For many travelers, it’s a dream to walk to the great Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Although there is only one destination, there are several options that you can choose to fulfill your fantasy. The world-famous Inca Trail and the Lares Trek are considered by specialists as 2 of the best alternatives. Still don’t know which one to choose? Here we present a comparative description where you can study the pros and cons of both trails and make your decision in the best way.
You’re just a short time away from starting one of the most incredible trips of your entire life. Walking through the sacred Andean mountains will test your physical and mental resistance. You’ll travel ancient pilgrimage routes that served to purify body and mind before reaching a ritual site as powerful as Machu Picchu. To help you make the best decision, we will take a brief but in-depth look at the attributes of each excursion and carry out an accurate analysis. Inca Trail or Lares Trek? Find out which one best suits you.
The Inca Trail has long attracted the attention of tourists from around the world. This makes it the most popular option to walk to Machu Picchu. The part that tourists go through is just a small section of a gigantic and complex road system that connects the entire Tahuantinsuyu: from Santiago in Chile to Cuenca, Ecuador, approximately. The most difficult day of this excursion is the second due to the long climb and the number of steps; however, your reward will be the impressive views of the valley from above. Remember that the descents are quite steep and your knees can start to hurt. In addition, along this entire route, you get to discover impressive archaeological sites.
The highlights of the Inca Trail
- This is the “original” route to walk to Machu Picchu.
- It’s the only route that can direct walkers to the very gates of Machu Picchu.
- You’ll enjoy the fantasy landscapes of the Andean mountains and within the cloud forest.
- You will reach the highest point at the Dead Woman’s pass at 4,212 masl / 13,818 fasl
- There are various archaeological sites along the entire path.
Should I choose the Inca Trail?
If your desire is to travel the mysterious original path that the Incas used to reach Machu Picchu, this route is for you. However, due to limited capacity, you need to book your tour several months in advance. Furthermore, this is the only route that takes you directly to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. There’s nothing better than observing the impressive stone citadel from Puerta del Sol (The Sun Gate) after 4 days of intense walking.
Remember that in all other excursions you must travel by train to Aguas Calientes to rest in a hotel and enjoy your visit to Machu Picchu the next day.
The Lares Trek or Lares Route is as challenging as the Inca Trail, and for this reason, many tourists choose this option to avoid the crowds. In addition to being close to the city of Cusco and other tourist sites, Lares is excellent for appreciating the daily life of the Andean man who has not lost his deep relationship with Mother Earth. In addition, it’s an excellent route to connect with the spirit of the water since you’ll be able to contemplate incredible lagoons and waterfalls.
You’ll be transported to a place visited by very few tourists, where the Andean ancestral culture shines like fire. You’ll be able to make new friends in the traditional communities along the way, in addition to appreciating their fine textile art. Treat all people with great respect and learn from their lifestyle.
The highlights of the Lares Trek
- It’s a much less congested route than the Inca Trail.
- It highlights its natural beauty and the majesty of its bodies of water: multicolored lagoons and sacred waterfalls.
- It’s an experience of contact with traditional Andean culture.
- The highest point is slightly higher than on the Inca Trail: Abra de Pachacuteq at 4,450 masl / 14,599 fasl
- The visit to Machu Picchu is made on the last day, after resting for a night in the small city of Aguas Calientes.
Should I choose the Lares Trek?
If you want to enjoy an impressive walk through the Sacred Valley, one of the most splendid places in the Cusco region, and sacrifice the fact that you will not walk directly to the gates of Machu Picchu, the Lares Trek offers you a more authentic tourist experience. It also brings you closer to the most traditional lifestyle in the mountains of Peru. To do the Lares Trek you only need to spend 2 nights in camps and 1 night in the hotel in Aguas Calientes, so if you have little time in Cusco, this route is ideal for you.