Crossing Borders with Peru MotoDreamer Part 2. Have you, as a Motorcycle Adventure Tour Warrior, got this experience on your bucket list?
Welcome to Crossing Borders with Peru MotorDreamer Part 2. This article is part of a series on crossing borders in South America.
MotoDreamer runs several guided tours throughout South America. Including the 14 Day, South American Express starts in Cali and takes you overland through Ecuador towards Peru.
This tour ends on a high in the beautiful and fascinating Andean town of Cusco, one of the oldest cities in the Americas.
Peru has, of course, been a bucket list travel destination for decades. All thanks to world-class natural and historical wonders like Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines. But what does Peru have in store for adventurers setting out to explore the country on two wheels?
What is it like crossing borders with Peru?
The high Peruvian Andes are home to the densest concentration of snow-capped summits and glaciers in the entire mountain range. With roads that wind their way along the ridges of towering cliffs. Each descends steeply into valleys and climbs breathtakingly upwards to high passes.
Peru is crisscrossed with some of the most exciting mountain routes on earth.
Many of the major highways in the Peruvian Andes are paved and surprisingly well maintained. These also include some of the remote high-altitude passes. Ticlio Pass (4,818m) between Lima and Oroya. Also, Abra Oquepuño (4,873m) in Peru’s southern Puno region are among the world’s highest paved roads.
Sweeping bend after bend, the visual backdrop of the Andes is as wild and majestic as it gets. You will be overwhelmed with the endless chains of snow-covered peaks, distant glacial mountains, and sheer cliffs. Each of the latter, tumbling into valleys carpeted by lush forest and ancient farmlands.
And yet, there’s more to crossing borders with Peru than mountains.
Peru is a country of intricate geography and astoundingly varied terrain. Be amazed by Peru’s patchwork of high peaks and plateaus. All nestled and looking down on tropical rainforests, dry forests, and coastal deserts. This awesome country contains 28 of the world’s 32 individual climates.
Witnessing the landscape change before your eyes every few hundred kilometers is one of the greatest rewards of riding in Peru.
Peru’s close proximity to the equator, as well as its diverse climatic zones, make it a year-round Motorcycle Adventure Touring destination. However, be prepared for temperatures ranging anywhere between 40 and 12 degrees Celsius. Then sense the dropping temperature becoming colder still on the high mountains passes.
Next, see my 5 mind-blowing reasons why every Adventure Motorcycle Touring Warrior should cross borders with Peru at least once.
1. Peru’s paved roads make the most famous attractions easily accessible.
Smooth, sealed roads climbing to 4,000 meters altitude and beyond are a rarity almost anywhere globally. But in Peru, you can conquer some of the country’s highest mountain passes while barely ever leaving the asphalt.
Have you got a couple of weeks spare up your sleeve for crossing borders with Peru? Why? Cos if you do, It’s possible to hit up all of Peru’s best-known sights and destinations.
Ancient Andean towns like Cusco and Puno and breathtaking natural wonders like Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca are all doable. Furthermore, you do everything at a leisurely-paced, week-and-a-half jaunt through to the country. All this is achievable by crossing borders with Peru and while sticking to routes with nearly 100% paved roads.
2. You will ride the 500-year-old remnants of the ancient Inca Road System
Beginning in the mid-15th century, the Incas began the construction of the most extensive and advanced transportation system in pre-Colombian South America.
The Incas built networks of roads, bridges, and tunnels stretching for almost 40,000km. This remarkable network covered six modern-day countries. Namely, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
This extraordinary feat of engineering helped transform a tiny kingdom into the most powerful empire in the western hemisphere.
These roads, all built by hand, were so well constructed that substantial parts still exist. Furthermore, many are still in use today! Also, discover some of the most spectacular stretches of the Incan road system still snaking their way through the highlands of Peru.
Riding Peru’s Inca Roads combines extraordinary history with some of the most fun and challenging off-road riding in the Andean region.
Taking the old roads out of Cuzco through the Sacred Valley of the Incas means tackling days’ worth of steep, narrowing, and winding dirt tracks. Following with the breathtaking backdrop of the Andes ranges as your constant companion.
As you travel across expansive landscapes, each dotted with atmospheric ruins. Be on the lookout for colorful villages and open-air markets. You’ll truly appreciate the legacy of the mighty Incan civilization.
This is where Peru’s indigenous communities have plied their trades for countless generations.
3. The desert landscapes of Peru’s Andean plateau are out of this world.
The 250km odd route between Chivay and Arequipa (the second deepest canyon in the world) is one of the most thrilling and dramatic rides on the vast Andean Plateau.
The ride through the Colca region is pure Peru. It’s a breathtaking journey through the beautiful Colca Valley for all motorcycle adventure warriors. Feast your eyes on the landscape dotted with farming terraces that pre-date even the Incas! Observe which are still used by the local farmers today.
Be on the lookout for the wheeling shadows of Andean condors as they soar above the towering red cliffs. Each marking the steep uphill climb to the top of Colca Canyon.
The last stretch of the day-long journey takes you over the 4,850m high Patapampa Pass. Witness the commanding panoramic views over a magnificent chain of extinct volcanoes. Note, the largest of them, Nevado Hualca Hualca, rises to 6,025m.
4. When crossing borders with Peru you can add on a side-trip to Machu Picchu
The remarkable monuments and ruined citadels of Peru’s ancient civilizations are undoubtedly the country’s biggest tourist drawcards.
Traveling on two wheels, you can make your way to legendary destinations like the mysterious mud city of Chan Chan in the northern highlands. In addition, make your way to the enigmatic geoglyphs of the Nazca Lines in Peru’s southern coastal plain.
The most famous historical site of all, the mist-shrouded icon of the Inca civilization undoubtedly, is Machu Picchu. While inaccessible by road, it is an easy side trip from Cusco.
From Cusco, you can reach it in a single day via a scenic train ride, or for the whole experience, a challenging but rewarding multi-day hike.
A guided tour of Machu Picchu now offered as an optional extra on MotoDreamer’s South American Express Tour.
5. Peruvian culture is both modern and ancient, diverse and endlessly fascinating
Peru’s warm, friendly, multi-ethnic people are themselves one of the country’s natural, cultural treasures. Peruvians, in general, are polite, hospitable, and warmly welcoming towards visitors to their country.
The capital, Lima, is a truly diverse city. With an impressive historic center defined by grand Spanish colonial architecture. Lima showcases a vibrant mix of native Peruvian, European and Asian culture.
Witness it everywhere in the make-up of its people, its music, celebrations, festivals, and food.
Peruvian cuisine is a unique and increasingly sophisticated melange of indigenous, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, and West African influences. Furthermore, Lima has become widely recognized as one of the world’s great food cities.
Outside of the cities, many Peruvians still live remarkably traditional lives.
Many Peruvians connect strongly with their Incan and pre-Incan roots and have held on to age-old customs and ceremonial practices.
Riding through the countryside, you’ll pass through patchwork farms where many people still dress in traditional clothing. They speak the old languages and make handicrafts in the same way their ancestors have for countless generations.
Crossing Borders with Peru from Colombia via a Motorcycle.
Although Colombia shares a 1,494km border with Peru. The dividing line where the two countries meet straddles the Amazon rainforest wild and remote expanse. Because of this, there’s no official overland crossing between Colombia and Peru.
The only way to cross borders directly between Colombia and Peru is to travel by boat from the Colombian port town of Leticia.
This is easy enough if you’re crossing on foot. But with a motorcycle in tow, this option is a serious logistical feat and not something we would recommend.
Most riders first cross from Colombia into Ecuador and then cross into Peru. There are two official crossings from Ecuador. The Macará-Sullana crossing is located in Peru’s northern, western plains.
Whereas the more popular Huaquillas-Tumbes crossing enters northwestern Peru closer to the Pacific Coast.
Rental bikes from Colombia can generally only obtain permits to cross into Ecuador – not Peru. So, you’ll need to own your own bike or be part of a guided tour who can arrange the necessary paperwork for you.
Tips and advice for crossing borders with Peru.
Check out our tips and advice for riding in Ecuador and our original guide to Motorcycle Safety in Colombia. As the advice regarding urban and rural roads in these countries is also applicable to riding in Peru.
- Dealing with Altitude Sickness: Altitude sickness can be quite a severe issue in Peru. Since quite a few popular touring routes can take you to well above 4,000m altitude.
- The infamous Ticloo Pass (4,818m), between Lima and Oroya, and Abra Oquepuño (4,873m) in Peru’s southern Puno region, are among the highest paved roads in the world.
Several villages in Peru are also situated between 3,000m and 5,000m. Please note, this is the elevation range where most people start to feel symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS.)
Without proper acclimatization, exposure to these low-oxygen environments can trigger mild to severe symptoms of AMS. You can expect headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue.
If you feel the symptoms of AMS coming on, get yourself to the nearest town or village and rest up. Don’t go any higher until you’ve fully recovered – this often takes a day or two.
To help with acclimatizing on a road trip, plan overnight stops in towns at around 2,500m altitude for the first few days. Do this before moving up to another stop at around the 3,000m mark. Ideally, you’ll want to acclimatize at altitudes between 2,500m and 3,500m for at least five days before attempting to go any higher.
Altitudes of Peruvian Cities and Attractions
|Arequipa||2,335m / 2,661 ft|
|Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley)||2,792m / 9,160 ft|
|Machu Pichu||2,430 m / 7,972 ft|
|Cusco||3,339m / 11,150 ft|
|Chivay (Colca Valley)||3,658m / 12,000 ft|
|Puno||3,827m / 12,556 ft|
If your route has quite a rapid elevation gain, take frequent rest stops and, most importantly, stay hydrated! Dehydration will compound the effects of mountain sickness and can lead to more severe symptoms.
How high altitudes affect your motorcycle: Modern fuel-injected bikes don’t suffer like older carbureted bikes from lack of oxygen at altitude, causing an overly rich fuel mix.
However, you can still expect the thin air to be a slight drain on performance – a loss of about 10% power for every 1000m gained.
So our concluding question has to be: Are you still keen to get high on a wild mountain adventure when crossing borders with Peru?
Do you need more proof, great check out these new other high-quality with jam-packed information by Fiona & Mike:
Written by: Fiona Davies (extreme pillion rider and adventure travel writer.)
Edited for SEO optimization by Mike Bowley at www.mikedbowley.com