Peru is a great place for bikepacking. There are endless options to ride on dirt roads and there are also spectacular landscapes. Peru was our number one country on our South America trip.
What we liked
-Great network of dirt roads, lots of high passes and spectacular landscapes
-very diverse: from sea level to 6000+ peaks, deep canyons, scenic volcanoes, inca culture …
-Friendly & helpful people
-Quite easy to stock up with food and water in little villages
-Taking bicycles on busses was never a problem.
What we didn’t like
-Dry season is in winter, so the days are quite short and the nights long and cold. So bring an eBook or cards for the long evenings in the tent…
-it’s not always safe to take water from rivers and lakes, because some of the water is contaminated by mining activity.
-Some parts of the country are very populated and therefore it’s hard to find a good camping spot. But it’s never a problem to camp in a village. (school, soccer field, etc)
-We’ve never ridden on busy roads but in our opinion it’s also no good idea. Often there is no shoulder and driving can be chaotic.
Travel season / weather
June to September is supposed to be dry season. Although there are often 2-3 days of bad weather every two weeks or so… Because of the high altitude be prepared for snow or hail.
We didn’t have very strong winds in Peru and temperatures at night were rarely lower than -5 degree celsius.
Riding in the rainy season is no option – many dirt roads will be impassable.
A basic knowledge of Spanish is very helpful. English is only spoken in bigger towns.
Most travellers fly in to Lima or travel overland.
Routes we’ve ridden
-Cajamarca to Huaraz: nice route but very populated. Can be hard to find a camping spot.
-Cordillera Blanca: the western side around Huaraz is very scenic with good views of the mountains. The eastern side is less spectacular, we didn’t like the “Blanca Northern Circuit” that much.
-The Huascaran Circuit ist a must do if you are in this area.
-There are a few great overnight trips from Huaraz. We liked them very much.
-Peru Divide Part 1 & 2: Great riding with much of up & down’s… Lonely area, not as much populated as in the north.
-Ausangante circuit: very rewarding route, although you have to push each day for 1 to 1.5 hours. Descents are mostly very nice and rideable. As it’s a circuit get rid of all unnecessary gear and leave it in a hostel.
-Cones & Canyon area near Arequipa: this is the place to ride high passes over 5000m. A few dirt roads have quite a bit mining traffic, but it’s not to bad. Cotahuasi Canyon is an impressive place.
Check out our blog posts about Peru
Routes we’ve thinked about riding but didn’t…
Here a few thoughts about why we haven’t ridden certain routes. Please make your own research to get an idea if you’ll like those routes or not.
Huayhuash is a great trekking area near Huaraz. It’s possible to ride some parts of the easter circuit. But there is much pushing and carrying of your bike involved. Be prepared to pay around 60-80 USD for circuit. Most villages did find out about this easy way of making money. Theft is also an issue – take your gear inside the tent and lock your bike to the tent.
We decided against riding it. But do your own research – there are enough information in the web…
Salkatay is a famous trekking route leading to Machu Picchu. It can be done by bike aswell. We decided against it because the highest pass involves not only pushing, but also carrying the bike and even more important, the descent ist for the first part not rideable. This route is also very busy with hikers. (Around 500 persons/day!)
ATM’s are available in bigger city’s. The best ATM’s we’ve found were those of BCP Bank. 700 soles maximum and no extra charge.
USD can be changed sometimes in touristic areas or bigger citys. Take enough cash with you. We tried to keep cash for a week of traveling as a reserve.
Double room with bath: 40-50 soles (13-17 USD)
Set meal: 4-7 soles (1.5-2.5 USD)
Bottled water 0.5l: 1 sol (0.30 USD)
Bus ride: About one USD per hour of travelling (depending of the quality of the bus company)
Most villages have a basic hospedaje. Although sometimes very basic and not always clean… Camping is not always easy. Sometimes you’ll end up asking in a village for a place to pitch your tent.
Recommended Places we stayed
-Huaraz: La Cabana
-Cusco: Estrellitas (inofficial cyclist meeting point)
Most villages have some sort of shops. Just ask for “tienda”. They usually sell basic stuff like pasta, tuna, soft drinks, biscuits, chocolate, …
In most villages there is also a restaurant where you can get a set meal for lunch or dinner for about 1.5-2.5 USD (soup and main course)
Better bike shops sell standard spares like chains, brake pads, bottom brackets, tires, sealant, … But spares are not cheap.
Huaraz: Master Bike, Montañas Magicas
Cusco: Team Bike, Russo Bike
Arequipa: Team Bike (there is also an other bike shop with cheaper spares 100m west of this shop)
Main roads tend to be busy without much shoulder. Better stick to dirt roads.
Dirt roads are in different conditions. Very bad washboard like in Bolivia is unlikely.
Touching the void, Joe Simpson – A story how he survived a climbing accident in the mountains of Huayhuash
We never had any problems, but there are reports of theft and robbery… We guess you have to be very unlucky if somethings happens to you.
There is a website who shows where robberys on cyclists took place in South America: https://nicholasgault.com/known-hotspots-in-latin-america/
A few reports:
Theft on trekking routes:
Arrested by peruvian villager: https://theridesouth.com/2014/09/11/arrested-by-peruvian-villagers-weve-all-been-there
-fuel quality can be very poor. It can make sense to buy “bencina blanca” (white gas) instead of car-gasoline. Bencina blanca is available in hardware stores. (ferreteria)
-It can be quite hard to find specific bike spares (stuff like 29+ tires) and outdoor gear (waterfilter, Platypus waterbags, …) in Peru. Shipping could be an alternative, but custom takes time and cost very much.
-There are moskitos up to 3500m altitude. Bring a repellent…
-Most bus company’s allow to ship parcels for a small fee. Good way to ship equipment you don’t use at the moment.