Few travelers know that within a couple of hours from the historic capital of Peru you can enter this paradise of natural diversity. The jungle is a magical place and visiting it is an experience that you must live at least once in your life. Whether you want to meet her by hiring a tour or on your own, here we tell you the two most practical ways to get to the jungle from Cusco.
The Manu National Park is the best protected nature reserve in all of Peru. If what you want is to enter the virgin jungle and admire an infinite world of sounds and strange animals, then you have to visit it.
The Park has two areas, the cultural zone and the reserved zone. To get to the first one you can do it on your own or by hiring a tour to the Manu National Park in Cusco, but if you want to know the reserved area, you have to do it only with authorized tourism agencies to enter this place. Although in both you can experience the flora and fauna of the jungle, the reserved area remains intact from human impact, gathering greater biodiversity than the cultural zone, where there are villages and small native settlements. With Denomades you can also access the reserved area by hiring a tour to the Manu National Park in Cusco.
How to arrive on your own: To arrive on your own you must go to the control of San Jerónimo, from here combis leaves at 11 in the morning or at 5 in the afternoon towards Pilcopata, within the cultural zone of Manu. The trip takes about 7 hours. You can also take the combi directly to Salvation, which is one hour more inside from Pilcopata. The first journey has a cost of 30 soles per person, and up to Salvation of 40 soles per person. One option of accommodation in Pilcopata is the Lodge Gallito de las Rocas, with a cost of 15USD per night.
WHAT TO DO IN THE MANU NATIONAL PARK
If you have enough money, the best option to get to Manu is to hire a tour from Cusco. Apart from having several-day itineraries that include accommodation, meals and activities such as zipline, canopy, hiking and boating, these stop at specific places on the route where urban transport does not. In one of these stops you can observe the peculiar courtship dance of the Gallito de las Rocas, where the male who dances best in the eyes of the female, and the one who returns every day to the dance session avoiding being devoured by predators, will be chosen to transfer their genes to the new generations of rock cocks.
If you go to Manu on your own, from Pilcopata you have the option of walking to the Santa Rosa de Huacaria community. The walk lasts approximately two hours and in Santa Rosa you can have lunch and then bathe in a river surrounded by vegetation. 100% recommended is to take a transport to Atalaya, located in front of the Madre de Dios River and from where you can hire boat rides and hikes through the jungle. You can get to Atalaya from Pilcopata in a shared taxi (10 soles per person) or in a private motorcycle taxi (60 soles).
From Pilcopata you can also take a private or shared taxi, and for similar prices, to Salvación. Salvación is a charming town in the cultural zone of Manu, where you can find rich Amazonian food, such as the famous chicken soup, in local restaurants. In Salvación there is also the Machuwasi Cocha, a small lake surrounded by swampy vegetation and a natural refuge for more than a thousand species of birds. You can cross the lake in wooden rafts and then walk a couple of hours along the surrounding paths.
Perhaps the most popular route to know the jungle from Cusco, in the province of Tambopata is Puerto Maldonado, the largest city in the southern area of the Peruvian Amazon. The city has more tourist infrastructure: accommodation from hostels to Airbnbs, and on-site tour operators that take excursions into the jungle. To get to Puerto Maldonado you can do it by plane or by land. Unlike the Manu tours, which leave by vehicle from Cusco, the tours in Tambopata begin in Puerto Maldonado and the agencies go to look for the traveler to the airport or the bus station.
How to get to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco: You can buy a bus ticket in places like Redbus, where you find seats from 35 soles, and armchair seats for 50 soles. The journey can last between 8 and 10 hours. If you want to save the long hours by bus, the plane ticket Cusco – Puerto Maldonado is between 330 soles and 500 soles.
WHAT TO DO IN THE TAMBOPATA NATIONAL RESERVE
Puerto Maldonado, being a city of significant size, does not have a diversity of wildlife of the same quality as Manu. Animals need their space, away from the hustle and bustle of large human settlements. The good news is that most of the tours have hostels a couple of kilometers away from the city, completely inserted in the Tambopata National Reserve, where nature is once again the mistress and owner of the jungle lands.
Agencies generally offer 1, 2, 3 and 4 day programs, taking day and night walks, boating, canopy and zipline; all in between the intense vegetation and the sounds of insects and animals around you.
A must in the Tambopata National Reserve is Lake Sandoval, listed as one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire Peruvian Amazon. From Puerto Maldonado you take a boat for 30 minutes from the shore of the Madre de Dios River to the Interpretation Center of Lake Sandoval, here you sign up and then walk for about 45 minutes until you reach the majestic body of Amazonian water. Here you can navigate again, observing alligators, monkeys, capybaras and more than 1000 species of birds hidden among the branches. Eye that to enter the Sandoval Lake you need to be accompanied by specialized guides.