Lares Trek vs Inca Trail: A Detailed Look

Buckle in for the great Machu Picchu hike showdown. It’s the Lares Trek vs Inca Trail in this epic clash. You might be wondering, 'Is hiking the Inca trail worth it? How about the Lares trek'
At Skyhook, we know each path offers a unique journey to the mystical Machu Picchu. Yet, both Peru tours differ in scenery, cultural experiences, and historical significance. 
Let’s guide you through the key differences between the Lares Trek and the Inca Trail, helping you decide which adventure best suits your preferences.

Inca Trail vs Lares Trek: Comparing Two Epic Treks

Here’s a brief snapshot of the significant differences between these two adventures.


Lares Trek

Inca Trail


Typically 4 days

Usually 4 days


Slightly shorter than the Inca Trail

Approximately 26 miles (42 km)

Highest Altitude

Around 4,500 meters above sea level

Dead Woman's Pass at 4,215 meters (13,828 ft)


Moderately challenging with higher altitudes

Challenging, especially at high altitude passes, which can potentially cause Machu Picchu altitude sickness

Permits Required

No permit required

Yes, permits are required and limited

Scenery and Experience

Focus on Andean landscapes, local villages, and cultural immersion with fewer Inca ruins

Rich in historical and archaeological significance with many Inca sites and natural landscapes

Wildlife and Ecology

Diverse ecosystems, local wildlife, and unique flora

Diverse ecosystems, cloud forests, and possible wildlife sightings


Generally less expensive due to fewer permit restrictions and lower demand

Typically more expensive due to permit costs and high demand

Best Time to Go

May to September for drier weather, but less crowded in the off-season

May to September for the best Machu Picchu weather, with permits selling out quickly, making it the best time to hike the Inca trail

Meet the Two Treks: Lares or Inca?

Let’s help settle the debate between the Lares trek and the classic Inca trail.
hiking the lares trek

Lares Trek: An Overview

The Lares Trek is an enchanting journey through the heart of the Peruvian Andes, offering a more off-the-beaten-path experience compared to the well-trodden Inca Trail. 
This trek meanders through stunning Andean landscapes with crystal-clear mountain lakes and peaks that command awe. 
Unique to the Lares Trek is its emphasis on cultural immersion. As you traverse remote villages, you’ll encounter the local Quechua communities, gaining a rare glimpse into their traditional ways of life and rich cultural heritage.

Who Will Like It?

This trek is particularly suited for those who seek a blend of adventure and cultural enrichment. It’s ideal for travellers who prefer less crowded paths and more intimate encounters with local life. 
The Lares Trek also appeals to nature enthusiasts, as its route showcases some of Peru’s most breathtaking natural scenery. 

How Difficult is It?

While it does present physical challenges, including high altitudes and varied terrain, it’s accessible to trekkers who are in good physical condition and seek a journey that’s as culturally enriching as it is visually spectacular. 
The Lares Trek is a perfect choice for adventurers looking to connect with the heart of Andean culture amidst a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.
hiking during inca jungle trek

Inca Trail: An Overview

The Inca Trail, renowned worldwide, is a journey that connects the modern adventurer with the ancient world of the Incas. 
This iconic trail winds through the diverse landscapes of the Peruvian Andes, leading to the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu. 
The route is steeped in history, taking hikers along a path lined with fascinating Inca ruins, including Runcu Raccay and the majestic Wiñay Wayna, enveloped by cloud forests and dramatic Machu Picchu Mountain vistas.

Who Will Like It?

Tailored for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike, the Inca Trail is an ideal match for those drawn to ancient civilisations. 
This trail is also perfect for those who appreciate the grandeur of natural landscapes, as it offers a diverse array of ecosystems, from high mountain passes to lush cloud forests.

How Difficult is It?

Regarding the Machu Picchu hike difficulty, the Inca trail is a physically demanding trek, culminating at the famous Dead Woman’s Pass, and requires good fitness and stamina. 
Its combination of historical intrigue, physical challenge, and natural beauty make it a bucket-list journey for many adventurers around the globe.
Peter West Carey - Machu Picchu Hike (G Adventures)

Comparing the Scenery

The Lares Trek is synonymous with vibrant, natural beauty, showcasing lush landscapes and traditional Andean villages. 
Its path winds through green valleys and beside pristine mountain lakes, offering a glimpse into the daily life and culture of local Quechua communities. This trek celebrates the region’s pastoral charm and rich cultural tapestry.
In contrast, the Inca Trail is a historical odyssey, leading trekkers on a enjoyable Inca trail to Machu Picchu length through various landscapes dotted with ancient Inca ruins. 
The trail is famous for its mystical cloud forests, which envelop the path and ruins in a misty, ethereal shroud. This trek is a journey back in time, set against the backdrop of the Andes’ diverse natural beauty.
The takeaway: The Lares Trek focuses on cultural immersion within natural settings. At the same time, the Inca Trail combines historical exploration with ecological diversity.
machu picchu locals
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Cultural Experiences

The Lares Trek stands out for its rich cultural experiences, offering an intimate glimpse into the lives of the local Andean communities.
 As you journey through remote villages, you’ll encounter the Quechua, guardians of ancient traditions and customs. This trek allows for meaningful interactions, from observing traditional weaving techniques to participating in daily village life. 
It’s an opportunity to understand and appreciate a way of life that has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
While less focused on contemporary cultural experiences, the Inca Trail offers a different kind of cultural journey. 
It immerses trekkers in the ancient world of the Incas, with each step along the trail revealing historical and archaeological wonders. 
The trek is a live museum of Inca civilisation. It presents an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of an ancient culture and learn about their sophisticated society and architectural ingenuity.
The takeaway: Both treks provide cultural insights, with the Lares Trek focusing on present-day Andean culture and the Inca Trail on the historical and archaeological legacy of the Incas.
lares trek accommodation

Historical Significance

The Inca Trail is steeped in historical significance, serving as a direct link to the ancient Inca civilisation. 
This route was part of the vast network of Inca trails connecting the empire, and it leads to the iconic Machu Picchu, offering trekkers a firsthand look at various archaeological sites and ruins along the way. 
The trail is a living testament to the Inca’s advanced engineering and architectural skills.
In contrast, while not as historically focused as the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek still holds historical value. 
It passes through areas that have been inhabited for centuries, offering insights into the enduring legacy of Andean cultures. 
However, its main appeal lies in showcasing the current lifestyle of Andean communities, which is a living history in its own right.
The takeaway: While both treks offer historical elements, the Inca Trail is the go-to choice for those seeking a journey deeply rooted in the past, exploring the remnants of a lost civilisation. 
7-day inca trail hike

Difficulty and Altitude

The Lares Trek and the Inca Trail both present unique challenges in difficulty and altitude, catering to different types of adventurers.
The Lares Trek is considered moderately challenging. 
It reaches higher altitudes than the Inca Trail, with its highest point around 4,500 meters above sea level. It can be demanding for those not acclimatised to high elevations. 
The terrain varies but doesn’t typically include as many steep ascents and descents as the Inca Trail.
On the other hand, the Inca Trail is known for its challenging nature, primarily due to its steep sections and high-altitude passes, like the famous Dead Woman’s Pass at 4,215 meters (13,828 ft). 
This trail requires good physical fitness, as the trek includes long days of hiking over rugged terrain.
The takeaway: Both treks demand a certain degree of physical preparation, with the Inca Trail being slightly more demanding due to its altitude and terrain.
lllama standing along lares trek

Wildlife and Ecology

The Lares Trek and the Inca Trail traverse diverse ecological zones, offering trekkers unique wildlife and botanical experiences.
On the Lares Trek, adventurers will encounter a variety of ecosystems, from rolling hills and farmlands to high-altitude grasslands. 
This trek is particularly notable for its close encounters with local wildlife, including alpacas and llamas, and the chance to observe traditional agricultural practices. 
The region is also home to a range of bird species and a variety of hardy mountain flora.
The Inca Trail, meanwhile, is famous for its journey through the cloud forests, a biodiversity hotspot with numerous animals in Machu Picchu
Trekkers can expect to see an array of birdlife, including the possibility of spotting the majestic Andean condor. 
The trail also passes through different ecological zones, featuring a rich variety of plant life, from orchids to polylepis trees, offering a glimpse into the diverse ecosystems of the Andean region.
The takeaway:  The Lares Trek focuses more on pastoral landscapes and local wildlife, while the Inca Trail offers a journey through more varied ecological zones, including the unique cloud forests.
machu picchu hiking clothing

Final Destination: Machu Picchu

The Lares Trek and the Inca Trail culminate in the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu. Still, the approach and experience of this final destination vary significantly between the two routes.
On the Lares Trek, the journey to Machu Picchu is not by foot but by a combination of bus and train. 
After completing the trek, adventurers travel by minibus from the colonial town of Yanahuara to Ollantaytambo, where they explore the famous Inca ruins. 
They take a scenic Machu Picchu train ride from there to Aguas Calientes, the gateway town to Machu Picchu. This approach allows trekkers to experience additional Inca sites and the beautiful Sacred Valley along with other tourist attractions in Machu Picchu en route to Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail, in contrast, offers the unique experience of arriving at Machu Picchu on foot and the sight of Machu Picchu llamas in the vicinity. 
Trekkers enter the site through the Inti Punku (Sun Gate), which provides a dramatic first view of the ancient citadel. 
This direct approach allows trekkers to experience the thrill and accomplishment of reaching Machu Picchu as the Incas did centuries ago.
The takeaway:  The Lares Trek offers a broader exploration of the Sacred Valley Cusco. While the Inca Trail delivers a more direct and historically authentic entrance to the site.
lares trek to machu picchu
There's a reason why Machu Picchu gets more than a million visitors annually.


Embarking on the Lares Trek or the Inca Trail offers an unforgettable highlight in any Machu Picchu adventure, each with its distinct allure. 
The Lares Trek immerses you in cultural richness and natural beauty. At the same time, the Inca Trail unfolds a path of historical discovery. Both journeys promise an enriching experience, capturing the essence of Peru’s majestic Andes and its vibrant heritage.
And you can experience it all with our vetted guides at Skyhook Adventure!

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