Hualcajasa Pass , Lares Valley Trek PeruWe wanted to trek the Classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but we didn’t plan much in advance and the trekking permits were no longer available by the time we booked for the trek.  Disappointed, we settled for one of the alternate Inca trails – the less traveled Lares Valley Trek. I already trekked the Classic Inca Trail in 2000 so I didn’t really mind, but I would have wanted Keith to experience it for himself. But what a blessing in disguise! The 4-day Lares Valley Trek turned out to be a much more spectacular and much more exhilarating trek than the Classic Inca Trail. It also provided  more rewarding cultural experience and offered more interesting photographic opportunities.

We trekked through beautiful wide open valleys with incredible vistas of snowcapped mountains, passed by beautiful blue mountain lagoons, impressive waterfalls, mountain streams, hot springs and Inca ruins. We trekked through mountain villages and encountered indigenous residents, met adorable children along the trail who were walking several miles to and from school, visited a small local school, came face to face with indigenous wildlife and learned a lot more about the colorful Quechuan culture.  You don’t experience all those on the classic trail.   For those seasoned trekkers, the Lares Valley trek will be much more challenging for you than the classic trail. For the beginners, don’t be discouraged it will be doable; just take it slow. Enjoy the photojournal of the trek.


Day 1: Quiswarani – Cuncani  (Walking distance approximately 12 km 5-6 hours.)

Mother and child  in traihead in Quawarani, lares Valley Trek  The mother and child we met on the trailhead in Quiswarani (3,700 m/12139 ft).


Ascending to the highest pass on Lares Valley Trek, PeruKeith working his way up to the first high pass of the trek, the Hualcajasa Pass. It was a challenging first day;  we had to tackle one of the three high passes of the trails within few hours of starting the trek.


Lares Valley Trek Peru

Not yet halfway to the high pass but almost close to the lunch camp.


Our first lunch camp was set up along the high altitude lagoon of Qewna-Qocha at 4,200 m/13,780 ft.


View from Hualcajasa Pass, Lares Valley Trek PeruThe view of Qewna-Qocha lagoon as we approached Hualcajasa Pass.

Hualcajasa Pass , Lares Valley Trek Peru

We made it to Hualcajasa Pass (4,400 m/14,436 ft)!

Trail from Hualcajasa Pass,  Lares Valley Trek Peru

Looking down at the trail ahead from Hualcajasa Pass.


Descending from Hualcajasa Pass,  Lares Valley Trek PeruDescending from Hualcajas Pass.


Twin Lagoon. Lares Valley Trek PeruView of the picturesques “seven lagunas.”


Trekkers on Lares Valley Trek Peru

After the steep climb to Hualcajasa Pass, trekkers savored the downhill strides.


Waterfall, Lares Valley Trek Peru We did a steep descent from the top, alongside this impressive waterfalls.


View of Chancachacan Valley, Lares Valley Trek PeruDescending into the bucolic Chancachacan  Valley.


Quechan girl on Lares Valley Trek Peru

This lovely 8-year old Quechuan girl was the first native we met along the trail.


Village on Lares Valley Trek Peru

The first indigenous village we passed by. The Quechuan people in the highland villages still maintain an ancient way of life that they inherited from their Inca ancestors: herding llamas and alpacas, farming the Andean slope, and weaving colorful textiles.

  First campsite on Lares Valley Trek PeruWe finally made it to the comfort of our tent at the  campsite in Cuncani at 3,650 m / 11,975 ft.


Day 2:  Cuncani – Ipsay Qocha Lake  (Walking distance approximately 15 km,  6-7 hours)

Campsite in Cuncani, Lares Valley Trek PeruEarly morning at our campsite. The night was cold, much more than everyone had expected. We were happy for the extra blankets provided by SAS Travel, our trekking company.  They  provided the best quality tent I ever had in all of my many trekking trips.


Mt. Sawasiray, Lares Valley Trek PeruView of the majestic Mt. Sawasiray from the campsite.


Indigenous animals on Lares Valley Trek PeruTraffic jam on the trail.


Alapaca on Lares Valley Trek PeruA regal alpaca.


Llama on Lares Valley Trek PeruA lovely llama.


Young Shepherds on Lares Valley Trek PeruThe young shepherds.


Schoolgirl on Lares Valley Trek PeruKeith with a girl we met on trail who was on her way to school. Some children in the mountain villages walk several miles to and from school.


School children on Lares Valley Trek PeruKeith giving out school supplies to some more school children we met on the trail.


Quechuan children on Lares Valley Trek PeruChildren of the high Andean mountain.


Second day, Lares Valley Trek Peru

The ascent to the second high pass of the trek.


Horses on Lares Valley Trek PeruThe horses running wild! One of the horses carried our camp supplies and the other one provided a ride to some trekkers straggling behind (those who were smoking while trekking then had a hard time breathing.  What were they thinking!)


Lagoon on Lares Valley Trek PeruLlamas and alpacas grazing along side another azure mountain lagoon.


Trekking Group, Lares Valley Trek PeruThe trekking group on the second high pass of the trek – the Ipsay Qasa Pass  at 4,500 m/ 14,764 ft.)


Snowpeak mountiains, Lares Valley Trek PeruThe glaciers of Mount Veronica.


Local Women on Lares Valley Trek Peru

Local women hanging out along the trail. They weave and dye the colorful clothes they wear everyday.


Local Woman with cocoa leaves on Lares Valley Trek Peru

A woman holding a bag of coca leaves. Coca is integral part of Peruvian life, especially in the the Andean highland communities. They use it as medicine for common ailments such as headache, stomach ache, sore throat, etc. Chewing it is said to alleviate high altitude sickness. We didn’t try but some swore to it.


Little boy on the rock on Lares Valley Trek Peru

A little boy on the rock.


Encounter with little boy on Lares Valley Trek PeruSharing my favorite trail food (M &M’s) with the little boy on the rock.


Animal enclosure, Lares Valley Trek PeruA circular enclosure where the animals are kept at night.


Animal enclosures, Lares Valley Trek PeruA series of animal enclosures in the valley.


A girl and a dog on Lares Valley Trek Peru

A Quechan girl on her way back from school with her dog.


A little girl on trail of Lares Valley Trek Peru

A little girl sitting quietly by herself along the trail while mother was working in the field and big sister was playing.


Quechuan woman on Lares Valley Trek Peru

A Quechuan woman in full bloom.  Women wear distinctive headgears to distinguish their origin in the Andes.


View of Villages from Lares Valley Trek PeruThe villages below the mountain.


View of Villages from Lares Valley Trek PeruAn exotic shepherd and her equally exotic flock.


A village on Lares Valley Trek PeruAn Andean highland village.


A lovely Quechuan senorita, Lares Valley Trek Peru

A lovely Quechuan señorita.


Day 2 Campsite on to Ipsaycocha lake on Lares Valley Trek PeruFinally, our campsite for our second night was within sight. It was close to Ipsaycocha Lake  at 4,100 m/13,451.44 ft.


Day 3: Ipsay Qocha Lake – Pantacacha-Ollantaytmbo-Aguas Calientes  (walking distance approximately 18 km / 7-8 hours.)

A typical mountain home on Lares Valley Trek PeruA typical home in the high altitude valley.


An alpaca on Lares Valley Trek PeruAn alpaca guarding the high meadows.


aby on mother's back on Lares Valley Trek PeruA baby sits quietly on her mother’s  back while she was showing her woven handicrafts to trekkers.


Boy with slingshot on Lares Valley Trek Peru

A boy with a sling shot admiring the new set of crayons he received from one of  the trekkers.


Trail on Lares Valley Trek PeruMountains are big, men are small. Very humbling.


On third high pass, Lares Valley Trek PeruOn the third high pass of the trek.


Trekking guides, Lares Valley Trek PeruOur superb guides from SAS Travel, Henry and Enrique.


Mountain stream on Lares Valley Trek Peru

Glacier water flowing through the stream.


Trekkers resting on Lares Valley Trek Peru

Trekkers taking a break along the stream.


Trekkers on Lares Valley Trek PeruTrekkers on the go.


Patacancha Village, Lares Valley Trek PeruEntering the community of Patacancha.

Children in Patacancha village Lares Valley Trek Peru

Chilldren and a dog in Patacancha.


Wild yellow flowers on Lares Valley Trek PeruWild yellow flowers that grow throughout the valley.


Satellite dish in Patacancha on Lares Valley Trek Peru   A satellite dish made it to this remote village.


Woman washing on riiver in Patacancha on Lares Valley Trek PeruA woman washing in the river.


Soccer field in Patacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruKeith in the soccer field of the village. We were supposed to play with local kids but nobody showed up.


Pigs in Patacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruPig sleeping on the trail.


Little girl carrying baby in Pitacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruA little girl carrying a baby on her back.


Inca ruins in corn field in Pitacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruPassing by Inca ruins and corn fields.


Corns being dried in Pitacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruCorns being dried under the sun. Corn is a main staple in Quechuan diet.


View from Pitacancha, Lares Valley Trek PeruA spectacular Andean landscape.


Student at Pitacancha school, Lares Valley Trek Peru

I met my buddy Brenda (whose sweater was inside out) at school we visited in the village of Pallata. She looked serious as she was about to use her new crayon for the first time.


Trekker and studeents in Pitacancha schhol, Laresr Valley trek PeruSchool children surrounded fellow trekker as he was giving he was giving out school supplies and candies.


Lunch stop in Pitacancha on Lares Valley Trek PeruWe set up for lunch in the school yard in Pallata village.


Chef on Lares Valley Trek Peru

Our superb tekking chef, Valerio, who provided us with delicious and nutritious meals during the trek.


Aguas Calientes, Lares Valley Trek PeruFrom the trail, we made our way to Ollantaytambo and took the train to  Aguas Calientes, where we ended the third day of the trek and where we finally got a hot shower and our first sip of spirit after more than a week in high altitude.

Day 4:   Machu Picchu: Reaching the Royal Citadel of the Incas


Booking the trek:  We booked the trek through SAS Travel Peru, a company based in Cuzco. It’s a very reputable company that provide quality service as well as social and environmental responsibility.  We highly recommend it.


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26 responses to “Peru: The Lares Valley Trek

  1. Danica Moran

    What an amazing, breathtaking, colorful adventure! I never thought that a trekking adventure can be a cultural experience as well. Beautiful photographs, wonderful subjects. Love it!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Dani, trekking that provides cultural experience is the best. Glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for dropping by again.

  2. Jeff Perez

    Hey guys, I just had a great adventure with you. I’m huffin’ and puffin’ on my armchair just seeing you climb those steep slopes. Can’t wait to get to Macchu Picchu!!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hey Jeff, glad you enjoyed trailing along! See you in Machu Picchu!

  3. What a great series of pics. It stinks when permits get in the way of planned hikes, but at least you made the best of it.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Scott, thanks. The lesson was plan in advance for hikes that require permit. But then, we felt it worked in our favor – we got to experience the beauty and culture of the off the beaten path Lares Valley.

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Dennis, you should definitely consider Lares Valley next time you trek in Peru. I’ll do it again in a heartbeat:)

  4. Wow, what an incredible trek! I’ve never hiked for that many consecutive days before, but it seems like the experience in Peru is totally worth it. Those views are phenomenal!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Christy, Yes, long trekking in Peru and in most part of the Andes is totally worth it. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too.

  5. Dhey

    The two of you are my IDOL. Miss you guys soooo much!!! Come visit Chicago soon. Marisol the pics are moving as usual, in the eyes of a true Artist!!! Thanks for sharing the adventures. Hi Keith :)

    XOXO to you both!!

  6. Traveling Solemates

    Hey Dhey! You’re very welcome! We’re glad you enjoyed the photos. We miss you, too! Hope to see you soon!

  7. Laura


    My husband and I are in the same situation you were when you went to Peru. My husband and I couldn’t decide where to go on vacation. We recently came up with the idea to go to Machu Picchu and all the Inca trail permits are sold out. I found your blog when I was researching Lares Trek. It has inspired me that this trek could be even more awesome than the Inca trail! Just curious…we’re two semi in shape people in our late 20’s. Was this trek very difficult? We hiked Cinque Terre a few years ago…I remember a lot of steep drop offs that made you nervous that you could trip and fall down the side of the mountain/cliff…otherwise a doable hike. Did you feel like that with the Lares Trek? I’m just trying to get a vibe on what kind of hike this is.
    Love your blog! Have a great weekend!

    • Hi Laura, thanks for visiting the blog and I apologize for the delayed reply. The trail is not easy but doable. Hey, if 60 year olds can do it, you guys can definitely do it. I don’t remember very narrow trails with steep drop offs like in Cinque Terre. Dealing with the altitude is the main challenge here. They main key in dealing with high altitude is to have enough acclimatization time. I suggest that you spend no shorter than 4 days in high altitude before starting the trek. Another really important factor is managing your pace on the trail. One mistake a lot of people make when hiking in high altitude is that they move fast then they stop to catch their breath and then go fast again and then stop to breath. This is very taxing to the lungs and you waste a lot of energy and make you prone to altitude sickness. The key is to move slow without stopping too much. If you find yourself catching your breath, you are moving too fast. (Remember that your normal walking pace on a sea level is too fast for high altitude.) I hope you get to do this trek. Lares Valley trek is beautiful and is truly is very culturally rewarding experience. W’ve done a lot of trekking and this is one of the most spectacular ones. Please le me know if you have any other questions.

  8. Nabila

    You guys take the best of pictures that tell real stories. I love the colours the Peruvians wear and love love the pictures of children. Its great that you brought school supplies for the children. Seeing their smiles is rewarding enough.

    • Hi Nabila, thank you. Glad you enjoyed the photos and the stories they tell. Yes, the children and the color of Andes are truly wonderful. Thank you for dropping by,

  9. Mary

    Thank you for your post! My sister and I are hiking the Lares Valley trip through SAS Travel in a few weeks and this made me even more excited to do it! Is there anything you wish you had brought or were glad that you brought? How cold does it get on the trail? Any other recommendations are appreciated– I am packing now and am afraid I’ll forget something!

    • Hi Mary, I’m so excited for you and your sister! SAS is a wonderful company. I don’t remember the exact temperature but there was one evening that was really cold and I was thankful to have packed my down jacket. I didn’t think I was going to use it; I thought it would just be one of those “just in case” and would double as a pillow. SAS provides extra blankets for extra cold nights but I get extra cold, so I was happy to have the down jacket for extra warmth, I also recommend bringing Nalgene bottle and fill it with warm water at night to put inside your sleeping bag for extra warmth. One thing that we couldn’t have done without were the trekking poles. While hiking layering is the key. Don’t forget to pack mittens, scarf and hat, and polarized sunglasses. Rain can come as a surprise, so make sure you have rain jacket/pants or even poncho in your backpack. Gortex materials are ideal. If you wish, bring school supplies for the adorable kids you will encounter on the trail. Bring small change in case you want to buy handicraft from the lovely ladies on the trail. And never forget to bring enough camera batteries and memory cards, you will be in for a lot of incredible shots. Lares Valley trek is an incredible experience and I look forward to hear about your trek. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more Q.s,
      Marisol recently posted..Beautiful, Romantic Bora Bora My Profile

      • Mary

        Thanks for your response! This is so helpful! Do you have to get the trekking poles at the time you book your trip? I also didn’t realize that sleeping bags are not included, until I looked at the site just now! Is it possible to hire those items when we arrive to their office in Cusco?

  10. Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I am doing the Lares Trail with Charity Challenge for the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation in August, 2014. Your posts of your journey, photos and commentary are so beautiful and helpful. Thank you so much and I look forward to continuing to follow your journeys around the world. You are truly inspiring!!

  11. han

    this year 2016 i am going to peru and could not decide to do the inca trail or the lares trail.
    now i’ve seen your photo’s, i’am impressed about the larestrail
    i think the nature is very beautiful, and it has less steps then the inca trail(better fot my knees).
    so thank you for your photo’s

  12. Larsh Frite

    I would recommend this trek for anyone looking for a fun and “out of the box” experience. 5 stars!.
    Also i would recommend , they are a excellent company .

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