On this natural and cultural program in Manu National Park you will be introduced to a unique world, where local people live as they have always done, in perfect harmony with the natural world that is their home.
Manu Biosphere Reserve is one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth, and yet it offers much more than natural attractions. This tropical forest ecosystem is also home to Amazonian indigenous groups who live in voluntary isolation. These people belong to the Matsiguenka ethnic group, and in Manu they have developed unique linguistic and cultural characteristics, which differentiate them from the other indigenous communities located along the Urubamba River. The Matsiguenka possess great ancestral knowledge regarding the medicinal uses of wild plants. Their name for themselves, Matsiguenka, can be translated as “I am a human being”.
We will make an early start from the city of Cusco, traveling overland through an Andean landscape of picturesque valleys, high Andean grasslands and small rural communities. The bird species in this part of the Andes include the mountain caracara, Puna ibis and Andean flicker. On the approach to the village of Paucartambo, we will pass the pre-Inca burial towers built by the ancient Lupaca culture. In Paucartambo there will be time to appreciate the tranquil beauty of this charming village, visit the local church and photograph the splendid colonial-era Carlos V Bridge. Leaving this community behind, we will continue our journey as far as the high pass at Acjanaco (3,850 meters / 12,630 feet), where from the entrance to Manu National Park there are fine views of the scenery below. From the pass the road descends through Andean grasslands rich in a variety of birdlife, and on to the cloud forest, which we will reach in the afternoon. This fascinating ecosystem is home to Peru’s national bird, the cock-of-the-rock, as well as crested and golden quetzals, blue-crowned motmots, gray-breasted mountain toucans, several species of butterflies and many kinds of ferns and colorful orchids. You will spend a comfortable first night in the cloud forest at our Paradise Lodge (1,470 meters / 4,821 feet).
Driving distance: 181 km / 113 miles (6 to 8 hours)
Included: Lunch & evening meal
After a good night’s rest, we will walk into the cloud forest around the lodge to observe how the male cock-of-the-rock forms large groups to perform an elaborate courtship ritual designed to attract females. We will then return to the lodge for an excellent breakfast, before setting off for Pillcopata. During this drive we will pass plantations of manioc, papaya, pineapple and coca leaves, and we will be on the lookout all the time for local fauna, such as howler monkeys and brown capuchin monkeys, as well as birds such as spix guans, plumbeous kites and black vultures. We will spend the night at a typical lodge in Pillcopata.
(Optional additional day for river rafting)
Driving distance: 71.6 km / 44.8 miles (5 hours)
Included: Breakfast, lunch & evening meal
One of the great attractions of this program is the opportunity to experience the way of life of the Matsiguenka indigenous community of Santa Rosa de Huacaria. After a typical breakfast we will set off on a 2-hour hike into the area cultivated by this ethnic group, where they grow pineapples and other crops. This will also provide us with the chance to spot parrots and red and green macaws. There will be time for a refreshing swim in the Huacaria River, before we visit the community’s botanical garden, where the local guide will explain how medicinal plants are used. We will then return to the lodge for breakfast, after which the day will continue with a hike in the forest, in the company of your naturalist guide. Back at the lodge, you will be served a typical lunch, after which it will be time to return to Pillcopata, where our vehicle will be waiting to take you back to the Paradise Lodge.
Included: Breakfast, lunch & evening meal
This will be your last day in the forest, and it will begin with another chance to observe the fascinating mating behavior of the cock-of-the-rock. After breakfast we will board our private bus for the return trip to Cusco. Beyond the village of Paucartambo, we will continue on the road that follows the Qenqomayo River as far as Colquepata, before ascending to the high pass at Apacheta (4,100 meters / 13,448 feet). From the pass the road drops into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. There will be plenty of time to make stops along the way to enjoy the scenery and appreciate the traditional way of life of the typical Andean villages dotted along the route. This route also offers an excellent view of the spectacular Inca archaeological ruins of Pisac. You can choose to spend the night at a hotel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, or return to the city of Cusco.
Driving distance: 192 km / 120 miles (6 hours)
Included: Breakfast & lunch
During this exhilarating downhill ride along the dirt road to Pillcopata you will pass through the heart of the cloud forest. Because cycling does not disturb wildlife in the way that traveling by car does, this is a unique opportunity to enjoy the biological diversity and fine scenery of these mountain forests.
Biking distance: 30 km / 18 miles
This trip includes Class II and III rapids, on a river surrounded by dense forest vegetation. The river trip begins with a relaxed boat ride along the Kosñipata River. Expert river guides will then take you further down the Kosñipata over white water. After about an hour’s rafting we will arrive at Pillcopata in time for a delicious lunch, after which we will continue our rafting trip on the Upper Madre de Dios River, as far as the confluence with the Tono and Piñi Piñi Rivers. Here you will have the opportunity to raft and swim through the Coñac Cañon, before returning to the Paradise Lodge in the afternoon.
Duration: 3 to 4 hours