So you’ve finally arrived in Lima and encounter an enormous, chaotic, traffic-infested city. You love the food and nightlife but wonder how to satisfy your sporty, nature-loving side without leaving town.

If you enjoy mountain biking, you will be pleased to learn that the mostly flat desert metropolis has fantastic spots to practice the sport. First and foremost is the Morro Solar, a promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Chorrillos District. The historic Morro, the site of the Battle of San Juan and Chorrillos between Peruvian and Chilean forces in 1881, offers panoramic ocean views and rocky, cloud-shrouded hills whose sandy monotony is occasionally colored by tenacious plants.

Decades ago, mountain bike enthusiasts forged trails amid the dusty climbs and descents of the Morro. Unfortunately, muggings and other crimes were common, and most amateur cyclists brave enough to ride there only did so in large groups to discourage thieves. After an especially bad crime spate a few years back, several recreational Morro users decided to form Todos Por el Morro. The collective brings together residents, athletes and representatives of the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Chorrillos, who have joined forces to recover and improve the Morro. In addition to promoting sports and other healthy living activities among the local community, clearing trash, planting trees and building safe public spaces, the organization provides several strategically placed security guards on the Morro (Tuesday-Sunday from 6-10 am) to keep recreational users safe. Todos Por el Morro – funded mainly by membership dues of cyclists, runners and surfers– and other organizations also build and maintain mountain bike trails and offer aid in the event of technical difficulties or accidents.

Today, early-morning visitors to the Morro will cross paths with dozens of mountain bikers (and runners) of all ages, shapes and skill levels. Traditionally viewed as a macho sport, mountain biking in Peru and around the world increasingly attracts women, and they are out in force on the Morro.

Single tracks, berms, rock gardens, switchbacks, drops – all can be had on the Morro and the Herradura (the part of the Morro that meets the sea). Experienced cyclists can get their daily thrill barreling down one of several technical downhill sections. The less adventurous can enjoy the wider trails or the paved roads (although look out for reckless drivers – the Herradura is a popular drinking spot).

Obviously, you will need a decent mountain bike, preferably with front or dual suspension, and of course a proper-fitting helmet. Never cycle anywhere in Lima without a helmet!

Although Google Maps claims there is no bike route to the Morro, it is relatively easy to reach from Barranco, Miraflores or San Isidro, although not recommended for cyclists unfamiliar with dodging Lima traffic. To get there, cycle south on the malecón bike lane until it ends in the Puente de los Suspiros park in Barranco. Cross the bridge to Barranco and then take the feeder road of Pedro de Osma Avenue south until it merges with Malecón Grau.  Continue south until you see a fork in the road: climb the road to the left to reach the main part of the Morro or continue straight to the Herradura. Alternatively, you can pack your bike in the car and drive to the end of the Malecón Grau (just above Club Regatas), where informal park attendants will charge you only a few soles to watch your car while you spend a couple of glorious hours thinking about nothing but how to ride over that rock garden!

  • By Kristen Keenan

You may also be interested in reading these related posts about bike riding on Sundays on Arequipa Avenue and Bike Tours in Peru