Lares Trek - an alternative to the Inca Trail
The beauty of the Lares Valley
I can’t believe I’ve spent almost 17 years driving past these wonderful valleys and not known the beauty to be enjoyed simply by walking into these remote Lares villages.
A network of trails winds around a chain of snow-capped peaks and glaciers led us to some of the furthest flung villages in the Cusco area.
There are a variety of routes to take, depending on how long you have and how hard you want the treks to be.
I would recommend at least three days to enable you to enjoy a trek, a cultural visit, a high pass close to glaciers and time to enjoy the lovely Lares hot springs.
Machu Picchu by train, or 2-day Inca Trail, is easily added on at the end to a Lares trek.
What I saw
The paths are generally good and although there are no really steep gradients, you do need to be prepared for a few hours of up to get to the high camps.
There are a network of valleys that lead to high mountains and passes, weaving around ancient Inca villages where time can appear to have stood still.
We passed 1,000-year-old polylepis trees, all coppery flakes and gnarled limbs, enjoyed watching falcons and condors in flight.
There was a lively wedding taking place with all the locals bedecked in their finest, colourful Andean ponchos, while some stayed back to tend the llamas and alpacas.
A homestay visit to Miguel’s house was a real eye opener as these Andean folk live almost exactly as the Inkas did, preserving weaving and cooking methods centuries old.
Guinea pigs scamper on the floor, joined by chickens, cats and dogs, all part of the hardy mountain family life.
I didn’t see any other trekkers the whole time we were in Lares.
Locals, brightly adorned in traditional clothing, do try to sell you (at very cheap prices compared to Cusco) high quality home made weavings. There are some beautiful items to buy.
My guide, Ruben, was from a local community and his Dad, Raymundo, was the horseman, people who have lived in these lands for generations and seen the positives controlled tourism can bring.
As we walked close to the glaciated mountains, Ruben would play a wistful tune on the Quena, an ancient Inka wooden flute, so very vivid in its home environment.
Magnificent walking was all topped off with a soak in Lares’ famous hot springs – up to 44 degrees in one pool – the perfect way to end the hike.