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Cultural tour by Lares Trek
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Cultural tour Lares trek

One of the most interesting tours that can be done to reach Machu Picchu is the Lares Trek in addition to touring through incredible landscapes and having exclusive contact with nature. It is possible to meet communities that not only receive tourists so they can spend the night but also get in contact with them. This tour is known as the cultural tour, precisely because it is one of the few that allows you to learn some of the customs and traditions of the past. The bonus of this tour is that we will learn more about how some people probably lived during the Tawantinsuyo. The cultural tour of the Lares Trek is given by one of the almost forgotten places of Cusco and Peru. Here are more details.

The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu

This is one of the best alternatives to reach Machu Picchu by trekking. The hike starts beyond the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Lares is located in the province of Calca. This trekking route allows you to travel 37 kilometers through the high steppes of Cusco. It is there where some difficulty lies because, unlike other trekking routes, this one has more time over high Andean areas, more than 4500 meters above sea level.

The hike can be difficult for those who come from altitudes close to sea level. This change in geography causes the discomfort known as altitude sickness. In reality, these symptoms are normal because of the little oxygen that can be found in the high Andean zones. So you will need to have proper acclimatization and thus avoid some discomfort or health problems at the time of making the trek.

Despite the altitude, the difficulty of the Lares Trek is only moderate. So it can be done by all people who wish to connect with nature. During the Lares Trek, not only an incredible connection with nature is achieved, but also with the communities that are crossed at the time of making the hike. This cultural encounter between visitors and locals is why we call the Lares Trek, the Cultural Route to Machu Picchu.

The cultural encounter takes place in the Andean community of Wacahuasi or Huacahuasi. This community is responsible for receiving travelers in small camps during the first night. The next day we continue with the hike where we cross trails near lagoons such as the Auroray Cocha Lagoon and the Yuraq Cocha Lagoon. To reach the camp known as Punta Toro. The third day is a shorter trek and you will spend the night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo. On the fourth day, you visit Machu Picchu and return the same day to Cusco by train.

Communities we can visit

huacawasi woman ceremony
A woman from Wacahuasi thanks the lagoon with drinks and coca leaves

Now that we have some clear details of how the Lares Trek is carried out, we can talk about the famous cultural encounters that can take place in the communities of Wacahuasi and Yanahuara. We can talk about the famous cultural meetings that can be held in the communities of Wacahuasi and Yanahuara. In case the corresponding route is done through the second place we mentioned. In the case of Wacahuasi, it is a completely rural place. It can be said, that it is practically abandoned and that it usually receives support from NGOs, and in some other cases it receives support from tourists that pass through this community. In truth, it is a community that is struggling to survive.

Unfortunately, Wacahuasi is located above 3200 meters above sea level. The more the group advances with the hike, the higher the altitude will be. This is probably why they do not receive adequate support from local governments. Fortunately for the children and other neighboring communities, which have a similar unfortunate case to Wacahuasi, schools, colleges, and other educational programs are gradually being implemented that will allow the children and inhabitants of this place to have more options for growth.

Likewise, it is important to mention that the case of Wacahuasi is known only because it is part of one of the most commercial routes to Machu Picchu. Probably if it were not, it would be forgotten and relegated as in the case of other communities that can be found not only in Cusco but in several high Andean places of Peru. Most of these communities respected their tradition and continued to promote their cultural process that remained practically intact.

Something similar occurs in the community of Yanahuara. In this place you can find a similar panorama but with some different needs. But it probably has a better connection with other destinations and easier access than Wacahuasi. Both destinations are not the only ones. During the hike, it is possible to find other communities that are not possible to enter on the tour. In the case of the communities we visit, it is possible to support them by buying some of the handicrafts they offer. However, the strongest or most attractive point of the Lares Trek route is the visit to the community of Wacahuasi.

Lagoon in the lares trek
One of the lagoons that can be seen on the Lares Trek

We can learn

We already mentioned that this is one of the best cultural tours that can be done in Cusco. The place where you can best appreciate this cultural exchange is in Wacahuasi. Here, we explain why:

  • You will visit Lares, one of the districts of Calca, located in the mountains of Cusco.
  • In Lares, you will be able to share the pool and thermal baths with other tourists of different nationalities.
  • Before starting the hike you can visit some of the local stores in Lares.
  • At the beginning of the hike, you will follow trails that many shepherds follow. In this way, you will have the opportunity to appreciate this activity.
  • You will also be able to see vicuñas and llamas, among other animals that may inhabit these places.
  • During the trip, you will visit important trails that connect the high Andean communities of Cusco.
  • Upon arrival in Wacahuasi, you will be welcomed by a group from the community.
  • They will be in charge of guiding all tourists to their respective camps.
  • It will also be possible to enjoy an exquisite dinner. It will be the perfect moment to talk or just taste the gastronomy of the Peruvian Andes.
  • Everyone can taste the food grown throughout this sector.
  • Natural foods are used without the intrusion of chemical products.
  • During dinner, the group or interested person can learn how to knit a poncho or just a small souvenir.
  • You will also be able to interact with the weaving workshop leaders.
  • Coca leaves can also be consumed as a beverage.
  • It will be a moment in which you will be able to listen and learn more about the Quechua language.
  • You will learn about different activities such as their organization and the importance of tourism in their lives and the improvement of future generations.

The importance of experiential tours

Experiential tourism is tourism that helps some communities to improve their way of life. It is important because through this process of improvement they do not get rid of their traditions, on the contrary, they strengthen them. This type of tourism helps economically the communities that often only live from agriculture and also from the raising of some animals from which they can obtain meat and wool. However, agriculture can be affected by climate change, as can animal husbandry.

Many women in these communities have seen an income opportunity by selling their weavings, which are mostly purchased by foreign tourists. Also, thanks to the direct visit to the communities, they can show other talents such as those teaching a weaving workshop, showing how they do the planting, and even the best way to graze in the area. They also acquire a greater projection of their activities and plans.

Tourists who visit the area can ask any questions they may have. The people of the community of Wacahuasi are increasingly improving the reception and the activities they share with visitors. Experiential tourism not only helps them to have a better life but also to be able to offer their children a better education and a better development of the surrounding communities.

As mentioned above, because Machu Picchu is a destination that can be accessed from different places, it allows an effective flow of tourists from different places. Lares and Wacauhuasi benefited and the best alternative that was developed was to deliver experiential tourism as a special service. Special because some of the camps are taken care of by the communities themselves. Likewise, the arrival of tourists to this part of Cusco showed the shortcomings of the place, and congratulations, different projects are being carried out for the sake of the children of the communities.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 05-03-2024

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