Private Journeys

Peru Birdlife: Machu Picchu to Pristine Amazon

12 days from £2,310pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

Peru / The Amazon


map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Cusco, transfer to the Sacred Valley

Begin your Peruvian birdlife holiday in Cusco, where you will be met and driven into the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created.

Stay in the one of the loveliest properties in the valley at Ollantaytambo, a small town lost in time between the Incas of its foundations and the colonial Spanish invaders, with little cobbled streets and adobe houses dwarfed by the massive bulk of its imperial Inca fortress.

The snow-capped Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop to this breathtaking landscape.

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Stay at - Hotel Pakaritampu

Day 2

Explore Ollantaytambo and the shores of the Urubamba River

Today is free to acclimatise and recover from your journey.

At 2,800m above sea level, Ollantaytambo is at a lower altitude than Cusco, so an ideal place to acclimatise.

Explore the delightful cobbled streets of this little town and perhaps visit the impressive ruins upon which the settlement is founded.  Later in the day, perhaps take a stroll along the roaring Urubamba river, looking out for torrent ducks and the white-capped dipper.

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Stay at - Hotel Pakaritampu

Day 3

Expedition train to Machu Picchu, guided tour of the ruins, overnight in Aguas Calientes

Travel for 90mins by train from Ollantaytambo to reach the ruins of Machu Picchu.

The railway route through the Sacred Valley and Urubamba gorge passes through some of Peru’s most exquisite and dramatic scenery. From the fertile valley floor studded with fields bulging with cereals, fruit and vegetables, rimmed by rugged mountains, the track enters an ever-narrowing gorge: the river froths over water-smoothed boulders and vertical cliffs, increasingly draped in tropical vegetation, tower skywards.

You’ll have a guided tour of the ruined city, reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. It soon became clear to excavators that the conquistadores had never found the city.

Look out for the Inca wren as you explore this spectacular setting.

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Stay at - Casa Andina Standard Machu Picchu

Day 4

Cloud forest walk (optional); train to Cusco

An early start this morning to enjoy the best time of day for bird watching in the cloud-forest.  You may spot the torrent duck and white-capped dipper, as well as silver-beaked, blue-necked, fawn-breasted and saffron-crowned tanagers.  The trails you can follow on this optional excursion are part of an orchid trail, where some 372 different native orchid species have been logged by the American Orchid Society, and are home to cock-of-the-rock, the golden-headed quetzal and 18 different species of hummingbird, including green-and-white and booted-racket-tail, which are native to the area.

After lunch, travel by train to the enchanting city of Cusco.

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Stay at - Hotel Rumi Punku

Day 5

Explore Cusco with guided visits to markets and highlights

Once capital of the Inca Empire, its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants and bars.

Today you’ll have a briefing from your guide about CREES and its work in Manú in the remote Peruvian Amazon. You’ll pop into a few of the city’s fresh food markets to buy provisions and there’s an opportunity to visit some of the magnificent churches, museums and the shop-lined alleys.

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Stay at - Hotel Rumi Punku

Day 6

Travel to Manú Biosphere Reserve in Amazonia

Begin your adventure to the Peruvian Amazon. This Biosphere Reserve is the biggest protected area of rainforest in Peru and one of the best places on the continent for seeing tropical flora and fauna.

This adventure takes you into wilderness rainforest, where wildlife spotting is its most rewarding, and to observe community projects and even assist in the scientific research undertaken there.

You’ll be driven from Cusco, climbing over Huancarani pass (3,700m), descending rapidly from the uplands, winding through a tortured rocky landscape and passing through the little traditional town of Paucartambo, the centre of ancient trading routes of the Incas, and on over another pass  at 3,500m. The views en route of rippling waves of hazy mountain ranges are superb. Eventually you enter misty, succulent cloud forest before reaching the entrance to the Manú National Park and your simple lodge, the Cock of the Rock.


Stay at - Cock of the Rock Lodge

Day 7

Visit coq-of-the-rock habitat; continue deeper into the forest.

Rise before dawn and head out into the cloud forest to see one the vivid national bird of Peru, the coq-of-the-rock, and maybe watch entranced as the brilliantly fiery-orange creature performs its intricate dance in competition with other males.

Begin the journey by road further down into the cloud forest filled with the sights and sounds of the rainforest: monkeys and some of the richest varieties of birds on earth, in addition to the comical spectacled bear. Along the way, visit a coca plantation to learn about the uses of the leaves and their medicinal properties.

Later you embark on the spectacular, breathtaking, descent to Atalaya. Here you board a motorised canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios for an hour’s ride to the Manú Learning Centre where you wil be accommodated for four nights. These are the upper reaches of one of the most southerly feeders of the Amazon, flanked by low forested bluffs – your first impression of what will become, hundreds of kilometres downstream, the meanderings of the greatest river on earth.

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Stay at - Manu Learning Centre

Days 8 & 9

Visit parrot clay lick; research projects

On the next two days you will be rising early at about 5.00am to take part in the conservation and research projects. First, join scientists and researchers on an early morning boat trip to the clay lick (collpa), to view the activity of macaws, parrots, and parakeets. As dawn breaks, be dazzled by the vivid plumage of the birds as they flock together on the walls of the clay lick. A commonplace, everyday activity for the birds; a spellbinding display for the observer. The blue headed macaw is observed and studied here, as it is an endangered species.

Examples of the projects you can get involved in are mammal tracking such as the jaguar, puma, tapir and peccary. Help set camera and footprint traps. Head out on early morning hikes using various surveying techniques for recording data as well as at night doing sound surveys. There is a butterfly project setting fruit-bated traps in various areas of the rainforest and monitoring these. Other projects include the Biomass Forest Structure project which investigates the science behind carbon sequestration.

While taking part in these projects you will be experiencing differing terrain and multiple forest types, coming across squirrel monkeys, hummingbirds and razor-billed curassows. With over 13 different species of monkeys (according to the last report on the area around the Manu Biosphere Reserve) and a large mammal presence, you will be able to observe a lot of wildlife. With over 24 km of trails this is a large exploration area. After a full day working on the projects, return and freshen up for a homemade meal. Following dinner you can talk to the scientists, researchers and other volunteers, perhaps enjoying a presentation of their latest findings, or just relax and take in the sounds of the rainforest.


Stay at - Manu Learning Centre

Day 10

Community projects at the Manú Learning Centre

After an early breakfast you will be taking part in some of the community based projects. The Bio Garden project serves as a model of small scale subsistence farming and reforestation. You will be shown the different crops and be involved in planting them. You will assist the locals in implementing new and sustainable agricultural techniques, such as planting vegetables which are set alongside young trees in the same bed. The crops protect the trees in their most vulnerable stages; by the time the garden has been harvested for several seasons the trees have become established.

Another community project is the Agro-Forestry project, a reforestation plan which will provide you with the opportunity to plant away your own carbon emissions from your trip to Peru on locally deforested areas. Over the next 15 years projects like this one will generate over $US800,000 for the local community. After a full day working on the projects, overnight at the lodge, taking in the wonderful setting, having dinner and sharing experiences with others.


Stay at - Manu Learning Centre

Day 11

Return to Cusco

After breakfast, prepare for departure and take the boat back to Atalaya port-town, where you board transport back to Cusco. The landscape changes dramatically as you climb up into the cloud forest towards the Andes and then descend to the city and your hotel.


Stay at - Hotel Rumi Punku

Day 12

Depart Cusco for international flight; or extend your holiday

Transfer to Cusco airport for your international flight.  Alternatively, extend your holiday elsewhere in Peru, or further afield to Ecuador, Colombia or perhaps to discover the wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration
Bartolome, Galápagos

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