When I first started planning my trip to Peru, I always planned to take the Inca Trail. Alas 4 months was not long enough to secure my Inca permit so I chose the Lares trek instead. Initially I was disappointed. I mean you can’t come to Peru and not do the iconic Inca trail right?! But when I started researching the trek and speaking to people who had already done the Lare’s I realised it might even be a tad better…
They both have their pro’s and con’s. The Inca trail is of course more well known – I tell people I’ve done the Lares trek and the response is usually “whats that?!” The Inca Trail will also take you right to Machu Picchu and thats not a bad place to finish your trek let’s face it! But the Lare’s is more remote. You will likely see very few other people and most of them will be local farmers getting on with their business not posing for tourists. It will be just you, your team and the mountains and there is nothing nicer! The Lare’s is also in some ways more of a physical challenge as although it’s shorter (usually 3 days instead of 4) but it goes 600 metres higher than the Inca Trail and in the Andes, the toughest thing you will encounter is the altitude which affects even the fittest of people. When you camp, you will be alone unlike on the Inca Trail where 300 campers and up to 500 porters will camp in the same vicinity. When you wake on the Lares trek, it will be only the sound of the nearby stream that you can hear and only the smell of the fantastic cooks making your delicious breakfasts.
The Lare’s trek may vary slightly depending which company you trek with but it is loosely based around the mountains and valleys near Lares town. We actually did the hike in 2 days instead of 3 and in reverse order due to a national consensus causing disruption everywhere – even in the mountains! I actually really liked the way that we did it as it meant all the toughest climbs were done in the morning when we were feeling (reasonably) fresh. It also meant we ended up at a wonderful hot springs right next to our last campsite – no better way to soothe those achey muscles!
The walk itself was tough, I won’t lie! Parts were steep, other parts slippery loose gravel and the altitude is nothing to laugh at! We climbed to 4600 Metres (though it usually goes up to 4800m when the census isn’t on). Altitude symptoms are usually felt anything above 2400 M so you can imagine most people had atlas some symptoms. Most commonly headaches and shortness of breath (there is significantly less oxygen at higher altitudes.) Other symptoms are nausea, diarrhoea, tingling all over, confusion and dizziness. Most importantly you need to give yourself time to acclimatise to high altitude before you start the trek, drink plenty water and consider taking altitude medication with you.
Whilst we all found it tough in parts, we worked together as a team and this was so important. People struggled with different parts but we were all there to cheer each other along and high five each other when we reached the summit! The guides were also amazing (I did my trip through Adventures.) Usually there is one guide at the front and one at the back so you are never alone. They encourage you to take it slow and steady. Those who treat it as a race are the ones who are most likely to get sick and not complete the trek!
Is it worth it?
So we’ve established it’s not a complete walk in the park, but was it worth it?! Oh most definitely. The views were just incredible! And the sense of achievement when you reach those summits are just incredible! We were really proud on the 2nd day that we reached the summit in 2.5 hours when the expected timeframe is 4 hours! Go us!
Is the Lare’s trek accessible to anyone?
I think as long as you are moderately fit to start with, you can achieve the Lares with a good deal of grit and determination. Though I would recommend doing some training before you arrive and again, spend as long as you possibly can acclimatising first! Perhaps visit Lake Titicaca at 3800 Metres for a few days? See my blog about it here.
What are the camping conditions like?
You will be amazed at what a small team can achieve and you are treated like royalty the whole time! We had llamas and donkeys to carry our main bags and just had to carry day packs. There was also a donkey for day packs when you got tired. The tents were brilliant – completely wind and waterproof. I was actually quite toasty in all my layers and a sleeping bag! The food is just brilliant and there’s lots of it – you won’t go hungry! We had 3 courses at lunch and dinner and even had pancakes with our names drizzled on in syrup for breakfast! We were also provided with snacks to take with us – there was honestly so much food we couldn’t eat it all! Though we tried…! The main thing I would recommend on reflection is taking iodine tablets with you. The water is taken from streams and boiled but a few of us still got sick. (likely as water cannot get above 88 degrees celsius at very high altitudes.) Those with iodine tablets seemed fine so I think it’s best to be extra safe! As for toilet conditions you will get used to Inca toilets – behind bushes or rocks! But they have pop up tent toilets at lunch and at the campsites – just be careful not to knock them over…
What should I take?
I hiked in gym leggings, a sports t-shirt and had a jumper and a warm waterproof coat with me ( and a poncho to cover my bag and camera!) Also both a sun hat and a woolly hat as it can go from boiling hot to freezing cold very quickly. I recommend walking poles and good hiking boots with ankle support as it can be very rocky under foot and you will need them for support. At night, I recommend thermals and a couple of extra layers. It will likely reach sub zero temperatures so pack lots of warm clothes. No need for towels and toiletries – there are no shower facilities. Baby wipes are the best you’re going to get! But if your trip does visit the hot springs then of course you’ll need a towel and swimming cossie for that. No need to pack PJs as you will be sleeping in all your layers! I also recommend a few high energy snacks – I’m a big fan of kendal mint cake from the Lake District! And most importantly, bring your camera! Sleeping bags, air matresses and walking poles can be hired though I took my own as they were lighter weight allowing me more room for warm jumpers! You will be allowed to bring a maximum 8kg including the sleeping bags, air mattresses etc and they will give you a duffel bag so you can leave your main backpack at your hotel in Cuzco. These duffel bags are then carried by llamas!
Top Tip : You may wish to bring some super concentrated squeezy squash bottles to hide the flavour of iodine!
And the big finale, Machu Pichu!
Even on the Lares trek, you will still get to see the fantastic Machu Picchu but you will get taken there on a train on the 4th day. Sadly by this point, my sickness and fevers had well and truly kicked in and it passed in a bit of a blur but I do remember it being beautiful. Especially as the mist lifts and suddenly, Machu Picchu appears beneath you! The walk up to the viewpoint from the entrance should only take you 10 minutes (it took me 30!) But you then have the option to take a guided tour around the ruins or trek to the Sun Gate. Sadly I was not well enough to do either so maybe one day I will have to come back and see it properly!!
Interested in other alternative hikes to the Inca Trial? Well there are a few and here is a really informative article about the Salkantay trek, a 3-5 day trek which is slightly longer than the Lares trek.
As always I’d love to hear from you. Did you do the Lare’s or the Inca Trail or which would you choose given the choice?