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Lares Trek: the extraordinary alternative to the Machu Picchu Inca Trail

Many people think of the classic Inca Trail Trek when looking for an adventure to Machu Picchu. One of the alternatives, is the lesser-known Lares Trek.

The Lares Trek is mainly an authentic, cultural experience. The main draw, and often the most memorable part of the trek, is hiking to remote Quechua villages where you can appreciate local communities and their traditional lives. For these people, not much seems to have changed over the course of hundreds of years, including even the way they are dressed.

Read on for a closer look at the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu and why it may be your best choice of alternative treks to the Inca Trail.

A hidden gem

While the Inca Trail operates on a permit basis, allowing for a maximum of 500 people per day on the trail, it still means that you will be trekking with another 499 people. This includes porters and guides, so spots tend to fill up very quickly. Especially for busier months, it is an absolute must to plan plenty of time in advance. The Lares Trek, on the contrary, remains relatively unknown and much less discovered. Coming across just a handful of other hikers on your way, means the Lares Trek truly gives you a sense of being on your own, among the remoteness of the mountains.

Lares Trek

Setting up camp

The lack of permits on the Lares Trek also has another consequence: camping. Specifically, where you camp, which is much less regulated as opposed to on the Inca Trail. You will be able to stay within reach of native, small villages, with a true sense of local life. Indeed, most campsites are surrounded by llamas, alpacas and are set amidst native crop plantations.

Appreciate local life

Speaking of local life, the Lares Trek really does give you a chance to appreciate the untouched local way of living first-hand, among the breathtaking scenery of the Peruvian Andes Mountains as you journey onward.

You will come across locals as you pass by traditional Andean villages and learn about their daily habits. Some residents will walk past herding their animals, while you’ll also spot children running down the mountainsides and even bump into friendly llamas on your way.

So, while you may not pass by as many Inca ruins as on some of the other treks to Machu Picchu, the Lares Trek really does excel at giving you the opportunity to interact with locals and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Lamas on Lares Trek


The highest point of the Lares Trek, at an altitude of 4,800 metres, is almost 400m higher than the famous Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a more challenging hike than the Inca Trail, though, as there are more ascents and descents on the classic Inca Trail. Still, while even the most acclimatized and seasoned trekkers may feel the effects of the higher altitudes on the Lares Trek, once you reach the top, the views are absolutely spectacular.

Peruvian Andes Mountains

Ultimately, what makes the Lares Trek experience stand out from the alternative treks to Machu Picchu, is that it passes through several traditional villages, where you will interact with local communities and have the chance to appreciate their way of life. It is very much an off-the-beaten-path alternative to the Inca Trail, and a perfect choice for those looking for a more authentic, cultural experience on the way to the ancient Inca Citadel.

If you would like to know more about other alternative treks to Machu Picchu, check out our guide.