Salkantay Trek vs. Lares Trek: Which trek to Machu Picchu is better?

When choosing a trekking tour to Machu Picchu, there are many factors to consider. 2 of the most popular alternative treks to Machu Picchu are the Salkantay Trek vs Lares Trek. Both treks offer stunning scenery, but there are some key differences between them. The Salkantay Trek is longer, typically taking 5 days to complete. It is considered more challenging than the Lares Trek, with more elevation gain and loss. However, this trek rewards hikers with spectacular views of mountaintops, glaciers, and valleys. The Lares Trek is shorter, usually taking 3-4 days. It is considered less challenging than the Salkantay Trek, with less elevation gain and loss. However, this trek provides hikers with more opportunities to interact with local communities and learn about Peruvian culture.

So, which trek is right for you? It depends on your interests and fitness level. The Salkantay Trek is a good option if you are looking for a longer, more challenging trek with incredible scenery. The Lares Trek might be a better fit if you are interested in a shorter trek with more opportunities to learn about Peruvian culture.

At a Glance:

  • Salkantay Trek

The second most popular hike to Machu Picchu after the Classic Inca Trail, during the high season, it can become crowded and is one of the most challenging hikes to Machu Picchu.

  • Lares Trek

The Third most popular hike to Machu Picchu. Off-the-beaten-path, less intense than Salkantay and Inca Trail

The Location of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

  • Salkantay Trek

You will arrive walking until Aguas Calientes; Salkantay is located near Machu Picchu. Salkantay Mountain is located in the Vilcabamba mountain range, the central Andes, 60 km north of Cusco.

  • Lares Trek

is located in the eastern mountain range of the Central Andes. After Hiking the Lares trek, you need to take a train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu Pueblo. It’s impossible to arrive hiking to Machu Picchu due to its location.

The Intensity of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

  • Salkantay Trek

The Salkantay Mountain is the second-highest mountain in the Cusco region after the Ausangate, where the Rainbow Mountain is located. Salkantay Trek is among the most challenging and beautiful hikes to Machu Picchu. This Trek is considered difficult, and travelers must moderate physical conditions to complete the Trek.

  • Maximum altitude: 4632 m / 15190 ft
  • Avg. hiking hours: 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging


  • Lares Trek

Although the Lares Trek gets to a higher point than Inca Trail and Salkantay trek, Lares is less intense than Inca Trail and Salkantay. The highest point of Lares is Condor Pass at 4750 m / 15583 ft, and the first two campsites are located over 3600 m/ 11811 ft. The Trek is moderate; however, all travelers must be in good physical condition to complete the Trek.

  • Maximum altitude: 4750 m / 15583 ft
  • Avg. hiking hours: 7 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
salkantay trek vs lares trek
Humantay Lake

The Landscape of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

  • Salkantay Trek

This Trek starts high in the Mountains visiting beautiful glacier lakes like Humantay Lake. Also, you have amazing vistas of the highest mountains of the Cusco region. After the second day, you will enter the cloud forest, where the weather is warm and there is lush vegetation. You can visit coffee farms, see banana trees and avocados, and hike up to Llaqtapata to enjoy a fantastic view of Machu Picchu from another mountain.

You will see: Humantay lake, Salkantay Mountain, Cloud Forest, Coffee farms, Llaqtapata, Mandor, Machu Picchu

  • Lares Trek

Lares is Located high in the Mountains; this Trek will offer you incredible views of pristine Glacier Lakes, visit local schools, hike along with llamas and alpacas,  visit the Sacred Valley, and ride the train to Machu Picchu pueblo.

You will visit/experience:

  • Lares hot spring
  • Remote local Village
  • Local schools and interact with local children.
  • Enjoy the view of several Andean lakes.
  • Hike with Llamas and Alpacas
  • Visit the Sacred Valley
  • Visit Salinears de Maras
  • Visit Ollantaytambo
  • Finish the tour at Machu Picchu

The Duration of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: You need at least four days to enjoy these amazing places properly while you hike to Machu Picchu. We have a perfect 5-day itinerary with Llaqtapata Inca Site and the Ultimate Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

Lares Trek: To hike this Trek, you need at least four days, including Machu Picchu; you can choose a 5-day excursion with the Short Inca Trail included to arrive at Machu Picchu through the Sungate.

salkantay trek vs lares trek
Alpacas during the Lares Trek

The Altitude of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: 

  • Trailhead – 3600 m / 11811 ft
  • 1st Campsite – 3900 m/12795 ft
  • 2nd Campsite – 2770m /9087 ft
  • 3rd Campsite – 2750m / 9022 ft
  • Highest point – 4200 m / 13779 ft
  • Machu Picchu – 2430 m / 7972 ft

Lares Trek:

  • Trailhead – 3600 m / 1811 ft
  • 1st Campsite – 3880 m/ 12730 ft
  • 2nd Campsite – 3750 m / 12303 ft
  • Highest point – 4750 m / 15583 ft
  • Machu Picchu – 2430 m / 7972 ft

The Campsite of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: Salkantay is the perfect alternative Trek when the Inca Trail is sold out. This Trek can be crowded with people during the high season, and over the years, many companies built domes along the route, breaking the natural landscape.

TreXperience Campsite is located away from new buildings; we have a real camping experience with comfortable tents, showers, and portable toilets.

Lares Trek: This Trek is new, and in the last few years, the campsites are becoming very popular in the most remote villages of Peru, where you can only access hiking.

salkantay trek vs lares trek

The Transportation of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: To access this Trek, we need to drive from Cusco to Soraypampa for 3 hours, then hike along the mountains for four days until Machu Pueblo (also known as Aguas Calientes). On the last day, you must take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and Viceversa and finally a train back to Cusco. During the Salkantay Trek, you will arrive hiking to Machu Picchu Pueblo.

Lares Trek: During the Lares Trek, you must for 4 hours from Cusco into the Lares District, then hike for three days through isolated Andean villages until you arrive in the Sacred Valley. Due to its location, you must take a train from Ollantaytambo to arrive at Machu Picchu Pueblo. On the Last Day, you will take the first bus to Machu Picchu and ride the panoramic trains back to Cusco.

The Best Season to hike to Machu Picchu

Salkantay Trek: This Trek is perfect during the dry season from April to November. You can hike in March and December; however, heavy rains are highly likely. February, this trail is closed.

Lares Trek: Lares Trek is available all year round; thanks to its location and easy access, this Trek is doable even in January and February, when it is the heavy rainy season in Peru.

Lares trek to Machu Picchu

The Permits to Hike Salkantay or Lares

Salkantay Trek: There is an entrance fee to Salkantay, which is included for you; however, we do not require you to book any permits. We only need to buy Machu Picchu entrances for the Last day. We recommend always booking in advance to get the first Machu Picchu shifts.

Lares Trek: During this Trek, we must pay to enter the Lares hot springs and book the Machu Picchu entrances in advance. All entrance fees to places we visit are included in your tour.

Llamas and Alpacas oin Salkantay and Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: During the Salkantay Trek, it’s impossible to see llamas or alpacas; however, you will be able to see them in Machu Picchu.

Lares Trek: During the Lares Trek, on day one and day two, you will be hiking along with llamas and alpacas.

Prices of Salkantay Trek VS Lares Trek

Salkantay Trek: Salkantay trail prices are between 500.USD to 600.USD for a five days tour. This is one of the cheapest tours to Machu Picchu as we use only one-way train tickets.

Lares Trek: The prices for Lares are between 550.USD to 600.USD per person for a four days tour. This Trek is a bit more expensive than the Salkantay because round-trip train tickets are needed.

Sunrise at Machu Piccchu

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