This trek is a great alternative to reach Machu Picchu. It is ideal for those who want to get off the "beaten path" and get an insight into authentic communities while being surrounded by stunning mountains, lakes and valleys landscapes. It starts at a small village in the Sacred Valley and climbs over 2 passes at 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), passing through traditional, colorful villages, relaxing at the hot springs in Lares and finishing with a visit to Machu Picchu on the final day.
Day 1: Cusco - Patacancha - Ipsaycocha Lake (L) (D)
Leave Cusco early in the morning towards Ollantaytambo town in the Sacred Valley and Patakancha, a Quechua community. Trek admiring views of alpaca and llama herds grazing along the trail. The scenery is typical of the high Andes with high altitude grass and some polylepis trees. After around 1.5-hours of ascent, the trail flattens and you reach Lake Ipsaycocha, a beautiful small lagoon. Then, you will cross the first high pass of Ipsaycocha at (4,600 meters / 15,456feet). The rest of the hike will be downhill towards the campsite (4,200 meters/13,780 feet)
Day 2: Huacahuasi - Lares Hot springs (B) (L) (D)
After breakfast, you will descend for about 3 hours to reach the community of Huacahuasi. Then, you'll walk for 2 to 3 more hours to reach the hot springs near the colonial village of Lares at 3,400 meters. You will set up camp here and take a relaxing dip in the warm waters which are famous for their healing powers. Feeling fully refreshed, you will have a dinner and spend the night.
Day 3: Lares - Ollantaytambo - Aguas Calientes (B) (L)
A bus will pick you up and take you to the start of the short trail by the Totora canyon. You will hike here for 2 hours. The transportation will be waiting for you to take you further down the valley to the Inca town of Ollantaytambo, where you will rest and have lunch. In the afternoon, you will take a train to Aguas Calientes and spend the night at a hotel there. You will rest for the night to be ready for visiting Machu Picchu the next day.
Day 4: Machu Picchu
After breakfast, take the first bus to Machu Picchu and enjoy a guided 2-hour tour of the ruins. Then, you have time to explore the site on your own. You may want to climb up the mountain of Huayna Picchu (meaning Young Peak) at 2,720 meters/8,890feet. It takes around 45 minutes to reach the top. Then, head back to Aguas Calientes (by bus or on foot) and meet your guide to get your train tickets back to Cusco. The earliest train usually leaves at 1pm and the latest train usually leaves about 9pm. You will arrive in Cusco in about four hours with a bus transfer in Ollantaytambo. The train included is the Cerrojo backpacker to Ollantaytambo.