alternative inca trail

5 Day Lares Trek + Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

One of the most beautiful hiking routes in the Andes, the 5 Day Lares trek with Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, there is one simple reason why True Mountain Traveler has the best Ultimate Inca trail trekking route to Machu Picchu. You trek off the beaten track on the Lares Trek, which is our cultural tour focused on local people and their lifestyle, while passing through amazing scenery.

This is then combined with the Short Inca Trail, which will give you the full package of camping in the Andes under the stars, the natural hot springs of Lares, stunning views and the famous walk through the Wiñaywayna, Sun Gate (Inti Punku) for your first view of the Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu. This beautiful hike can also be done in four days.

This ultimate Inca Trail hike itinerary, the 5 Day Lares trek with Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is generally believed to be one of the most beautiful hikes the Sacred Valley of the Incas has to offer.

Day 1: Cusco – Sacred Valley – Huaran – Cancha Cancha

We will start at 5:00 a.m., where we will pick you up directly from your hotel and drive 2 hours to the town of Huaran (2840m) located in the Sacred Valley between Pisac and Urubamba. Before starting your walk, you will meet your horses and horsemen (arrieros). Breakfast will be prepared and served before you start walking and the team will be presented at that time. After breakfast, you will prepare to start the trek. The first 4.5 hours will be gradually uphill until lunch. After lunch, we will continue leaving the Sacred Valley behind us, heading north following a path that climbs gently alongside the small river for 2 hours to reach our destination, the small village called Cancha Cancha where we spend the night. Cancha Cancha (3,750 m / 12,303 ft) doesn’t have modern technology and people still practice real Inca traditions. In this Inca town, 85 percent of the houses are still made up of original, old buildings, made of stone, with thatched roofs. Unlike any other town in the Lares Valley, this town has no electricity or cars. Your porters will set up your tents while you have time to meet with local children. We provide them with food and school supplies on each Lares trek we do, and we invite our travelers to share in the support of education and health in this native village. You can join us and bring whatever you want to complement the lives of these Quechua-speaking children. Next, your guide will take you to one of the local family houses, where you will learn about the locals’ lifestyle. You can watch them raise their guinea pigs and learn about traditional hand-woven textiles made from llama and alpaca wool. This will be without a doubt one of the best days of your trek. In the evening you will enjoy hot drinks and dinner and an early night to be ready for the next day.

Walking distance: 12 km

Campsite Elevation: 3800 meters

Weather: warm/Cold

Trail Conditions: Rocky , dusty and slippery (trekking shoes required)

Day 2: Cancha Cancha –Pachatutec Pass – Qoalay Lagoon

Leaving Cancha Cancha we continue north-east up the valley, passing small thatched stone houses. After 3 hours of generally flat terrain we then climb steeply for 2 hours up to the highest pass called Pachacutec Pass (4758m). From there you will be rewarded with superb views of Pachacutec Lake and the snowy peaks of Pitusiray. After taking time to enjoy everything we head down for another 2 hours to have lunch and a little siesta. After lunch we will descend for another 1 ½ hours into the beautiful valley. We will pass by several glacial lakes along the way as well as herds of alpacas, llamas and sheep. We’ll camp at 3,870 m/12,694 ft by Qoyalay Lagoon close to Quishuarani village, which has typical Andean stone houses.

Walking distance: 14 km

Campsite Elevation: 3800 meters

Weather: warm/Cold

Trail Conditions: Rocky , dusty and slippery (trekking shoes required)

Difficulty: challenge

Day 3: Quishuarani – Lares Hot Springs – Ollantaytambo

Our porters will wake you up with a hot drink and you will have some time to pack your bags and enjoy breakfast. Once you are ready, you’ll start the last leg of your Lares trek. It will be 3 hours of walking downhill along a lovely path, where you will pass stunning waterfalls and more llamas and alpacas. We’ll pass by farms where they cultivate potatoes, mountain fava beans, and many other traditional tubers in the traditional Incan style.
Then we will catch our van for a short drive along the valley to the Lares Hot Springs where you will have time to enjoy the natural pools which range from hot to cold. They are all composed of pure volcanic water, which is medicinal in nature and considered to be good for your joints, muscles, stress and headaches. We will have our last outdoor lunch here accompanied by amazing views of the Andes Mountains.

After lunch in Lares we take our private transport to Ollantaytambo where we will check in to our hotel.

Walking distance: 10 km

hot springs: 3100 meters

Weather: Cold/ warm

Accommodations: Tunupa Lodge (or similar)

Day 4: Ollantaytambo – Inca Trail – Sun Gate – Aguas Calientes

You will be picked up from the hotel at 5:30 a.m. and we will go to the train station to leave on the 6:10 a.m. train from Ollantaytambo. The train follows the Urubamba River until we reach Km 104, where we’ll begin our trek. Once you have everything you need, we’ll take a group photo before visiting our first Inca site. After the orientation and visit of the Inka site, we will begin hiking upwards as we head for the Day 4 section of the Classic Inka Trail. If the weather is clear, we’ll have tremendous views of Machu Picchu mountain, the Urubamba River and other surrounding Incan Sites.

After hiking for 3-hours, we will reach some stunning Inka ruins on the Inca Trail called Wiñay Huayna (Forever Young) at 8,500 ft (2600m). Most people do not get the opportunity to see the elaborate water fountain, temples and agricultural terraces, which provide a perfect opportunity to learn about the history of the Incas. The site is bordered by steep drops, allowing you to see the stunning mountains surrounding the area. From Wiñay Huayna, we’ll walk to the Sun Gate, from where we’ll see the picturesque landscape of Machu Picchu. After taking in the once-in-a-lifetime views, we will begin our descent to Machu Picchu itself.

A big advantage of this hike is that, by the time we reach Machu Picchu, most of the day travelers will have returned home, so you will have the area nearly to yourself. After taking photos, you can either take a bus, or walk, down to Aguas Calientes for dinner (not included). We then recommend going to bed early to make the most of the next day!

Total Distance: 12 km (7,800 miles)

Estimated Walking Time: 5 hours

Maximum Altitude Point: 2,700 m (8,858 ft)

Weather: warm/hot

Accommodations: Wiraccocha Inn (or similar)

Day 5: Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu – Cusco

We will wake up early in the morning in order to catch the sunrise at Machu Picchu (weather permitting). You will have a two-hour guided tour by your private English-speaking guide. After that, you will have time to explore Machu Picchu by your own. Those who have tickets to Huayna Picchu will have time to climb the mountain, which takes approximately an hour and a half, round-trip. When you are done exploring, you can either take a bus, or walk, down to Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included). Following this, you will take the train back to Ollantaytambo or Poroy, and then a bus to Cusco, where you will be brought back to your hotel.

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