Border to Cajamarca:
border – San Ignacio – Jaén – Chamaya – Bagua Grande – Pedro Ruiz – Tingo (not Chachapoyas) – Leymebamba – Balsas – Celendín – Cajamarca.

55km steady climbing (dirt) to San Ignacio (shops/mercado, but no ATM). Faster, riverside riding from San Ignacio to Jaén (possible to avoid, but 1st place in Perú with ATM. Paved towards Jaén). Chamaya – few shops/internet. Bagua Grande (shops/mercado/bank) to Pedro Ruiz paved and easy/steady climb. Pedro Ruiz (shops/mercado) to Chachapoyas turn-off 40km and paved/fast. Turn-off to Leymebamba 70km of steady/easy packed dirt climbing, with Tingo at 22km (just after road turn-off to Nuevo Tingo and Kuelap). Leymebamba (shops/internet) to Balsas is steady 6-7km/hr packed dirt climbing x 30km with a couple of hamlets and possible very basic shops to 3600m before 2-3 hours/60km packed dirt descent down to Balsas (rooms for rent/shops) at 900+m. Balsas to Celindín is 45km 6-7km/hr packed dirt climbing before 10km down into Celindín (shops/mercado/hostals/ATMs). Celindìn to Cajamarca is faster undulating ascent x 50km before 55km undulating descent (all packed dirt) via Encañada (70km from Celendín – shops) to Cajamarca (big – shops/mercado/some bike shops).

Cajamarca to Cajabamba (via Jesús and Cachachi)

Follow road signs in Cajamarca to Jesús (market day Thursday), then ask for Cachachi. Right turn 1-2km after Jesús, then another in a hamlet after 1st climb. Top at 3800m+. 60km Jesús to Cachachi (shops etc), then 32km to highway at Malcas and 26km to Cajabamba on tarmac.

Huamachuco to Mollepata
(interval distances, not cumulative)

  • 9km to L turn in Yumabamba onto dirt (before river bridge)
  • 7km to L @ Y (both roads go to San Simeón mine)
  • 5.9km to L @ Y (R. goes to mine)
  • 16.8km to R @ Y (L goes steeply down valley to mine site, R trends downward then R over saddle)
  • 22.5km to option for L uphill to shortcut hairpin, which rejoins after 700m, then R at 250m for more direct route up hill.
  • 550m to rejoin at saddle (main road R to L). We went straight on here, but it may be possible to go L. to Pampas, then take road from there to bottom of river gorge where road down from Mollepata joins ( see next segment).
  • 4km to L @ Y, with sign “Desvio Motos y Camionetas” to avoid mine site.
  • 4km to L @ Y downhill towards villages
  • 6km to L @ Y, then L again after 350m to keep L of hill, then following sometimes sketchy 2 tracks down valley.
  • 5km to R @ T onto more main road.
  • 6.6km L down to Mollepata (probably possible to turn down hill earlier)
  • 8.2km to Mollepata plaza.

Mollepata to Caraz (via Chuquicara)

  • 10km from Mollepata plaza to R @ Y after river crossing (L goes uphill to Pallasca, R follows river)
  • 13.9km to 1st river crossing (and access to water, with camping possibilities). Crossing mid-calf depth in mid-October.
  • 4km to 2nd river crossing. Faster and deeper (mid thigh), and has previously had an improvised bridge.
  • 7.4km to join with more main road (from Pallasca)
  • 30.5km onto paved road (Rd from L)
  • c. 30km to Chuquicara (limited shops)
  • 55km to Yungasmarca (food) including 5km up from river
  • 12.3km to Hullasca (shops, hospedaje), including 9km down to river from Yungusmarca, followed by hairpins up to Cañon del Pato
  • 3.3km to 1st tunnel entry.
  • 9.9km to pavement
  • 26km to Caraz.

Caraz to Chacas and Carhuaz

This heads from Yungay up past the Lagunas Llanganuco to the Portachuelo de Llanganuco (4767m) to Yanama, then via Pupush and Sapcha to Chacas. Most people then head up to the Punta Olimpica (4890m) before eventually hitting the valley floor at Carhuaz (2650m) about 22km from Yungay.  Need S65 ‘Aventura’ national park ticket – lasts a month, to camp in the park.

Chacas to Marcara
L. turn-off into valley leading to Juitush 8km up road towards Carhuaz from Chacas (73.1km marker on road). 4.3km to L. @ Y across river to river-right, following two-track past buildings. Road eventually heads up western valley wall via loose gravel switchbacks before coming to a halt next to stream heading up hanging valley. Relatively obvious path/track continues to pass (total 21km from Chacas/Carhuaz road turn-off). Path rideable in parts, with progressively more pushing (often steep) to pass. Plenty of camping opportunities until last 1-2km before pass. Bike-pushing continues for c.4km down the other side of the pass until the you hit the road in the valley heading down to Vicos/Marcara.  In total c. 5-7 hours pushing/off-bike time.

Huaraz to Huallanca

44 km paved to Pachacoto, then unpaved.  13km to Park entry at Carpas (used same Aventura ticket as for earlier Cordilleras traverse), then 20km to 1st pass (4780m).  22km from there to paved road, L to Huallanca (25km downhill).  Water and camping plentiful from Pachacoto onwards, though less hospitable from 1st pass onwards.  Huallanca has full services, including hostels and Wifi in plaza.

Huallanca to Fundación (suggestion, not ridden)

See Huaraz to Huánuco post for background.  Donkeys/Horses from Rondoy, then start track from Cuartelhuain, going via Laguna Mitucocha, Laguna Carhuacocha, Huayhuash, Portachuelo Huayhuash (potential to ride from here), Laguna Viconga, Paso Viconga, Laguna Subasaca to Fundación and Oyon etc.

Huánuco to Cerro de Pasco (via Pallanchacra)

c.60km to turn-off from main Huánuco-Huariaca road, in 1st village after San Raphael.  Steady, packed dirt climbing for 43km to Cerro de Pasco.  Some tienditas and plentiful camping spots.  ?avoid river water as flows from mine-workings.  Side-streams seem fine.

Cerro de Pasco to Junín

Route goes via western shore of Lago de Junín.  Follow highway initially.  Ask for Vicco.  Don’t take the signed 1st turn onto dirt for Huayllay-Bosque de Piedras…  There’s a newer paved road to Huallay which passes close to Vicco.  It is possible to go via Huayllay if you want to visit the Bosque de Piedras, but we took the more direct route directly from Vicco.  To do this, go into Vicco centre and ask for the road to Óndores via Pari.  You’ll get directed to a dirt road out of town via the cemetery, and told to take a left turn after a bridge (T junction with road from Huayllay coming from R.)  Rest is obvious.

Huancayo to Huanta

Huancayo – Sapallanga – Pucará – Pazos – Pampas – (Colcabamba turnoff) –  Chonta – Churcampa – Mayocc – Huanta.

Flat/slowly rising paved to Pucará, with food shops in Sapallanga.  Dirt (well packed) from then on until Huanta.  Up and over pass to Pazos (food shops), then again to Pampas (joining road from R. from main highway).  Mercardo and shops in Pampas.  125km until Churcampa, a couple of tienditas on way.  40ish km climb from Pampas to 50km of mildly undulating ridge road at or above 4000m.  Descent to pueblito (Chonta), and un-intuitive R. turn up hill towards end of village.  Final pass, then down to Mayocc via Churcampa (hotel, food shops).  Gradually rising from Mayocc to Huanta (big – all services).

Ayacucho to Abancay

via Tambillo (and quite a few other small villages with some food buying opportunities) to Ocros.  Chincheros, Uripa (paved from there until Andahuaylas) and Talavera.

7-8km out of Andahuaylas to L. turn for Laguna Pacucha.  70km from turn to Huancarama, then a further 48km to junction with paved road (Panamericana) up to Abancay (last 36km downhill).  Then 18km up to Abancay.

Salkantay route – Mollepata to Santa Teresa

Full information here.  For mere mortals (with anything other than an ultra-light bike set-up), we highly recommend that you consider hiring ponies to haul your bikes and/or stuff up to the pass from Soraypampa.  We did a day of pushing, straining (and puffing) to get from there to the first settlement (Huaracmachay) on the other side of the pass (12.5km).  Getting down the other side of the pass is almost exclusively guiding your bike (and would be multiplied with a trailer) until after Huaracmachay when riding percentage improves (maybe 70-80%).  There’s a good dirt road from Collapampa onwards.  There is also a USD$50 trekking fee payable in Mollepata (we didn’t).  More information, including a downloadable mud-map here.

Machu Picchu by bike-train

It’s possible to put your bike on the PeruRail trains from Hidroelectrica to Aguas and Aguas to Ollantaytambo.  There is an additional (not enormous) charge payable on arrival prior to release of your steed.  Not all trains have baggage carriages (equipaje), so check when buying your tickets.  Both legs can be cycled – the former very early in the morning, and the latter with a more relaxed timetable, though more difficulty as we’re told there isn’t much of a path for significant portions of the way until the road begins at km 82 (beginning of Inca Trail).

Ollantaytambo to Cusco

c. 6km from plaza towards Urubamba – could cross rail bridge onto dirt heading up river, or continue on pavement until road bridge  – ask for Quebrada and road following the trainline to Cusco-Huarocondo.  Pavement from Huarocondo onwards.


Very bike friendly hostal – Estrellita (445 Tullamayo – a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas).

Bike shop and mechanic – Ruso Covarrubias Chaucca (5 times National MTB champion) – Russo Bikes (218B Av. Tacna, Wanchaq, Cusco).  Has good range of spares and Ruso is a good and sensible mechanic.

Cusco to Juliaca

Cusco – Yaurisque – Paruro – (Colcha – can be avoided) – Accha – Pillpinto – Acos – Acomayo – Sangarará – Acopia – Yanaoca – Langui – Layo – Macari – Ayaviri – Cañon de Tinajani – Vila vila – Palca – Lampa – Juliaca

Leaving Cusco, via Avenida Grau (SWish), cross highway, ask for Puente Huancaro and then follow signs for Paruro.  Paruro to Accha is 50km (in contrast to 80+ on our map) if you turn R. at the Y after the main river bridge (L. is signed Colcha and is more flat).

21km beyond Yanaoca is Y. Head L, downhill, then R. at Y shortly thereafter (L. goes to road too, but further towards panamericana).  L. towards Langui (signed).  After Layo we were told there were 2 routes to Macari with one sounding as if it went via Santa Rosa (on Panamericana), so we took the other.  Leave Layo, passing the schools – road is a bit rocky, but pretty much traffic-free.  56km Layo to Macari, with pass at 23.8km.

Turnoff to Cañon Tinajani is 2-3km south of Ayaviri on the Panamericana.  23km of flat and gently rising dirt (cañon at 12km or so), with top of climb (and end of Puyas Raymondii) at 31km.  Vila Vila at 44km and Palcas at 55km.  Lampa 32km beyond Palcas and Jaliaca another 35km.

Juliaca to La Paz

Juliaca – Huancané – Moho – Cambria – Conima – Tilali (border) – Puerto Acosta – Escoma – Carabuco – Ancoraimes – Achacachi – Huarina – Batallas – La Paz

  • Flat, paved to Huancané (59km)
  • 39km to Moho (20+km paved).
  • We headed out of Moho (Hostals and shops) on dirt, took the right (of 3 ways) shortly out of town just before the incongruously placed swimming pool towards Conima followed by another right a little while later.  This took us up a hill, and joined the paved coast road to Conima (we presume from Moho).
  • Moho to Conima 22km
  • 34km to Puerto Acosta (in Bolivia) via Tilali.
  • Shortly after Tilali is the final Peruvian police control point, and we never encountered a corresponding Bolivian one.  Road from Tilali to Puerto Acosta (keep following the most major road at junctions) is rough dirt, but has lots of vehicle tracks on it to keep you right.
  • PA to Escoma 25km – washboarded wide dirt, then becoming paved after Escoma.
  • 13km from Escoma (Hospedaje and tiendas) to Carabuco (tiendas)
  • 26km to Ancoraimes (tiendas)
  • 39km to Achacachi (Hospedaje just off Plaza, plus shops).
  • 20km from Achacachi to junction with main road from San Pedro de Tiqina (Huarina)
  • 13km to Batallas.
  • 62km from there to La Paz (last 13km downhill on Autopista – over bridge, then curve R. at El Alto).  Last 25km into La Paz very built up and busy.

Border Crossing.

This route takes a bit of advance planning

  • there are neither immigration or the appropriate police officials at the border crossing.
  • Heading north to south you need to ‘exit’ Perú in Puno (not Juliaca).
  • You need to get your tourist card stamped by the police based in the Judiciary building on the Plaza de Armas (not the main Policia building or the tourism police)
  • Then go to the Immigration office which is half a block off the plaza on the right hand side (coming from the lake).  If like us you can’t find the correct police department, the immigration people will show you what to do.

We took a bus from Juliaca to Puno to get this done, then backtracked by bus and cycled towards the border the next day.  It took us 1+ days to get to Tilali (there is another crossing nearby – similar story).  This may be useful to know as the Peruvian immigration officials need to know what date to stamp your passport with.

Once into La Paz you need to get your entry stamp at the immigration department there on Avenida Camacho 1468 (open until 1700 mon-fri).  To save time have a photocopy of the photo page of your passport and the page with the Peruvian exit stamp.  Also ask for a green entry form to fill in while you queue.


    • Cass

      No worries – it’s great that the route notes are being used. I look forward to seeing what you make of them, though all the photos are going to make us pretty green with envy…

      Tom and Sarah

      • Manuel

        Glad you’re getting back to perú :-). Although we had a GPS buried in our packs, we didn’t use it for navigation – preferring to ‘zen’ it with a list of ‘destinations’ and asking directions along the way. The information here was gleaned from notes made as we went along with particular detail when people to ask were scarce (or unreliable).

        Please let us know how you get on.

  1. Hey Tom,

    Having just ridden the route to Cajamarca I bring bad news… virtually the entire route is now paved with slick and smooth black-top. The road to San Ignacio from the border – paved. The road from San Ignacio still dirt but a building site that turns to sealed gravel and then 33 miles (53 km) from San Ignacio finally to pavement. The Jaén avoiding river crossing shortcut through Bellvista – still dirt (whoop whoop). Returning to the highway it’s then paved all the way to Cajamarca with the exception of a short stretch before Encañada (which was being worked on an thus I presume being prepared for pavement).

    The route is still worth riding but I fear a large portion of the romance has been paved out of it. Can’t begrudge the Peruvians their ‘progress’ though. The ride is probably a couple of days shorter now than it was when you rode it… you lucky thing!

    Thanks for all your help

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