In this article you will find out how to get to Manu on the shortest and less expensive way. It also allows you to learn more about this stunning natural protected area and provides other important travel tips in order to undertake this spectacular trip.
From Cusco leads a spectacular way through mountains and jungle to the Manu National Park. It is recommended to start the route early in the morning so you can see the stunning scenery along this journey that first starts on a paved road then turns into a gravel road and eventually ends traveling on a river. Although it is more comfortable to make the trip by private transportation, there are several options to go by public transportation, which take about 5 hours or more to bring you to one of the most diverse natural protected areas in the world.
The route starts in Cusco and goes towards Paucartambo, in the valley of the river Mapacho. Here you arrive after a 2 hours trip driving south and then taking a detour which leads zigzagways up a mountain until the road finally turns into a gravel road. From up here you can see on the left side of the road the snowcapped mountain Pitusiray of the Sacred Valley and on the right side the Ausangate, the sacred mountain of Cusco. On the whole way there is no phone signal or shop till you arrive in Paucartambo, where you can also find a bank (Banco de la Nación). Therefore, this charming village with its nice houses and a colonial bridge is perfect for stocking up on food and making last important calls before continuing the journey along a desolate road. This is the last valley before our way leads us up the last mountain of the Cordillera Oriental from where we will descend to the Amazon.
After 1 hour ascending we arrive to the entrance of the National Park Manu at the Acjanaco pass (3560 m.a.s.l.), where we have a spectacular view over the cloud forest Kosñipata, which in Quechua means “place where there is smoke.” The name becomes clear when you see the cloud layer covering the lowland and mingling with the mountains that seem to disappear in the clouds. Very close to Acjanaco is the Biological Station Wayqecha of the NGO ACCA (Association for Conservation of the Amazon Basin), which is a shelter for researchers but is also equipped to accommodate tourists. From here you can enjoy the amazing view over the cloud forest and see a variety of birds and amazing orchids.
Leaving Wayqecha, the magical descent to Manu starts and the jungle is getting thicker and the trees taller. Here begins the habitat of the national bird called the cock of the rock. To reach Pillcopata, the capital of Kosñipata and largest town of Manu, we need to travel 2-3 hours more on the rough road. From this village, that has some restaurants and accommodation, depart several interesting routes. One of them goes to the Biological Station Villa Carmen, also from the ACCA but this one is located at a much lower height between the cloud forest and the rainforest. Another route leads us to the Queros and Huacaria communities of the Huachipaeri etnicity, there you can visit the community members, and share their customs and great wisdom about the jungle surrounding them.
After Pillcopata, the rough road ends and the river Alto Madre de Dios begins at the port of Atalaya. From here we explore the Manu by river through the buffer zone, also called the Biosphere Reserve. If you are interested in sustainable tourism, 3 hours away from Atalaya is the Matsiguenka community of Shipetiari, with its cute and comfortable Pankotsi lodge. Eight hours upstream, following now the river Manu, is the Casa Matsiguenka, a lodge that is managed by the communities of Matsiguenkas of Tayacome and Yomibato. It is the only hostel that is located within the National Park Manu.
If you plan to visit Manu and you wish to travel RESPONSibly, causing the least possible impact on the environment and, on the contrary, contribute to the sustainable development of the communities and the protection of the environment, contact us. Alternatively you can also email us at english @ responsibletravelperu.com or fill out our brief questionnaire.
Exploring the diverse jungle of Manu through the culture of the communities of Huachipaeri and Matsiguenka is a wonderful experience that should be lived at least once in a lifetime.
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By Tito Cornejo