A place that many people look to visit but very few actually make it, that is also part of the magic when reaching Manu. This area is so extensive and takes so much time to navigate it, that only the most adventurers really get to explore it in depth.
Manu is for those who really want to disconnect from the modern world, and for those who get excited hearing not only toucans, and howler monkeys, but also ancient tongues of the people of the Amazon.
A little clarification before continuing:
Simultaneously existing are the Manu National Park (by designation of the Peruvian government) and the Manu Biosphere Reserve (designated by UNESCO); the former was declared in 1973 extending over the entire basin of the river of the same name; while in 1977 UNESCO added nearby provinces, including human colonies, looking to achieve natural preservation with the integration of culture as a whole. Later (2007) the park was extended to totalize 1.716.295,22 hectares to the date, and it is also recognized as World Natural Heritage. If political divisions are concerned, one of the three provinces that form the Madre de Dios department, is also called Manu.
The most common way to access this stronghold of biodiversity and indigenous cultures (Huachipaeri, Harakbut, Matsigenka, and even uncontacted/isolated tribes) is by ground transportation. This is an experience not to miss as you will witness the transformation from the Andes to the Amazon, but not only that, you will also feel the change in humidity and temperature, reasons to be well prepared.
There is also one thing that we have to emphasize here, and that is that visits to Manu should not be shorter than 5 days. That said, here you can read our packing recommendations.
Manu gives that once in a lifetime experience that everybody is looking for. Prepare yourself or leave it all in our hands. We have been traveling to Manu almost since the very beginning of our operations, and we can say that we are good at it, as we have great partners in the native communities you will visit, but also a fine experience with foundations/NGOs that provide the nicests scientific tours for the interested.
What we recommed for you
Your transportation will depart from Cusco SUPER EARLY! so make sure to have a good rest the previous night, because there is a long way ahead but full of stops for sightseeing (this is in part the reason for such a long trip down the jungle).
Andes and cloud forest
First, you will quickly go across the picturesque town of Paucartambo, known for its festivities of La Virgen del Carmen that take place in July, and then by its stone cobbled bridge that comes back from colonial times.
Before and after passing through Paucartambo, but depending on weather and visibility conditions, you will see the ancient mausoleums of Ninamarca, and then the Acjanaco pass, from where you will have a first view of the cloud forest before descending to the rainforest.
The difference in elevation will be about three thousand meters depending on your final stop, so again we recommend you to read our blog to be well prepared for the trip.
Rainforest of the Amazon plains
It is most likely that your first night will be spent with our friends of the Manu Learning Centre, a place dedicated mostly to research and education but also provides great opportunities for tourism accompanied by excellent accomodation and meals. Here you can walk the forest trails guided by the same staff of researchers, and also visit claylicks where parakeets, parrots, macaws and other birds come to get nutrients from the exposed soil of the cliffs next to the river.
For the following days we recommend you to stay at Shintuya and Shipetiari, these are two very close to each other villages of native people, but still different etnies. In Shintuya, of the Harakbut people you will meet Walter, the most talkative and approachable person you will ever meet in Manu. He will guide you to Aguas Calientes (a common name for natural hot springs) where you will enjoy the hot water even if it is hot outside, but this place is magical as you will hardly see the human intervention in the design of the pool (different from most places all over the country), and you will probably be as well the only one dipping and swimming by the time of your visit. Aguas Calientes also offers rustic accomodation in case you want to stay longer and share regular activities at the orchard or go to a nearby small waterfall in the area.
Then, a few Km away at Shipetiari port, you will most likely be picked up by the boat of Gregorio, he has the nicest smile of the Matsigenka. Few minutes later you will be disembarking on the opposite bank of the river to stay at the Pankotsi lodge (home in Matsigenka language, how appropriate right?), a communal effort to generate extra incomes to the village. In Pankotsi you will enjoy solitude, but a few Km away is where the Matsigenka live. There you will spend time on the preparation of masato, arrow making, watching weaving demonstrations (and textile shopping if you wish), etc.
By this moment, you will probably have seen millennial green giants and small to large animals, but for the last ones are the visits to oxbow lakes and the night walks.
Manu is a big array of opportunities, so if you want to go deeper inside, Casa Matsigenka is the ultimate option. Getting there will require considerable boat time over the river, but the reward is fabulous. Stay alert for any wildlife spotting, or just relax and enjoy the vast extension of untouched nature.
For a different way of doing a trip to Manu, please read this 6D/5N itinerary as an alternative, or simply get in contact with our tour designers for a tailored excursion.
How Manu connects to other destinations
Being so isolated and remote, Manu is not much connected with other destinations than Cusco by car.
Consider the easy way
If you prefer real experts to plan your itinerary for you, consider taking a look at our custom itineraries section. We have more than a decade experience in tailor-making unique travel experiences throughout our beautiful country. We’ll take all the work out of your hands and leave you only to look forward to your dream trip.