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Peru

Last updated: December 2023

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Key Facts Cycling

  • 89 days in the country, from 11/09/2022 to 08/12/2022

  • 3,289 km / 2,044 mi cycled

  • 66 cycling days

  • Overnight stays: 

    • Wildcamping: 37

    • Other free camping (villages, etc.): 7

    • Paid campsites: 1

    • Hosts: 7

    • Paid accommodation: 37

    • Other (bus, ferries, etc.): 0

  • The Route: Border Crossing La Balza - San Ignacio - Jaén - Cutervo - Cochabamba - Chota - Bambamarca - Cajamarca to Caraz - Carhuaz - Tazapampa - Huari - La Unión - Peru Great Divide from Oyon to Huancaya - Lima - Ica - Nazca - Cerillos - Camino del Puma from Arequipa to Puno - Border Crossing Kasani

  • Our Cycling Highlights: Cajamarca to Caraz, Cordillera Blanca, Peru Great Divide from Oyon to Huancaya & Camino del Puma

Louisa & Tobi's Bike Route through Peru

Key Facts Country

  • Official name: Republic of Peru (República del Perú)

  • Population (2023): 34,352,720 

  • Capital: Lima 

  • Official language: Spanish

  • Co-official languages: Quechua, Aymara & other indigenous languages

  • Currency: Peruvian Soles (PEN)

  • Dialing code: +51

  • Area: 1,285,216 km² / 496,225 mi²

  • The third largest country in South America

  • Bordering countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia & Chile

  • Right-hand traffic

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Cajamarca to Caraz

Louisa cycling in the Peruvian Andes
Tobi carrying the bikes across the Tablacha River
  • Awesome route we found on bikepacking.com

  • Our favorite trail in Peru

  • 459 km / 285 mi long

  • Offers a great variety of landscapes, from rugged mountains & beautiful lagoons at over 4,000 m.a.s.l. / 13,000 ft to a breathtaking canyon with several tunnels and a few river crossings

  • We cycled the trail end of September and the water of the Tablachaca river came up to our thighs 

  • You have to search a bit for the best place to cross, where the water isn't too deep and/or fast flowing

  • Depending on the season, the water of the river might be too high to cross 

  • If that's the case, you can cycle the switchbacks on the other side of the canyon back up and can join the route later again, via Pallasca

  • There aren't many settlements in the canyon, better take a water filter to fill up water from the river

  • For the one-lane tunnels in the canyon you need a strong light as they are pitch black inside

  • It's also good to have a horn to warn drivers on the other side

  • It was a very challenging, but rewarding route for us

Cordillera Blanca

Louisa cycling up the switchbacks in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru
Bike Touring in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru
  • One of Peru's most famous mountain ranges

  • Features the highest mountain in the country (Huascarán Sur, 6,768 m.a.s.l / 22,205 ft) and over 700 glaciers 

  • Two roads cross the Cordillera Blanca east-west: 106 & 107

  • We took the southern road 107 from Caraz via Carhuaz to Chacas 

  • You can also do a full loop

  • The 107 is perfectly paved, making the ride up and down the switchbacks very easy and comfortable

  • You have to pay an entry fee for the Huascarán National Park: 30 PEN per foreign national, only payable in cash

  • At the top you'll cycle through the world’s second highest tunnel Punta Olímpica at 4,736 m.a.s.l. / 15,538 ft

  • Be prepared for some altitude sickness or altitude related weakness as you gain ~2,000 m / 6,700 ft relatively fast (but you also descend very quickly again)

  • Coming from Caraz, we took two days to cross the Cordillera Blanca, camping at the bottom of the switchbacks on the western side

Peru Great Divide (Oyon - Huancaya)

Louisa & Tobi Bike Touring the Peru Great Divide Trail
Louisa & Tobi Bike Touring the Gravel Roads in the Peruvian Andes
  • Another route from bikepacking.com, probably the most famous one in Peru 

  • The whole trail covers a distance of 1,605 km / 997 mi

  • We cycled roughly a quarter of the trail, from Oyon to Huancaya (which is apparently the part with the most highlights)

  • It's a very tough trail with some terrible roads and lots of steep ascents (we often had to push), but also beautiful and rewarding landscapes

  • Be prepared to not get as far as you have planned (due to the road conditions, gradient, altitude or weather)

  • Wild camping was no problem, but sometimes difficult to find sheltered spots

  • We cycled the trail at the beginning of the rainy season (October/November)

  • Almost every day started with sunshine, but clouds would build up soon and between 12 - 1 pm it would start to rain, hail, snow or thunder (sometimes all at once) 

  • With the low temperatures high up in the mountains we really tried to avoid getting wet as we would get really cold and our stuff would never dry again

  • So we tried to cycle our distance for the day in the morning, to then set up camp extremely early

Panamericana

Louisa cycling the Panamericana in Peru
Louisa & Tobi Camping in an abandoned building along the Peruvian coast
  • Highway 1S (north of Lima it's 1N) , runs along the coast 

  • Very busy with cars and trucks

  • We cycled ~900 km / 560 mi from Lima to Cerrillos, then turned back inland to Arequipa

  • Good to cover some distance, but not enjoyable to cycle 

  • From Lima to Ica we had a shoulder to cycle on, south of Ica the highway got smaller and the shoulder ended

  • We encountered some strong headwinds, coming from the southwest 

  • Wild camping was tough due to the rough, open landscape and the strong winds 

  • There are many abandoned buildings along the coast, so we camped in those several times to be sheltered from the relentless wind

Camino del Puma

Tobi Bike Touring the Camino del Puma, Peruvian Andes
Freezing cold nights while wild camping along the Camino del Puma, Peru
  • Another bikepacking.com route in the very south of Peru 

  • The original route is a loop

  • We cycled just one-way, from Arequipa to the Titicaca lake, and also changed some trail sections of this part to fit our route

  • One of our favorite rides in Peru, right after Cajamarca to Caraz

  • The landscapes along this trail are slightly different to the other ones, e.g. more desert and small salt flats

  • Most of the part we cycled was at high altitude, often above 4,000 m.a.s.l. / 13,000 ft 

  • As we were very well acclimatized at that time, we didn't feel the altitude at all

  • We cycled the trail end of November / beginning of December and had many pleasant days with lots of sunshine 

  • The nights got really cold though, down to -14°C / 7°F

Camping & Accommodation

  • Wild camping was relatively easy in the mountains, along the coast (rough, open landscape) and in the lowlands (lots of agriculture and/or inhabitation) it could be more challenging 

  • If we couldn't find a good hidden spot, we sometimes asked people if we could camp on their grounds, which often wasn't a problem 

  • Not every small town offers accommodation

  • The rural hostels are very basic and high up in the mountains quite cold (also with cold showers)

  • Many hotel, etc. we found on Google Maps either didn’t exist (anymore) or were closed, so don't rely solely on that 

  • The cost for accommodation mostly ranged between 30 - 50 Soles

Infrastructure

  • We didn't encounter many good roads in Peru 

  • Some nicely paved and also empty roads were: 

    • 107 in the Cordillera Blanca

    • The 1S to Arequipa

  • Especially in the mountains you have to be prepared for a slow and bumpy ride

  • We encountered small settlements every ~50-100 km / 30-60 mi in the mountains, where we were often able to fill up water and buy some basic groceries (rice, canned beans, etc.), but nothing fresh

  • The tap water is generally not potable, especially not in the cities

  • In the mountains we often filled up our water in small villages with running water, asking the locals whether the water was potable (if so, we drank it)

  • If we were unsure about the water quality, we put a chlorine tablet in the water

  • In the mountains we sometimes filtered water out of a lake

  • For lunch we often ate Almuerzo (local lunch) at small restaurants:

    • It's a menu with a soup, a main course (usually rice with some kind of meat & sauce) and a drink

    • It often cost ~12 Soles (~3 EUR/USD)

Spare Part Availability

  • Depending on where you are, it can be very hard to find spare parts in Peru 

  • So if you plan to cycle in remote areas, make sure to take the basic parts you might need with you

  • When Louisa's rim broke, we had to take a bus to Lima 

  • Lima has several high-end bike shops, but also basic mechanics and a big bicycle market (Av. Emancipación 837, Lima 15001, Peru

  • Even though Peru was generally rather cheap for us, bike parts from brands like Shimano are much more expensive than in Germany, for example

Sim Card & Internet

  • Main network providers:

    • Movistar

    • Claro

    • Entel

    • Bitel 

  • We had a Claro sim card which we bought at an official store in San Ignacio

  • To officially buy a sim card, you need your passport

  • We had good reception in cities and along the coast, but none at all while cycling in the mountains

Climate & Weather

  • Three general climate zones: 

    • Coast

    • Andean highlands

    • Eastern lowlands & Amazon rainforest 

  • The climate & weather in the mountains varies depending on the altitude

  • Wet season: November/December to March/April 

  • As mentioned above, while cycling through the Andes in October/November, almost every day started with sunshine, but clouds would build up soon and between 12 - 1 pm it would start to rain, hail, snow or thunder (sometimes all at once)

  • The only exception was while we cycled the Camino del Puma in the south of Peru (November/December), there we had sunny days and clear, but freezing cold nights (-14°C / 7°F) 

  • Along the coast the days were warm (around 20°C / 68°F), but strong southwesterly winds occurred almost every day

Border Crossings

  • Ecuador to Peru: 

    • Border Crossing La Balsa, crossing the Canchis river

    • Could have been fast, but we had to wait two hours for the Ecuadorian immigration officer to arrive by bus

    • The process on the Peruvian side was quick and easy

  • Peru to Bolivia: 

    • Border Crossing Kasani at the Titicaca Lake 

    • The easiest border crossing we ever had, on both sides we got the stamps in our passports and were done in 10 minutes

  • Tourists from over 90 countries are allowed to enter Peru for a stay of up to 90 days visa-free

  • With our German passports we were granted 90 days without having to apply for a visa

  • No costs 

  • No documents to fill out beforehand

  • Always check regulations and requirements before entering the country as they might change at short notice

Health & Safety

  • Dogs:

    • Peru was the country with the most aggressive dogs we encountered on our whole journey 

    • The street dogs were fine and didn't really care about us, the problem were the dogs that belonged to people and their homes 

    • Sometimes we had five or more dogs chasing us while we cycled past, mostly in rural areas in the mountains 

    • Learn more about how we deal with aggressive dogs

  • Traffic:

    • Many drivers were unfortunately quite careless and we had some close calls when they were overtaking us

    • ‘Honking instead of braking’ seemed to be the rule of many drivers

    • Especially in cities you have to be careful

  • Generally be more cautious in bigger cities, beware of pickpockets, etc.

  • When wild camping we never really felt unsafe

  • Health:

    • Unfortunately we had diarrhea quite often in Peru, one time we had to stay in bed for a week and Tobi even needed an infusion at the local hospital

    • According to the doctor, the diarrhea incl. bad cramps was most likely caused by bacteria we caught from some street food

    • Some towns have a small local hospital where you can go to in emergencies

    • The one we went to was in Huari - it was basic, but had everything we needed

  • Emergency numbers: 

    • Police: 105

    • Ambulance: 106

    • Fire department (Bomberos): 116

Cash & Expenses

  • Peru was relatively inexpensive for us

  • Exchange rate Dec. 2023: 1 EUR = 4,1 PEN / 1 USD = 3,75 PEN

  • Except for modern shops in more developed cities you won't be able to pay much by card

  • So make sure to always carry enough cash with you, also enough small change

  • ATMs are called Cajero Automático in Spanish

Tourism

  • Peru has several famous places to visit (Cusco, Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountains, Caraz, Cordillera Blanca, Arequipa, Titicaca Lake, etc.)

  • Places we visited: 

    • Caraz

      • The market (Mercado Municipal) was really cool! 

      • The town is the base for hiking in the Cordillera Blanca

    • Cordillera Blanca

    • Cordillera Huayhuash

      • Famous for its hiking trails 

      • We just cycled past it on the 110

      • Impressive mountains, lakes & glaciers

      • Unfortunately there is a huge mining area right outside the National Park 

    • Lima

    • Nazca Lines 

      • Right next to the Panamericana north of Ica 

      • You can see them from a watch tower or via plane (the latter isn’t supposed to be that safe though)

      • We went up the tower and could see the closest pictograms 

    • Arequipa 

      • A really nice city in the south of Peru

      • We visited the Mundo Alpaca, which was quite interesting

    • Puno at the Titicaca Lake

      • A rather touristy town

      • We did a boat tour to the Uros islands 

  • Apart from those known places we didn't encounter many tourists or any touristy infrastructure, which we quite liked 

  • We met several other bike travelers throughout Peru though, especially some of the routes in the Andes are popular amongst cyclists

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