The Lares trek is a two- or three-day high-altitude hike in Cusco, Peru, starting near the village Lares, approximately 40 miles north of Cusco and 35 miles east of Machu Picchu. The Lares Valley lies in the east of the Urubamba mountain range, traversing part of the Sacred Valley. Reaching the start of the trek requires a bus or van trip of approximately 5 hours from the village of Lares. The Lares trek route transverses typical Peruvian Andean mountain areas.
The Lares Valley is home of many traditional weavers and farmers and famous for homemade textiles. The indigenous people of this area speak Quechua and Spanish and will often give you a chance to weave something yourself.
The Lares trek is one of the main alternatives to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is slightly shorter and higher in altitude than the Inca Trail; it is accessible from Cusco. Unlike the Inca Trail, permits are not required to hike the Lares Trek.
There are a number of different route itineraries and variations available on the Lares trek. The trek is also far more quiet than the Inca Trail as it is not as well known. The Lares trek is also slightly easier than the Inca Trail, although there are still 3 high passes will trek over, the highest being 4,400 meters.
The classic route
The standard Lares trek route is the shortest (33 km) and easiest route and you will only cross one high pass. The route takes three days to trek and one day on top to visit Machu Picchu.
Trekkers depart Cusco (3,400m) early on the first day, often around 6am and drive for several hours to Calca - a small town at 2,928m altitude. You may have breakfast at this point. From Calca you drive a further 3 hours north until you arrive at Lares. There are hot springs in Lares that are very popular. From Lares you trek for 5 hours to the first nights camping spot at Huacahuasi (3,750m).
Huacahuasi is a traditional weaving village and trekkers often try their hand at weaving here. The second day of trekking is the shortest and steepest as you cross over the Ipsaycocha Pass (4,450m) – the highest point on the trail. You camp beside Ipsaycocha Lake.
The final day of trekking is all downhill. You pass through several traditional weaving villages. including Patacancha (3,700m) and Huilloc, before finishing at Ollantaytambo (2,792m). From here you can take the train to Aguas Calientes where you stay the night. Like Lares, there are some thermal springs in Aguas Calientes.
The next day is a short bus journey up to Machu Picchu.
There are several additional routes in the area, including some where you can stay with local families instead of camping.