A shorter alternative to the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek offers an experience just as stunning. Despite the high altitudes, this trek follows a less rigorous route through local communities, making it ideal for those who are looking for something accessible, unique, and immersive.

Highlights

  • Hike the Huchayccasa pass (4200m) as you gaze upon snow-capped mountains
  • Visit villages and settlements such as Huacahuasi and Cuncani
  • Interact with local farmers and weavers, many who offer beautiful textiles for sale
  • Get a chance to spot several rare endemic species of mammals and birds
  • Descend into the Patacancha valley after crossing the Ipsaycocha pass (4450m)
  • Add on an optional additional trip to Machu Picchu following the trek

Overview

Fast facts
Duration 3 days (w/o Machu Picchu)
Max. elevation 4450m (14,600 ft)
Start/finish Totora/Patacancha
Difficulty Moderate
Best season Late Spring/Early Fall
Trek style Camping

The Lares Trek is an off-the-beaten-path journey across the Sacred Valley of Southern Peru. Like many other regional treks, it features fantastic views of mountain passes, thermal springs, and emerald lakes. Compared to the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek is a day or two shorter, quieter, and less known. It also does not require a permit.

The trek is named after the Lares Valley, east of the Urubamba mountains and home to many who continue to lead a traditional lifestyle. By passing through their communities, the trek is a great chance to witness local customs that have existed since the time of the Incas. Therefore, the Lares Trek is one of the best trek options when it comes to cultural contact and experience.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: The Canyon Trail

(Steve Wilson)
Stunning views of the Lares Valley (© Steve Wilson)

Your journey begins at Totora, a small, unmapped village only accessible through a two-hour drive. Then, tread into the Totora canyon following an Inca route. Centuries-old Inca tombs lie above, wedged within the steep cliffs. After you trek out of the canyon, gently climb past hillside rural communities. Finally, take a bus to the riverside village of Quishuarani (3700m), where you can interact with locals and camp safely for the night.

Day 2: Forests, Lakes, and Mountains

Photo by Steve Wilson
Stream crossing on the way to the pass (© Steve Wilson)

Depart Quishuarani early for your first day of more rigorous hiking. Traverse the cloud forests, a unique Peruvian ecosystem. With recent replanting efforts, flora and fauna have continued to thrive. Be on the lookout for Andean deer, chinchilla-like vizcachas, and a variety of rare colorful birds.

Then, ascend into higher grounds until you reach the Huchayccasa Pass (4200m). Get an amazing view of the lakes below and the Urubamba mountains above your vantage point. Then, trek downhill until you return to society. Rest among the potato fields of Cucani and refuel with lunch.

Trek the rest of the day along the bottom of the Lares valley until you reach Huacahuasi (3750m). The village has a history of harboring bandits and cattle thieves, but today, a peaceful community of weavers reside there. Mingle with the poncho-clad locals, from the children to the women selling traditional textiles.

Day 3: Crossing the Valley Borders

Photo by Steve Wilson
 Winding our way up to the pass (© Steve Wilson)

Wake up to the commotion of local life as men go to work in the fields, women prepare their weaving looms, and children watch over llama flocks with herding dogs. As you leave them behind, you approach the final pass.

Ipsaycocha pass (4450m) sits right along the ridge separating the Lares and Patacancha valleys, offering a great view of Mt. Veronica. The climb is gentle at first until you reach a steep slope preceding the summit. Reward yourself with lunch along the shores of the nearby lake, before continuing along a winding trail. Finally, your trek ends at Patacancha (3700m), where you can sleep comfortably in a hotel just a bus ride away.

Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

Many travelers combine their Lares trek experience with a trip to Machu Picchu. This will involve taking a train and continuing along the Inca trail, extending the overall duration of the itinerary by about two days. The first day includes 11km of trekking through the Chachabamba ruins, more cloud forests, and the Wiñay Wayna terraces. After passing through the surreal Inti Punku “Sun Gateway”, you will reach Machu Picchu.

The second day leaves with more than enough time to explore the most famous Inca site of all time. Explore the fascinating architecture of Machu Picchu without the crowds, and if you want to see even more, the Inca bridge or Watchman’s Hut are only short hikes away. The day ends with a scenic train ride back to Cusco.

Getting there & away

The major nearby city is Cusco, where you will start and end your Sacred Valley experience. The regional capital, Cusco is a city with its own distinctive eclectic traditions worth exploring. Cities throughout South America, as well as American cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, and New York, connect to the local Jorge Chávez International Airport. You will most likely have to fly in from Lima if you are entering Cusco internationally. Prepare for flights to be canceled due to poor weather conditions. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Lima, but the journey is long and can take up to a day.

Driving from Cusco to Lares, and then Totora will take 3-4 hours overall. A similar distance is required when returning to Cusco from Patacancha. If you choose the Machu Picchu add-on, you will return instead via a comfortable train ride.

Photo by Steve Wilson
Trusty steeds at the top of the pass (© Steve Wilson)

Best season

The Lares Trek’s ideal times are similar to that of the Inca Trail and other Sacred Valley treks. The trails become tougher during the rainy season, especially between December and February. May and September, the peaks of the dry season, are recommended due to their clear conditions. Just make sure to pack an appropriate sleeping bag and warm clothing, as night-time temperatures can dip around freezing.

Difficulty

Compared to the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek is less difficult. There are only two major passes, the overall length is shorter, and there are more inhabited communities along the way for breaks. However, the trek is still somewhat challenging. It is still best to be in prime physical condition and fitness before trekking. You will still need time to acclimatize to the high altitudes.

Accommodation & meals

Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are all included and provide optimal nutrition for trekking. Meals will either be eaten along the trail outside, picnic-style or at local communities. The first two nights will involve setting up camp within the grounds of villages, unlike other treks which involve camping in more remote locations. Villages will offer some basic amenities; for example, Huacahuasi provides rain shelters. The only night at a hotel is the last night at Patacancha.

Map

Map of The Lares Trek - 3 Days
Map of The Lares Trek - 3 Days