It is hard to go ahead and start comparing the Lares Trek with the Inca Trail, since they both present similarities, but at the same time, some contrasting features. They both include several kilometres of trekking up and down mountains and if that doesn’t take your breath away, the stunning scenery will. Yet, where one is more “commercial”, the other rewards the hiker with a more intimate feel of locals living in small towns along its path.
Lares is more cultural. This remote and rarely visited region offers the trekker an insight into the real lives of the Andean farmer, dressed in their traditional brightly colored ponchos. You’ll have the opportunity to see thatched stone houses surrounded by herds of llamas and alpacas. Inside the houses you’ll see guinea pigs running loose but there are no ruins.
If you’re looking to make trekking a significant part of your Machu Picchu journey, these two trails are without a doubt your best options. Though the two trails are quite similar in a number of ways, in others they are also very different.
The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu is 4 days is starting at 3,200m (10,499 ft), you ascend up to a maximum of 4,600m (15,092 ft) and less walking than for the Inca Trail, you end up in Ollaytatambo on the 3rd day where you take the train to Machu Picchu. So, you also then do not arrive via walking to the Sun Gate.
The Classic Inca Trail 4 Days is undoubtedly the more well known of the two. it’s become very popular with travellers the world over. Starting at km 82 at an altitude of 2,700m (8,858 ft), you climb up to a high point of 4,215m (13,828 ft) at Dead Woman’s Pass.
There is now a limit of 500 daily trekking permits, so while there are times when you’re trekking with no one else around, you’ll likely encounter more people at busy sections, and it does mean campsites can get busy.
Trekking at higher altitudes means you need to be aware of the effects of altitude sickness, and while there’s no way to know if you’ll be affected, as long as you keep your own pace and stay hydrated, you should be fine. There are also no permit restrictions for the Lares Trek, but also nowhere near as many trekkers either.
It’s hard to say which of these routes is harder. You are dealing with more ascents and descents on the Inca Trail, while walking at a higher altitude on the Lares Trek. Both bring unique challenges of their own.
Lares is for the adventurer, the Inca Trail is for someone who wants to say that they have done that world famous experience