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.

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Aug 16, 2018 2 days Available $565 USD Inquire
Sep 6, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire
Sep 13, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire
View all departure dates

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 trekking (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: Arrival in Lima

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore. 

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants. 

Suggested activities include

  • Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire. 
  • Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family. 
  • Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts, as well as pieces of erotic art.
  • In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls.  The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 
  • Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.
     

Day 2: Arrival in Cusco, Exploring the City

Head to the Lima airport for your transfer flight to Cusco. This ancient city is the former capital of the Inca empire, which reigned from the 13th to 16th centuries after conquering the Killke settlement on the same location.    

Remember: you will be 11,000 feet (3,000 m) above sea level, so take it easy and remember to drink lots of water. Since Cusco was designed by the Incas as a city for walking, start your exploration of the narrow stone alleyways on foot. Take a walk through the plaza — if the weather is beautiful, it's a perfect place to sit on a balcony and have a cup of coca tea while adjusting to the elevation. 

Suggested activities include

  • Visit the Coricancha, also known as "The Temple of the Sun."  The temple was built by the Incan Emperor Pachacutec (1438 - 1572), and after the arrival of the Spaniards became the basis for the construction of the Santo Domingo Convent.
  • See the Cathedral, the most imposing monument in the central Plaza de Armas and a repository for Cusco's colonial art. Its construction lasted for almost 100 years, beginning in 1560 and ending in 1654. 
  • Walk to Sacsayhuamán and next-door Quenqo, both archaeological complexes used mostly for religious and agricultural rituals, located 2.5 miles (4 km) from the city of Cusco. Built by the Killke people, Sacsayhuamán is a marvel of ancient architecture, a monolithic fortress built from giant blocks of stone, the origins and assembly of which remain a mystery. 
  • Discover the elaborate Puca Pucara ruins—an architectural complex of alleged military use with multiple plazas, baths, aqueducts, walls, and towers. It is believed that the entourage of the Incan emperor used it while he stayed at Tambomachay, the elaborate estate and baths nearby. 
  • Explore San Blas, an old bohemian quarter famous for its picturesque white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community. 
  • Experience the legendary Mercado Central de San Pedro, a large and diverse market famous for its mouth-watering fruit juices, home-style meals, medicinal herb stalls, and rows of various meats, bread, vegetables, and other necessities. 
  • Eat dinner at a local Peruvian restaurant and sample local flavors and cooking techniques—crackling pork, pickled vegetables, seasonal flavors, bread baked in earthen ovens, roasted vegetables, and sweet donuts make for a delicious and filling meal. 
     

Day 3: The Canyon Trail

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

Depart from your hotel in Cusco to embark on your trekking adventure. 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 4: 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 5: 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.

Day 6: Departing Cusco

After breakfast, transfer from Patacancha to Cusco. Upon arrival in Cusco, transfer to the airport to board your homeward-bound flight. 

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 during the trek, 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 - 6 Days
Map of The Lares Trek - 6 Days

Upcoming Departures

Date Duration Availability Cost per person
Aug 16, 2018 2 days Available $565 USD Inquire
Sep 6, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire
Sep 13, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire
Sep 20, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire
Sep 27, 2018 3 days Available $695 USD Inquire