- Full Itinerary
- Photo Gallery
- Travel Details
- Trip Reports
- Know Before You Go
Stretching across thousands of square miles on the eastern flank of the Peruvian Andes, Manu National Park and the biosphere reserve that surrounds it encompasses a continuous tract of pristine wilderness that preserves the entire spectrum of Andean slope ecosystems—from high Andean puna grasslands to lowland Amazonian rainforest. Stretching across so many altitudes and habitats, this reserve lays claim to the most diverse fauna and flora of any park in the word: 1000+ bird species, 160 mammal species, and 4,385 plant species have been recorded in its boundaries with more still being discovered. Due to its unmatched biodiversity and pristine natural habitats, it became UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. By following the very birdy Manu-Kosnipata Road and staying at lodges at different altitudes, this tour offers a rich transect of all the habitats present in the Manu Biosphere Reserve.
Our tour begins in Lima, where nutrient-rich upwellings from the cold Humboldt Current offer nourishment for teeming seabird colonies that include boobies, cormorants, and penguins. After a short flight to Cusco, we travel across natural high mountain grasslands and fields farmed for centuries in search of endemics like Bearded Mountaineer and Creamy-crested Spinetail. Once we reach the rest of the Acjanaco Pass, above the treeline, the landscape tumbles downward into progressively taller and wetter forest. Our first stop is Wayqechua Biological Station, where we explore misty elfin forests buzzing with high elevation tanagers and hummingbirds. Then we continue to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where lush cloud forests harbor exuberant leks of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, mixed flocks of technicolor tanagers like Paradise, Saffron-crowned, and Beryl-spangled, and brilliant songsters such as Andean Solitaire and Chestnut-breasted Wren. A bit further down still at Villa Carmen Biological Station, we explore spiney Guadua bamboo and foothill rainforest for the shimmery Bluish-fronted Jacamar, adorable Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, and skulking Manu Antbird.
Finally, we reach the awe-inspiring Amazonia Rainforest: a habitat layered with diversity, complexity, and sheer beauty. Here, we spend four full days soaking up the spectacle of parrot clay licks attended by hundreds of parrots, visiting quiet oxbow lakes inhabited by prehistoric Hoatzin and elegant Agami Heron, watching for brightly-colored toucans and cotingas from canopy platforms, and seeking out large mammals like Giant Otter and South American Tapir. All in all, this tour covers one of the greatest birding roads in the world.
- “I did the Machu Picchu extension of five days. It was packed with great birds, wonderful hotels and food and unforgettable tours of Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero. We experienced Inca ruins and history, and local culture. A very rich experience!” —Linda Fuller, 2023 Traveler
- “Great trip for birding…we saw more than 500 species!” — 2023 Traveler
- NEW! For 2023, we’ve added another night to pace the trip better
- Visit the full spectrum of Andean slope habitats, including puna grasslands, elfin forests, cloud forests and lowland rainforest, each with their own special collection of birds, animals, and plants
- Marvel at the timeless lek display of Andean Cock-of-the-rock, a spectacle of sounds and color
- Enjoy over fifty species of hummingbird on this route with such evocative names as Bearded Mountaineer, Shining Sunbeam, Wire-crested Thorntail, Booted Racket-tail, and Violet-throated Starfrontlet
- Witness the lively congregation of hundreds of parrots, parakeets, and macaws at a clay lick, where these noisy birds feed on the mineral-rich soil
- Seek endemic birds found only in Peru such as Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Red-and-white Antpitta, and Seaside Cinclodes
- Be in spired by the biological richness of the Manu-Kosnipata Road, a classic birding route that traverses one of the most biodiverse regions in the world.
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Day 1: Arrivals in Lima
Welcome to Peru! Arrive today in Lima and transfer to your nearby hotel for the night. If your flight arrives at dawn, let us know if you want to book an additional night so you can get right into your room. Rest up for a grand adventure! Those arriving in time can enjoy a casual dinner together at the hotel.
Accommodations in Costa del Sol, Airport at Lima
Day 2: Pucusana & Pantanos de Villa Marshes
Today we drive south of Lima towards Pucusana, a picturesque fishing village located on the shores of a calm bay teeming with seabirds. Enjoy a boat trip around Pucusana Bay to observe the various marine bird species associated with the cold Humboldt Current—nesting Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, loafing Peruvian Booby and Inca Tern, and maybe even a Humboldt Penguin (not to mention the endemic Seaside Cinclodes). After a Peruvian seafood lunch at our favorite restaurant, we make a stop at the Pantanos de Villa Marshes on the outskirts of Lima. This wetland refuge is a coastal oasis surrounded by desert, harboring elegant Great Grebe, bizarre Peruvian Thick-knee, colorful Many-colored Rush Tyrant, and many others. We return to Lima in time for dinner at our hotel.
Accommodations in Costa del Sol, Airport at Lima
Day 3: Flight to Cusco | Lake Huarcarpay Birding
Today begins with an early morning flight to Cusco where we meet our driver and head off for adventures. Not far out of the city, we enjoy birding at Lake Huarcarpay, a lake surrounded by mountains in a rural area. Both the scenery and the birding are excellent here and we added an night at this location so we do not have to rush. We want to move slowly in the high elevation section of the biosphere reserve and surroundings so that you can acclimate. We look for Puna Teal, Puna Ibis, Chiguanco Thrush, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Andean Gull, and more! Slopes of the high elevation lake are clad with shrubs such as the tree tobacco—a plant favored by the Bearded Mountaineer, a spectacularly large and beautiful endemic hummingbird. We may also see Giant Hummingbird on these same slopes, the largest hummingbird of them all.
The inn has full mountain views all around and a South American hacienda feel to it with nice dining and hospitality, recommended by our local agent in Cusco. Enjoy an overview of the Manu National Park that we explore from mountains to lowlands this evening.
Accommodations at Villa Mercedes, Caicay, Peru (B,L,D)
Day 4: Cusco to Wayqecha Biological Station
This morning we get an early start, though the drive is not far to Wayqecha, there is much to see! We hope to bird in some of the high grassland habitat before heading down in elevation. We travel through the valley of Paucartambo, the world’s capital of potato diversity, before reaching the final high pass of Ajcanaco at 12,000 feet. If it’s clear, we are able to look out over the mountains towards the Amazon Basin stretching down below into the distance, as the sun-worshipping Incas did in ancient times. In addition, the dry puna grassland near this last mountain pass is worth a stop for a few specialties such as Line-fronted and Scribble-tailed Canastero, White-browed Conebill, and Moustached Flowerpiercer before descending into the moss-covered elfin forest below. We have lunch along the way.
Once at Wayqechua, there are wonderful bird and hummingbird feeders to attract special species in close. Watch for Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Shining Sunbeam ,and Gould’s Inca. Flocks of Andean Parakeets may be active in the area, as well as flocks of White-collared Jay.
The lodge has individual cabins and a glassed in main building where we dine. It has a wonderful great room feel and one is never out of view of nature!
Accommodations at Wayqechua Biological Station (B,L,D)
Day 5: Full Day at Wayqechua Biological Station
At an elevation of 9,800 feet, Wayqechua Biological Station features montane elfin forest characterized by stunted moss-covered trees, cool temperatures, and persistent fog. Large and colorful tanagers such as Hooded Mountain, Grass-green, and Golden-collared are a feature here, as well as hummingbirds such as Tyrian Metaltail.
After a hot breakfast and coffee or tea, we start early near our lodge in search of these species and others such as the glistening Golden-headed Quetzal and highly-patterned Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan We should find Rufous-breasted Chat Tyrant, Highland Elaenia, and a host of colorful tanagers, including Golden-collared and Rust and Yellow and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager.
We bird farther up the road a bit where there is a hiking trail from a small ranger’s post. We have our meals at the lodge with time for an afternoon siesta, if you can tear yourself away from the feeders! The food is delicious, as is the local hot chocolate, perfect for the mist and cool temperatures at this elevation.
Accommodations at Wayqechua Biological Station (B,L,D)
Day 6: Wayqechua Biological Station to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
As the day warms up, we depart Wayqechua and spend our day gradually descending along the forested mountain road in search of mixed feeding flocks before reaching Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge at approximately 5,000 feet in elevation. We are birding on the main road between Cusco and the lowlands, but there are often long gaps with no vehicles passing. We find Umbrellabirds perches on treetops Andean Guan, Andean Motmot, and a variety of raptors.
Fast-moving mixed flocks of tanagers are a big feature at this elevation, and the forest edge can be teeming with these avian jewels that may include Yellow-throated, Orange-eared, Golden-naped, Blue-necked, Paradise, Golden-eared, Bay-headed, ad more. Other noteworthy denizens of these elevations include Yungas Manakin, Versicolored Barbet, Blue-banded Toucanet, Crested Quetzal, and both Fawn-breasted and Orange-headed Tanagers.
Accommodations at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 7 – 8: Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
We have two days here, one of the great birding lodges of the world for location and hospitality for sure. Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, situated about halfway between the Ajcanaco Pass and the Madre de Dios River, sits at a great elevation for both montane and foothill bird species.
One of the great features of this lodge is an active Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, and we are able to observe the memorable spectacle of their communal display ritual at dawn—a show of both raucous sound and vibrant color. We have a blind reserved for our group and get to take in the spectacle in fine view.
The dining area of the lodge itself overlooks a feeding station that attracts tanagers and barbets, as well as hummingbird feeders that may bring in about a dozen species. Buff-tailed Sicklebill, Sparkling Violetear, Wire-crested Thorntail, the endemic Peruvian Piedtail, and Violet-fronted Woodnymph are all possible. Fruiting trees encourage visits by Orange-belied Euphonia and several tanagers. Russet-backed Oropendola hang from their pendulous nests and several species of primates occur on the grounds. One year we had the treat of seeing a pair of Tayra that were coming in to the feeders.
We have our meals at the lodge and explore the grounds, as well as the road both directions from the main entrance for a very rewarding day. In the evening, night walks may produce sightings of Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Andean Potoo, and Rufescent Screech-Owl.
Accommodations at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge (B,L,D)
Days 9 – 10: Villa Carmen Biological Station
It’s time to head down in elevation! After a morning breakfast accompanied by the ethereal carols of Andean Solitaire and Multicolored Tanager at the fruit table, we depart from Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and gradually descend to Villa Carmen Biological Station at approximately 1700 feet in elevation. We pay particular attention to the stretch between 5000 and 2000 feet in elevation. The upper tropical zone forests at these altitudes have largely disappeared from much of the Andean slope of South American due to its suitability for cash crops, but these forests remain untouched in this part of Peru. Birds we have seen well on this stretch of road include Lanceolated Monklet, Versicolored Barbet, Slaty Gnateater, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Stripe-chested Antwren, and many more.
We arrive at Villa Carmen Biological Station in the afternoon, our home for two full days of birding. Located in the transition zone between montane forest and lowland rainforest, this lodge has an impressive bird list of over 475 species. The extensive trail system transects a mosaic of habitats, including foothill rainforest, secondary forest, pastures, and fish ponds, which we have the opportunity to explore. Flowering bushes attract various hummingbirds typical of lowland rainforest, including Blue-tailed Emerald, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, and Fork-tailed Woodnymph—maybe even Rufous-crested Coquette. Extensive stands of Guadua bamboo typical of the foothill forest here are home to several rare and elusive specialists: Bamboo Antshrike, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Peruvian Recurvebill, Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant, and Large-headed Flatbill.
We have two nights here, and while in the area we visit two relatively new hummingbird gardens that were incredibly productive last year. With wonderful conservation-minded hosts, we get to see species up close and personal and help protect habitat for them by doing so.
In addition, we also do some night birding here, and we have seen the following in the past: Common Potoo, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Black-banded Owl, and Ladder-tailed Nightjar.
Accommodations at Villa Carmen Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 11: Atalaya | Boating on the Madre de Dios!
We leave this magical place only reluctantly, but yet more awaits us in the Amazon Rainforest!
After a very early breakfast, we leave Villa Carmen Lodge to continue on our journey for about an hour down to the port of Atalaya, where we board a motorized canoe. Along the way we take some breaks at small local lodges where we stretch our legs and search for Amazonian Forest species, including the amazing Hoatzin. These unique birds primarily feed on young leaves and buds, which are digested in the crop with the aid of bacteria and microbes—in effect, a feathered cow.
We head down the Alto Madre de Dios River in our motorized canoes to its confluence with the Manu River (about 4 hours). The water from the mountains here is relatively clear, as it winds past isolated Andean ridges and picturesque rainforest landscapes dotted with blazes of yellow and red flowering trees. However, once we pass the village of Boca Manu and the confluence of the Alto Madre de Dios River with the Manu River, the water quickly becomes brown and laden with silt. The River slows to a lazy pace, piling up impressive sandbars that are home to charismatic Pied Lapwing, bizarre Horned Screamer, rare Orinoco Goose, and colonial Sand-colored Nighthawk. These boat rides through Amazonian Rainforest are usually exciting and productive, giving us our best chances at spotting raptors such as Great Black Hawk and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, large mammals such as South American Tapir and Capybara, and gaudy parrots such as Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws.
We plan to arrive at the Manu Wildlife Center in the late afternoon. Accommodations at Manu Wildlife Center are first class; bungalows have en-suite baths and the adjoining dining and bar complexes are spacious.
Accommodations at Manu Wildlife Center (B,L,D)
Days 12 – 14: Manu Wildlife Center
We plan to spend three full days birding at the Manu Wildlife Center and surrounding area. Together with Blanquillo Lodge, there are multiple day trip sites for us to see a host of amazing species, as well as trails on the lodge grounds.
One of the highlights of any trip to Amazonia is a visit to a parrot clay lick, where one has the opportunity to observe the spectacle of hundreds of parrots and macaws feeding on mineral-rich soil. We spend one morning at one of these clay licks, enjoying this magical show up close from strategically placed blinds. Species we may see here include Orange-cheeked, Blue-headed, Mealy, and Yellow-crowned Parrots, Tui and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, and Blue-and yellow and Scarlet Macaws.
During the course of the following days, we explore various microhabitats found within the Amazon Rainforest, where trails are mostly flat, clean, and wide. These microhabitats include extensive varzea (seasonally flooded with white water) terra firme (forest that never floods), and large stands of Guadua bamboo. We explore two lagoons by boat, with excellent chances for seeing Giant Otter. We climb up a very stable canopy platform, a tall structure that gives us the ability to look over the forest canopy, providing some of the most exciting birding Amazonia has to offer. Few experiences can beat a morning vigil from the top of a canopy tower, with the morning mist rising above the forest—flocks of commuting macaws, calling trogons, clownish aracaris, stolid raptors, glowing cotingas, and gurgling oropendolas all compete for attention. We are literally wrapped up in the arms of a giant tree while birdwatching!
But there is so much more here! By exploring stands of Guadua bamboo, we might be able to observe Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu Antbird, Dusky-tailed Flatbill, and White-lined Antbird. By quietly walking on the forest floor of both terra firme and varzea forest, we might observe Pavonine Quetzal, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Razor-billed Curassow, Purus Jacamar, Banded Antbird, Royal Flycatcher, Musician Wren, Collared Puffbird, and many others. We are on the lookout for mixed feeding flocks as well, composed mostly of antwrens, antshrikes, greenlets, woodcreepers, and flycatchers, which are fast moving and potentially challenging, but incredibly rewarding.
Optional owling sessions in the evenings can also be productive, and we have the potential to see Crested and Spectacled Owls, Great and Long-tailed Potoos, and Silky-tailed Nightjar—along with a variety of insects, frogs, and mammals.
Accommodations at Manu Wildlife Center (B,L,D)
Day 15: By River to Puerto Maldonado
This is our last morning at the Manu Wildlife Center, with perhaps one last look at the parrot clay lick before transferring by boat down the Madre de Dios River to the town of Boca Colorado. As with any journey by boat along the Amazon Basin, there is always the potential for memorable sightings such as a Giant Otter family and perched Ornate Hawk-Eagle, or a pair of Sunbittern. Leaving our boat at Boca Colorado, we take a one-hour ride in local transport to the Inambari River where our bus is waiting. This is a full day journey, and it’s a bit of a shock to be back on paved roads and in a modern city! To soften the blow, we’ve booked some lovely riverside lodgings where nature is still the main attraction!
This evening we gather to recount highlights of our amazing journey and to tally up our sightings.
Accommodations at Hotel Enai, Puerto Maldonado (B,L,D)
Day 16: Tambopata Boardwalk Birding or Machu Picchu Extension
Those departing today from the main tour will likely have flights from Lima around midnight tonight. Thus, we have the morning to birdwatch and our first choice is a boardwalk trail downriver at Tambopata Reserve. We make an effort to see a variety of birds that have colonized the area due to human disturbance: Red-breasted Blackbird, White-tailed Kite, Grassland Sparrow, Black-faced Tanager, Barred Antshrike, and others. Stands of Buriti Palm (Mauritia flexuosa) give us chances at specialists such as Sulphury Flycatcher, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, and Red-bellied Macaw. We also search for the range-restricted White-throated Jacamar before flying back to Cusco where you can catch your international flights. Dinner is at your leisure either at the airport or at the Cosa del Sol just across the street. (B)
Those on our fabulous extension to Machu Picchu will take a morning flight—hopefully direct, but if that’s not available then connecting through Lima (our ground operator in Peru arranges these flights). You will be in Cusco by lunch to start exploring. (B)
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Day 1: Arrival in Cusco | Exploring the World Heritage City | Sacsayhuaman National Park & Sun Temple
Say goodbye to fellow travelers who must depart today, and board your scenic flight over the Andes. Our plan is to arrive in Cusco in time for lunch and an afternoon of cultural exploring.
Accommodations at the Novotel Hotel, Cusco City (L,D)
Day 2: Cusco | Sacred Valley | Ollantaytambo
Today is a mix of nature and culture as we explore the scenic Sacred Valley and ruins at Ollantaytambo. After breakfast, we drive the scenic Sacred Valley of the Incas, stop at small lakes and a hummingbird station, and see major archaeological sites including Chinchero and Ollantytambo.
Our hotel tonight is replete with gardens and birds attracted by the profusion of flowers. Enjoy a lovely evening with some great local food and prepare for your train ride tomorrow from this location.
Accommodations at Pakaritampu Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3: Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu
We take the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, arriving in time to enjoy lunch at Inkaterra Pueblo hotel with local birding on the grounds where hummingbirds and gardens attract yet more species. This afternoon we can offer a ruins visit or local birding as the group wishes. The Urubamba River runs through the property—watch for White-capped Dipper and Torrent Duck! Scrumptious meals are at the hotel.
Accommodations at Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4: Full Day at Machu Picchu
Today, after breakfast at the hotel, we plan for a full day at Machu Picchu, where a local guide shares expertise about the site. We have our lunch at the Sanctuary hotel so we are rushed. After the guided walk you can enjoy some birding (must find Inca Wren!) or walk among the ruins. Shuttle buses run often to the town of Aquas Calientes, so you can come down at the time you wish. Some like to do a bit of shopping or have a coffee or ice cream while walking through town.
Our final celebratory dinner is at the hotel—a perfect setting for tallying up our species and looking back over the last few days.
Accommodations at Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5: Cusco | Lima | Departures
Today we take the train back to Ollantaytambo from Machu Picchu, about an hour and a half, and then we take a van to the airport—another two hours or so. Lunch is in Cusco City, before our afternoon internal flight back to Lima to catch late evening international flights home. Most flights from Lima depart around midnight, but if yours is a morning flight, we can arrange a hotel for you this evening (additional cost).
Cost of the Journey
The cost of the main tour is $TBD DBL / $TBD SGL, per person, based on double occupancy from Lima, Peru. This cost includes all accommodations, meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, other park and program entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost of the Machu Picchu extension is $TBD DBL / $TBD SGL. The tour cost does not include round-trip transportation from your home city to Lima, internal flights (however, Naturalist Journeys will book these for you so we can travel as a group; this extra flight cost, typically around $100 per person for each of the three segments, will be added to your invoice), optional activities, or items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, maid gratuities, or beverages from the bar.
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
Please plan to arrive in Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) on or before October 5. Arrival is at your leisure, but we do recommend arriving at an hour that will allow you to rest up before the start of the trip, which begins promptly the following morning. Please plan departures from the main journey in the evening of October 20. Many flights back to the United States leave at or around midnight, so be sure to check your dates and times carefully. Please plan departures from the Machu Picchu extension in the evening of October 24. Again, flights back to the United States are near the midnight hours, so check times and dates carefully.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of Your Tour
- Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. Travelers with a U.S. passport do not need to apply for a visa. It is free and issued at the port of entry. If you are from another country, please contact the Peru embassy website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Peru and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance, agent number 176098.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into and departing from Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima. Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office, please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay. Unlike typical international travel with a 50 lb. weight limit, domestic airlines within Peru are slightly less. They typically allow one checked bag, 20 KG (44 lbs.), one personal item and one carry on (carry-on weight 17 lbs. but they rarely weigh them).
Arrival in Lima, Peru (LIM)
Please arrive in Lima on the start date of your tour at your leisure; we recommend arriving at an hour that allows you to rest before the start of the trip, which begins promptly the next morning. After arriving at the Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima and passing through immigration and customs, the first night’s hotel is just across the street, so there is no need for a shuttle—just a simple walk across the median and you can check in!
Dinner this night is at the hotel and is a great chance to meet up with your guides and travelling companions.
Please exchange money into Peruvian Soles at the airport. This is very important! ATM’s are not widely available once out of Lima.
If you have not yet made travel plans, please do so and let us know your flight details (copy of ticket is best).
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Lima, Peru (LIM)
Please plan departures in the evening of the last day of both the main tour and the extension from Machu Picchu. Many flights to the United States leave at or around midnight, so be sure to check (and double check!) your dates/times carefully.
The departure tax (your expense) from Peru is a part of your international airline ticket, however if you continue regionally to another Latin American country, a tax may apply.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passports, Visas & Documents
You must have a passport valid for six months beyond your scheduled return date. Your passport should have at least one blank page per entry stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. If you are from another country, please contact the Peru embassy website for guidelines. Information for U.S. citizens can be found at:
On the airplane or upon arrival in Peru, you will receive paperwork to fill out for an automatic VISA, good for 90 days; Keep this document in a safe place as it is required for exit.
Please carry a copy of our Emergency Contact List with your travel documents. This is very handy when passing through immigration where they will ask you where you are going and what the phone number is. If you experience any flight delays or problems contact us at the first night hotel, or call our Peru tour operator, Neblina Forest, listed on the contact information sheet.
We strongly recommend that you carry a color photocopy of your passport ID page in a separate location while traveling, and to leave a copy with your emergency contact person at home. You may want to take a photo with your phone and have a copy there, along with a photo of the BAR CODE on your luggage tag. If your passport is lost or stolen, or your bag is misplaced these photos can greatly expedite replacement.
General Health & Inoculations Information – Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. Do bring any prescription medications with you and its best if you have a copy of the prescription in case of loss. A supply of standard over the counter medications for common ailments is recommended.
At the time of writing, there are no required vaccinations to enter Peru but things change; it is always a good idea to check with your doctor and the CDC website 4-6 weeks before departure. It is suggested to consider the Yellow Fever vaccine, as these are good for at least ten years. Many international travelers will either have one or get one for this trip and it will be good for other destinations in the future. The CDC also recommends that most travelers to Peru, and most South American countries in general, be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Please speak with your general physician before any trip abroad. He or she may recommend other preventative immunizations like DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis), which is recommended every 10 years. Public health clinics can administer these if you do not currently work with a doctor or your doctor is not able to provide this service.
Travel Tip: If you do receive the Yellow Fever vaccine, we suggest that you bring your Yellow Fever Card with you on your trip. If Peru makes a last-minute change to their entry policy before you leave, having this document might make all the difference. If you cannot get a vaccine due to age and caution on that by your physician, then bring a physician letter saying you are in good health, but they do not recommend due to age that you get the vaccine. Yellow fever vaccine recommendations in Peru map:
You can get a current update for Peru on the Center for Disease Control website or by phone (404) 639-2572.
We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and medications for common ailments, as well as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. You should bring an adequate supply of any prescription drugs you use, and in addition, a list of generic names of your medicine as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. When traveling with medication, it is a good idea to pack any drugs you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also a good idea to carry with you and up-to-date record of known allergies or chronic medical problems so that emergency treatment, if necessary, can be carried out without endangering your health.
You may also want a prescription to help you with altitude sickness. Diamox is currently the most recommended medication. Talk to your doctor, but reviews of this drug note very few to no side effects and it may be a good precaution. Avoiding alcohol, keeping well hydrated and not exerting yourself intensely are the best preventatives for altitude problems. We will be exploring in some high altitudes:
- Cusco is 11, 152 ft above sea level
- Manu National Park is 13,123 ft
- Machu Picchu is 7,972 ft
Weather & Climate
We will experience a wide range of elevations, so temperatures and humidity will vary as the trip progresses, with highs averaging in the low-90s and lows averaging in the low 60s. We will be at higher altitudes in the cloud forest, where it can be wet and cold, as well as crossing the Puna grasslands and at Machu Picchu. So, be sure to bring warm sweater or fleece, good wind breaker and a warm hat. Check your favorite weather website closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.
Annoyances & Hazards
While mosquitoes and other biting insects are not as common in the mountainous regions that we will be visiting on this tour, they can occur. It is best to come prepared by wearing long sleeves and neutral colored clothing and to bring insect repellent.
Peru is close to the Equator and we are at high elevation – it is very important to protect yourself from the sun!
Here are a few precautions we recommend you take:
- A hat is a must to protect you from the strong tropical sun.
- Bring plenty of sunscreen and lip protection to last the whole trip.
- Pack good quality sunglasses.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to protect skin.
Food & Drinks
At the tourist hotels you are using, it is generally safe to sample the local cuisine, and it is always smart to ask about getting bottled water and being able to use ice. The hotels should have treated water in the restaurant areas, and you can fill your bottles there for daily use.
In general, in Peru you do NOT want to drink any tap water, nor should you eat fresh, uncooked vegetables from street vendors (hotels that we frequent should be fine), shellfish or ceviche outside of higher-end restaurants or well-established tourist facilities. Tap water may be potable at some of our hotels (the Front Desk will advise) but it still can contain minerals that upset your stomach – best to proceed with caution. Bottled water is available in the bar at most hotels, and we recommend you take advantage of that. Neblina Forest will provide water when out in the field. We also recommend buying a Steri Pen so you can treat water in a few seconds or consider bringing a water bottle that includes a filter, like LifeStraw. We want to reduce use of plastics where possible!
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Please, pack light. You move around a lot and take an internal flight. Soft-sided luggage or duffel bags are easier to manage in the minivans than hard sided suitcases. While international limits are normally 50 lb. per bag, domestic airlines within Peru are slightly less. They typically allow one checked bag, 20 KG (44 lbs.), one personal item and one carry on (carry-on weight 17 lbs. but they rarely weigh them).
To pare down, we recommend laying out the items you hope to take and then do a serious paring down! Refer to the Suggested Packing section. Do not pack any essential medications or your vital optics in your checked luggage, please! Bring a change of clothes and a pair of shoes you can use for the tour in your carry-on, just in case.
Dress is very informal. You may wish to change for dinners, but casual dress is suitable at all locations. We strongly recommend neutral or dark-colored clothing for every area that we will visit on the tour. Clothing should be unobtrusive, i.e. no bright yellows, reds or white, as this can disturb wildlife and makes us very conspicuous. Camouflage clothing is not advised.
Dressing in layers works perfectly for the conditions. Rain is likely so have a good wind-breaking layer that can double as raingear; shoes with good tread and support are essential. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing, as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. Shorts are worn most commonly by tourists, they are not practical in the field and we do not recommend them. Lightweight pants also let you blend in more while exploring. Choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty, and that is comfortable and easy to wear. Loose clothing discourages insects and is very cool.
Most of your hotels offer laundry service; just make sure that you will be there long enough to get it back in time! You may wish to pack clothing that is easy to hand wash and fast drying for washing in your room.
The Sol is the official currency of Peru. For the current exchange rate, please refer to online converter tools like www.xe.com or your bank. The U.S. Dollar is also an accepted currency in Peru (especially in hotels or businesses that cater to visitors). We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as the U.S. dollars and local currency, an ATM card, and a credit card.
Bring crisp, unsoiled U.S. dollars in good condition in SMALL denominations ($1 and $5) for purchases and tipping. Large U.S. bills ($50 or $100) will give you the better exchange rate. However, not every business (smaller shops and restaurants) will accept U.S. dollars. For that reason, we still recommend converting some money into Sols.
You can exchange money in Peru. The easiest way is to withdraw funds from a local ATM. The airport is a convenient place. ATM machines are readily available in large cities, like Lima, and become less available in rural areas. The ATMs provide local money and your bank will convert that into U.S. Dollars. Many banks charge a fee of $1 - $5 each time you use a foreign ATM. Others may charge you a percentage of the amount you withdraw. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
Credit cards are accepted, but not as widely as in the USA. We suggest you have more than one card available. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (one Visa, and one MasterCard; American Express is less accepted), if possible. Not every shop will accept every card. Some machines are set up for both, while some will only service one or the other. Also, we recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling to Peru to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. For handicrafts and smaller purchases, such as drinks with dinner, it is easiest to have cash available, preferably in Peruvian Soles.
Traveler’s checks can be difficult to use in Peru, especially in villages and small towns. We do not recommend that you use them.
Many people ask how much money to plan to bring for spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Typical items people purchase include: local souvenirs and T-shirts, carvings, beads, textiles, artworks, drinks before or with dinner, maps and natural history books. Cash is also handy for your drinks from the bar.
Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Some guidelines follow. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide at a location, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.
You may wish to bring small gifts for local people that you meet and enjoy (this is totally optional!). T-shirts, school supplies like pens and small notebooks, inexpensive watches and baseball caps are always popular. Your guides can pass along school supplies to a local school if you bring them. They also love any nature books/coloring books.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in Peru. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. Make sure if you do NOT want to use your cell phone that you turn off your cellular data. You could incur huge charges if you are not on Wi-Fi. Putting your phone in airplane mode if you mainly use it for photos will save the battery as well.
When dialing from the US, the country code for PERU is 51. Dialing to the USA starts with 001, then area code.
Phone cards are readily available and likely cheaper than using your cell phone. Hotel calls can be made and charged to the hotel, but ask for rates before using. For those calling you in Peru, advise they use the USA exit code, 011 and then the full number including country code.
If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times. Internet cafes are readily available in Lima for both email and internet-based calls. Most but not all of our lodgings have Wi-Fi service.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time
The official language of Peru is Spanish. Quechua is the native language and is spoken by many indigenous people. English is NOT readily spoken, with the exception of large city hotels and shops. A pocket dictionary is a great idea, and you can gift it to someone if you don’t want to haul it back! There are also dictionary apps for your phone, and quick learning programs such as Duo Lingo if you want to practice a bit.
PERU uses 220 AC voltages at 60 Hz so you will need an adapter for many of your appliances. Do check your appliances, as these days many will work on this voltage automatically – they have a built-in converter in the little box on the cord. If not, you will need a converter as well. In Peru, power sockets are type A or C. Type A sockets take flats of equal width, so a simple adapter from unequal width flat plugs is very helpful where you find USA style plug ins. Also there are fewer grounded plugs, so a 3-prong to 2 prong (available in hardware stores) is helpful. More information can be found at www.power-plugs-sockets.com.
Peru is UTC/GMT -5hrs and observes the PET (Peru Time) time zone. You can check time differences conveniently on www.timeanddate.com.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
We will experience a wide range of elevations, so temperatures and humidity will vary as the trip progresses, with highs averaging in the low-90s and lows averaging in the low 60s. We will be at higher altitudes in the cloud forest, where it can be wet and cold, as well as crossing the Puna grasslands and at Machu Picchu. So, be sure to bring warm sweater or fleece, good wind breaker and a warm hat. Check your favorite weather website like, www.weather.com, closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.
Dress is very informal. Layering is your best strategy for comfort. Rain is likely so do have a good wind-breaking layer that can double as raingear; shoes with good tread and support are essential. Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing; they protect you from sun, insects, and vegetation. Shorts are worn most commonly by tourists; they are not practical in the field and we do not recommend them. Lightweight pants also let you blend in more while exploring. Choose clothes you can get dirty ? and things that are comfortable and easy. Loose clothing discourages insects and is very cool. Several lodges offer laundry service.
We recommend muted colors of tan, brown, khaki, grey or green, as they are spotted less easily than white or bright colors; camouflage clothing is not recommended. It is possible to purchase field clothing permeated with insect repellent such as the Craghoppers Insect Shield collection. Another approach is to purchase Permethrin spray (online or from REI) to treat your field clothing and socks before your departure.
Clothing and Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2-3 pair
- Shorts (optional, not generally recommended)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, 2-3
- T-shirts, short-sleeved or equivalent, 2-3
- Casual clothing for travel days, skirts for women may come in handy in the city
- Personal underclothing (consider what dries quickly if you plan to wash) and nightclothes
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry, and long enough to tuck your pants to help protect from chiggers
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots. Please note that forest trails will be on uneven terrain and may be muddy – bring shoes with good support and firm grip tread.
- Comfortable sandals or light shoes for evenings and travel days
- Shower thongs
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho, that can double as a windbreaker
- Lightweight fleece jacket or sweater for highlands
- Scarf, light gloves, light hat for colder mornings and evenings
- Hat with broad brim
- Bandana (optional, great for cooling off when hot and sweaty)
- Bathing suit (optional, if you enjoy swimming)
- Field vest (optional) a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment and Miscellaneous
- Airline tickets or e-ticket verification
- Passport, health card with current vaccinations, and a photocopy of your passport ID and entry stamp pages
- Money pouch, or someplace to carry your money and passport with you at all times
- Small daypack to carry gear while hiking and in vehicles
- Walking stick (optional, but recommended if you usually use one)
- Umbrella (compact, not brightly colored!)
- Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries (important – cabins may be separate from dining areas. Extra batteries.
- Alarm clock (or use your phone)
- Sunscreen/lip balm with SPF
- Sunglasses with neck strap
- Insect repellent (containing DEET) and sulphur powder or equivalent for chiggers
- Toiletry articles: shampoo and conditioner, dental supplies, razor, emery boards, hairbrush/comb, tweezers, hand lotion, feminine hygiene, birth control supplies, deodorant, pain reliever
- Binoculars (a shower cap is great to cover these when it is raining)
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional – guide will have them)
- Camera and extra batteries, digital chips etc., lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual. Do a good check for all this before leaving, battery chargers may be hard to find (optional)
- Adapters for three prong electronic equipment and converter
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
- Water bottle (can easily be bought in the airport and refilled daily)
- Notebook and pen or journal (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Small bottle of antibacterial hand soap
- Small bottle or bag of laundry soap
- Washcloth (optional)
- Earplugs (optional)
- Gallon-size ziplock-type bags for keeping things dry
- Steri-Pen or other UV water treatment device to help cut down on the use of plastic bottles (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical and First Aid Items
- Personal medication (and copy of vital prescriptions, including glasses)
- Motion sickness and altitude sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van, drives, etc.
- Personal first aid kit including medications for colds, general and stomach ailments, antiobiotic gel or creme
- Foot powder, lotions, general “comfort” items
- Hydrocortisone cream to ease itching from insect bites
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Epi-pen if needed for allergic reactions
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, vaccination record,s and any medical alerts
- Insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Peru; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.
Merlin App – Peru Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Peru.
Wildlife & Nature
History & Culture
Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.
Useful Links +
Lima, Peru (Capital)
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Birds of Peru - eBird
Birds of the World – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Peru Birding Locations and Hot Spots (select English as your language, at the top of the first page!)
Peruvian Clay Licks – Smithsonian Article
Species of Peru - iNaturalist
Andean Slope Habitats:
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
ECOAN – Association of Andean Ecosystems
Wayqechua Cloud Forest Research Station
Manú (Villa Carmen) Biological Station
Manú National Park
Tambopata National Reserve
Geology & Geography
Basic Geology of Peru
Geography of Peru
History & Culture
History of Manú
Culture of Peru
Cuisine of Peru
Post Tour Extension to Machu Picchu
“Discover 10 Secrets of Machu Picchu” – Article, National Geographic
National Geographic YouTube Video about Machu Picchu
History of Machu Picchu – History.com
Machu Picchu - Peru’s Ministry of Culture
Helpful Travel Websites
Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM)
National Passport Information Center
Homeland Security Real ID Act
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Foreign Exchange Rates
U.S. Department of State, Costa Rica International Travel Information - Peru
Center for Disease Control (CDC) - Peru
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Peru
Travel Health Pro (UK) - Peru
Electricity and Plugs - Peru
Date, Time, and Holidays - Peru
Photo credits: Banners: Llamas at Machu Picchu (NJ Stock), Parrots on Clay Lick (NJ Stock), Rufous-crested Coquette (NJ Stock), Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager (NJ Stock), Bluish-fronted Jacamar (NJ Stock), Machu Picchu (NJ Stock), Red Howler Monkey (NJ Stock), Black-throated Flowerpiercer (Miguel Lezama), Crested Quetzal (Miguel Lezama) Thumbnails: Black-faced Dacnis (NJ Stock), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (NJ Stock), Inca Tern (NJ Stock), Hoatzin (NJ Stock), Curl-crested Aracari (NJ Stock), Collared Trogon (NJ Stock), Giant Hummingbird (NJ Stock), Red & Green Macaw (NJ Stock) Rufous-crested Coquette by Barry Ulman, Machu Picchu, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Andean Cock-of-the-rock by Miguel Lezamas, Flight to Cusco, Naturalist Journeys Stock; Jaguar by Peg Abbott; Crested Quetzal by Miguel Lezamas; Crested Owl by Carlos Sanchez; Curl-crested Aracari by Carlos Sanchez.