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.


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