With such a varied terrain encompassing volcanoes, lakes and rainforest, South America has some fantastic mountain biking trails. The best opportunities are found in the Andes - there’s fine biking in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Patagonia. Here’s a few ideas for mountain biking tours in South America.With some of most dramatic terrain and a generally dry climate, Bolivia is possibly the top mountain biking destination in South America, though the sport is still quite new there. Near La Paz there are some great rides suitable for all standards, such as La Cumbre to Yoloso near Coroico - down the “most dangerous road in the world” that connects the highlands with the jungle, it’s safest to do this route by bike as road accidents are so common.
Bolivia’s most dangerous road for vehicles - safer on a bike.
Other fine routes in Bolivia include the descent of the Zonga Valley to Yungas, Hasta Sorata to the beautiful scenery of Sorata and the Chacaltaya to La Paz route (a descent from the world’s highest ski slope). Mountain biking in Bolivia is pretty challenging - the high altitude means you’ll need a good few days to acclimatize, and there’s little appropriate infrastructure and few mechanics around. Many local tour operators use extremely poor bikes, so if you’re a serious mountain biker, try to bring your own.
The Lake District (Patagonia) of Argentina and Chile also has some great trails. The Carretera Austral is possibly Chile’s top ride, and in Argentina the region of Bariloche has equally stunning trails. Avid mountain bikers might consider some of the trails over the Andes from Argentina to Chile (or vice versa) - many tour operators can organise such trips that involve camping and last about a week.
Ecuador’s highlands have amply mountain biking opportunities and the sport is rapidly growing in popularity. Quito is an ideal base for exploring Ecuador by bike, and the immense biodiversity nearby means there’s options for biking amongst volcanoes, paramo highlands, cloud forest and jungle. The descent of the slopes of Cotopaxi Volcano, or the route from Banos down into the Amazon rainforest are two of the best rides in Ecuador.
Mountain biking is starting to grow in popularity in neighbouring Peru. Again the highland scenery is spectacular, particularly around Cuzco and Huaraz, where local tour operators can hire bikes and arrange organised tours. There are some fine routes in Peru’s Sacred Valley near Cuzco, where you’ll find yourself passing through indigenous villages and ancient Inca ruins.
For more information, advice and resources on mountain biking tours in South America check out ibike.org, who offer tours to Cuba, Ecuador and Guyana.