If you hesitate about doing a bicycle tour in Peru, you should definitely choose Cusco Region, the most popular tourism region in Peru. It is the perfect place to organize a one-two-three day bicycle tours or even longer. Here you can find any kind of routes, from very simple up to very difficult ones.
One of the most beautiful one-day tour in the region of Cusco, is without any doubt the route of Chinchero-Moray-Salineras de Maras – Urubamba.
Firstly, this route has an amazingly beautiful, mountain scenery, with lots of important tourist attractions. In other words you can combine a fascinating bike adventure, memorable experiences and an insight into history. Sounds like a super deal, right?!
Furthermore, it is a great place to explore the villages passed on the way; get a look into a daily life of Peruvians, and even taste one of the most popular Andean beverages Chicha de Jora (corn beer).
How to do bicycle tour Peru?
Moray and Salineras de Maras are very nice places, located close to the city of Cusco. There are several possibilities to get there. They all differ by distance and the level of diffiulty. Your choice will depend primarily on the cycling ability and physical condition. Basically, all the biking tours here can be handled both by younger cyclists, as well as by the experienced ones.
This tour can be done within one day. You would need to have a full day, from about 6 am to at least 8 pm (including travel by bus, and the stops for sightseeing attractions).
Before I will give you some logistics tips about the expedition, a few words about the most famous tourists attractions, which you will find on the way – Moray and Salineras de Maras.
Moray – the mysterious hollows in the ground
Moray is a small village, located close to the archaeological complex of the Inca Empire. The construction consists of three natural circular depressions in the ground, whose slopes constitute agricultural terraces. Two recesses are combined, and the third is placed a little bit further.
Until now no one knows about the mystical meaning of those specific “holes”. Some popular theories tell that they were built as agricultural laboratories, in which the Incas conducted research on how the changing climate affects the growth of crops.
The most markable thing about this place is that terraces are situated on different levels. The difference between the highest and the lowest terrace in the individual hollows is up to 30 meters. The amount of sunlight, that goes to each terrace, is also different and has big influence for changes of temperature. It turns out that the annual average temperature difference between the terraces is of up to 15 ° C.
Finally, to each terrace there is supplied a complex system of irrigation. Thus, the entire structure of these mysterious “holes” in the ground is worth seeing, especially that it is possible to go down to the bottom and walk through different levels of the terraces.
Due to some policies changes, you are not able to buy an admission ticket exclusively on the Moray area. You can enter to this complex only if you have so-called Boleto Turistico. It is a special ticket which allows you the access to a number of other important sights in the region of Cusco. The cost of this ticket is about $ 44. You can purchase a ticket for lower price but with the access to less attractions.
Salineras de Maras – salt mines from the time of the Inca Empire
Salineras de Maras is a salt mine. It is located near the town of Maras, hence the name Salineras de Maras. The complex consists of more than 5000 salt ponds situated on the steep slopes of the valley of Urubamba. First salt ponds in this place existed at the time of the Inca Empire and what is important, production of salt, in the same style, lasts to this day.
You can learn more about the process of salt crystallization here in rectangular ponds, which are no bigger than four square meters and no deeper than thirty centimeters. In the dry season, in a month, it is possible to obtain about 10-centimeter layer of salt from anyone of the pond.
Entrance ticket to Salineras de Maras costs only 7 Soles and can be purchased in front of the gate.
There is an option for the experienced cyclists, who how to deal with the bike, how to repair it on the way and read the map, or simply ask for directions, to organize an expedition on your own. It’s a great way to save some money. If it is not your case, we strongly recommend you to go with someone with experience or book a trip in your local travel agency (costs about $ 80-140 – depends on the company, the quality of bikes and the amount of hours – if it will be full day – around 10-12 hours it can cost even 150-180 $ per person). You will avoid the unwanted stress and you will have everything prepared, you will not get lost, and if something will happen with the bike, you will receive other or the one you use, will be repaired. You will be provided with a private transport which will be always close to you, so if you will feel tired or you will want to change the road of the biking part, you will have that option. Also if you will have private transport with you, there will be possibility to see even more- like for example the Inca ruins in Chinchero and zip line situated nearby. That can be a really incredible day for you, which you will always remember.
However if you will decide to do the tour on your own, here you will find useful information.
How to get by bicycle to Moray and Salineras de Maras on your own?
Firstly, you’ll have to rent a bike in Cusco. Then, take a bus which goes in direction to Urubamba and leave it with the bike some minutes before Chinchero or some minutes after Chinchero.Your route will depend on how much time you want to devote to ride. One of the options is to start from a place called Chancadora (before the town of Chinchero), then it will be a few kilometers more to ride, or from a place called Cruzpata (some minutes after passing Chinchero), in this case you will have some kilometers less to overcome. Personally, I recommend you to go from Chinchero first to Moray, then to the village of Maras and at the end to Salieneras de Maras.
I advise you to leave Cusco early in the morning, around 6 am, because it will take about an hour to get to Chinchero, some hours of ridding by bike and for sure more than one hour to explore the various attractions on the way. Keep in mind, that you will need time for rest, taking pictures and have a lunch.
Once in Salienras de Maras, you can enjoy beautiful views and explore the salt mine, right after you will need to take the road towards the river Urubamba. Be aware that this part is very demanding. Short but hard for the beginners. I’d recommend to the amateur riders to go down, not ride! The walk will take no more than 30 minutes, and after it you will have some kilometers of flat road to enjoy by bike again.
You can get from the Urubamba River to the city Urubamba within 45 minutes or 1 hour. In Urubamba city you need to find a bus stop, which will not be difficult, because it is situated right at the main road, which you will follow. The return trip to Cusco will take about two hours – in local bus. If you wish to go a bit faster you can pay a bit more and get a smaller bus. If you would like to be more connected with local people, choose first option.
While planning biking trip on your own you remember:
There are different ways to arrive to Moray and Salineras de Maras. You should provide yourself with maps and get basic knowledge how to move in the area, which can be very useful. Sometimes you will be all alone on the road, or the inhabitants gives the tips which are not helpful enough, so be prepared that you will have to deal with everything on your own.
Though the majority of the routes is flat or go downhill, you will still be confronted with the parts which are definitely more advanced and require some extra skills.
Especially the last part of the road between Moray and Maras is quite steep. This is a short part, but you need to be prepared for it. If it is too much for you, or you don’t feel ready to ride downhill, get off the bike and walk. Do not be discouraged! You will have more time to admire the beautiful landscapes.
The next challenging part appears in the road between Maras and Salineras. This path is extremely attractive, but in some moments a little bit steep and covered with stones, which requires of you to be more focused and ride slower or overcome the parts on which you do not feel comfortable on foot. A lot of bikers ride here very quick, but there are those who are forced to walk.
As I mentioned earlier, the most difficult section is from Salieneras to Urubamba River because it is very steep, narrow and covered by small stones.
Due to these reasons, it’s considered to take some additional accessories – helmet, knee pads. Almost every time I rode in these area only with a bicycle and a backpack, but as recently I fell off the bike and it was quite dangerous fall (although on a different route, but in the same region), I promised never go without helmet.
Though it could be some extra weight, you should carry with you a system to repair a bicycle inner tube or reserve inner tube. Due to the stones on this route, there are often problems with the bikes. You can be put in the situation that you will have to change inner tube. As it happens in life, you may be lucky enough to ride the route without any surprises, but can also happen that you will have less happiness. And in such situations, it is better to be prepared. I drove this route so far 6 times and during two expeditions the problems with inner tube appeared.
But forewarned is forearmed – we had additional inner tube and after changing it we continued our adventure. If you do not want spoil the holiday, I would advice you – in this type of expedition – always have extra repair system.