Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is on the best alternative treks for the Inca Trail. This route takes you far off the beaten track, where you can meet and interact with members of traditional Andean communities. You will learn all about life in these isolated villages, become familiar with their culture and traditions, and even visit a local school. The Lares Trek is also outstandingly beautiful, combining the majestic Andean mountains with spectacular ice glaciers, piercingly blue glacial lakes, stunning waterfalls, and countless llamas and alpacas. Finish your tour on a literal high, with an unforgettable day exploring Machu Picchu – one of the most incredible locations on the planet.
DAY 1: Cusco – Lares Thermal Baths – Kiswarani Falls
Today will start with a pickup from your hotel at around 5 am. You will drive from the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas to the famous Lares thermo-medicinal baths, arriving at approximately 8 am. You will jump straight into the medicinal pools – all of which are set at different temperatures. The water is great for your bones and muscles. It also reduces stress and headaches and therefore is the perfect way to prepare for your Lares Trek to Machu Picchu.
Today’s route is relatively easy with 2-hour trek uphill until you reach Kiswarani village. A chef will be waiting with a delicious lunch that has been freshly prepared using natural, organic, local produce. Finally, it’s another 2-hour walk to your campsite, located on the bank of a beautiful blue lake at (3750 m/ 1230 ft). You will pass beautiful streams and a waterfall along the way, which is the source of the Amazon River – the largest in the world. When you reach your campsite, your tents and a hot cup of tea will be waiting for you. This is a perfect place to relax, stargaze, and learn about Inca astronomy.
DAY 2: Quiswarani – Condor Pass – Cancha Cancha Community
You will wake up bright and early with a hot cup of coffee, cocoa or tea. Today is the longest and most challenging day of your Lares Trek to Machu Picchu. After breakfast, it is time for a 4-hour hike uphill to Condor Pass (4700 m / 15354 ft) – the highest point of this journey. Along the way, you will enjoy beautiful lakes where Wallatas (Andean geese or ‘lovebirds’) swim in the crystal clear waters and pass the imposing Andean mountains of Pitusiray, Sahuasiray and Qolquecruz, all of which are over 18,000 ft. At the summit of Condor Pass, enjoy a well-deserved cup of hot tea and take some time to rest while your tour guide performs a spiritual offering ceremony to the sacred mountains.
After lunch, start your 3-hour descent through the breathtaking scenery. You will have the afternoon free in Cancha Cancha to meet and interact with the local people, visit a local school and help teach and play games with the children. The villagers will welcome any donations of food, school supplies or anything else you would like to give to help support the health and education of this isolated community. Late in the afternoon, your guide will take you to visit one of the families’ homes. Here, you can experience firsthand their traditional lifestyles passed down from the Incas, sample traditional food and see how they raise guinea pigs, llamas, and alpacas. Finally, by the evening, your tour chef will have prepared dinner for you and your tour group to enjoy together before a well-earned night's rest.
DAY 3: Cancha Cancha – Huaran – Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes
Start the day with a beautiful view of the mountains and a delicious breakfast. Then prepare for your final trekking from the highlands into the sacred valley. First, you will say goodbye to the last remaining village still practising Inca traditions, and isolated from all modern technologies. Then, begin your 4-hour trek downhill. Along the way, you can observe different types of ecosystems – from the colder highlands, where only potatoes are grown, to the fertile soils of the sacred valley, where maize is the main product.
Your trek will conclude in a small town called Huaran (2700 m / 8856 ft). From here, a private bus will drive you to Ollantaytambo, the “Last Living Incan City” or as it is sometimes known, “World Capital of the Native American”. You will have some time to explore the ancient streets and the water channel that has been in use since Inca time. Have dinner in a local restaurant in Ollantaytambo before catching the 7 pm train to Aguas Calientes, where you will spend the night in a hotel.
DAY 4: Machu Picchu (Lost City of the Incas)
On your final day, you will have to get up very early to prepare for the highlight of your Lares Trek - visiting Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas. You will go straight to the line to wait for the first bus going up to Machu Picchu at 5:30 am. Arriving as the sky brightens, you will walk up with incredible views of the city along the way. On a clear day, you can watch the spectacular sunrise over Machu Picchu. This is truly an unforgettable sight.
Your guide will take you on a 2 to 3-hour comprehensive tour of the city before leaving you in Machu Picchu to explore on your own or climb either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain (tickets must be booked as far in advance as possible). Your guide will explain how to take the bus from Machu Picchu back to Aguas Calientes for lunch (not included) and then take the train and bus back to Cusco. Your guide will meet you off the train and return you safely to your hotel.