If you're planning on cycling in Peru, this bike touring post might help. Includes travel tips for cycling in Peru, as well as bike touring blog posts.
Cycling in Peru – A Few Travel Tips
I spent nearly two months bike touring in Peru as part of my Alaska to Argentina bicycle tour. I found it to be one of my favourite countries when it comes to bicycle touring, and would love to return one day soon!
I rode through the Peruvian Andes before google maps was really working properly (back in 2010). In fact, paper maps were pretty hard to come by as well! As it turns out, the route I took when traveling by bike through Peru is still used today by people on their own bike touring adventures. As such, this little guide will give you some valuable insights into cycle touring in Peru.
During my time of biking in Peru, I kept a blog post a day. You can find links to the blog posts at the bottom of this article.
The rough route took me from the border with Ecuador, through the mountainous areas, and on to Bolivia. You can see a map which shows more or less the route I took below.
Tips for planning a bike tour in Peru
After completing my trip, I received a couple of emails from people looking for travel tips on cycling in Peru, I decided to put together the answers here in one place.
These travel tips on cycling in Peru cover most of the commonly asked questions. Links to my bike touring blog posts follow on at the end.
I hope this information proves useful for planning your own bike tour in Peru!
1. Is Peru A Safe Country To Visit? What risk is there from bandits and other criminals?
Everyone has their own experiences, but I felt Peru to be a very safe country. Touring on a bicycle will immediately make you somewhat of a novelty with the locals of course, but there were no particular dangers.
That said, there is one area that most cyclists will avoid, and that is Paijan in the north of Peru. Tales of robbery are not just limited to bicycles – Tourists travelling on bus and car here also get robbed. Best avoided I think!
For general road cycling safety tips, take a look at this article – cycling tips for staying safe on a bike tour.
2. What accommodation do you recommend? Normally we camp but are unsure how safe that will be when cycling in Peru, and how many campsites are there?
Almost every village or town has accommodation of some description, and most of it will cost less than 10 dollars a night. Of course, you shouldn’t expect too much for this!
A room with a bed that you would probably prefer to lay your sleeping bag on is the norm out in the sticks, but the tourist centres have better quality accommodation.
Camping (wild camping) is more than possible throughout the country, and I did it on many an occasion. It's very easy up in the mountains, but of course, it will get cold at night! On more than one occasion, the water in my water bottles froze when I left them on the bike – bring them into the tent is my hint here!
Wild Camping in Peru – Sometimes I didn't bother with a tent!
3. How bad are the mosquitoes?
I didn't really notice them that much when cycling in Peru, although they are present in the lower areas. It really is going to depend on which parts of Peru you are going to travel through.
Up in the mountains, you won't find any mossies, but you may encounter biting flies of other types. Overall, not much of a concern. Insect repellent might not be a bad idea, as is covering up at dawn and dusk when they tend to bite the worst.
4. What is the quality of the roads and what are the drivers like?
Road quality can be quite variable. The main roads are normally in pretty good condition, but they are not so much fun to cycle on with the traffic etc. In addition, where a main road is poorly maintained, it is harder to cycle on than if one took a minor dirt road.
The minor roads I will call “dirt roads”, but these can very from quite literally dirt, to small gravel type stones. These are far more fun to cycle on, the traffic is less heavy, and there is certainly more of a sense of adventure.
Some of the dirt roads when cycling in Peru were simply stunning!
Admittedly, safety barriers are in short supply on the dirt roads in Peru!
5. What is high altitude cycling like?
There's no avoiding the Andes when riding through Peru (well, actually you probably could, but it would be boring). In time, you'll get acclimatized to long distance cycling at higher elevations. I never had problems cycling at this height, although heights over 4000m meant I had to stop for breath a lot more often than normal!
6. Anything else we need to know?
A few things that I would mention are
Speak some Spanish – You will be lucky to find anyone outside the tourist centres that speaks English… In fact, you will be lucky in some of the more remote villages if the people speak Spanish!
700c wheels are a rarity. If you are cycling in Peru with these, make sure you have all the inner tubes, spokes and spare tyres you think you might need. Take spare brake pads as well – Those long downhill descents will soon wear through them! This is hard-core bicycle touring at its finest!
Guinea Pig – If you are going to try it, do it in a small village and pay a dollar or so as opposed to 15 dollars in a tourist hotspot. You'll probably just have it the once anyway! I've tried it a couple of times, and wasn't particularly impressed.
Cash – Keep enough on you to last between cities. Small towns wont have an ATM machine.
Peru – Is a lot bigger than you might at first think.
Bike Touring in Peru
My bicycle touring blogs through that period are listed below. Start at the first one, and at the bottom of each page, you'll find a navigation taking you on to the next.
- Cycling from Zumba in Ecuador to Namballe in Peru
- Cycling from Namballe to San Ignacio
- San Ignacio to Tamborapa
- Cycling from Tamborapa to Jaen
- Day off in Jaen
- Another Day off in Jaen
- Cycling from Jaen to Bagua Grande
- Cycling from Bagua Grande to Pedro Ruiz
- Bikepacking from Pedro Ruiz to Tingo Viejo
- Kuelap in Peru – The Machu Picchu of the North of Peru
- Cycling from Tingo Viejo to Leymebamba
- Day off in Leymebamba
- Another day off in Leymebamba
- Cycling from Leymebamba to Balsas
- Cycling from Balsas to Celendin
- Day off Celendin
- Cycling from Celendin to Cajamarca
- Time off in Cajamarca Part 1
- Another day off in Cajamarca
- Independence Day in Peru
- Yet Another day off in Cajamarca
- Cycling from Cajamarca to San Marcos in Peru – Bike Touring South America
- Cycling from San Marcos to Cajabamba
- Cycling from Cajabamba to Huamachuco
- Day off in Huamachuco
- Markawamachuko – An unknown archaeological site in Peru (Marcahuamachuco)
- Cycling from Huamachuco to Shorey
- Cycling from Shorey to Santiago de Chuco
- Cycling from Santiago de Chuco to Angasmarca
- Cycling from Angasmarca to Mollepata
- Cycling from Mollepata to Pallasca
- Day off in Pallasca
- Cycling from Pallasca to 30 kms past Chuqicara
- Cycling from 30 kms past Chuqicara to near Caraz
- Cycling from near Caraz to Caraz
- Day off in Caraz
- Comparing Overland Travel by Bicycle and 4WD
- Cycling from Caraz to Huaraz
- Day off in Huaraz
- Cycling from Huaraz to Conococha
- Conococha to Pachapaqui
- Cycling from Pachapaqui to Huallanca in Peru – Bike Touring Blogs
- Cycling from Huallanca to Chavinillo
- Cycling from Chavinillo to Huánuco
- Day off in Huanuco
- Day off in Huánuco
- Cycling from Huánuco to Huariaca
- Cycling from Huariaca to Cerro de Pasco
- Cycling from Cerro de Pasco to Junin
- Cycling from Junin to La Oroya
- Cycling from La Oroya to Huancayo
- Day off in Hunacayo
- Cycling from Huancayo to A small village
- Cycling from A small village to Mayocc
- Cycling from Mayocc to Ayacucho
- Day off in Ayacucho
- Cycling from Ayacucho to El Abra Tocctoccsa
- Cycling from El Abra Tocctoccsa to Chumbes
- Cycling from Chumbes to Uripa
- Cycling from Uripa to Andahuaylas
- Cycling from Andahuaylas to Kishuara
- Cycling from Kishuara to Abancay
- Cycling from Abancay to Curahuasi
- Cycling from Curahuasi to Limatambo
- Cycling from Limatambo to Cusco
- Time off in Cusco
- Cycling from Cusco to Combapata
- Cycling from Combapata to Ayaviri
- Cycling from Ayaviri to Puno
- Time off In Puno
- Cycling from Puno to Juli
- Cycling from Juli to Copacabana, Bolivia
- Bicycle Touring South America
If you are interested in general tips about bicycle touring on my travel blog, check out these bicycle touring tips.
Peru and South America Bike Ride FAQ
A few other questions that come up from the biking community keen to explore Peru on two wheels, and cycling off the beaten track places include:
Is cycling popular in Peru?
On a local level, the government encourages cycling. Internationally, Peru is a popular bike touring destination thanks to its stunning scenery, small villages, friendly local people, and challenging but rewarding high passes.
Is Lima bike friendly?
In recent years, Lima has been including dedicated bike lanes into its infrastructure plans, particularly in the more touristy neighborhoods. There are also organized bike tours of the city you can take to see more of the place with a local guide.
Which country is best for cycling?
Peru has got to be up there among the best countries for cycling. With varied terrain, Inca ruins, and stunning vistas, it's a perfect destination for bikepacking adventures.
Can you bike to Machu Picchu?
There are various organized bike and hike tours of the Sacred valley and Machu Picchu you can take.
Hello, I’m planning to cycle from Lima to Cusco in April next year. What advice do you have about temperatures and clothing? I’m not planning on camping, so it’s just during the day I’m wondering about. I’m obviously looking to travel as light as possible. Can I get away with shorts and a couple of layers for my upper body, or do I need to think about getting generally cold when at altitude. Not quite sure what to expect so any tips most welcome!
Dave Briggs says
Lightweight clothing is good, but I’d definitely recommend something to cover your arms to protect from the sun.
On the way uphill, you won’t feel the cold so much as if you are cycling downhill! At the time of year you are going though, it will be warm.
By the sounds of it, you’ll probably have a couple of panniers with you if you’re not camping?
I’d suggest cycling tops/shorts. Lightweight fleece for the evening, and you could wear it in the day if needed. Maybe waterproof gear as an emergency, but it doesn’t look like there’s much rain that time of year!
Todd Adams says
I am flying to Juliaca and want to take a bus to Tiwanaku.Bolivia. Can I put my bike on the bus? What are somethings to think about when doing this? I then Plan to ride northwest back to from Tiwanaku
to Peru and up in the mountain before getting back to the airport in Juliaca. How will the bike go with the bus ride?
Because I must work the trip will only be 18 days so a bus would help to see the thing I want to see by using the bus to get the tour done.
Hi Dave, love your work!
Considering cycling dirt roads across Ecuadorian Andes in September and then into the peruvian Andes for October-November. Would I be in the rainy season too much? How bad is it to cycle the Andes dirt roads in the rain?
Dave Briggs says
I think dirt roads in the rainy season would be an adventure certainly! If you are not tight on time and don’t mind the unpredictable you could try it. My personal thoughts are it might be a little too much.
Ville Jokinen says
My wife and I are riding our bikes from Alaska to Argentina. Currently we’re in Colombia.
We’re trying to get to Cusco to see my wife’s parents by mid October so right now we’re having to choose routes that are a bit faster than what we would like.
Is there a faster ( meaning less climbing) route through Peru that is not the coast? We’re thinking of crossing the border from Ecuador to San Ignacio, Peru and from there head to Cusco on a route somewhat through the mountains to Cusco and not going over to the coast.
What do you think Dave, can this be done in little less than 2 months or do we have to take the coast?
Thanks a lot for your help and your awesome website!
Dave Briggs says
I hope your bike ride is going well!
I’m not sure about alternative routes (and it’s been some time since I cycled there now). There is technically a route through the Amazon (I’m sure you’ve seen it on Google maps). I’ve not heard of anyone taking this though.
What I would say is Peru is much bigger than I originally thought. 2 months from Colombia to Cusco would be pretty challenging I think.
Sorry I can’t be of much help on this occasion!
Enjoyed reading about your trips. Planning to cycle from La Paz to Lima this summer…just wondering what bike you would recommend for this – would a hybrid survive or are mountain bike tyres more suitable?
Dave Briggs says
I hope you enjoy that cycle ride! It’s a great part of the world to bike through. Challenging of course, but some simply stunning scenery. If you are setting off from La Paz, I would suggest allowing a few days to acclimatise to the height.
For bikes and tyres – My overall recommendation would be to have a bike with 26 inch wheels and wider tyres (like 1.75 or 2 inch).
To be honest though, you shouldn’t have too many problems with a hybrid bike (assuming 700 wheels?) and 1.5 inch tyres.
Carry some spare spokes and a cassette removal tool just in case, and you should be fine!
Catherine Langbridge says
I’ve heard that some border crossings require ‘an onward ticket’. How did you get around this travelling on a bicycle.? I’m hoping to do some cycling in Argentina, Chile, Peru and beyond. What would you suggest to make border crossings easier for touring cyclists.
Thanks for your help in advance. Enjoying reading your tips.
Dave Briggs says
Apologies that it took a few days to reply!
Once actually on a bicycle, I have never been asked for proof of onward ticket, apart from the USA and Canada. In Central and South America, a bicycle tourer tends to fall through the gaps – not quite backpacker, not quite motorised vehicle. Border crossing guards tended to stamp the passport, half a chat, and then waved me on as they laughed at the crazy person on the bike!
However, if you are landing by plane in Argentina, I would suggest to comply with whatever rules are currently in place. It is possible to buy flights and then cancel them. Perhaps you might lose 50 -100 pounds as a fee, but it might be worth it.
Hope that helps!
Hi Dave. My husband and I are planning to cycle from LIma to Salta in Aregentina (cycling through Chile and avoiding Bolivia). We are a bit worried about the altitude. What was the highest altitude you encountered in Peru? Thanks in advance.
Dave Briggs says
Wishing you all the best for your cycle trip!
The highest I cycled at was around 4000 metres (it may have been higher, but 4200 is the only signpost I remember!). The altitude wasn’t a massive problem for me, as I had cycled up to that height. I imagine landing at over 3500 metres, and then leaping on the bike would be a lot more difficult.
People do respond to altitude in different ways though. Unfortunately, you won’t really know until you are there.
Tom Whitlam says
Just wanted a bit more advice on the safety of Paijan region and how to avoid it. How did you avoid it, by taking mountains or bus? What is the mountain route like? Is the bus reasonably easy to get on with touring kit?
I am now heading into Northern Peru from the Ecuadorian Coast so any advice would be grateful on the safety of this region and any other region you know of…
Dave Briggs says
I took the mountain routes, and crossed into Peru via the border town of Bolza.
Now, im not going to lie, this was a tough old route to cycle! However it was also one of the most rewarding sections of the whole trip. In fact a few days in, and i came to realise Peru is a cyclists paradise!
Heres the entry from the border crossing https://www.davestravelpages.com/zumba-to-namballe.html/
i had no safety issues on the mountain routes, although things can change in 4 years.
As for Paijan – Its an area best given a wide birth in my opinion
Good luck on the rest of the trip!