When you look for tours you will see several possibilities to arrive to Machu Picchu; from 1-day quick trips to traditional tours that involve famous archaeological centres arriving by train or by world-famous treks such as the Classic Inca Trail.
Therefore if you are interested in complete the trail without invest too much money or maybe did not arrive to get a ticket to the Inca Trail, we offer you two great alternatives to take a trek walking through valleys, pampas and mountains towards Machu Picchu.
Many people wonder about the difference between Lares Trek vs Salkantay Trek, and wonder which one is the “best” alternative trek to the Inca Trail. In our humble opinion, both treks are great and have different things to offer. Here we try to explain you about some of the pros and cons of each route and their highlights, to help you make an informed decision about what is the best Andean hike for you.
Lares Trek.his route begins in the city of Cusco where the touristic bus goes through the Sacred Valley until Calca town. Then visit the famous relaxing and healing thermal waters of Lares. After this excursion begins the climb which highest point is at 4 400 m.a.s.l.
The trek continues through communities such as Patacancha and then descent to the town of Ollantaytambo Peru from where you will have to board the train towards Aguas Calientes and finally visit the Machu Picchu ruins.
Salkantay Trek. The journey begins in the city of Cusco then continues in the Limatambo Valley until Mollepata zone where trek will start, during the trek the ascent will reach 4 600 m.a.s.l. through the Apu Salkantay pass. Later on you will descend to the peruvian forest, and then to Machu Picchu.
The Salkantay trek is only available during dry season (April-October) as the chance of mudslides makes it dangerous to hike during rainy season (November-March).
Lares Trek. Lares Trek camping is much less regulated, meaning there’s a lack of facilities after the first night in a campsite near small settlements, where local people are happy to see you and offer a small slice of village life.
The campsites on the Lares Trek basic have fitted toilet and shower blocks. If you aren't a fan of freezing first thing in the morning, I'd recommend washing with the warm water bowls the provided in the morning. Oh, and a word to the wise: on the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu, wet wipes are your best friend.
Don't make the mistake of skimping on the gear; these mountains are cold. If you don't have a four-season sleeping bag, rent one.
Salkantay Trek. Camping on the Salkantay trek is fully supportedand is set amidst the amazing backdrop of the Andes' Vilcabamba range.
Along the way there are various accommodation/camping options where it is possible to break up the descent You can opt to camp or stay in lodges along this route. The camping trek is comfortable, with thick sleeping mats. A difference between camping on Salkantay Trek vs Lares Trek is that on Salkantay not as crowded and not everyone stays at the same campsites on a set schedule.
Lares Trek.During all journey you will be surrounded by mountains such as the snow peak Apu Ausangate as well as the flora and fauna of the Peruvian Andes. On the way you can see crystalline water lakes and visit communities that still keep their original traditions making of this journey an unforgettable experience, since you could live with the local population and learn a bit more of their customs.
Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay trek takes you over soaring mountain passes (located at an altitude of 4600m / 15,092 ft), passed snow-capped peaks, and down into the Andean jungle at just about 1000m above sea level. It’s an incredible journey through changing scenery, with additional options near the end to hike up to see Incan ruins or even take a thrilling ride on a zipline.
The experience itself is difficult to compare between Lares Trek vs Salkantay Trek. The one thing in common on both of the treks is the exceptional level of service that you receive including full-service camping, with three meals a day and plenty of snacks and water. All of the trekking equipment is in excellent condition, and can be easily hired for both routes. In both after the trek, you continue to Aguas Calientes and spend the night in a hotel in comfort, before ascending to Machu Picchu the next morning.
Lares Trek. Equipment on the Lares Trek, however,is carried by mule rather than porter, giving trekkers the freedom to undertake these more challenging routes.
Salkantay Trek. Equipment on the Salkantay Trek is carried by horses, who make for friendly company and provide some good encouragement when the going gets tough.
Insider's Tip: The Salkantay trek requires good physical condition, so we recommend some training ahead of your departure with exercises like running, cycling and swimming. Bring warm clothing and plenty of layers, as there can be significant climate changes associated with the altitude changes (from 4000 meters to 2000 meters). Due to unfavourable climatic conditions, there are no departures for the trek in January and February. We recommend trekking June-September in the dry season, when days are warmer. Don't forget to rent your trekking poles and sleeping bag once you arrive in Cuzco, or bring your own from home. If you are feeling up for it, don't miss the extra hike to Laguna de Humantay - the views are indescribable!
Insider's Tip: For quieter trails and generally nice weather, we recommend undertaking the Lares trek in April or October. Since most of the hike will take place at high altitudes around 4,000 metres, trekkers should train beforehand with exercises like cycling and swimming for better cardiovascular endurance and faster adaptation to the altitude. Don't forget to pack layers for the change in temperatures and a swimming suit so you can relax in the Lares Town hot springs before setting off on your journey. Be sure to rent trekking poles and a sleeping bag in Cuzco before your trek or bring your own. If you want to make a big difference to the locals you meet on the trail, bring small gifts to hand out as you pass through remote Andean communities.
In our humble opinion, both treks are great and have different things to offer. When comparing the Lares trek vs. the Salkantay Trek, the ultimate decision will depend upon your preference of a experiential tourism or something more original. If you want to catch spectacular views of lagoons, impressive snow-capped mountains such Salkantay and Humantay, rivers and subtropical zones full of flora and fauna, then you should choose the Salkantay Trek. If you are willing to forgo this experience in return for a more novel and authentic trekking experience, the beautiful and lesser-known Lares trek is a good option.