Mountain biking tours are very famous in Cusco region. There are different levels of mountain biking tours here, and for sure everyone will find something interesting. Very popular are for example bike tours to Moray, Maras and Salineras, which are very interesting places to visit. You will also have possibility to admire the beautiful landscape around with snowy peaks like Veronica (5682m) and Chicon (5530m) in the foreground and you will pass some small villages where you can meet with Andean people. And what more important very easy to reach from Cusco. There are a lot of routes which goes to this places, some of them are easier, some of them more difficult, some longer and some shorter. All depends on your biking skills and on your physical condition.
In this article I would like to give you some tips how to organize mountain biking tour to Maras and Salineras near Cusco. About biking tour to Moray I will write in the separate article.
Some words about Salineras de Maras – salt mines near Cusco
Salineras de Maras are one of my favorite places near Cusco. I love to visit this place and usually I do it when I ride by bike. It is the complex of more than 5,000 salt ponds situated on the steep slopes of the valley of Urubamba.
First Salinas in this place were built before Inca Empire and what is important, the salt production continues till now. Near the complex of salt mines is the source of water supply underground stream. A network of open channels distributes highly mineralized water to the ponds with an average area of 5 square meters each. Then, through the action of the sun, the water in the ponds is evaporated, and the salt is crystallized. Then the salt is taken out from the ponds before they are filling with water again. In the dry season, it is possible to obtain around 10 centimeter layer of salt in each pond during the month.
The entrance ticket to Salineras costs 7 soles and you can buy it in the entrance gate.
Biking trip to Maras and Salineras
Maras and Salineras are situated on the way between Cusco and Urubamba. You can go to these places by taxi, what will be quite expensive, as well as by public bus connected with a taxi service, or with the trekking. But you can also visit these places by bike, what will give you the possibility to see much more in a shorter time and for sure will be a great experience.
If you are experienced biker and you know how to deal with the bike, if something will happen on the way, for example how to fix a bicycle inner tube, how to deal with more steep paths, roads and etc., you rather can organize the tour on your own. For sure you will save some money. But if you are not “biker” – “biker” always consider going with somebody experienced or with the travel agency.
What do you need to know if you are plan bike trip to Maras and Salineras on your own?
First: there are a lot of roads going to Maras and Salineras. The skills of reading maps and general sense of direction will be very useful while biking in Cusco region. Of course you can ask locals for the direction, but here I can say “good luck”. Very often there is no one on the road, or the explanation of locals are not clear enough, but sometimes it works perfectly too :-).
Second: be prepared that you will get lost for a while, but do not be worried. Finally you will always find the right direction, just sometimes it can be a question of time. And here important note, it is usually not a problem for all of you, who likes riding by bike and can spend all day on the bicycle, but extra kilometers, not planned earlier, can be a problem if you do not ride a lot.
Third: the part of the road from Maras town to Salineras (salt mines) – the shorter one, is quite steep in some moments, and then requires the cyclist extra mountain biking skills. I know a lot of people, who are not specialist in this, and they overcome this part, but I also know a lot who do it with a bike, but on foot. Also you need to know that in this part often appear problems with the inner tube of the bike, so be prepared that you will have to fix it. I did this part 5 times already and during two tours we had this problem.
Forth: always you need to have with you the system of repairing inner tube of the bike or the reserve inner tube. I was biking in the region of Moray, Maras several times and 2 times we had a problem with the bike inner tube. So you can be lucky but sometimes unfortunately no, so it is better to have at least repair equipment.
Fifth: if you want to go from Maras to Salineras you will need the helmet for safety reason. Till the town Maras it is not necessary, but the last part, going directly to Salineras in some moments is steep and with small stones, so it is better to use extra safety equipment.
When and where it is worth to start the bicycle tour?
All depends how long you want to ride by bike. But I can recommend you to start from the place called Chancadora (some minutes by bus before Chinchero town), or from Chinchero or from the places called Cruzpata (some minutes by bus after Chinchero). The first option is the longest – maximum 5 hours, the last the shortest – maximum 3 hours.
You should leave Cusco early in the morning, around 6 am. You can choose the cheap public bus which goes to Urubamba (the journey will take a little bit more than 1 hour), the ticket will cost around 4 soles or you can choose fast minibus, also going to Urubamba (the journey will take around 40 minutes) and the ticket will cost around 6-7 soles.