Northern Cordillera Blanca Bikepacking Loop, Peru
234 Mi.(377 KM)
The Andes by Bike
This route zigzags up to a pass surrounded by peaks and glaciers, then winds through traditional villages where time stands still, before crossing a second 4000m pass and plummeting down 3000m into the depths of the Rio Santa Valley. Complete the loop by climbing back up through the bottomless Cañón del Pato’s numerous tunnels to your start point in Yungay.
There is a huge variety of scenery: gnarled trunks of the polylepis forest and steep cultivated patchwork hillsides, roaring ice falls and glistening turquoise lakes, arid canyons and vertical granite cliffs. Local people are friendly, and by swotting up on your Spanish (or Quechua) beforehand there’ll be plenty of opportunities to interact.
- Scenic highlights such as the lakes, peaks and glaciers on show near Portachuelo de Llanganuco.
- The huge freewheel down into the Rio Santa Valley.
- The unlikely road cut through the sheer Cañón del Pato.
- Lots of climbing on decent unpaved surfaces.
- The circuit will take acclimatized riders about a week – it begins and ends in Yungay, near Huaraz, which is an 8 hour bus ride north of Lima. The road over Portachuelo de Llanganuco passes through Parque Nacional Huascaran – you can buy a ticket as you enter. Bring good lights, as the tunnels in Cañón del Pato are unlit and on a section of road with some traffic.
- May to September, the dry season in the Peruvian mountains, is the best time to do the ride.
- Most nights it’s possible to stay in basic village accommodation.
- But unless you’re superhuman you’ll need to camp at least once.
- This isn’t really a hardship, unless you have an aversion to idyllic campsites in valleys towered over by giant peaks.