Every year thousands of tourists travel along the Inca Trail to arrive at the famed ruins high in the mountains. While the trip is unforgettable, the crowds are simply inescapable. If you are searching for a unique experience encompassing food, culture, history, and adventure, without having to dodge groups of selfie-takers, then the Lares Trek is everything you’ve been waiting for.
Long before the arrival of Columbus and the Spanish explorers arrived to the “new world,” the Incan empire dominated the southern Americas. Today, you can visit the epicenter of the once-great civilization in Peru. While the country is most well-known for its historical sites, specifically Machu Picchu, it offers a hidden treasure to those who are willing to visit and explore off the beaten path.
Traveling to Peru
For my trip to Peru, I booked the tour through G Adventures and it was a wonderful experience. I don’t regret taking this trip!! It is a company that offers travellers the opportunity to experience a world outside their own. These are affordable, small-group tours, safaris, and expeditions that can take you nearly anywhere in the world. Brendan and I did the Inca Discovery trek which included a stop in Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu.
The Lares Trek is a multi-day adventure that takes you up into the Andes and drops you down at the doorstep of the legendary Incan Ruins. For those wanting to lose the crowds and gain some altitude, it is the perfect trail.
Lares Trek Altitude Tips
- Arrive a couple days early to get used to the altitude. We spent a few days in Cusco before beginning the Lares Trek.
- Drink lots of water…but watch what water you drink. Bottled or boiled water is the safest. You don’t want to feel sick while hiking!
- Drink coca tea or chew coca leaves. You find these everywhere and it is a known remedy for altitude sickness.
- Before the trip, get a prescription for Daimox. It really helps a lot with the altitude sickness.
Beginning at the town of Lares, nestled in the foothills of the mountains, the path gets going with an almost immediate ascent. A 9 km hike leads to the village of Cuncani, which is where visitors usually set up camp for the night. The air will feel thinner and cleaner, as you will be well above 3,600m (12,000 feet) above sea level. The villagers are the most common type of camp hosts, and most of the proceeds from one’s stay benefit their community and even fund special projects.
In the morning, the warm sun rays shine down on a hot meal, and a sense of acclimation to the newfound heights for the guests. Hikers say their farewells to the villagers of Cuncani, and leave for the second leg of the Lares Trek journey.
Day 1 of hiking the Lares Trek is the easiest with a 9 km hike and 550 m of altitude gain. We climbed 2.5 hours until lunch (which is so tasty) and then after lunch we continued climbing for another 2 hours to reach the campsite for the night.
While the actual hike on Day 1 was easy, it was definitely hard to breath because of the altitude. I recommend taking it slow, and taking your time. My group was small, and we were around the same pace which worked out well for us.
The camp sites that were provided as part of the G Adventures trek was great! The tents were all set up when we arrived at the camp. With donkeys on the Lares Trek with the crew, they carried a small bag for each person. Having less weight in your pack when you are challenged by the altitude is helpful.
You can watch my Peru trip vlog, which includes the Lares Trek below on YouTube directly for better quality.
The food was all made by the lovely G Adventures crew and it was all really tasty. I have several food allergies, and they made sure to accommodate that for me. It was such a hiking luxury to arrive at camp and not have to worry about cooking food on your own! It was served family style and there was plenty for those with a big appetite.
Day two of the trek is the crux, or the hardest section, as a 11 km trail leads up to a mountain pass, at an astonishing altitude of more than 4,500 m (15,000 feet). Although, it is not just the thin atmosphere that is breathtaking; the views are culpable as well! Snowy peaks, mountainside lagoons, and swirling clouds are all wrapped up into one panoramic vista. Along the way hikers marvel at the views as well as the many alpaca along the trail! For some, the solitude of the trail surrounded by wildlife, adds to the beauty of the trip. After a day’s journey of trekking, the guide will choose a camp site to rest for the night. There are many magnificent spots to choose from.
Day two is the hardest day of them all but reaching the summit and the views along the way make it worth the struggle. We started off the morning by climbing 3 km to Yanaccha and then took at break at some beautiful lakes.
From the lakes, we climbed another 2.5 km to the summit where we took another (much-needed) break to enjoy the views. From the summit we hiked 3 km down for lunch. Breaking up the day really helped you adjust to the changes in the attitude.
For those wondering about cell service, I had service this entire hike but it wasn’t the best in places.
A special thank you to Brendan Williams for joining me on this trip and taking photos.
After lunch, it was only another 4.5 km to reach the G Adventures campsite where you can take off your boots and relax!!!
The third day on the trail is a gentle descent over about 6 km, down a valley. The downhill is a welcome change for the muscles that have been labouring uphill over the last few legs of the trip. At the terminus of the trail is the town of Pumahuanca, which marks a transition from travel by foot to wheeled transport. A ride in a bus leads to Agua Caliente, which is the launching pad for day four; the expedition to Machu Picchu itself. A well-deserved meal and night’s sleep in a hotel await you in the town, along with the anticipation of soon witnessing one of the world’s greatest wonders.
You can read about my guide to Machu Picchu HERE!
Day 3 is very easy and on the way down you get so see some Incan ruins.
The Lares Trek is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to Peru.