The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu: A photo essay

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu: A photo essay

Written and Photographed by Brendan van Son

I’ve been to Machu Picchu on three separate occasions (don’t hate the player, hate the game), and each time I’ve visited the place I have arrived by a different means of arrival.  I rode the train once, hiked the classic Inca Trail another time, but the first time I visited was maybe the most special.  We hiked an alternative route known as the Lares Community Trek which takes you off the beaten track and through some spectacular scenery.  I hiked with some great people, and we ended up being the first into the site of Machu Picchu on the day we arrived.  Having Machu Picchu all to yourselves is like no other experience that you could ever have.  The Lares trek takes you away from the over hiked Inca Trail and through some interesting scenery, you will also see how the very rural people live in this part of Peru as you will stop by some houses where herding sheep and llamas are the main trade.  I have compiled a photo essay from my trek to Machu Picchu via the Lares Trek, I hope you enjoy it.

This hike does not ease into the hills, it starts by going straight up.  In this picture 2 of the porters race ahead to get to camp ahead and set up lunch.  They literally did run up this hill; amazing.

This hike does not ease into the hills, it starts by going straight up. In this picture 2 of the porters race ahead to get to camp ahead and set up lunch. They literally did run up this hill; amazing.

The most amazing thing about this trek is the people you see along the way.  You could be hiking in what seems to be the middle of nowhere when ahead you see a group of children racing ahead to cut you off on the trail to sell you coca cola, snikers bars, gatorade and even beer.

The most amazing thing about this trek is the people you see along the way. You could be hiking in what seems to be the middle of nowhere when ahead you see a group of children racing ahead to cut you off on the trail to sell you coca cola, snikers bars, gatorade and even beer.

We actually went inside this house.  The bed was made of straw, the same as the roof, and Guinea Pigs scurried along the floor.  I think it's beautiful.

We actually went inside this house. The bed was made of straw, the same as the roof, and Guinea Pigs scurried along the floor. I think it’s beautiful.

Our porters raced ahead to set up tents for us to comfortably have lunch in.  Here was our first stop, right in amongst the clouds.

Our porters raced ahead to set up tents for us to comfortably have lunch in. Here was our first stop, right in amongst the clouds.

As we took a break in the clouds, a llama came racing down through the fog towards us... Luckily I managed to get this shot, which I think it quite eerie.

As we took a break in the clouds, a llama came racing down through the fog towards us… Luckily I managed to get this shot, which I think it quite eerie

From the top of the first pass you look down on a spectacular site, a lake nestled in amongst the hills, water so cold it's nearly ice.

From the top of the first pass you look down on a spectacular site, a lake nestled in amongst the hills, water so cold it’s nearly i

As the light begins to crack the night sky a nearby glacier shines above our resting place.

As the light begins to crack the night sky a nearby glacier shines above our resting place.

As the morning light shines on the glacier it breaths a proud blue-ish white.

As the morning light shines on the glacier it breaths a proud blue-ish white.

The Lares trek features some very impressive trails that lead along very steep cliffs.  Here I hang my foot over the edge to show the depth of the valley.

The Lares trek features some very impressive trails that lead along very steep cliffs. Here I hang my foot over the edge to show the depth of the valley.

A sheep/llama herder makes his home in this spot.  For some it is unbelievable that one could live so far from any sort of town, city, or even road.  For me, I was a little bit envious of the simplicity of his life.

A sheep/llama herder makes his home in this spot. For some it is unbelievable that one could live so far from any sort of town, city, or even road. For me, I was a little bit envious of the simplicity of his life.

We raced ahead of the group by a couple kilometers which gave us a chance to wander around our lunch spot.  We came across this very cold waterfall along the way.

We raced ahead of the group by a couple kilometers which gave us a chance to wander around our lunch spot. We came across this very cold waterfall along the way.

Standing well above sea level, somewhere around 4700, we looked down at the last lake on our trek.  An feeling like nothing else is that of knowing that you won't have to climb uphill anymore.

Standing well above sea level, somewhere around 4700, we looked down at the last lake on our trek. An feeling like nothing else is that of knowing that you won’t have to climb uphill anymore.

This is one of the pictures that I'm most proud of.  As all the people were focused on looking out at Wayna Picchu I turned to the right to see the sun breaking through over the mountains.  The rocks on the side are part of the watchtower of Machu Picchu which is one of the best places to watch the fog lift from the site itself.

This is one of the pictures that I’m most proud of. As all the people were focused on looking out at Wayna Picchu I turned to the right to see the sun breaking through over the mountains. The rocks on the side are part of the watchtower of Machu Picchu which is one of the best places to watch the fog lift from the site itself.

Wayna Picchu stands tall over the site of Machu Picchu.  Having been there 3 times, watching the fog lift from the site is something that never gets old.  There is a magic to Machu Picchu that is undeniable.  This place will always call me back to it.

Wayna Picchu stands tall over the site of Machu Picchu. Having been there 3 times, watching the fog lift from the site is something that never gets old. There is a magic to Machu Picchu that is undeniable. This place will always call me back to it.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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19 Comments

  1. Those photo’s are amazing, the llama and the last one looking down over the ruins are my favourites. Are you planning on going for a 4th time? I guess you might have to parachute in just to keep mixing it up. :)

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  2. Those photos are absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for sharing!! I can’t wait until my visit to Machu Picchu. Best wishes and safe travels.

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  3. Wow, incredible. Having hiked the classic Inca Trail once, I could definitely return. You are absolutely right about it having a one of a kind magic to it. Great pictures and story, thanks for sharing!

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  4. Love your pictures! I did the Inca Trail recently, but would love to do the Lares Trek in the future. True… it is magical! :)

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  5. Fantastic photo’s Brendon, do you use a filter over your camera lens? The all (without the blue sky) look very similar colour wise like a red filter was put over them.

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    • that’s how I roll… lol… I was working though!

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  6. One of the most amazing journeys one can undertake in life is trecking to MP. CONGRATS!!!!!!

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  7. Incredible photos. I love the way they take us through the whole trek with you.

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  8. Hey Brendan,
    Enjoyed reading this. I also chose an alternate trek, Salkantaye, because of the number of people on the Inca Trail. Other than shitting my pants inside my sleeping bag the first night, it was incredible. LOVED seeing free roaming guinea pigs in the houses as well. Your photos are incredible. That foot picture is somewhat terrifying. B well, Phil

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  9. Incredible Brendan – I love the little straw houses. So much character, so much culture. Fingers crossed I will be there in March!

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  10. Outstanding Pics. Thanks for showing them.

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  11. Hi, love all your pictures. I am going to Peru in April and want to do the Lares trek as well. I was wondering what company you went with? Would you recommend them again? Thanks for your insight!

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    • The Lares trek is great, and there’s a number of companies that go. For me the best company for trekking in that area is one called SAS Travel. You can visit there website at SAStravelperu.com to get a hold of them. Also, Gap Adventures does treks.

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  12. Looks fantastic, we trekked the classic Inca Trail and loved it, but your photos are making me think we should go back on our round the world trek and walk this route! Looks breathtaking and eerily calm, love the photo of your foot over the cliff edge! Good work!

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    • Barry – I’ve done 3 different treks to Machu Picchu and I’ve taken the train a couple times. For me the Classic Route is the best one of all of them… there is just more history on that trail. It’s incredible. The Lares Trek, though, will give you a much less crowded jaunt!

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  13. I’ve also been back to Peru several times in the last few years. Every time I go, I do a different hike – I’ve done the Inca Trail, Lares and Salkantay. Lares is also my favorite, for the same reasons you described. Great article! I really recommend Cusi Travel, a locally owned sustainable company that’s really picking up speed in Cusco. They are fantastic!

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  14. Hey Brendan and everyone – I am going on the Lares trek in a couple of months; I was having difficulty in selecting the best route which gives the most amazing views. Which one did you go and which one would you suggest?

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