Home WorldLatin AmericaPeru Hike and Bike around Cusco, Peru

Hike and Bike around Cusco, Peru

Exploring Inca Ruins in Peru by foot and E-Bike is a great way to see the region.

by Rupert Parker
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hike and bike

Peru’s Inca ruins around and Cusco and the Sacred Valley are a fairly well trodden tourist route, fleets of van ferrying day trippers in and out. Far better then to get away from the crowds and explore the area by bike or on foot. But don’t expect to start as soon as you arrive – it’s best to take it easy until you get used to the altitude. After all Cusco is at an altitude of around 3400m and some of the places I visited are almost at 5000m.

Fortunately technology comes to the rescue and the new generation of mountain E-Bikes can cope with almost anything. Of course you still have to pedal when you’re going up and descending at speed can be slightly terrifying. Fortunately I’m blessed with good guides and never stray out of my comfort zone. In a week, I’m rewarded with some marvellous views, remote ruins and the exhilaration that only altitude can bring.

E-Bike Huanacauri Inca Ruins

For my first day of E-Biking at this altitude, we start by the airport, at Huilcarpay, first on the road, then turn off onto a dirt track. There are glorious views of Cusco laid out below us and it leads us upwards through fields, where people are working. Soon we’re into open country, the climb getting steeper. Eventually we reach Abra Punacancha at 3932m and them it’s relatively flat to the next saddle of Abra Qhatuk’asa at 3975m.

Here we ditch our bikes and then it’s a steep uphill hike for 30 minutes to the ruins of Huanacauri, lying beneath the peak of the same name. Inca mythology says this is where Manco Capac & Mama Ocllo got their first view of the Cusco Valley and decided to make it their capital. It’s in a fantastic situation with 360 degree views across to the Vilcabamba mountain range and right across the Cusco to the snow-capped mountains above the Sacred Valley. From here we retrace our steps and freewheel back down to the city,

E-Bike Cusco Ruins

Next day we cycle on the road up to the extensive ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Although the smaller stones of Sacsayhuaman were utilised in Spanish Cusco, the remaining stones are up to 8.5m high and weigh over 360 tons. We carry on uphill to Puca Pucara, a delightful ruin on a small prominence now believed to be a ‘tambo’, a rest house for travelling animals, goods and travellers.

Our third site is Tambomachay, known as the Inca’s Bath due to its finely preserved waterfalls, carefully diverted through fine stone channels. From here we leave the road and take dirt tracks through the countryside downhill towards Cusco, through fields of potatoes, enjoying spectacular views of the valley and city itself

E-Bike Pisac to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

A short drive from Cusco is the charming village of Pisac, which boasts a daily artisan market, although it’s fairly quiet today. After crossing the Urubamba River we start our E-Bike journey in the small village of Taray. The quiet dirt trail runs alongside the river Valley through local villages and haciendas, away from the traffic

Fields of white corn, which only grow in this valley, contrast with the backdrop of glaciated mountains and Inca ruins. There’s a timeless quality to the ride as we pass farmers ploughing their fields with oxen and women carrying firewood on their backs. We carry on past the villages of Qoya, Lamay and Calca, before arriving at Huayllabamba. A pause for breath and then we continue through Yucay before arriving at Urubamba, the final destination.

Hike Huchuy Qosqo 

It’s a long drive on a bumpy track past Lake Qoricocha on open moorland before we start the hike. A gradual climb takes us upwards to the plateau at 4404m and there are views of the emerald green Lake Piuray and the Inca town of Chinchero. We soon follow a flat and well preserved Inca trail past grazing Alpaca and Llama as we descends gradually.

A remote village, half abandoned, is to our right before we enter a canyon lined with exotic vegetation and follow a well paved track along a stream. Here I meet Cirila, a local woman with her horse, who is collecting flowers to use as a cough remedy. We emerge high above the Sacred Valley for the first views of the ruins of Huchuy Qosqo or Little Cusco. We’re on our own as we explore its three-story houses, large central square, and extensive terraces. From here a steep donkey trail leads down to Lamay where our vehicle awaits.

E-Bike Maras to Lake Huaypo

It’s rained heavily during the night and we have to abandon the first route to the Salinas de Maras as there’s just too much mud. Instead we take the road up through Maras and then head cross-country to the shores of Lake Huaypo. Around it are extensive well cultivated fields, different crops forming a patchwork of colour in the countryside.

We follow the edge of the lake and then turn inland, past farmers digging their potatoes making sure we give their guard dogs a wide berth. There’s more mud to come but we finally make it back to the lake for a hot lunch. It’s a serene spot, perfect for water sports when the weather is warmer.

Hike Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

It’s raining heavily as we set off from Cusco for Palccoyo, the Rainbow Mountain in the heart of the Vilcanota Mountain range. During the two hour drive it doesn’t let up and we’re soon climbing and sliding on dirt roads, the rain turning to snow. A boulder blocks the road, a truck struggles to get round it but we’re soon on our way. As we get higher everything is covered in a blanket of white and the mist has come down.

Still that doesn’t stop us doing the hike, and at around 5000m it’s tough going. Miraculously as we near the tops, the mist lifts and we can begin to make out some of the coloured rocks poking up through the snow. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped peaks of Ausangate, Mariposa and Nevado del Inca but not today. Still, it’s an incredible experience and as we drive down, the rain has stopped and we’re surrounded by herds of Llamas.


INFO: Amazonas Explorer in Cusco have top of the range E-bikes and great guides. They supplied all my biking and hiking needs.

GO: Latam flies to Cusco via Lima from London

STAY: Inkaterra La Casona is a luxurious base in Cusco and a member of the Relais & Chateau group.  For more guide on hotels, check out this article>

Casa Andina Premium Cusco makes for a comfortable stay in the city.

Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba is good for a tranquil time in the Sacred Valley.


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