Hike to Machu Picchu through the less touristy Lares Route and experience the ancient Quechua culture

24 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Lares trek in the Peruvian Andes is one of the route variations that leads hikers to the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The Lares hike treks through the Sacred Valley, which is a region inside of the Peruvian Andes and is home to ruins from the ancient Inca Empire. This area is known for its rugged landscapes, lakes, valleys, snow capped mountains, and it is a hub to learn about local Quechua culture. Compared to other treks in the Peruvian Andes the Lares route is a nature and culture lovers’ dream.

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This route allows trekkers to interact with local communities while travelling to the ancient Inca ruin of Machu Picchu. Hikers choose this moderately difficult route because of their desire to have an authentic Peruvian experience. The best time of year to hike the Lares Trek is during the dry season of May to September. Unlike other routes to Machu Picchu, this hike is much quieter and does not require tourists to plan their hike months in advance. 

The Lares Trek is around 33km from Lares to Aguas Calientes, the total distance depends on route variations within the Sacred Valley. This trek will take hikers between 3 and 5 days depending on the tour or route that they choose. It is possible to hike this route independently, however, the majority of hikers go with a tour that brings them to Quechua villages. 

When doing the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu with a company it is important to pack as lightly as possible. During the nights camping in the Sacred Valley can become very cold and hikers need to bring a variety of clothing that can be worn in both warm and cold weather. Bring proper hiking shoes, clothing that can be layered, a wind breaker, flashlight, a water bottle, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toiletries, and snacks. When hiking with a tour company the meals will be provided and bringing cooking supplies is unnecessary. 

The highest altitude that will be reached during the hike is 4,450m while crossing the Ipsaycocha Pass, which offers incredible 360-degree views. Due to the height be mindful of altitude sickness and spend time in Cusco prior to hiking to acclimatize. 

One of the most unique things about the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is being able to discover Quechua culture. With some of the operators, hikers will be taken to remote Quechua speaking villages to learn about this ancient culture that began at the rise of the Inca empire. The Quechua residents are still an essential part of modern Peruvian culture. Hikers will become immersed in traditional weaving practices, spiritual beliefs, and Quechua customs that are still practiced by communities in the Andes. It is such a unique opportunity to be able to learn about traditional weaving and textiles from an indigenous community in Peru. 

The trek begins in the town of Lares, however, prior to leaving on the adventure many hikers visit the natural hot springs in Lares. These natural Inca thermal baths overlook the Lares Valley and each pool is filled with natural water in varying temperatures from the Peruvian Andes.  

There is a classic route that most trekkers take that begins in Lares, to Huachuasi, to Ipsaycocha Lake, and finishing in Aguas Calientes before heading to Machu Picchu. However, there are many different tour operators that have variations of the Lares route. Hikers are able to choose a tour that goes to the spots that they are most interested in seeing within the sacred valley. 

For the classic route beginning in Lares, on the first day hikers will start the 5-hour trek to the first night’s camping spot in the traditional Quechua village of Huachuasi. In this traditional weaving village hikers are able to try weaving beautiful ponchos and tapestries while learning more about Quechua culture. 

The second day is challenging and leads trekkers over the Ipsaycocha Pass, which is the highest point on the trek, to the night’s campsite at Ipsaycocha LakeThis is a beautiful area that looks out towards the waters and reflects the mountainous background across the lake.

The third day leads hikers from Ipsaycocha Lake through the traditional villages of Patacancha, Huilloc, and Ollantaytambo on the way to the night’s final destination in Aguas Calientes. While passing through these weaving communities’ trekkers can learn more about Quechuan culture. Most tour companies organize transportation from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes on a train. 

Aguas Calientes is the gateway city to Machu Picchu and is the final stop on the trek before visiting the ancient Inca ruins. The city is filled with markets, shops, and has a beautiful river that runs through the city to gardens and orchids. Here hikers will stay in a hotel before venturing to Machu Picchu the next day. The Lares Trek is the perfect route option for those who want to become immersed in Peruvian culture while exploring the natural beauty of the Sacred Valley while travelling to Machu Picchu.

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