If you take the high road and let others take the low road, you’ll get to Machu Picchu long before anybody else.
Most active visitors to Machu Picchu opt to take the four-day-long Inca Trail hike. But, due to erosion and over-tourism, the Peruvian government has capped the trail’s capacity to 500 people per day (and a significant portion of that 500 is allotted for guides, cooks and porters).
But travelers who don’t mind literally wandering off the beaten path will find treks that are less crowded and equally gorgeous.
One such tour from local operator Cusi Tours is the Lares Trail. The 22-mile trek covers lesser-visited land and allows travelers more experiences to interact with traditional Peruvian culture.
Related: How to Travel to Machu Picchu
Although the Lares Trail has less intense climbing than the Inca Trail, those who opt for the “High Road” could experience altitude sickness. As the name “High Road” suggests, it has a higher altitude than the Inca Trail.
The trek begins outside of Lares, where travelers can take a dip in natural hot springs to prepare for four days of hiking. The first stop is in the town of Wacawasi where hikers can learn about the history of traditional Peruvian clothing. The following day is spent hiking uphill to the highest part of the trail at Ipsaykassa. On the second day, travelers will see plenty of llamas and alpacas, traditional Inca stone buildings and have an opportunity to try the local delicacy of cuy, or guinea pig.
The third day is spent exploring Inca ruins ilke Pumamarca and old Inca trails. From there, hikers can take a rest and jump on Inca Rail for a train ride to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu.
The final day is spent absorbing the wonder of the world that is the ruins of Machu Picchu, made all the more incredible knowing you took the path less traveled.