The Sacred Valley of Peru too often gets the short shrift from travelers in a big hurry trying to check things off their list. They breeze through on a train on the way to Machu Picchu or they do a quickie one-day tour of the highlights and return to Cusco the same night.
This is first a shame because there are some really fine hotels in the Sacred Valley, but also because there are some great trekking opportunities there, ones where you’re not sharing the trail with 200 other hikers and 300 porters. The Lares Trek has long been a favorite for slow travel fans who want to let the Andean region unfold at a more relaxed pace. Now thanks to Mountain Lodges of Peru—the company that opened the lodge to lodge trek to Machu Picchu we’ve covered before—you can experience the Lares Trek while staying in comfy lodges each night.
This new Lares Adventure Trek follows “the weavers trail” winding through towns, fields, and ruins in the region, in areas where you’re likely to see more llamas than people. This is where many Peruvian handicrafts are made and where you might see farms growing quinoa and purple potatoes. You won’t have to rough it at night though as you’ll be staying in new lodges like this:
There are two different options for length, either five days or seven. There are mountain passes and lakes, plus lots of interesting villages. You see the ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, but without being herded in and out in a tour bus in a hurry. Then on the last day you tour Machu Picchu. Be advised that if you’re a stickler, this is not a true lodge to lodge trek like their Salkantay one. Almost every morning and evening you’ll be boarding a van to/from the various lodges. That means though that you start and end your hikes at ideal spots. As with the Salkantay trek, you’ll board a train to get to Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Town. Only the true Inca Trail brings you out at the Sun Gate above the citadel. Everyone else arrives by train then takes a bus up the mountain to the entrance.
One important note on planning: there is a clear rainy season in Peru and when it rains, it really pours. February is the worst month usually, with plenty of rain outside it from December through March. Sometimes the deluge comes in January though. Recently Machu Picchu was closed for a long stretch because the train line got buried and this year there has been major damage elsewhere due to flooding.
In general, the high season in Peru coincides with when the weather is best, which coincides with school vacation breaks in the USA and Canada. So June through August are the most crowded, but late spring and early fall are good times to go too. Make your plans now, then travel later this year.
You can see all the departure dates for the MLP Lares Trek here, with choices of a five-day or seven-day experience. Before or after, you can stay at one of the top luxury hotels in Cusco we’ve reviewed in detail, or make it easy and stay at El Mercado Tunqui, where your briefing will be before the trek.
Update – Check out our feature story on the Lares Adventure from Mountain Lodges of Peru!