Why Choose The Lares Trek?
When visiting Peru, undoubtedly at the top of every traveller’s list is the ‘lost’ Inca city of Machu Picchu. Whilst most tourists opt to reach the city by trekking the traditional Inca Trail and enter it through Intipunku, the famous Sun Gate, we decided to avoid the crowds and head off through the Lares Valley on a community based trek.
Wonderful lake reflections in the Lares Valley.
The highest point on the trek at 4,600 metres.
Downhill to the valley bottom en route to the town of Huaran.
Time Stood Still…
Hidden within the magnificent snow-capped Andes mountain range, the stunning, unspoilt Lares Valley has all the natural beauty of the Inca Trail, our 500+ photos can vouch for that! But as it is off the beaten track, you are able to soak up the magical mountain scenery and the legacy of the Incas without another tourist group in sight. This is what really appealed to us, along with the chance to meet and interact with local people and spend some time in the villages along the route.
Wilbur and his dad from Quishuarani Village whose horses carried supplies for our trek.
The Lares Trek itself begins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and passes through terraced fields and traditional villages as you climb into the Andes. We were told that the valley itself has changed little over 500 years and we could see this in the housing, farming methods and daily life as we passed through tiny villages dotted about the valley.
A family we passed along the way who we gave bread, oranges and a ball as gifts.
Corn being harvested in Huaran Village.
A Picture Tells More Than A Thousand Words
The Lares Valley has been one of our best multi-day hikes to date. It really has that ‘wow’ factor. Every step you take there is something more beautiful to look at, another stunning scene to capture on camera. So instead of lots of writing, this is a short round-up of our 3 day trek, with a huge selection of our best photos! Enjoy… And if visiting Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, definitely consider the Lares Trek as an alternative for getting there!
Panoramic shot looking back down the valley.
A lovely scenic spot to sit and ponder…
Fabulous scenery in every direction.
Day 1 – Calca, Hot Springs & Quishuarani Village
Leaving our hotel in Cusco at 6:30am, we set off for the town of Calca en route so we could wander around the local market and buy some supplies. We were advised to buy some fruit or bread to give to the children we met along the way during the trek. Sweets, candy or ‘dulce’ are a no, no as dental care in the remote villages is either very expensive or non-existent. With bags of bread rolls and oranges in hand, we also decided to buy some footballs so that we could give each village a gift as we passed through.
Lots of different varieties of potatoes for sale at Calca Market.
From Calca, we enjoyed a wonderful scenic drive to the village of Lares. Winding through lush, green valleys we spotted numerous llama dressed in their finery with lovely red ribbons tied around their ears and necks. So, inevitably we took more llama pictures! And then it was on to the hot springs for a pre-trek soak…
The very busy hot springs near Lares Village.
Enjoying the hot mineral pool with other trekkers from the Odyssey gang.
Having a pre-trek soak…
After a relaxing morning, it was time to begin our hike. It was actually a gentle walk on the first day, taking around 2 hours to reach the village of Quishuarani where we stayed for the night. We arrived just as the heavens opened however, so we were lucky that one of our horsemen let us pitch our tents under a shelter in his garden to avoid getting everything wet!
Setting off uphill to Quishuarani Village.
Reaching the village…
Looking across the river to Quishuarani Village.
Sheltering from the rain at Quishuarani Village.
We were welcomed by his children who showed us around the farm and made us feel at home. In return for their hospitality, we gave them a football and a fun-filled afternoon of ball games ensued. We also had a wander around the village and peered through the windows of the school as it was closed for the Easter holidays.
Wilbur and his younger sister and brother.
Girls who had some of our oranges and football gifts.
The primary school and village community centre.
Food For Thought
Apart from assuming potatoes would be on the menu (considering Peru produces over 4,000 varieties), we didn’t know what kind of food we would be eating over the three days, but in actual fact it was fantastic. From the cook/dining tent, to the dinner table complete with embroidered tablecloth, to the head chef decked in white hat and apron, everything was well organised and exceeded our expectations.
Decked out in chef’s whites, our fantastic cook!
Hot quinoa soup with garlic bread croutons.
Chicken casserole and rice.
For every lunch stop and camp dinner, the porters had already set up the cook/dining tent and had hot coca tea and crackers ready for us. Then followed a three-course meal starting with hot soup, a main dish and a small desert. How the chef managed to cook such delicious and fresh food with limited supplies and equipment was amazing, especially the surprise birthday cake that was presented to our friend Joanna on the final morning.
The chef and his team busy at work again…
Grilled alpaca steak, yum yum!
Wayne enjoying a piece of apple pie.
We couldn’t complain about the food – it was fantastic!
Day 2 – Quishuarani To Cancha Cancha Village & A Wild Camp
It was an early start on the second day, leaving at 6.30am for approximately a 9 hour walk. At that altitude, climbing uphill for a number of hours can be quite a challenge, but we went at our own pace and made it to the top before lunchtime. The scenery along the way was simply breathtaking! At the highest point we reached 4,600 metres with outstanding views in every direction. Cue lots of ‘panoramic’ shots!
Setting off on Day 2…
Hiking past the waterfalls that Quishuarani Village is famous for.
Beautiful valley scene that reminds us of the Lake District back home.
Just one of the many lake reflection shots we captured!
Enjoying a rest stop.
More magnificent views and colourful lakes.
Heading into the cold as we get higher in elevation.
One of the horses takes a well-earned drink.
More panoramic views…
Wilbur takes the lead.
Our fantastic horseman Wilbur, who would like to be a guide when he leaves school.
The best guide you could wish for – Jimmy.
We saw a few children as we headed down the valley into Cancha Cancha village and gave out a few more bread rolls, oranges and balls along the way, which were greatly received.
Happy with a goodie bag, biscuits and a ball!
Another happy villager! This beautiful girl with her chosen orange ball.
Playing with the football we donated to her village.
On the second night we camped just past Cancha Cancha village in a wild camp location next to the river. The view down the valley was very impressive, as was the starry night sky we enjoyed after dark.
Crossing the river to the cook tent.
Our lovely wild camp spot for Day 2.
Day 3 – Wild Camp to Huaran
After our usual morning wake up call of hot coca tea and a bowl of warm water for washing, we were presented with the most amazing hand-made birthday cake for breakfast, complete with fancy icing, a candle and Joanna’s name on top. We spent ages debating how the chef could possibly have made it using only a simple camp stove, but he did, which shows how talented he is!
Joanna’s fabulous surprise birthday cake!
We set off walking around 8:00am. The third day was much more relaxing, with a gentle 2/3 hour walk downhill to the valley bottom to the town of Huaran, which is considered the end of the trek.
Heading down to the valley bottom.
Llamas sheltering from the impending rain.
Getting closer to the valley floor.
Having a breather…
Our fantastic team have a well earned drink down in Huaran at the end of the trek.
There we were treated to another wonderful lunch whilst waiting for our ride to Ollantaytambo. (This is where our journey to Machu Picchu began. More of this in our next post!)
Saying thank you and goodbyes to our wonderful crew.
A Trek To Remember…
The Lares Trek and our visit to Machu Picchu was the only thing we booked in advance on our South America trip as the ‘lost’ city of the Incas is considered the most spectacular archaeological site on the continent.
Without a doubt, both the Lares Trek and Machu Picchu lived up to our expectations. We are really happy that we avoided the Inca Trail and chose something different.
Without hesitation we would recommend ‘Pachamama Explorers’ with whom our Lares Trek was organised through. Our guide Jimmy had an excellent grasp of English including our humour, and couldn’t do enough for us. Likewise the porters and cooks also worked extremely hard to make our trip such a wonderful, memorable experience.
If you also want an alternative to the Inca Trail, we hope our photos and experience will help you in finding that very special trek of your own!