure today. We will take a 30-minute bus ride up the switchback road to the ancient city of the Incas. The natural and cultural beauty of Machu Picchu is breathtaking no matter how many times you see it. Many say that you can still feel the spiritual energies of the Inca that preceded us all.
We will meet up with our professional tour guide just at the citadel gates. He will take us to the most important palaces and temples while also informing us about the ample mysteries of this sacred place. The tour takes about 3 hours, and once we are done, you will have extra time to explore these seemingly magical ruins on your own. If you have booked a permit to climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, then this is the time when your next adventure will begin. The “Sun Gate” (Inti Punku) is another incredible alternative hike which we highly recommend. This is where the hikers traveling along the Inca Trail enter Machu Picchu. What makes this option even better is that it onlt takes about 1 hour to hike, and it is free for all who are interested. Finally, after all of our fun at the ruins, we take a train to Ollantaytambo back to Cusco that usually departs in the afternoon.
Upon your arrival to the Cusco Aiport, one of our representatives will be waiting for you holding a flag with the Inka Trail Explorer Logo. They take you on a one-way ride to your hotel. Please bear in mind that we only include 1 pick up.
Professional Tour Guide
Inka Trail Explorer has a staff of professional tour guides who all have university degrees in tourism and English. They are all incredibly passionate individuals and they are well-versed in the history, archeology, and the astronomy of Peru. With pleasant smiles gracing their faces, they will always happily teach you about their heritage.
The night before the trek, your guide will give you all of the detailed information about your trek itenerary. You will also receive your duffel bag which is meant to hold your personal belongings. This must include your sleeping bag and air mattress if you’ve opted to bring one. Your duffel cannot weigh more than 7kg (14lbs).
We do use horses for this trek. They will be responsible for carrying all camping equipment, food supplies and your duffel bags. We also include an emergency horse in the event that you feel tired or need a break from trekking.
Huayna (Wiñay) Picchu/ Machu Picchu Mountains
Huayna Picchu Mt. stands just behind Machu Picchu; the panoramic views of the Sacred City from the top are spectacular. It takes 45 minutes to hike both ways because it is quite steep. If you opt to do this climb, we highly recommend going with the second group which is scheduled at 10am. The views are so much better during this time of day.
Machu Picchu Mt. stands on the left side of the citadel. This is yet another mountain with excellent vantage points, and it takes 3 hours roundtrip. If you are interested in this adventure, you will need to book it in advance. You may start climbing any time from 7 to 8am.
The entrance fees to the trail to Machu Picchu and either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain are included. You need only to mention which mountain you’d like to climb. Unfortuantely, there is not enough time to attempt both climbs, and they both can be quite exhausting. Nevertheless, each hike provides a unique challenge and unforgettable experiences.
Inka Trail Explorer includes an 1-night stay in a 3-star hotel in the town of Aguas Calientes—a town situated just below Machu Picchu. Your booked hotel will be listed on your confirmed invoice, but ugrades are always possible. This accommedations are based on sharing rooms – either a double, matrimonial, or triple. There is a surcharge of $30 USD per person if you prefer to book a single bed. All rooms include private bathrooms with hot showers and Wi-fi. We can also upgrade your hotel if you prefer something a little fancier.
We do provide and include all transportation needed for this trek such as the bus and train tickets. When you travel with Inka Trail Explorer, you do not have to worry about any transportation. From the very begining of the trek we pick you up from your hotel and when the tour has been completed, we will drop you off at your hotel. Our train service is Expedition class, but it can be upgraded to the Vistadome train.
Our camping equipment is of the best quality which makes it very comfortable. Each tent will be shared by 2 people unless you place a request for a single tent (please see Optional Rentals). We also provide a spacious dining tent and kitchen tent.
Our amazing and experienced chefs prepare all meals in a small tent over a single flame. The way they are able to cook these delicious meals on the Lares trek to Machu Picchu is quite a magical feat. We provide all natural and fresh vegetables along with carefully selected meat that comes from the Peruvian Andes. We honor all food restrictions, but please mention any you may have as or immediately following your booking. The traditional Peruvian/ Cuscanian dishes are served family style. We include 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners and every day in the morning your chef will provide you a snack to enjoy along the trail.
Beginning from your first lunch until your last breakfast, Inka Trail Explorer will supply all the water that you may need. The water is obtained straight from the glaciers and streams. It will be subsequently boiled, filtered and cooled before being distributed. You must, however, bring your own water bottles or Camelbaks. We highly recommend that you carry about 3 liters worth with you. Please note that you will have the chance to refill your bottle every day at each meal.
Inka Trail Explorer does not include the entrance fee to the hot springs, but after 2 days of extensive hiking, you will not want to miss out the amazing opportunity to soak in these natural, thermomedicinal waters. The entrance fee is just 10 soles per person.
You really need a sleeping bag when you choose this trek. Our first campsite is above (4,300m /14,018ft), and it is very cold at this elevation with temperatures sometimes dropping to 0°C. We highly recommend that you bring a sleeping bag that’s suitable for weather that down to -10°C. If you do not have a sleeping bag, you can rent one from us.
Inflatable Air Mattress
It is optional, but it definitely helps in getting a good night’s sleep. We do have these available for rent as well, but if you have your own, we suggest you bring it with you.
Walking poles are always highly recommended. Much of the terrain we will be trekking is quite steep, especially when going down steep declines. They do a great job of helping you keep your balance. If you decide to bring your own, please keep in mind that they must have rubber tips. If you do not have your own and would like to use some, professional aluminous ones can be rented from us.
The only day that we do not include lunch is on the last day after you complete your visit to Machu Picchu. Before you take the train back to Ollantaytambo, there will be plenty of time to grab lunch at one of the many delicious restaurants in Aguas Calientes. If you’d like, we would love to recommend some of the best ones.
Inka Trail Explorer warmly welcomes you to allow us to make this adventure one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Our treks can depart during any day of the week out of all 12 months per year.
*Group Service Price: $610 USD per person
A group service means that it is open for other trekkers to join you. Your group will have varying hiking and fitness abilities, but all our guides are experts at keeping everyone moving and happy no matter how fast you go.
*Private Tour Service is also available and priced by party size.
The Lares Trek is one of the best treks to Machu Picchu, it’s even better when you do it with just your friends or loved ones. Our private trek can start at any size, and it is highly recommended for inexperienced hikers or for groups with children. Either way, we will all do our best to make this an incredible experience for you.
2 Hikers: $655 USD per person
3 Hikers: $630 USD per person
4 Hikers: $605 USD per person
5 Hikers: $580 USD per person
6 Hikers: $555 USD per person
7 Hikers: $530 USD per person
8 or more Trekkers: $505 USD per person
Student Discount: $20 USD (Requires ISIC Card to qualify)
Student Discounts apply to anyone who has a valid GREEN ISIC card at the time of the trek or is 16 years old or younger. For those using an ISIC card to receive the discount, we do need to see a copy of the card at booking. For those booking children 16 years old or younger, we need a copy of their passport at booking time. Please send all to email@example.com
How to book
It’s always better contact us directly and confirm your trip with our team before booking. Once you are ready, please fill in our Booking Form and pay the $200 USD deposit per person. Our office will email you back that same day with your confirmation. We always send out confirmation invoices, so if you don’t hear from us, check your spam folder or contact our office directly, and we will resend them.
Inka Trail Explorer would like to mention how excited we are to take you on the trail, and thank you for placing your trust in us.
In your Duffle Bag
Remember you are packing for 2 nights of camping and 1 night in a hotel. Horses will carry up to 7 kg of your personal items. This must include your sleeping bag and air matt. If you choose to rent one or both from us, the combined weight totals to 3.5 kg.
In your Daypacks
Daypacks can be any size for hiking, but we always recommend small ones because no bag larger than 25L will be allowed in the citadel of Machu Picchu. If you happen to bring something larger, you will need to store outside the gates.
We are an adventure tour company; we operate treks on the Inca trail, Salkantay, Ausangate, as well as to Choquekirao and Lares. We provide adventures with authentic life, changing experiences in each of our treks. We ensure the quality of our trips, by operating our own programs in Cusco