The definitive “Best of Peru” biking holiday in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Cusco, Southern Peru. While the Incas may never have managed to invent the wheel, they did however accidently invent the “Single track” but probably didn’t quite understood what it would be used for some 500 years later. After nearly twenty years of messing around on mountain bikes in Peru, we believe we have finally come up with probably one of the greatest mountain bike holidays ever, combining some of the best cross country and downhill single track rides on the planet, plus a chance to see the “real” Peru, way off the beaten “Gringo trail."
Using hotels in the Sacred Valley as our base (yes no camping!!) we can unpack, relax in their gardens, enjoy delicious locally produced meals and by bike, explore rarely visited ruins, experience colorful local markets plus a chance to visit the fabled lost city of the Incas - Machu Picchu and enjoy Cusco city – voted by Wanderlust readers as the No 1 travelers city in the world and whose fine dining and eclectic nightlife perfectly complement the perfect biking holiday.
The riding gives us a mix of dirt roads, donkey paths, mind-blowing single tracks (largely downhill or flat) and a chance to hone your step jumping on original Inca trails. We’ll also take in the World class Mega – Avalanche Downhill course, a true wilderness ride to Huchuy Quosqo, the classic Maras to Moray saltpan ride and the very best of local single track in Cusco, itself (plus plenty more). There is something for everyone to enjoy and daily rides will be tailor-made to the individual skills of the group.
Day 1 - Cusco Arrival - Sacred Valley
Welcome to Peru! Upon arrival in Cusco's airport, meet your guide and transfer straight to our base in Sacred Valley - this way we’ll avoid any potential altitude problems and guarantee ourselves a good night sleep. Today we’ll assemble our bikes and those who want to can take a quick trip into the nearby town of Urubamba to stretch their legs and begin to acclimatize to the rarefied air of the Andes. Meals can either be taken in the hotel or there are a variety of places to choose from in Urubamba.
Day 2 - Chinchero - Moray - Saltpans - Urubamba
The Footprints Guide to Peru describes our first ride as “One of the finest one-day rides in Peru” and it certainly is a classic. Starting near Chinchero at 3,600m we enjoy a variety of undulating dirt trails with spectacular views along the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the white peaks of Mounts Veronica, Pitusiray and Chicon. We arrive at the rarely visited circular Inca ruins of Moray in time for a visit and explanation of this weird and wonderful site, as well as to enjoy a delicious picnic lunch. This afternoon we join a truly fantastic donkey trail down to the colonial village of Maras, and from there descend a divine single track to the “out of this world” Saltpans. A final zigzagging single track brings us to the Urubamba river and back to our hotel in time to enjoy hot showers, sundowners on the balcony and dinner either at the hotel or in a restaurant of your choice.
Day 3 - Calca - Amparaes - Abra Lares - Calca
Now well acclimatized, we’ll drive high into the Andes to just over 4000m for two of the world’s best kept mountain biking secrets. The single track down to Amparaes starts rough but soon turns into one of the most beautiful 16km trails ever – it’s as if someone has come along and swept away the rocks leaving super smooth path, allowing you to whoop and swoop past local villages, llamas and alpacas down to the small village of Amparaes in time for lunch. We’ll climb back up now to 4,200m for another truly amazing single track, this time following an ancient Inca trail complete with original Inca stairways and Inca tombs in an incredibly beautiful canyon, before joining the road to Calca with some wacky short cuts for the more adventurous. We arrive in Calca Plaza de Armas in time for a quick sundowner before returning to our hotel for the night.
Day 4 - Huchy Quosqo
When the drive to the start of the ride is almost as extreme as the ride itself, you know you are in for a good day out! This is one of our long time favorites and a true wilderness biking adventure, high in the Andes. We drive to 4,000m and leaving the vehicle behind for the entire day, stock up on snacks and spares and follow an Inca trail that winds its way up to an Inca ceremonial platform at nearly 4,200m. From here, it’s nearly all downhill or cross country as we discover Inca sites and charming Andean hamlets - we even cross an Inca hanging bridge before a short portage through an un-rideable but truly gorgeous canyon. We emerge at a viewpoint high above the Sacred Valley before we cycle along well preserved Inca terraces and into the impressive Inca ruins of Huchuy Quosqo, thought to have been a royal palace. For those who need more adrenaline we still have another 800m descent to the Sacred Valley by way of a delightful dirt trail (with the odd bit of walking) and so all the way back to Calca. Somewhere along the way we’ll have lunch depending where we are. Tonight we relocate to a small hotel in Ollantaytambo where we can strut the plaza – if we are still able to walk, that is.
Day 5 - Chinchero - Huallyabamba - Cerro Sacro - Urubamba
While body armor is not essential for any of this trip, if you’ve got it, today might just be the day to wear it and not take it off at all! Every time we do these two rides we ask ourselves is this really commercial? – I guess there’s only one way for you find out – by joining us for what are arguably two of the best single track down-hills in the Sacred Valley if not the whole of Peru. From the delightful market town of Chinchero we traverse a vast set of Inca terraces on a perfectly restored and wide royal Inca trail. A series of rideable (or walkable) steps takes us down through a Eucalyptus forest and a spectacular view point for more technical single track back down to the small village of Huayllabamba – the record is about forty-five minutes but we’ve got all morning (and usually need it!) A short drive back up the hill to Cerro Sacro (this is where they do paragliding from and as the highest point in the area you’ll be able to see why!) where we’ll have a lunch with a 360º view before another truly classic trail, super smooth (and ridiculously fast if you dare) we swoop back down to Urubamba- there are a variety of routes to choose from, from the sublime to the ridiculous and those with any adrenaline can cool off with a quick blast back to the hotel. (If your adrenaline levels are already depleted from the past days of riding, we can suggest a series of lovely road rides, a bit of retail therapy at a local artisan market or a total chill out at the hotel – there’s an awesome spa/bar nearby too.)
Day 6 - Mega-avalanche Downhill Mountain Bike Course
So now we are ready... Steve Peat won it in 2007 in 24 minutes, most racers take 30 – 40 minutes and we’ve got all day so absolutely no pressure to really enjoy this truly amazing trail that hosts the annual “Mega Avalanche” downhill race. A short drive to 4,300m and we are off- your guides pointing out the best lines, with regular stops to regroup – there are some huge jumps that are easily avoidable (or we’ll talk you through them!) As we blast down 1,550m of descent on a mix of tight single track, divine Inca trail and even a bit of tarmac! After lunch, those who are up for it can go back up and do it again; those who are saner can enjoy a lovely and mostly flat ride back to the town of Ollantaytambo for strawberry milkshakes and banoffee pie.
Day 7 - Return to Cusco (optional Machu Picchu)
Today you have a chance to visit the spectacular lost city of the Incas - Machu Picchu. An hour and a half by train down the Urubamba gorge brings you to Machu Picchu Pueblo where you are met by your expert guide and taken by bus to the ruins for a full guided tour. You have time to explore by yourself before catching the afternoon train back up the Urubamba valley and a short bus transfer back to Cusco. If you don’t wish to see Machu Picchu, we’ll drive back to Cusco and can probably fit in some more single track en route if you want.
Day 8 - Best Of Cusco Single Track
By now you’ll be fully acclimatized and totally sensitized to the delights of Peruvian single track so we’ve saved the best for last. The hills that surround Cusco are our local playground and boy have we got a treat for you. Dubbed “Three Downhills in Three Hours” we start with “Salcantay” - 750m vertical descent- sweet single track, Inca ruins en route, eucalyptus forest and all ending back in Cusco, our first ride could be a contestant for best ride of the trip – and we still have two more to go. Back up the hill, we follow an ancient Inca trail past more Inca ruins and staring day-tripper tourists as we join “Antisuyo” - the recently restored Inca trail to the jungle – a perfect set of far enough apart to ride steps all the way down to San Blas and the Plaza de Armas of Cusco. If you haven’t learned to step jump by now, you will have by the end of this ride! And there’s more – a choice of rides from Yuncaypata – the locals' favorite downhill ride – choose from the “Red Bull Course” (pretty steep but doable) to the “Birthday Route” - sweet single track and Incas ruins with a few steps if you want. Biking over, time for a shower and a chance to experience the culinary delights of Cusco (Guinea pig is a local speciality!) and for those who dare the eclectic nightlife where you can salsa till dawn if you’ve got the energy!
Day 9 - Cusco Departure
A nice late start- we’ll assist you to pack up your bikes and take you back to Cusco airport in time for your flight back to Lima and your ongoing international flight arrangements.