Do you love adventure? And bikes? Do you want to see more of the Cusco region, in a shorter about of time? Well, Cusco has no shortage of bicycle trips to offer.
What you need to know before starting:
Peru and especially the 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 are only a glimpse of what you will have the 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 (city biking) or something more hardcore (mountain biking).
If you’re keen to do some mountain biking I’d recommend that you choose one of the companies that specialize in these 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 and the knowledge to repair your bike if something goes wrong. But if you’re not quite a mountain biking expert, and want a more leisurely experience, definitely inquire with tour agencies. They know all about the trails, and can adjust the difficulty of the route to your skill level! 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 everything, and the better companies usually provide spare bikes just in case.
Of course, choosing a company means you pay more, but this is often 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 be sure to know how 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. A one-day bike rental can cost between $30 and $50. You may find bikes on offer from $13-15, but choosing these may end in disaster, as the quality of these bikes is quite poor. You may get lucky and not face any problems, but it is quite likely that you will have problems with the gears and brakes. Therefore, riding one of these low-quality bikes will be a real hassle!
Pisac – Urubamba
One of the easiest routes near Cusco is from Pisac to Urubamba. It’s a serene, paved road, surrounded by mountains and following the course of the Urubamba river that flows through the Sacred Valley.
It is 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 bike rental to have them picked up very early in the morning (no later than 7:00 AM). You’ll find buses to Pisac on a street called Tullumayo, Cusco, costing 3 Soles (depending on the day) and 2 more for transporting the bike. Your other option is to head to Puputi Street where you will find heading to Pisac. These vans are a little bit more expensive.
From Pisac, head north-west towards Urubamba, but do not 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 like 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 point, you’ll find a town called Calca – this is a nice place to visit as you can enjoy natural hot springs and rest your legs. Otherwise, at any point, you can flag a passing bus or van and catch a ride back to Pisac, Cusco or onward to Urubamba.
If you’re a frequent cyclist and are confident that you can handle 50-60km in a day, then you could also start at a town before Pisac in a place called Yuncaypata. It is situated 19km before Pisac and you can ask your bus driver to drop you here instead. This additional section is all downhill so don’t be too concerned about adding it to your route.
When’s the best time to go?
Any time of year will be alright, but your experience may vary. During the dry season (May-Sept) you’ll have clear skies and sunshine, but the hills will have become yellow from the sun’s intense heat. Throughout the rest of the year, you’ll encounter more clouds and rain but the landscapes will be vibrant with colour. The only period that may not be a favourable time to go cycling is January and February, as this is the peak of the wet season.
I once rode from Urubamba to Pisac in December, and while there were rain and mud, the views were absolutely spectacular. Everything was so colourful, the mountains were capped with moody clouds – 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!