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Lares Treks to Machu Picchu

Things to know before travelling the Lares trek to Machu Picchu.

The Lares trek is amazing and has the special addition of visiting a local village. Because the Lares trek is not regulated by the Peruvian government, you do not have to worry about a permit, the trek is an off the beaten track, located in Peru (south America) east of the Urubamba mountain range, which traverses part of the Sacred Valley of the incas, 40 miles north of Cusco and 35 miles south east of Machu Picchu.

The trek can be completed in 3 or 4 days with a visit to Machu Picchu or be incorporated the short inca trail arriving at the Sun Gate in the afternoon for your first view of the Lost City of the Incas Machu Picchu extending the tour by 1 or 2 days. The latter option is fast becoming a popular itinerary for trekkers due to the permit limits placed on the Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Lares mountains offer a number of trek routes to Machu Picchu, each offers a slightly different flavour of the Lares region. The most common lares treks to Machu Picchu start at the thermal springs in Lares where one can take a quick dip before commencing the hike. All of the trails do not require permits and can be completed as standalone treks without visiting Machu Picchu.

All of the trails do not require permits and can be completed as standalone treks without visiting Machu Picchu. The routes can be trek on your own as well, it just has to paid the villagers for the camps used and we strongly ask not to leave trash. The Lares trek is not regulated by the Peruvian government, it also means there is not someone looking after the trail and making sure it’s well maintained. We try to do as much as we can, when we do the Lares trek or any alternative trek we always bring an extra porter just to help clean the trail from garbage other hikers leave behind. When we visit the village, we try to encourage the kids to help us with that job. We provide school supply and each kid who brings some garbage gets it (to be honest, they all do, but it makes a fun game). You get to really see how they live and spend time with them, it’s really special.

Lares Routes

Trekkers leave Cusco (3,400m/11,154ft) early on the first morning, typically around 05:00 and drive for 3.5 hours to the small town of Lares (3,150m/10,334ft). Trekkers generally visit the thermal springs in Lares where one can take a quick dip before commencing the trek.

Route 1: Lares – huacawasi – Ipsaycocha – patacancha.

The route takes three days to trek (one extra day to visit Machu Picchu) and takes trekkers through two interesting weaving quechua communities at Huacahuasi (Huacawasi) and Patacancha with a climb up and over the Ipsaycocha Pass (4,450m/14,600ft) on second day. The trail concludes in Patacancha on the day three where the tour operators organise land transport to Ollantaytambo (2,792m/9,160ft), before catching an hour and 40-minute train to Aguas Calientes (2,040m/6,693ft) the town that sits below Machu Picchu then visit machu picchu the next day.

Walking distance: 8.7 miles/33 km

First Campsite: Huacahuasi 3,750m/12,303ft (high) above sea level

Second Camsite: Ipsaycocha lake 3,900m/12,795ft

Highest Point: Ipsaycocha Pass 4,465m/14,649ft

Route 2: Quishuarani – Cuncani – Ipsaycocha – Patacancha.

The route will need to contend with two big passes. Leaving early on day 1 you will drive from Cusco to thermal springs of Lares, where the groups stop here for a break and potentially get breakfast / stock up on snacks and water. From here you continue on to Quishuarani (3,700m/12,139ft), arriving around 11:00am.

The trek starts with a gradual ascent that get’s steeper as you approach the first pass, Huilquijasa (4,260m/13,976ft) and on day two the route continues up and over the Ipsaycocha Pass (4,450m/14,600ft).

Day 3 and 4 follow the same route as the Weavers Way (Route 1) above.

Walking distance: 39 km

First Campsite: Cuncani 3,750m/12,303ft (high) above sea level

Second Camsite: Ipsaycocha lake 3,900m/12,795ft

Highest Point: Ipsaycocha Pass 4,465m/14,649ft

Route 3: Quishuarani – Cuncani – wacawasi – Yanahuara.

The Quishuarani to Yanahuara trek has the same first day as Route 2, but is better suited for the more experienced trekkers as it is longer and more challenging (there are three passes over 4,200m that need to be traversed), the trail concludes in Yanahuara (2,873m/9,426ft).

Walking distance: 45 km

First Campsite: Cuncani 3,750m/12,303ft (high) above sea level

Second Campsite: Mantanay lake 3,900m/12,795ft

Highest Point: wacawasi Pass 4,560m/14,961ft

Route 4: Cuncani – Quishuarani – Cancha Cancha – Huaran.

You will drive from Cusco to Lares. After a quick dip in thermal springs, you continue on to Cuncani (3,700m/12,139ft)

Starting in Cuncani village (3,750m/12,303ft), the route follows over the Cuncani Pass (4,280m/14,042ft) to Quishuarani (3,700m/12,139ft).

It then heads south over Pachacuted Pass (4,500m/14,763ft) to Cancha Cancha (3,800m/12,467ft), before continuing down to the small town of Huaran (2,885m/9,465ft).

Walking distance: 40 km

First Campsite: Quishuarani 3,750m/12,139ft (high) above sea level

Second Camsite: Cancha Cancha 3,800m/12,467ft

Highest Point: Pachacutec Pass 4,500m/14,763ft

Route 5: Huaran – Cancha Cancha – Quiswarani – Lares – Ollantaytambo.

There is one simple reason why this etinerary has the best Lares Trekking Route to Machu Picchu: You trek off the beaten track and go through our own way, passing by remote communities like CANCHACANCHA, QUISWARANI, where there is no modern technology. You enjoy stunning waterfalls, lakes, llamas alpacas, sceneries, many local weavers and farmers wearing colourful traditional clothing, and depending on your tour you might get a chance to watch or partake in some weaving action.

The area is famous for it’s homemade textiles, so if you want to bring an authentic piece of Peru back home with you then take a few spare Soles. You can pick up a bargain here whilst making a local weavers day!

After conquering the Lares trek you will enjoy the natural thermal springs in Lares, which are divided into various pools ranging from freezing cold to boiling. They are all composed of pure volcanic water, which is medicinal in nature and considered to be good for your bones, stress, muscles and headaches.

Organised land transport to Ollantaytambo (2,792m/9,160ft), before catching an hour and 40-minute train to Aguas Calientes (2,040m/6,692ft) the town that sits below Machu Picchu then visit machu picchu the next day.

An amazing alternative to the Inca Trail with a climb up and over the Pachacuted Pass (4,500m/14,764ft) on second day and slightly easier than the Salkantay trek, this trek takes you off the beaten track in the Andes Mountains with a lot of opportunities to interact with the local people and the Quechua communities.

Walking distance: 38 km

First Campsite: Cancha Cancha 3,800m/12,467ft(high) above sea level

Second Camsite: Qoalay lake 3,800m/12,467ft

Highest Point: Pachacuted Pass 4,500m/14,764

Altitude issues

As soon as people book their trip to Machu Picchu, specifically Lares trek, they start wondering about altitude sickness. The air at high altitudes contains less oxygen than at sea level and forces your body to work harder to get the oxygen it needs. Over several days at high altitude, your body adjusts to the lower amount of oxygen in the air.

With altitude sickness, you may first feel like you have the flu or a hangover. You may have a headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, trouble sleeping, trouble breathing during exercise.


Most of the time, these symptoms will be mild. We always recommend easing into activity slowly, allowing your body to adjust. Drink plenty of fluids such as water or tea. Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol and coffee. They will cause you to urinate more often and become dehydrated. Avoid smoking. Smoking makes it more difficult for your body to get oxygen. Avoid sleeping pills. They may cause shallow breathing at night, making it more difficult for your body to absorb oxygen while you sleep.


Remember it is not a race. Do everything slowly. Even those in the best shape will suffer from altitude sickness when they race to the top of the mountain too quickly. Go slowly, it will give your body time to adjust to the mountain.


This is why we always recommend spending at least two days in Cusco before beginning any trek as inca trail, salkantay trek, ausangate, lares, choquequirao trek. If you have more time, even better. Cusco is an amazing city with a lot to do, so you won’t be bored.


Spending at least two days in Cusco before your trek. This is useful in acclimating and also, in case anything happens with your flight – delays or cancellations – it ensures you will be in the city on time. This unfortunately does happen as flying in the mountains is still difficult in bad weather. Once you arrive to Cusco, it is best to spend the time not exerting yourself – relax, walk the city (it is amazing), enjoy the Sacred Valley perhaps. We don’t suggest to do activities such as cycling, river rafting, horse riding, zip lining etc. because we have experienced people getting into accidents and cancelling the trek.

We also don’t suggest to eat heavy meals or traditional foods, such as guinea pig, ceviche, bbq kebabs as you are not used to these kinds of foods at high altitudes. You can save them for after the trek. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.


Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines, such as acetazolamide and dexamethasone, to help prevent altitude sickness. Start the medicine two days before you get to a high altitude. Continue to take it while you are at high altitude.


Diamox is a very useful prescribed drug for adjusting to the altitude. If you haven’t spent much time in the mountains, I recommend asking your doctor for a prescription and beginning the medication 2 days before you come to Cusco. You want to take a lower dosage, either 125 mg twice a day or 250 mg once a day. Travel doctors know this, but some general practitioners aren’t familiar with the drug and prescribe 500 mg, this is too much.

Lares Trek Weather

Regarding the weather for the Lares trek: Weather is unpredictable and very changeable in the High Andes. It can rain during the dry season or be sunny and lovely during the rainy season – our motto is “Be prepared for everything”.  We sometimes see four different seasons in one day!


Typically, the mornings are cool and the sun warms things up throughout the morning. The afternoons can be very warm. Dry season begins in April and goes through November. During rainy season it does not rain all the time. December, January and March can be very pleasant, with intermittent rain showers. Yes, it will probably rain some, but we are prepared for that and the trekkers still have a great time. Our wettest month is February, when it does rain most days.

Layers are always good – being overly cold or hot is unpleasant. Bring rain gear and waterproof gloves – lots of people forget that. With layers, you can peel them off or add them, as needed.

Packing List for Lares Trek - Trekking Checklist

  • Original Passports and student cards (if applicable and booked as a student)
  • Good backpack or daypack
  • Good sleeping bag (can be rented in Cusco)
  • Sleeping Mat or inflatable sleeping pad (can be rented in Cusco)
  • Good trekking shoes as the trail is mudy and slippery in some sections
  • Walking sticks (can be rented in Cusco)
  • Warm clothes (the temperature changes – you might experience 4 seasons all in one day)
  • T-shirts (4), sun hat, 2 pairs of pants/trousers, gloves, 4 pairs of socks, rain jacket, warm jacket, extra layers
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Insect repellent (non malarial mosquitos)
  • Rain poncho (you can buy this in Cusco or on the trek)
  • Bathing suit
  • Sandals are recommended to get changed into the evenings
  • Scarf
  • Water bottle (optional water tablets)
  • Personal medical kit
  • Flashlight
  • Some plastic bags
  • Waterproof gloves (important!)
  • Toiletries: toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes, hand sanitizer
  • Towel
  • Gaiters (Optional) sit over your trekking boot and lower leg and prevent mud, water, pebbles, dust and grit from getting into your boots.

Insurance for Lares Trek - Machu Picchu trek

Tour operators insists that you have adequate insurance to cover any medical or accident-related expenses.

Make sure your insurer knows of your travel plans, and check that your policy fully covers your trek and any other activities you plan. Specifically, for treks on the Inca Trail you require insurance coverage up to 4500 metres. For the Lares and Salkantay trails it is up to 5000 metres and for the Ausangate Trek up to 5500 metres.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fully and adequately insured for the duration of your trip. Please ensure that all activities, excursions and destinations in your itinerary are included in your travel insurance policy, in addition to your regular cover for cancellation and medical expenses.

They are recommended insured as dogtag, the specialist adventure travel insurers and the global supplier of travel insurance, World Nomads. Make sure you include hiking to your required altitude as a sport/activity before checkout and be sure to read the small print carefully for any policy you are considering. Different policies provide different levels of cover, so make sure you understand what is and isn’t included in your policy.

Keep a copy of your policy summary (containing policy number and the emergency contact number for your insurer) in your day sack at all times, so that they can access this information should they need to contact the insurer on your behalf.

Lares or Salkantay - Lares vs Salkantay

Both the Lares and Salkantay Treks are the two most popular alternative treks and both beautiful journeys. Salkantay is a bit more difficult of a hike, but they both have their challenges of course.

The Lares trek, is amazing and has the special addition of visiting local villages. Most of the scenery is in the alpines, higher altitude than Inca Trail, and really stunning. The village visits are very special and very genuine and the interactions with the kids is usually a highlight for people. We begin this trek at Huaran 60km away from Cusco city and then you end the hike early on the 3rd day near to Lares, so we have now added hot springs of Lares before heading to Aguas Calientes town for the night. The first two nights of the trek are camping and then the third night is spent in a hotel in Aguas Calientes. That last morning you will wake up really early to catch one of the first buses up to the ruins to hopefully see the sunrise before you begin your tour of Machu Picchu. This hike includes an extra horse the entire trek for people to use if they are a bit tired of hiking. This is a nice addition for those worried about multi day hiking.

Salkantay trek, is really about the beauty of the Andes.  You go deeper and higher into them and experience many different micro-climates on this trek.  Beginning with being pretty high up in the mountains, higher than the Inca Trail.  And closer to the snowcapped peaks.

Again, this trek camps for each night until the last where you spend the night in Aguas Calientes and then bus up to the ruins. This hike is more challenging because the days are a bit longer – making you more tired. And the extra horse is only available for the first day and a half. After that you have to finish by foot.

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