A day walk from Totora to Lares Pass or vice versa is a good way to get some altitude acclimatisation while based in Cusco Peru. (Its not my own idea, I was told it by Graham at Destination Holidays.) You get acclimatisation if you start/finish near Quellopuito to 4100m or 4400m if you go all the way to the pass.
Getting there by taxi. Image, Google Maps
The walk is 40km north of Cusco, north of Calca in the Sacred Valley. You will need to hire a taxi and driver for the day, approximately US$100. You get dropped at the start of the walk and the taxi waits at the finish. The walk takes 2 to 3 hours.
Maybe stop at Calca market on the way.
I had been recommended to walk downhill to Totora but the taxi driver wanted me to start at Totora and my Spanish wasn't good enough to argue.
The Totora end of the trail, looking north
Image: modified from Google Maps
The path is shown dotted. The south end follows the creek through a narrow gorge. Going north, as it approaches the valley junction at Quellopuito it climbs the west side of the valley on an old Inca road. At this north end, where it swings east-west, it becomes less distinct but don't worry, the valley is broad and the biggest hazard is wet feet. You have a number of entry/exit points at the north end, its a broad valley and you and the taxi will be visible to each other.
Google maps shows the road going dead straight to the WSW but this does not match any feature on the ground so I have blanked this out. The road actually swings south of the river and the trail and then swings north to meet them at Lares pass (not marked).
At the south end, the trail passes through a narrow gorge.
Looking north to Quellopuito. The valley splits to two branches there, the Inca trail climbs on the west valley side.
From the road, looking west towards Lares Pass. Quellopuito is in the foreground. The trail is on the left valley wall, the road on the right valley wall.
Labels: Calca, Cusco, Lares, Peru, Quellopuito, Totora, trek