The Peruvian Amazon never shows itself as openly as it does in Manu National Park, a Natural World Heritage Site.
Here you can find the purest form of nature, flora, and fauna: there are 221 species of mammals, thousands of birds, and a huge variety of climates from the lowland jungle to the cold punas at over 4000 masl, where large populations of natives live completely isolated from civilization, living in harmony with their lifestyle.
Among the 13 Peru national parks, the Manu National Park. It is located in Cusco and Madre de Dios and extends from the Cusco highlands (4000 masl) to the Amazon floodplain at the mouth of the Manu River (300 m).
Manu National Park was established on May 29, 1973, with an area of 1,532,806 ha.
In 2002, the entire lower Manu valley, which was known as the Reserved Zone, was annexed; since then it has an area of 1,692,137 ha.
The Manu National Park is unique among national parks, since it protects a hydrographic basin, and we can also find areas of Andean-Amazonian landscapes of southeastern Peru as well as a great variety of natural flora and fauna.
This national park is home to local populations such as the Matsigenka, as well as others such as the Mashco-Piro or Nomole, who live in voluntary isolation within the park.
- See Also: Machu Picchu Full Day Tour
In 1977, UNESCO declared Manu National Park and adjacent areas as a Biosphere Reserve with an area of 1,881,200 ha. Ten years later, UNESCO officially declared it a “World Heritage Site”.
If you want to know more about this national park, and want to organize your next vacation here, call us and we will help you organize it +51 901 410 487.
Manu National Park is the perfect place in the world to get to know nature in depth. Its remote location and its status as a protected park will allow you to enjoy a wonderfully pristine corner of the Peruvian Amazon. Continue reading this article and learn more about this natural destination.
If you wish to travel to this impressive area of Peru, do not hesitate to contact us +51 901 410 487. One of our specialists will be able to organize your trip, in the amount of days you have available; in addition to coordinating details such as entrance fees, hotels, transportation, absolutely everything, so that your trip is completely comfortable and you only have to enjoy every unforgettable moment in the Manu of Peru. In addition, you will have the assistance of the guides of “Hikes in Peru” who speak your language and will adapt their travel plan to your needs.
Great diversity of Flora and Fauna in Manu National Park
In the Manu National Park there are almost 2 million hectares of nature. It is located on the western edge of the Amazon basin, in the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios and since 1977 it is known as a Biosphere Reserve granted by UNESCO.
The national forests of Manu are the perfect place for many species of flora and fauna to develop comfortably, without human intervention, in addition to an immense wealth of culture made up of indigenous populations, from communities that are friendly to travelers, and others who, to protect themselves from civilization, are hostile to travelers; but it’s all part of the immense cultural wealth that only Manu can offer you.
Overview Manu National Park From Cusco
The altitude in Manu ranges from 150 m to 4,200 m altitude, in Manu National Park we have an immense variety of climates and a bewildering number of plant and animal species. The variety of flora and fauna found in the Manu National Reserve is so great that even after decades it has not been possible to catalog all the existing species.
In the Manu National Park there is a great diversity of ecological lodges in the middle of the dense Peruvian jungle, “Hikes in Peru” offers you the best lodges with guaranteed quality, we have selected the best, and some with a good value for money that guarantee you a pleasant stay, And if you visit the Manu National Park, we recommend you to take a luxurious lodge, so that your experience is complete, in contact with nature, and the wonders of the most varied habitats in the world, in an environment unlike any other in Peru or in the world.
History of Manu National Park
The Pusharo petroglyphs are stone engravings representing faces and abstract figures. The site is located on the banks of the Palotoa River, a tributary of the Madre de Dios River in the Manu National Park.
The origin and meaning of the glyphs are still unknown, but they are believed to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old. They were first described by a Dominican friar in 1921. The 2015 Peruvian 1 Sol coin of 2015 has an image of the engravings on one side.
The legend of Paititi originated after the Spanish conquest of Peru. According to 16th century chronicles, a pre-Columbian kingdom called Paititi settled in the jungle was able to resist the advances of the Inca imperial army.
A second version says that, after the capture of the last Inca king by Spanish soldiers, the remains of the Inca elite withdrew to the jungle along with their sacred objects made of gold and silver. Throughout the colonial era, several expeditions set out in search of the lost city of gold. In general, they only found disaster.
Spanish settlers founded the town of Paucartambo to control the trade of coca leaves, gold and textiles between the Andes and the Amazon, adapting an ancient Inca route that served the same purpose. Today, Paucartambo is a necessary stop between Cusco and the Manu cloud forest.
Best time to visit Manu National Park from Cusco
The recommended time of the year to visit Manu National Park is during the rainy season, between May and October is when you can avoid the most rainy days. During the rainy season, it is difficult to do tours in Manu National Park, even some roads are closed.
How to get to Manu National Park
While it is true that you can visit the Manu National Park from Cusco on your own, it is always a better alternative to travel with a travel agency, we as an operating travel agency, we have control of all the details of your trip, taking care of even the smallest of details. One of these stops is in the cloud forest, where it is possible to observe the fascinating courtship dance of the Cock of the Rock.
To get to Manu National Park on your own To get there on your own, you must go to the San Jeronimo control point in Cusco. From here, buses leave at 11:00 a.m. or at 5:00 p.m. to Pilco Pata, within the cultural zone of Manu.
The trip takes about 7 hours. You can also take the combi directly to Salvación, which is an hour further inland from Pilco Pata. The first trip costs 30 soles per person, and to Salvación 40 soles per person. One option for lodging in Pilcopata is the Gallito de las Rocas Lodge, which costs 15USD per night.
Manu Cultural Zone and Reserved Zone
Manu National Park is divided into two management categories for tourists: the cultural zone and the reserved zone. We can also find the intangible zone, but this is only intended for scientific expeditions, and the entrance is restricted; this feature makes it more interesting to visit the Manu National Park, which is positioned at the level of Antarctica or other areas of the world where a total enigma of its natural wealth is kept.
Cultural Zone of Manu National Park
The cultural zone acts as a buffer zone to the National Park, in this area, there are settlements, villages and in general a greater human presence. If you want to go to Manu on your own, and without hiring a tourist service, then you can only access the cultural zone. Although this area does not have the rich biodiversity of the reserved or intangible zones, it is a great way to save money and still experience the power of the jungle.
What to do in the cultural zone: From the Pilcopata area, you can walk to the community of Santa Rosa de Huacharía. You will walk for about two hours and in Santa Rosa, you can have lunch and then swim in a river surrounded by vegetation.
We recommend taking transportation to the area of Atalaya, located in front of the Madre de Dios River and from where you can hire boat rides and hikes in the middle of the jungle. You can get to Atalaya from Pilcopata in a shared cab (10 soles per person) or in a private moto-taxi (60 soles).
Further away from the Atalaya is the area of Salvation, a picturesque village within the cultural zone of Manu, here you can enjoy delicious dishes of the gastronomy of the jungle of Peru, such as the famous chicken broth, in local restaurants. In Salvación you will also find the Cocha Machuwasi, a 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 hike for about two hours along the surrounding trails.
Manu National Park Reserved Zone
The Manu National Park Reserved Zone is the place where the real magic of the Peruvian jungle begins. We must tell you that you can only visit this area with an authorized travel agency; in “Hikes in Peru” we have the necessary authorizations to visit the Reserved Zone of the Manu National Park from Cusco. And all this because this area must preserve its pristine characteristic and avoid the hunting of animals and the theft of plant species. In this area you can find the black caiman, the spectacled bear and the giant river otter.
What to do in the Manu Reserved Zone: The tours organized by “Hikes in Peru” include extensive walks along the Madre de Dios River, here we can see large numbers of birds such as herons, kingfishers and jungle condors. We can also see jaguars in their natural lifestyle bathing on the river bank, as well as groups of turtles, white caimans and the giant river otter. There are also night and afternoon walks, with explanations from an expert guide about the rainforest.
A quiet habitat for animals
As you walk through some areas suitable for tourists, you will discover a large number of reptiles, such as six-meter-long caimans, or land and marine mammals, as well as fish and amphibians.
There are many mammals that inhabit this area such as the titi monkey, the smallest monkey in the world, as well as other primates that we will see making mischief.
Another animal to watch will be the giant otters or river otters, a playful mammal that is in danger of extinction and is now less frequently seen in Manu National Park.
Archaeological sites in Manu National Park
Manu stands out not only for its natural charm, but also for its valuable archaeological remains. There, relics and vestiges have been found, some of which are still being investigated, that demonstrate the human presence in this area since ancient times. The most famous are the petroglyphs of Patiacolla, considered the largest in Peru. Another important archaeological site in the area are the ruins of Mameria.
Indigenous people’s house in Manu National Park
Manu is home to several ethnic groups that live in the interior of the country and remain mostly isolated by choice. The best known are the Machiguenga, Piro, Yora and Yaminahua. Their relationship with modernity is very limited and some of them have never had contact with the outside world.
The economic activity of these communities is limited to hunting, fishing, gathering, and incipient agriculture. In this way, they preserve their ancestral traditions and their wild lifestyle, as they are the only ones authorized to use the park’s natural resources. There are currently some 50,000 inhabitants living in the park, distributed among some thirty communities.
Manu National Park today
Manu National Park is one of the most colorful and biodiverse regions in the world. Here are some important dates
1968 – The Manu area is designated a national forest.
1973 – National park status is formalized after pressure from Peruvian conservationists and international supporters.
1987 – The Manu Biosphere Reserve is recognized by UNESCO as a natural heritage site.
Geography of Manu National Park
Located north of Cusco, in the extreme southwestern part of the Amazon, the Manu rainforest has a total area of 18,811 km², broken down as follows:
- Manu National Park – 15,328 km².
- Biosphere Reserve – 2,570 km².
- Cultural zone – 914 km².
This territory covers elevations between 4,200 meters and 150 meters above sea level, including high Andean puna, cloud forest and lowland jungle. The result is a very wide range of ecologies that have favored the evolution of very diverse species.
The huge and geographically isolated park has no roads and can only be accessed with some difficulty. The only way to get around is by boat. The Manu River and Madre de Dios River form the southern and eastern boundaries of the reserve.
Facts about Manu National Park
The national park covers the entire Manu River basin.
Includes the eastern Andean mountains (cloud forest) and the Amazon basin (lowland rainforest).
There are between 2,000 and 5,000 species of plants, including 250 species of trees.
More than 1,000 vertebrate species, including 200 species of mammals, 850 species of birds, 68 species of reptiles and 77 species of amphibians live in the national park.
More than 1,300 species of butterflies have been recorded.
There are 13 species of primates.
Some rare species are: giant otter, giant armadillo, jaguar, puma, Andean wild cat, etc.
Pre-Inca and Inca ruins and petroglyphs indicate a long history of indigenous settlement.
There are small communities of the Matsigenga tribal group of the Amazon, mainly along the Manú River or one of its main tributaries.
Manu Biosphere Reserve Attractions
The Manu Biosphere Reserve is divided into 3 zones:
VIEWPOINT OF THE THREE CROSSES
Located 60 km from Paucartambo, the Mirador Tres Cruces is a viewpoint overlooking the meeting point of the Andes and the Amazon. On a clear day, it is possible to see the top of the Ausangate massif to the depths of the jungle basin. During the dry season, from May to August, a natural phenomenon creates the illusion of three rising suns flickering in the shape of a cross, hence the “three crosses”. When the sun rises, the clouds begin to evaporate and the moisture interacts with the sunlight to form a prism. During the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, shared vans transport tourists to the lookout in time to watch the sky clear and the sun rise above a thick layer of clouds at around 6 a.m.
KOSÑIPATA RIVER VALLEY
From Paucartambo, after the Acjanaco pass (3,850 m) and the exit to Tres Cruces, the road begins to climb towards the beautiful Kosñipata valley, which descends thousands of meters in altitude. Here you can go rafting and mountain biking through the beautiful mountains of the Peruvian cloud forest. It is also the route to the jungle lodges of Manu, such as the Paradise Lodge, the Gallito de las Rocas Lodge and the Erika Lodge. The Quechua word kosñipata means “place of smoke,” a reference to the dense fogs that envelop the eastern slopes of the Andes as they plunge into the Amazon.
Located at the meeting point of the Madre de Dios and the Manu River, the town of Boca Manu has a small airport that receives chartered planes. It is also a stop on the land and sea route to Puerto Maldonado. The checkpoint to enter the park is in nearby Limonal.
Ecotourism in Manu National Park
Manu is an ideal destination for ecotourism in the Peruvian jungle. Nature in its most pristine state is the main attraction and a strict conservation plan helps to keep it that way. If you visit Manu, you will discover a variety of microclimates that are home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna.
The jungle is full of monkeys, insects and reptiles. If you are lucky, you may also see otters (jaguars), black panthers, tapirs, peccaries, deer and capybaras. The jungle trails and cochas (isolated lagoons) are the best place to see wildlife while learning about jungle life, medicinal plants and food.
Birding – Many travelers come to Manu specifically for the birds. And with one of the largest bird lists in the world, Manu certainly deserves this specific interest. Among the aerial residents are the harpy eagle, jabiru, roseate spoonbill and coconut palm.
Clay ponds – A special attraction in Manu where travelers can see macaws, parrots and parakeets flocking by the thousands to eat clay in the morning.
Canopy Towers – See the rainforest from the perspective of creatures living at canopy level. The tree towers span the Manu region at heights of 30 to 40 meters. Standing on the platform reveals another dimension of rainforest activity that cannot be seen from the forest floor.
Climate in Manu National Park
Manu’s extreme topography creates multiple microclimates. The lower elevations are warmer, with average temperatures ranging from 35 C during the day to 25 C at night. In the higher elevations of Manu, temperatures tend to be cooler. Temperatures are warm during the day and cool at night.
After heavy rains, temperatures can drop as low as 10 C (50 F). Another meteorological phenomenon, called “surazo” or “friaje”, occurs when polar winds from Patagonia move up the mountains and into the jungle. Temperatures can reach 8 C (46 F).
Remember that this is a tropical rainforest and rain showers are possible at any time of the year. The official rainy season is from December to March. The months from May to August are comparatively drier, but also much hotter.
What to bring to the tour in Manu National Park: Bring light and quick-drying clothes. Preferably synthetic fabrics, as humidity prevents cotton from drying completely.
How to get to Manu National Park from Cusco
There are three routes to reach Manu:
Manu National Park from Cusco: by car to Paucartambo, through the Kosnipata Valley to the Manu River.
Manu National Park from Puerto Maldonado: by car to the town of Santa Rosa 2.5 hours, cross the Inambari River to Puerto Carlos, to Boca Colorado 45 minutes, up the Madre de Dios River.
To Boca Manu: charter flights land at a small airstrip, river transport to the lodge.
- Registration fees
- Acjanaco Sector: S/. 10
- Lower Manu River Basin: S/. 150
- *Prices subject to change
What to bring to the Manu Rainforest Tour
- Dry bags or ziplock bags – humidity is intense, keep your equipment and important documents dry
- Long-sleeved shirts and long pants – to keep insects away, preferably breathable and quick-drying.
- Insect repellent: protect against mosquitoes and other biting bugs
- Cash: There are no ATMs in the jungle. Carry small bills to pay for drinks, snacks, and tips.
- Headlamp or flashlight: many lodges have no or limited lighting after dark.
- Comfortable, closed-toe shoes: sticky, slippery and sometimes muddy jungle trails make sandals and heels impractical.
- Photographic equipment: spare batteries, lenses, memory cards, etc.
- Waterproof binoculars: observe wildlife well
- Daypack – for carrying water, poncho, and other essentials during daytime excursions
Wildlife and animals in Manu National Park
In 2014 a study revealed that Manu National Park is home to the greatest diversity of terrestrial vertebrates in the world. More than 220 different species of mammals live in Manu. Jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and spectacled bears can be found, as well as 13 different species of monkeys, such as spider monkeys, titi monkeys, and tamarins. Among many others, Manu National Park also offers a home to tapirs, anteaters, armadillos, and sloths.
In addition, Manu National Park is the area with the greatest biodiversity of amphibians and reptiles in the world. To date, 155 species of amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders) and 132 species of reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles, iguanas, geckos and caimans) have been identified in Manu and new species are regularly discovered.
Manu National Park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise: over 1,000 different bird species can be observed, approximately 10% of all bird species in the world, including a variety of parrots and macaws, toucans, hoatzins, parakeets and hummingbirds.
In addition, more than 1,300 species of butterflies, about 650 species of beetles, more than 300 species of ants, more than 130 species of dragonflies and about 200 species of fish have been identified so far. However, other hitherto unknown species are being discovered on a regular basis.
Plants and trees in Manu National Park
Due to topographic circumstances, Manu National Park has more microclimates than any other region in the world, so an unparalleled diversity of plant species thrives throughout the reserve. More than 20,000 plant species have already been identified. But here, too, scientists are convinced that they have not yet discovered all there is to discover. It is believed that there are still quite a few completely unknown species that hold a few surprises, especially for medical applications.
What impresses visitors the most are, without a doubt, the enormous giant trees of the rainforest, with a height of more than 60 meters and a diameter of 8 meters. Countless beautiful species of palm trees and lianas also grow here. The cloud forest captivates visitors with a great variety of orchid, fern and mushroom species, while grasslands are omnipresent in the Andean highlands.
Frequently asked questions about the Manu Reserve
How to get to Manu National Park?
Tours to Manu National Park are offered by countless travel agencies in Peru and around the world. And even if you are on a limited budget, you can make the trip from Cusco to the Manu Cultural Zone by bus on your own.
However, when planning to visit the Reserved Zone, you should book your trip with an authorized agency; “Hikes in Peru” is an authorized agency for tours in Manu National Park.
Manu National Park from Cusco
Your trip to Manu National Park usually starts in Cusco early in the morning. From there the trip takes you by road by public or private bus, minivan or SUV to Paucartambo and later to Atalaya (8-12h). Depending on your plans, the trip continues by boat up the Alto Madre de Dios River to Boca Manu (6h-12h) and probably further into the rainforest along the Manu River. Although the overland and boat trip is tiring and tiring, there is surely nothing more beautiful and fascinating than traveling from the Andean highlands to the green Amazon basin and into the jungle.
Some tour operators also offer flights from Cusco to Boca Manu and vice versa (30 minutes). Thus, those who prefer to avoid a long bus ride or are short on time have the option of traveling to Manu in less than an hour. In some cases, it may be advisable to travel by road to Manu and fly back.
How to get from Puerto Maldonado to Manu
Manu can also be reached from Puerto Maldonado; first by road along the inter-oceanic highway to the town of Santa Rosa (2h) or to Puerto Carlos where you cross the Inambari River by boat and continue by road (1h) to Boca Colorado. From there the trip continues along the Madre de Dios River by boat until you reach the Manu River checkpoint (7-8h).
The best time to travel to Manu
Manu National Park is open all year round. However, the best time to travel to Manu is from April to November. In February and March, during the rainy season, roads and dirt roads can be flooded and landslides are frequent. So road travel from Cusco to Manu can be extremely difficult.
What health considerations should I take into account when traveling to Manu?
Yellow fever, malaria, and leishmaniasis are present in the Peruvian Amazon region. Although Manu National Park seems to be free of these diseases and no cases have been reported in recent years, there is always a risk of contagion. Therefore, take the necessary precautions. Some tour operators ask for yellow fever vaccination when booking a trip to Manu.
For more information on health and medicine, read our article “Health and Medical Care in Peru”.
What can I expect in an Amazonian Lodge in Manu?
Many lodges and tour operators in Manu follow ecotourism standards, with an emphasis on leaving a low carbon footprint. Basic but comfortable accommodations are available to visitors.
Mosquito nets are provided. The architecture resembles that of the local communities and uses locally available materials. Food is simple but good. The cooks use locally grown food, including fruits and vegetables. Lodge kitchens can accommodate vegetarian and other specific diets if notified in advance.
That said, it is generally true that you get what you pay for. If the package tour price is higher, you may get “extras” such as a hot shower and electricity. Be sure to check with the tour operator to find out what is included and what is not.
Which is better, Manu, Tambopata, or Iquitos?
It depends on the time you have and your specific interests. For short itineraries, Tambopata is probably the most accessible area for wildlife viewing. Iquitos offers the unique opportunity to navigate the Amazon River. Manu is suitable for travelers with more time who don’t mind basic accommodations in exchange for a unique experience of spectacular birdlife, clay ponds and unique habitats.
Why Book with Hikes in Peru
- Pioneers in trips to Manu National Park since 1991.
- One night in our lodge Orquídeas de San Pedro (Cloud Forest or High Jungle).
- Two nights at Erika Lodge (lowland rainforest), our private reserve of more than 100 acres, protected for 40 years.
- Our 3 private lodges, are strategically located to see the different ecological habitats and the best of the wild flora and fauna.
- In all our cottages we have: photovoltaic solar energy system panels, water filters, and permanent security communication with VHF radios and cell phones.
- Environmentally friendly 4-stroke outboard engines with no noise, no pollution, and low carbon dioxide emissions.
- Adrenaline in our Canopy Zip Line.
- Rafting in the tropical river “Alto Madre de Dios” class I and II equipment with a specialized captain included.
- Own river and land transportation. Experienced and certified drivers and crew.
- We have all the licenses and certificates.
- We give our passengers: Mosquito repellent bracelet, rain poncho, a map with relevant information about Manu National Park.
WHAT TO TAKE IN YOUR BACKPACK TO THE MANU NATIONAL PARK TOUR?
This question is answered from experience, so this article will help you decide what to wear and what not to wear.
Remember to adjust your luggage according to the activities you are going to do during your trip, to be as selective as possible, remember to be ultra selective with the things you will carry as well as to pack and compress well.
Follow these tips to decide what to wear:
Eliminate unnecessary and superfluous things. What is good for two days is good for 4 or 5 days.
If your backpack is light, it will be easy to carry it without much effort and you will enjoy your trip better.
If you have personal hobbies such as photography, bring your equipment and accessories, but don’t forget your waterproof plastics to protect them from rain and humidity.
For this trip we recommend taking a medium 30-liter backpack – large enough to carry everything you need for the trip – and a small daypack to carry your water bottle, insect repellent, sunscreen, flashlight and snacks.
Compress your clothes into neat plastic bags to make it easier to get what you need out of your backpack. Roll up your clothes and put them in small bags. This will also keep your things dry.
Use this list just to get an idea of what you will need on your trip. If you are 100% sure you will use it, take it. If you think it might be useful, but you are not sure, don’t take it. Try not to fill your backpack completely: you will appreciate its lightness on the road.
What should I pack in my suitcase?
For all tours to Manu National Park, “Hikes in Peru” recommends you to follow these considerations to have a comfortable trip. If you wish to talk to our travel specialist. +51 901 410 487
Please bring comfortable walking shoes, light long pants and long-sleeved shirts for our excursions, as well as a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, extra socks, dark colored clothing, swimwear, sandals and a small personal towel, water bottle or canteen, mosquito repellent with DEET and of course your camera with charger and extra batteries and waterproof ponchos with hood to protect you from the rain, torch/flashlight with extra battery. You may want to include some small items that you can give to the locals (T-shirts, pens and candy are especially appreciated). During meals in the dining room we ask our guests to wear casual clothing and shoes or sandals. We provide rubber boots for walking in the jungle.
Binoculars – Very important for enjoying wildlife (Vortex 10 x 42, Bushnell, Nikon 8 x 42).