Cycling in Bolivia

Bolivia is quickly gaining popularity as a top spot for cycling. Whilst the old road between La Paz and Coroico, known as the infamous Death Road, is one of the most well known places to cycle in the country, there are plenty of other great cycling spots in the country. The high and windy road clings to the hillside, twisting and turning perilously through the mountains. It combines sheer drops, hair pins bend, and magnificent scenery.

Clouds can often obscrure the dizzying drops, and loose gravel makes it even more dangerous. Despite the obvious dangers, thousands of visitors cycle the Death Road each year, earning themselves bragging rights and a sense of achievement and pride. There are numerous organizers that arrange trips to Death Road to ensure both safety and a great trip.

The lagunas and salars in the south west of Bolivia are another great choice for cycling enthusiasts. Other popular places for cycling in Bolivia include the mighty and vast Atacama Desert, the driest place in the whole entire world, and Salar de Uyuni, the enormous and white salt flat.

The Bolivian Andres can pose challenges and excitement, with areas suitable for riders of all levels. Some areas are not the easiest though, so you should make sure that you are confident of your own cycling ability and that you are properly prepared before setting out on any rides. There are numerous unpaved roads and bumpy surfaces, as well as a lack of adequate sign posting and maps are not always of the best quality.

It is important that all people undertaking any form of physical activity in Bolivia, whether it is hiking, cycling, or another form of active leisure, or any adventure travel in Bolivia are aware of the signs of altitude sickness. With many parts of the country sitting very high above sea level, altitude can be very dangerous. It can affect anyone, although good fitness levels generally make the effects less severe. Nonetheless, it is vital that you take this into account and if you feel ill at any point of your trip you should seek medical assistance and seriously think about moving to a lower area to allow your body time to rest. You should properly acclimatise before beginning any trip.

Many riding routes offer terrific street food, excellent opportunities for drinking with locals in lively bars, great chances to see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, scenic camping spots aplenty, and picturesque panoramic views all around. The easiest routes are those from Titicaca to the capital city of La Paz, to Oruro, to Uyuni, and to Villazon. There is, however, an abundance of scenery on the off road tracks to the west of the country.

In the south west part of the country you can climb high in the Andes amongst vibrant volcanoes that are rich in colour, glorious deserts with wonderful hues and tones, spurting geysers, strange and incredible rock formations, and with a rare sense of quiet and peace. Deserted villages line the roads, with quiet mud huts offering perfect respite from the burning sun.  It is likely that you will not encounter many people on your adventures. You can choose to cycle independently or as part of an organised group.

Tour operators organise exhilarating and exciting downhill mountain biking opportunities a little way outside of La Paz, ideal for those who want to enjoy some cycling in Bolivia, but do not have so much time to travel around the country. You can ride on tracks that no longer have other vehicles and traffic, and have a go at some skreeing. Skreeing is riding on very loose gravelly surfaces. On the ride you will see the spooky El Castillo, the towering pyramid adorned Huayna Potosi Mountain, Mount Chacaltaya Glacier, plunging valleys, and excellent views. Riders are typically grouped together depending on ability levels and there are different tracks to choose from depending on the exact level of challenge you want. The ride combines speed, adrenalin, and technical riding.

In the Sorata region, you can sample some of the world’s best downhill mountain biking tracks. It is more suited for experienced riders. Between Chacaltaya and Zongo you can ride a trail that has one of the biggest altitude drops in a single day. Starting on a high glacier, you will rapidly descend over the course of a day into a lush jungle. The daily descent is over 4,300 metres. It is one of the most exciting bike rides in both Bolivia and in the Andes. Completely off the well trodden track, it takes in an amazing five different eco systems, with mountains, glacial lakes, a variety of flora and fauna, a gorgeous river, stunning waterfalls, and more.