Try as I might, I can’t tell you how beautiful South America is for motorcyclists. It’s extreme, unpredictable, unorthodox, and really fun to ride.
But there is variety even in beauty, and I’ve been trying to think of a stretch of road from among the ones I have ridden in the past years, where you can actually find everything that an adventure rider would look for.
And yes, I think I’ve found it. Three different climates, three different settings, three different styles, all in one country and almost all in one day if you really push it. But please, don’t do that.
Dirt roads, single tracks, paved turns, hills, plateau, tropical heat, freezing cold temperatures, desert and jungle, all in that one “little” piece of land.
This stretch of road that goes pretty much from Cuzco to Paracas, is the most exciting and most exhausting stretch of adventure riding I’ve encountered in my trip.
map of the 1000 km in Peru. Source: google maps
Start at the back of Cuzco, in the Valle Sagrada (Urubamba or Pisac would make a good start), and ride back to the city, through some of the back roads and little towns. The roads are made of dirt and rocks, but are fairly fast and smooth. These are a good start and they have little to no traffic compared to the paved roads.
Once you hit Cuzco, start heading west toward the first mountain range. Peru has three mountain ranges, cutting the country ecosystem into three big chunks and giving the country an incredible variety of microclimates.
In this section, the roads are perfectly paved and the only danger here comes from the trucks trying to overtake other trucks around corners.
After a while you will enter the tropical region of Peru. The transition from mountain landscape to tropical forests is mindblowing. The road takes you up again toward the second mountain range, where temperatures can drop to 3-4 degrees Celsius, and across a beautiful plateau before reaching Abancay.
From here it begins a steep and very long descent of beautiful turns and perfectly paved roads, until it reaches the fantastic Nazca desert.
Here you have to cross one of the driest places in the world, before reaching another mindblowing place, an oasis in the middle of the Ica dunes called Huacachina.
From here it’s all sand and dirt roads, through the beautiful Paracas National Park where they held one of the last Dakar races. Paracas gives you unlimited possibilities to use your offroad magical skills, plus some enchanted beaches and secluded fishing towns where you can unwind.
Eventually you’ll reach Pisco at the end of the trail. Here I had some of the best Pisco Sours and seafood that I’ve I tried in my life.
As I look back at this stretch of road, it truly amazes me how Peru is still mostly unknown by motorcyclists around the world.