If you have doubts about which trekking route to take among these alternatives in this post Lares Trek vs Inca Trail, we will present you some of the main points to take into account so that you finally end up choosing the trek that best suits you.
The famous Inca Trail is undoubtedly one of the best trekking routes in the world which will take you directly to the citadel of Machu Picchu itself, and of course, entering through the famous Sun Gate where you will have one of the most wonderful panoramic views you can get of the place. Before arriving at Machu Picchu, you will hike through several Inca ruins and inhabited areas unreachable to tourists by any other means. The most common package is the 4-day Inca Trail trek, but shorter alternatives are also available to suit your itinerary.
In comparison, the Lares Trek is a much less traveled and therefore less popular trekking route to Machu Picchu, so you will sometimes feel like it is just you and the surrounding mountains. The real satisfaction of hiking the Lares Trek is hiking through small farming villages far from Cusco society, which do not have electricity or potable water, you will interact with the children and the community itself, making the Lares trek a more immersive cultural experience, something the Inca Trail cannot offer.
|4-day Inca Trail||Lares Trek of 4 days|
|Maximum Altitude||4200 m/13700 ft||4420 m/14500 ft|
|Capacity||500 people per day||Unlimited|
|Duration of the Tour||4 days||4 days|
Highlights of the Inca Trail
On the last day of the trek you will get your first magnificent view of Machu Picchu as you walk through the Sun Gate. The views of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate are amazing and give you a good perspective of the splendor of the Inca ruins long before you actually visit them.
The Inca Trail is the only trekking where you walk all the way to Machu Picchu, leaving you with the feeling of having reached your goal and with a pleasant sense of fulfillment. During the trek you will see many uninhabited landscapes, impressive Andean views and mysterious Andean rainforests. All of them unique landscapes of the diverse majesty that can be found in Peru.
Along the route, you will be able to visit several Inca ruins carved into the mountainside. The diversity of nature on the trail is beautiful: from the high passes of the Andes (the highest point is about 4200 meters above sea level) to the exuberant nature of the rainforest.
You will walk to Machu Picchu along mystical cobblestone paths built by the Incas, which formed part of a network of roads that linked their entire empire, called the Qhapaq Ñan (Great Road).
Low points of the Inca Trail
The Inca Trail does not have the cultural interaction that the Lares Trail can offer. Remember to book well in advance, as permits are limited and sell out months before your visit, especially when it is high tourist season between the months of May and September.
You should not expect solitude or quiet on the trail, as you will be walking with many other hikers and many porters.
All the campsites along the route are very crowded, sometimes it becomes complicated to take a picture or wait your turn to visit the archaeological complexes.
On much of the Inca Trail, especially on day 03, you have to descend stairs built by the Incas. The stairs are not easy and you have to take big steps, so your upper legs and knees will suffer a lot of pressure.
Highlights of the hike to Lares
On the Lares route, you will be surrounded by mostly untouched nature deep in the Andes Mountains, with lakes, glaciers, valleys, viscachas and grazing llamas, all of this also makes for a very pleasant landscape to visit and is a unique experience of connection with nature.
You will walk through small villages where you will have the opportunity to interact culturally with local families, especially children, and learn a little more about their culture.
The Lares hiking trail takes hikers off the beaten path and onto trails where fewer tourists venture, without straying too far from civilization. The only people you will see during your trip will be the inhabitants of the mountains and the surrounding nature.
Low points of the Lares route
Machu Picchu is not reached through the Sun Gate. The last night of the trek ends in the town of Aguas Calientes, after which you will have to visit Machu Picchu the day after your arrival.
MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPES – Inca Trail vs Lares Trek
Inca Trail: On the Inca Trail trek, the surrounding mountain slopes are mostly covered with shrubs and trees, making it greener in coloration, and on a good winter day, you even get a glimpse of snow-capped peaks in the distance.
Lares Trek: On the Lares Trek you can see spectacular mountain scenery, snow-capped peaks near the mountain pass, glacier-fed lagoons, etc.
AVAILABILITY / FLEXIBILITY
Inca Trail: The Inca Trail has a quota limit of 500 people per day, including tourists, guides, porters and cooks. If you really want to do this trek, you have to plan and book well in advance to secure your Inca Trail permit. Otherwise, your only option will be to take alternative treks. Also, during the month of February this route is closed for maintenance work.
Lares Trek: It is not necessary to book the excursion months in advance, as this route receives unlimited tour groups throughout the year. Simply find a reputable tour operator and ask for this tour, then they will start organizing the trek. There is always availability.
CLIMA – Inca Trail vs Lares Trek
Inca Trail: As with the Lares route, the winter months on the Inca Trail are the ideal time to hike it. Although the temperature is cold at night, the daytime trekking is mostly pleasant, having sunny days and not too much rain to disturb your experience. However, if you are planning to hike the Inca Trail in summer, the weather is still pleasant (warm), but rain and fog can obscure the scenic views, as well as making the trails a bit more dangerous.
Lares Trek: Expect very cold temperatures at night and in the early hours of winter, from May to August, although these are the most advisable months for trekking (temperatures can drop below freezing). On the other hand, in the summer months, from December to March, the temperature is warmer, but there are downpours that complicate the transit through this route. The rest of the year there are no inconveniences.
MOUNTAIN VILLAGES AND LOCAL POPULATION
Inca Trail: As the surroundings of the Inca Trail are covered with bushes and vegetation, there is no settled mountain village, so no family lives in those lonely mountains. Only on the first day you will see a few local stores and family homes, but none of that will greatly capture your attention.
Lares Trek: You will surely see the local people, concentrated in their daily chores, most of them are farmers and llama herders dressed in their traditional clothes as in ancient Inca times. They live in some adobe huts spruced up with mud and secure the llamas and alpacas in stone chained enclosures or in woven wire fences in the summer months.
PORTERS – Inca Trail vs. Lares Trek
Inca Trail: Pack animals are not allowed on the Inca Trail. In addition to protecting the damage these animals can cause on the trail, the fact is that they cannot go up and down some of the steep stairs on the trail. Only the hand of man carries the trekking equipment and food. All tour operators hire the famous Inca Trail porters.
Lares Trek: At the beginning of your trek, you will be introduced to your Lares Trek porters, and they will carry the food and camping equipment for the trek. Most of them come from the Lares Valley, and after 3 days of work, they have to climb the high passes back home. When there is little work, they dedicate themselves to the cultivation of potatoes and native cereals.
TRAIL CLOSURES IN FEBRUARY
Inca Trail: Yes, it closes for maintenance.
Lares Trail: No, it does not close in February.
ARE THERE CAMPING FACILITIES?
Inca Trail: The Inca Trail porters set up the tents where you will spend the nights in the campsites determined along the route, a kitchen tent, dining tent and all the necessary means for your comfort. For those who want to take a shower after the trek (night shower), there are some shower cabins installed in the camps. As for toilets, there are only toilets without seats, unless you find some suitable toilets on the first day’s hike, but note that these are private, so you will be charged for using them.
Lares Trail: The camping sites are less crowded, as the trail is less trodden and has several versions. As for sanitary facilities, drinking water and showers, there are only outdoor toilets, so be prepared for that. The water may not be drinkable, so it also needs to be purified. As for showering, it will depend on the time and weather. Normally, the temperature is cold, so you can hardly take a bath.
THERMAL WATERS – Inca Trail vs Lares Trek
Inca Trail: It is important to clarify that you will not be able to find hot springs halfway through the hike. The way to get there is to stay an extra night in the town of Aguas Calientes on the edge of the mountain that houses the citadel of Machu Picchu, so you can visit the hot springs that are just minutes away from the main square.
Lares Trek: Whichever version of the Lares Trek you take, you will have the opportunity to soak in the hot springs near the town of Lares. It is a very nice place to relax and have a good time before starting the tour.
WHO SHOULD CHOOSE THE INCA TRAIL?
If you decide to take the Inca Trail route over the Lares trek you have to keep in mind that unlike the Lares trek, the Inca Trail features the incredible Inca Trail ruins, and it is worth taking this trail to see them along the way. If you are more interested in History and enjoy more of a jungle landscape than a high altitude trek, then you have to opt for the Inca Trail, but remember to book well in advance.
WHO SHOULD CHOOSE THE LARES TREK?
You should opt for the Lares Trek if you are more interested in life in the mountains of the Peruvian Andes, because you will witness a more authentic way of life of the Quechua People living in this part of Cusco; there you will have the opportunity to learn about their wisdom, religion as well as their philosophy. Besides just the mountain villages and local culture, you will also enjoy the clear blue lakes, valleys inhabited by alpacas, the seductive mountain peaks, and many wonders this trek still has to offer.