One of the best ways to witness the impressive biodiversity of Peru is by visiting both the dramatic highlands of the Andes and the immense jungle of the Amazon. Most travelers find this easy to do and check off two bucket list items at once, by visiting Machu Picchu and the Amazon in one trip! As two of the most impressive spots in the country (and World), we definitely recommend combining the two to anybody traveling in the area!
Here we have everything you need to know about how to travel from Machu Picchu to the Amazon: read on for all of the details!
Which Parts of the Amazon are Convenient to Combine with a Trip to Machu Picchu?
Puerto Maldonado (Tambopata) Manu & Iquitos are the most commonly visited in conjunction with Machu Picchu.
Most tours combining the two destinations will take you to Puerto Maldonado. It’s the biggest city in the section of the Amazon near Machu Picchu, so it’s the easiest part of the Amazon to access. Puerto Maldonado is a logging city, however, so you only want to use this as a gateway to the Amazon River. If staying only in Puerto Maldonado, you will not be on the Amazon River itself. Tambopata is the natural reserve closest to Puerto Maldonado, so the lodges and cruises that start in Puerto Maldonado usually visit this reserve (or the fringes of it). If you book a tour, they will likely take you through Puerto Maldonado, and you will spend a duration in Tambopata.
Manu is actually the closest Amazonian destination to Cusco, however it is much less developed than any of the other spots listed here. So, despite it’s proximity, it’s not considered as “accessible”. But don’t let that scare you off! Some say this area has the greatest biodiversity of the entire Peruvian Amazon, and the lack of development let’s you have the incredible nature at your fingertips. Visiting Manu usually is more costly than other Amazonian destinations, but is of a different caliber.
Iquitos is the largest city in the entirety of the Peruvian Amazon, and the most popular in the country to visit: However, it’s the furthest from Cusco and Machu Picchu. Visitors who will be in the North of the country or coming from Lima will find that the widest range of options are in Iquitos, however it’s the only one of these three that cannot be reached directly from Cusco (you must connect through Lima). It’s a large island in the Amazon, so you must go by boat or plane.
Getting From Machu Picchu to the Amazon
Whichever destination you choose in the Amazon, you’ll likely need to return to Cusco and travel from there (unless you are on a tour that will transport you privately).
From Cusco to Puerto Maldonado
You can reach Puerto Maldonado by plane or bus.
Flights from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado are just under 1 hour duration, and usually travel three or more times per day. Prices are often a few hundred USD if you book on your own, but local travel agents may be able to find better deals (sometimes there are cheap deals on national airlines that only Peruvians can snag!).
If you choose to travel by land, buses generally take 10 hours between the two cities and cost around $40USD. Local buses leaving Cusco for Puerto Maldonado usually leave at night and arrive around 7am.
If you book a tour, they will either arrange flights or often take you in a smaller car that can shave a few hours off of the bus times.
Tambopata is then only two hours from Puerto Maldonado, with the furthest lodges being about 2.5 hours.
From Cusco to Manu
Only a 45-minute plane ride from Cusco, it’s the shortest journey. However, they are no commercial flights to Manu, only light aircraft flights that land at the small airstrip at Boca Manu. They are generally infrequent and unreliable, so you’ll definitely want to speak with a travel agent or guide if this is the route you want to take.
Otherwise, you can travel by bus, which can range anywhere from 8 to 24 hours depending on weather. From there, you will need to take a 45 minutes boat ride.
From Cusco to Iquitos
To reach Iquitos, you must fly (or first travel to Puerto Maldonado & take a boat up the Amazon River).
There are no direct flights between Cusco and Iquitos, but you can get on connecting flights through Lima with relatively short layovers. If flying, it will usually take about 4 hours (including stop in Lima).
If you choose to travel by boat, then you can fly or drive to Puerto Maldonado, and take a barge up the Amazon. This can take anywhere from a few days to a week, and is definitely only for the very adventurous. If you book an organized river cruise, you can find a nice variety of options in every price range. If you take the local boat, it entails sleeping on the deck in hammocks and dining with the barge crew- the most adventurous route.
Luckily, this wide variety of options means there’s nothing stopping you from seeing both beautiful stops in one trip!