Recently we took advantage of a gap in occupancy and decided to go check out the hot springs in Lares. For those that might not be familiar with Lares, aside from having the hot mineral baths, it is also the starting point for one of the Treks to Machu Picchu. The Lares to Machu Picchu trek is usually 4 days and most of the routes start in Lares, although I have seen a few that end there. The Lares treks normally start in Lares where the trekkers are given time to enjoy the thermal baths before having lunch and then departing for their trek, they then spend the next 2 days hiking through the mountains and then end somewhere around Ollantaytambo where they then take a train to Aguas Calientes, spend the night there and visit Machu Picchu on the fourth day. But this is not what I plan to talk about; I plan to discuss making the trip to the hot springs and then returning in the same day.
For our trip we departed Huarocondo at 07:00 and took our favorite route up out of the valley and past Lake Huaypo, connecting with the main road between Poroy and Urubamba. This time of the year the scenery is beautiful; the fields are a mix of greens and browns from the wide variety of crops that are grown here in our valley and around the lake. Once we reached the main road we turned left and followed it down into the Sacred Valley, passing many more fields and the turn for Maras and Moray before reaching Urubamba in the valley floor.
In Urubamba we turn right and follow the road that leads to Pisac, and ultimately ends in the Southern Valley. On this road we pass several smaller towns that are nestled along the Urubamba River, as well as many fields growing a variety of crops. The agriculture is the main reason that this valley was considered to be sacred in the Inca times, as it is believed that this valley played a large role in providing food for the entire Incan empire. We continued along this route until we reached the town of Calca, where we made our turn onto the road that would take us up and out of the Sacred Valley.
This is where things for me started to get interesting as this was new terrain for us. The road from Calca starts to climb almost immediately and slowly makes its way out of town and up the canyon. The first bit of this road is a little rough being a mix of paved and dirt and at the end of the town it winds through a small archeological site.
Not long after the archeological site the vegetation starts to decrease, going from trees and large shrubs to mostly grasses and smaller plants, this area is also one that is populated with Alpaca ranches and the Alpacas become a common site along the road.
The next thing we came upon was a large set of pre-Incan ruins that sat on the point of a hill, the name of the site is Ankasmarka and the entrance to the site is through a small artisanal center. This is a good place to get out and stretch your legs, the site is a short walk from the artisanal center and I would recommend starting with the trail to your right, this will take you out to a high point of the site where you can then descend and return on a lower trail, thus making a loop. I would allow between 1 hour and 1-1/2 hours to explore this site if you wish to walk the loop.
From Ankasmarka we continued to climb up into the clouds, passing many valleys and meadows with more Alpacas and a few small lakes, until reaching a turn where the road gets a little narrower. From there we continued on until we reached the high pass that this road crosses over, the pass is at 4,461 meters or roughly 14,635 feet above sea level, and offers a nice view of the valley below.
From the pass we start our decent into the next valley which again is populated by Alpacas, Llamas and Sheep, and is probably more beautiful than the first as there seems to be springs and waterfalls everywhere you look. The road continues to wind its way down into the valley passing small villages and solitary homes until finally reaching the town of Lares. Lares is a cute town and would probably be worth a short stop to wander the market, but we continued on for a few more minutes.
We actually learned when we arrived that there are two different thermal baths. The first one we came to ended up being closed and we thought that we might have made the drive for nothing; we had actually started back down towards town and came across some travelers walking to the baths. When we told them they were closed they informed us that there was another place further down the road, so we turned around and went back again.
Just a little further down the road, past the first baths, we found a parking lot for the second place and parked. A short walk took us to the entrance to the hot springs where they have 6 different pools that range in temperatures from 30c (86f) to 44c (111f). This is the first thermal baths that we have been to that were actually hot enough to be relaxing, and as such these are the only ones we will be recommending from now on.
To sum things up this is a trip that is worth taking and you should plan on it being a full day as the drive time from Huarocondo is about 3 hours one way, so from Cusco it may be closer to 3-1/2 hours one way. Additionally I don’t think this would be advisable for those that have problems with heights, or are prone to motion sickness, as much of the road is narrow, windy and has steep drop-offs. To the best of my knowledge there are only a few options for getting there, there are colectivos that go from Calca or you could hire a taxi for the day to drive you. I have not yet seen any tour agencies offering this route, but we plan on adding it to the GringoWasi list of available tours and look forward to taking future guests to enjoy this drive and the wonderful Medicinal baths..