An exceptional alternative to the Inca Trail, the Lares is way off the beaten track and has hardly changed since Inca times. Hidden within the magnificent snow capped Andes is a part of Peru where you have all the appeal of the Inca Trail like magical mountain scenery and the legacy of the Incas but without the tourist crowds. An exceptional alternative to the extremely busy Inca Trail, the Lares Valley is so far off the beaten track that it has changed little over the last 500 years. With original Inca trails, spectacular and diverse scenery (even more so than the main Inca Trail) and the promise of a glimpse of life the way it used to be in Peru, it is amazing that the area has remained untouched by tourism. Yet somehow, it has slipped from view and retains an authenticity like no where else in Peru. Travel here and you will meet Andean farmers dressed in traditional brightly coloured ponchos, wander markets trading as they have done for centuries, see thatched stone and adobe houses and watch herds of llamas and alpacas roam free. The Lares Valley is particularly well know for its very high-quality, brightly coloured weavings and characteristic upturned hats, many of the popular tourist markets being supplied from here. There are several variations on this trek which you can do according to how much time you have available. Even in the dry season be prepared fro bad weather. Although in this area always people not far away, they often don't speak Spanish. If you want to take mules or porters and a guide you will probably have to organise it through one of the agencies in Cusco.
(From Peru and Bolivia, The Bradt Trekking Guide)
The trek itself is rated moderate, similar to the Inca Trail. There are, however, One pass over 4000m so it is essential that you are well acclimatized to the altitude. If arriving from sea level then plan on spending at least 2 days in Cusco and the surroundings before undertaking the trek. Welcome to the Lares Trek through the Sacred Valley a stunning trip designed to avoid the crowds found on the traditional Inca Trail, with ample opportunities for viewing wildlife, meeting locals, and immersing yourself in ancient surroundings.
We leave Cusco in the early morning, driving to the provincial town of Calca in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and climbing northward to a spectacular high pass before dropping down to the village of Lares on the east slope of the Andes. Here we take a delicious dip at a hot springs in the meadows outside of town and then enjoy a picnic lunch. Then we begin a leisurely half-day hike up the valley of the rushing Trapiche River, before reaching the highland village of Huacahuasi, where we camp for the night. Huacahuasi (3,600 m / 11,800 ft) is an authentic Andean community located in an impressive valley. Typical house constructions of the Quechua communities living at high altitude can be observed here. (L,D)
WACAHUASI -IPSAYCOCHA - PATACANCHA. We climb steadily, traversing an open, treeless landscape of ground-hugging plants and flowers among pastures of Andean bunch-grass scattered with roaming herds of alpacas and llamas. Reaching an altitude of 4,500m (14,760 ft) we cross the pass of Ipsayccasa. The pass offers breathtaking views from Mount Veronica (5,750m/ 18,864 ft) and the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Then we descend to Ipsaycocha or Ipsay Lagoon. We may see Andean Geese, Puna Ibis and other water birds in the wetlands here as we journey through the heartland of these Quechua people, who are locally nicknamed "Huayruros". These seeds from the jungle have two colors: black and red; similar to those of the villagers dress. We reach the village of Patacancha, a well known textile Andean community that still preserves ancient Quechua traditions and dressing code. We set our camp nearby and spend the night, amidst awesome scenery. (B,L,D)
Our transport takes us down the valley to Pallata where we will see the inca ruins of the early-Inca site of Pumamarca (Puma town). After we arrive to Ollantaytambo, from here we will take the train to Aguas Calientes. Tonight you will have accommodation in the town of Aguas Calientes.
Up early, breakfast, then we will visit Machu Picchu. You will have free time to explore, take photos and of course if you have the energy, choose to hike up Huaynapicchu Mountain that has the best view of the city to offer. This will take approxamitely 2 hours up and back, also you must get in early as there are only 400 people a day allowd to hike up. After free time you will have a 2 hour guided tour, then its time to head by bus back to Aguas Calienties by 15.30hrs to take the trail back to Ollantaytambo at 15.55 hrs, and then the bus to Cusco.