Sometimes travelers ask me how to do bicycle tour in Peru and they want to know which roads are the best in Cusco region. Instead of replying for each person separately decided to write this article in which you will get some very useful tips about my favorite one-day bicycle tour in Cusco region. I hope these clues will help all biking lovers discover and experience much more in a shorter time.
Cusco Region is the most popular tourism region in Peru. This is also in my opinion, the perfect place to organize a one-two-three day bicycle tours or even longer. Here, there are various routes, with every possible level of difficulty. Something different and unique for everyone!
My favorite bike route in Cusco region
If I had to choose the best one-day tour in the region of Cusco, it definitely would be the route of Chinchero-Moray-Salineras de Maras – Urubamba
Because apart from the fact that, it is a route in an incredibly beautiful, mountain scenery, it is also very interesting place where you can visit the most important tourist attractions. In other words you will receive a great bike adventure, unforgettable experiences and very nice lesson of history in one. Cannot be better scenario for a perfect bicycle tour.
Furthermore, it is also perfect place to take a look at the villages passed on the way; watch how looks like daily life of Peruvians, and even taste one of the most popular Andean beverages Chicha de Jora (corn beer).
And all of that or even much more just in one day!
How to do bicycle tour Peru?
Moray and Salineras de Maras are very charming places, located near the world famous city of Cusco. There are several roads leading to them. Some of them are easier and other slightly more difficult; there are also longer and slightly shorter. Choosing the right one will depend primarily on the cycling ability and physical condition of each rider. But in general we can say that biking tours here can be handled both by younger cyclists, as well as by those who with the bike are rather at odds.
The trip can be completed within one day. Of course it all depends on how long you will be able to pedal without rest. However you need to have 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 – mysterious hollows in the ground
Moray is a small village close to which there is situated archaeological complex of the Inca Empire. It 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.
Till these days no one knows for what kind of purposes the Incas built these specific “holes”. However, the most popular theories assume 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 important thing about this place is that terraces are situated on different levels. Between the highest and the lowest terrace in the individual hollows the difference is even up to 30 meters. Different is also the amount of sunlight, which goes to each terrace, what 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.
In addition, 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.
At the moment you cannot buy an admission ticket exclusively on the Moray area. You can entrance 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 also buy it´s cheaper version, 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 see here how the salt is crystallized 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.
And now some tips about logistic!
If you are an experienced cyclist, and you know how to deal with the bike, how to repair it on the way and if can read the map, or simply ask for directions, you can quite easily organize an expedition on your own. Certainly you can save some money. But if you’re not, “cyclist” – “cyclist” better go with someone who has experience or simply consider buying a trip in a 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). Thanks to that 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 also have 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.
Of course 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?
Rent a bike in Cusco. Take a bus which goes in direction to Urubamba and leave it with the bike some minutes before Chinchero or some minutes after Chinchero. It all depends on how much time you want to devote to ride. Basically I would recommend you 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 recommend you also 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. And of course you will need time for rest, taking pictures and for a lunch.
After reaching Salienras de Maras and exploring the beautiful salt mine, you will need to take the road towards the river Urubamba. Here I need to warn you that this part is very demanding. Short but hard for the beginners. Those of you who are dealing with the bikes only from time to time I definitely suggest 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 overcome by bike again.
From the Urubamba River to the city of the same name is already a stone’s throw. Maximum 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. A little bit faster and a bit more expensive will be the trip in a small 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 several roads leading to Moray and Salineras de Maras. Ability to read maps and basic knowledge how to move in the area will be very useful. Often, there is no one 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 alone.
Most of the route is flat or go downhill but there are also parts which are definitely more advanced and require some extra skills.
Almost 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.
Another a little more difficult part (of course for amateurs – for professionals it will be the “piece of cake”) 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. This means no less no more that you need 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.
And finally, as I mentioned earlier, the most difficult section is from Salieneras to Urubamba River. It is very steep, narrow and covered by small stones.
Therefore, it is worth to take on the trip 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.
Always carry with you a system to repair a bicycle inner tube or reserve inner tube. On this route there are often problems with the bikes (because there are quite a lot of small stones in some parts). 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 not to count on te happiness, and simply 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 recommend you – in this type of expedition – always have extra repair system.