Extreme Sacred Valley: Outdoor Adventure Sports

Peru is a star on South America’s burgeoning adventure and extreme sports circuit, a far cry from when just traveling to Peru was adventure enough. These days, many gringos in Peru have Gore-Tex boots on their feet and adrenaline rushes on their minds.

The Cusco–Sacred Valley region is one of the best in Peru—and all of South America—for white-water rafting, mountain biking, trekking, and horseback riding. Many tour operators in Cusco organize adventure trips, some lasting a single day and some lasting multiple days, with a focus on one or more extreme sports. Participants range from novices to hard-core veteran adventure junkies; no experience is required for many trips, but make sure you sign up for a program appropriate for your level of interest and ability. I suggest that you thoroughly check out potential agencies and speak directly to the guides, if possible. Booking a tour in Cusco rather than your home country may lead to a large discount. Trips booked in advance may be changed if there are not enough participants, or farmed out to another subcontracting agency.

Bungee Jumping & Zipline -- Action Valley Cusco Adventure Park, Calle Santa Teresa 325 (Plazoleta Regocijo), Cusco (www.actionvalley.com; tel. 084/240-835), is an adventure park 11km (7 miles) from Cusco, with not just bungee jumping but paintball and other suspended-line activities, such as “swing” and “slingshot.” Cola de Mono Canopy (www.canopyperu.com; tel. 084/509-742) claims to operate one of the highest ziplines in South America; zip among the lush treetops of Santa Teresa, 15km (9 miles) from Machu Picchu, at speeds of up to 48 kmph (30 mph).

Horseback Riding -- Perol Chico, Carretera Urubamba-Ollantaytambo Km 77, Urubamba (www.perolchico.com; tel. 01/950-314-065 or 01/950-314-066) is a ranch in the Sacred Valley and one of the top horseback-riding agencies in Peru. It offers full riding vacations, with Peruvian Paso horses and stays at the ranch (in rustic cottages), as well as from 1-day to up to 11-day rides.

Mountain Biking -- Mountain biking is catching on in Peru, and tour operators are rapidly expanding their services and equipment. Cusco’s nearby ruins and the towns, villages, and gorgeous scenery of the Sacred Valley (and the Manu jungle, for more adventurous excursions) are the best areas. Peru Discovery (www.perudiscovery.com; tel. 054/274-541) and Gravity Peru (www.gravityperu.com; tel. 084/228-032) are two of the top specialists, with a half-dozen bike trips that include hard-core excursions. Amazonas Explorer, Apumayo Expediciones, Eric Adventures (for contact information, see “White-Water Rafting,”), and Manu Adventures (www.manuadventures.com; tel. 084/261-640 or 213/283-6987 in the U.S. or Canada), offer 1- to 5-day organized mountain-biking excursions ranging from easy to rigorous.

Paragliding -- Now that you can no longer hop a helicopter to Machu Picchu, there are other less intrusive ways to get aerial views of the Sacred Valley. Parapente Cusco (www.parapentecusco.com; tel. 084/670-144) runs tandem trips from Mauq’a Taray near Pisac, including transfer from your hotel in Cusco.

Trekking -- In addition to the groups listed in “Inca Trail Agencies” and “The Road Less (or More Comfortably) Traveled: Alternatives to the Inca Trail” (p. ###), which organize Inca Trail and other regional treks, these companies handle a variety of trekking excursions: Andina Travel (www.andinatravel.com; tel. 084/251-892); Aventours (www.aventours.com; tel. 084/224-050); Enigma (www.enigmaperu.com; tel. 084/222-155); Manu Expeditions (www.manuexpeditions.com; tel. 084/225-990); Mountain Lodges of Peru (www.mountainlodgesofperu.com; tel. 084/262-640); Andean Treks ★★ (www.andeantreks.com; tel. 800/683-8148 or 617/924-1974); and SAS Travel Peru ★★ (www.sastravelperu.com; tel. 974/218-769). Peru Discovery (see “Mountain Biking,” above) also organizes excellent trekking expeditions.

White-Water Rafting -- There are some terrific Andean river runs near Cusco, ranging from mild Class II to moderate and world-Class IV and V, including 1-day Urubamba River trips (Huambutío–Pisac and Ollantaytambo–Chillca), multi-day trips to the more difficult Apurímac River, and, for hard-core rafters, the Tambopata (10 days or more) in the Amazon jungle. Recommended agencies include Amazonas Explorer ★★ (www.amazonas-explorer.com; tel. 084/252-846); Apumayo Expediciones (www.apumayo.com; tel. 084/246-018); Eric Adventures (www.ericadventures.com; tel. 084/272-862); and Mayuc (www.mayuc.com; tel. 084/242-824).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.