Do you love adventure? And bikes? Do you want to see more, in less time? Well, Cusco has no shortage of bicycle trips to offer.
What you need to know before starting:
Peru and especially Cusco region are havens for bikers and biking adventures. Amazing landscapes, beautiful mountains, small villages with typical houses built from adobe bricks, lovely people on the way, llamas, alpacas… These a but a glimpse of what you will have th possibility to see during your biking trips around Cusco.
The hills are riddled with biking routes that are free for you to explore. Depending on your skill level, your determination and of course the size of your wallet, you can choose something easier like city biking or something more hardcore like mountain biking.
If you’re keen to do some mountain biking I’d recommend you choose one of the companies that specialize in those kinds of adventures instead of attempting to do it alone. That is of course unless you’re already an experienced biker–having familiarity with the types of terrain involved, experience, and the knowledge to repair the bike if something goes wrong. But if you’re not quite a mountain biking adept, and want a more leisurely experience, definitely check out a company. They know all about the trails, and can adjust the difficulty of the route to the skill level of the biker. You won’t have to worry about transport, equipment, or repairing the bike if something goes wrong. In all of these instances your guide will take care of anything, and good companies usually provide spare bikes just in case.
Of course, choosing a company means you pay more, but it’s worth it to avoid stress and save time. You won’t have to worry about anything and can focus solely on enjoying yourself.
If you do choose to go on your own, try and work out a route and at least know hwo to patch a hole in the inner tube or replace it. Then you’ll just need to rent a bike, take public transport and enjoy the ride. One-day bike rental can cost between $30 and $50. You may find bikes on offer for $13-15 but choosing these may end in disaster–these bikes are horrible. You may get lucky and not have any problems, but you’re more likely to have problems with the gears or brakes. Riding one of these will be a complete hassle.
Pisac – Urubamba
One of the easiest routes near Cusco is Pisac to Urubamba. It’s a serene, paved road, surounded by mountains and tracking the course of the Urubamba river that flows through the Sacred Valley.
It’s almost entirely flat. While there are a few uphill sections, these are brief.
Ready? Just follow these instructions
You can either rent a bike the evening before or agree with the rental place to come pick it up very early, for instance no later than 7am. You’ll find buses to Pisac on a street called Tullumayo, costing 2.5-3 soles (depending on the day) and 2 more for the bike. Otherwise on Puputi street you can find vans heading that way which cost a little extra.
From Pisac, head north-west toward Urubamba – but don’t take the main road! On the opposite side of the river you’ll find a well-tamped dirt road, perfect for bikes.
The distance between Pisac and Urubamba is about 64km.
This may seem a long way, but never fear – if you find your legs are giving out, there are plenty of bridges spanning the river which will allow you to return to the main asphalt road. At the 19km you’ll find a town called Calca – a nice place to visit where you can enjoy natural hot springs and relax your legs. Otherwise, at any point you try and flag a passing bus or van and catch a ride back to Pisac and Cusco or onward to Urubamba.
If you’re a frequent cyclist and know you can handle 50-60km in a day, then you could also start earlier than Pisac in a place called Yuncaypata. It’s about 19km before Pisac and you can ask to be dropped here instead. This additional section is all downhill so don’t be too concerned about adding it on!
When’s the best time to go?
Any time of year will do, but your experience may vary little. During the dry season (May-Sept) you’ll have clear skies and sunshine, but the hills will have yellowed a little in the sun’s intense heat. The rest of the time you’ll encounter more clouds and rain but the landscape will be vibrant with colour. Only January and February–the peak of the wet season–may not be a favourable time to go cycling.
I once rode from Urubamba to Pisac in December, and while there was rain and mud the view was absolutely spectacular. Everything was colourful, the mountains were capped with moody clouds, and it was a different atmosphere altogether.
These photos show some of the detours you can take off the main road.
I wish you a wonderful time biking in Peru!