• Tel: +44(0)1479 821248
  • Request a Brochure

Southern Peru - Birding and Machu Picchu

A relaxed pace birding tour of Peru - with a visit to spectacular Machu Picchu!

2024 Dates
  • 12 Oct - 27 Oct 2024
Duration16 Days
Guides Local expert Danny Vargas will join the tour in Cusco.
2024 Price
£5995 pp
£595 single supplement. Deposit £1200

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

2026 Dates
  • 17 Oct - 31 Oct 2026
Duration15 Days
Guides Local expert Danny Vargas will join the tour in Cusco.
2026 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12

This holiday offers a unique experience, the opportunity to enjoy wonderful Peruvian birding from the Pacific coast near Lima to the unique Manu Biosphere, together with an exploration of Cusco, Aguas Calientas and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, at the very heart of the Inca Empire. We recently extended this tour by five extra nights, allowing us to take more time and build an unforgettable experience in this wonderful country.

Peru is an amazing birding destination from north to south, though it is difficult to explore the whole of this large country on a single visit. We spend most of this holiday in the southern half, and visit humid, unspoilt temperate forests where flocks of brightly-coloured birds can be expected among the forest canopy of bromeliads and mosses. Hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans, raptors, finches and fruiteaters, the birdlife is astounding, and we plan to see a large selection in one of the world's most bird-rich regions. We explore deep inside the huge, unspoilt Manu Biosphere, and target incredible Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, hoping for several birds at the lek. We also include an easy-going day on arrival to see Humboldt's Penguin and Inca Tern, and keep our eyes peeled throughout the holiday, so that even while enjoying the most breath-taking cultural treasures, new birds can be expected on a regular basis.

Our cultural exploration is concentrated on the area around Cuzco and Aguas Calientas, where we spend time to do justice to the archeological heritage of this unique place. In this part of the country, Inca influence is particularly strong, and tradition still rules the daily lives of people, who are very proud of their legacy. Machu Picchu itself is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes, built in the 15th century, renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar. Although its exact former use remains a mystery, Machu Picchu contains many intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. We also include a cultural exploration of key sites around the city of Cuzco, including Sacsayhuaman, an Inca "ceremonial fortress" located two kilometers north of Cuzco. Built between the XV and XVI centuries, its megalithic walls are considered the greatest architectural work that the Incas performed. We also visit Qorikancha, with its once gold-covered walls, one of the most important buildings in the time of the Inca civilization, built to honour the Sun God “Inti”.

We have arranged our itinerary so that excursions take place at a slow pace. For instance, you will have plenty of time inside Machu Picchu for photographs, and to enjoy local birds including Inca Wren, Cusco Brush-Finch, and Tricolored Brush-Finch. Our hotels have been chosen carefully throughout, and all the city/town hotels are of a good standard, which we consider important for your comfort in a place so far from home.

A very important part of the holiday is our time spent in the cloud forests of Manu National Park in the Andean foothills. We visit an area where altitudes range between 1500 and 3000 metres, offering a high diversity of mountain birds, and we stay at two lodges, Wayqecha and Cock-of-the-Rock, where conditions are comfortable (though not as luxurious as elsewhere), and the main attraction is the fantastic birdwatching. 

This holiday should be of great interest to those who want a bird-filled experience with important cultural heritage viewing, and a real flavour of the country of Peru, all conducted at a non-intensive pace.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Sat 12 October 2024            Lima
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from Heathrow to Lima, where we transfer to the hotel for our welcome dinner in Miraflores. We stay at a comfortable hotel to recover from our long flight, and enjoy a buffet breakfast the following morning. Overnight at hotel El Tambo Dos de Mayo for two nights.

Day 2: Sun 13 October          Pucosana and Puerto Viejo
This morning we make our way south of Lima for about one and a half hour to Puerto Viejo's marshes. The main attractions are Great Grebe, Peruvian Thick-knee, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Grassland Yellow-Finch. On the beach we hope to find Surf Cinclodes flying around the rocky areas. Next we stop at Pucusana, where we take a boat to explore the cliffs, a good place to search for Inca Tern and Humboldt Penguin, two key species of the tour. We make a short stop by Villa Marshes for more waterbirds.

Day 3: Mon 14 October          Lima - Cuzco - Urubamba
After breakfast we take the early flight to Cuzco, and on arrival drive directly to our high quality hotel in Urubamba, where we have lunch. It is important that we take our time to help acclimatise to the altitude, and so the remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. Some birding can be done around the hotel where hummers alone include Giant Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing and Shining Sunbeam. We enjoy dinner and overnight here at Hotel Lizzy Wasi.

Day 4: Tue 15 October               Aguas Calientes - Machu Picchu
Today we concentrate on the key cultural highlight of the holiday, our visit to Machu Picchu. Early in the morning we transfer to the railway station in Ollantaytambo, and take the train to Aguas Calientes, a journey of around two hours. On arrival we check-in at our hotel. We leave for Machu Picchu after having lunch at the hotel, taking a shuttle bus to the World Heritage Site. Machu Picchu is located on the peak of a mountain surrounded by the mighty Urubamba River, which runs east through the canyon almost half a mile below the citadel. Our guided visit includes the Temple of the Sun, The Tower, the Priestly Mansion, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Central Temple, the Plaza, and the fountains and channels that forms the “Inca Baths”. We plan to stay inside the Site for around three hours, to maximise your experience here. We will also have the chance to see some special birds including Inca Wren, Parodi's Hemispingus, Cusco Brush-Finch, and Tricolored Brush-Finch. Overnight at Hotel El Mapi.

Day 5: Wed 16 October    Machu Picchu - Cuzco.
We spend our final morning here birding the forest along the river just outside the town, looking for birds including Green-and-white Hummingbird, Andean Motmot, Ocellated Piculet, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Masked Fruiteater, and many more. We will take lunch at our hotel before checking out, followed by a train journey back to Cuzco, and a short bus trip to our hotel. Overnight at Hotel San Augustin International for two nights.

Day 6: Thurs 17 October     Cuzco
Today will be a combination of key cultural heritage sites, birding, and free time as we pace ourselves at high altitude. We devote our morning to the city of Cuzco. Our first stop is at the Temple of the Sun, known as Qorikancha. This temple, with its once gold-covered walls, was one of the most important buildings in the time of the Inca civilization, built to honor the Sun God, Inti. The we visit the archaeological site of Sacsayhuamán, one of the finest and most amazing architectural constructions of the Inca empire. During this excursion we have the chance to find some birds including Andean Flicker, Spot-winged Pigeon, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch and more. Back in the city centre we we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant, after which we visit the colonial style Main Plaza and Cuzco Cathedral. One of the most impressive buildings of the city, its frontispiece is in Renaissance style, and contrasts with the baroque and Plateresque of its lavish interiors, where some of the most significant gold and silver works of Peruvian colonial art is preserved, with delicately carved wooden altars and an admirable collection of paintings by renowned local artists. You will have the rest of the afternoon at leisure. 

Day 7: Fri 18 October            Cuzco - Weyqecha Lodge: the Manu road
Today we have an early morning departure as we travel to montane forests of the Eastern Andes. Not far from Cusco we visit Huacarpay Lake, which holds duck, waterbirds, migrant shorebirds and Andean Gulls. Reedbeds hold Plumbeous Rails, Many-coloured Rush-Tyrants and Yellow-winged Blackbird. Nearby scrub will be carefully birded for specialities such as Speckle-fronted Thornbird and Rusty-fronted Canastero. Other possibilities are Andean Negrito, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant and various seedeaters and sierra-finches.

En-route we take a packed lunch before arriving at the Acjanaco pass, at an altitude of c 3000 metres, where we enter the Manu National Park buffer zone. The elfin forest and the bushes here hold many interesting birds such as Puna Thistletail, Scribble-tailed Canastero, Diademed Tapaculo, Masked Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, White-browed Conebill, Blue-backed Conebill, Golden-Collared Tanager, Three-striped Hemispingus, Plush-capped Finch, and many more. Beyond the pass, the elfin forests of Wayqecha are good for Andean Guan, Shining Sunbeam, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Azahara's Spinetail, Sierran Elaenia, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, White-collared Jay, Great Thrush, Parodi's Hemispingus, Blue-capped Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded-mountain Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Tanager, Golden-collared Mountain Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Masked Flowerpiercer, Black-faced Brush-Finch, and many others. We arrive at our comfortable accommodation by mid-afternoon, surrounded by a luxuriant stunted cloud forest at an altitude of 2900 metres, and enjoy dinner and at Wayqecha Lodge, where we stay for two nights.

Manu Biosphere Reserve
This is a huge, unspoilt area, much of which is still unexplored, encompassing virtually the entire watershed of the Manú River, from the sources of its tributaries high in the Andes, to its emptying into the Madre de Dios River. Conserved originally by its inaccessibility, the park was recognised by UNESCO in 1977 as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1987 was pronounced a World Heritage Site. It is the largest National Park in Peru, covering several ecological zones ranging from 150m - 4200m, and enjoying one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. The reserve is a landmark destination for birdwatchers, with more than 1000 species recorded. Permanent human habitation is restricted to several small communities of the Matsigenga Amazonian tribal nation, largely along the Manú river or one of its main tributaries. Several protected areas adjoining the park allow mixed use including tourism, and on this holiday we visit the Puna grasslands above 3000m and the cloud forests between 1500m and 2900m, both of these places offering a huge variety of Manu bird specialities to see.

Day 8: Sat 19 October      Wayqecha Lodge
We spend the day birding around the lodge, mostly along the road. We drive briefly to explore the forested areas bellow and above the lodge looking for birds including White-browed Conebil, Blue-backed Conebil, Golden-Collared Tanager, Three-striped Hemispingus, Plush-capped Finch, and more. Overnight Wayqecha Lodge.

Day 9: Sun 20 October    Wayqecha - Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge (COTR)
Early after breakfast we say goodbye to Wayqecha and head to lower altitudes (between 2600 and 1500 metres), where the cloud forests offer a different group of equally spectacular birds including some endemics: Golden-plumed Parakeet, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Long-tailed Sylph, Masked Trogon, Black-streaked Puffbird, Marcapata Spinetail, Rufous-backed Treehunter, Barred Fruiteater, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Handsome Flycatcher, Inca Flycatcher, Mountain Cacique, Long-tailed Sylph, Masked Trogon, Black-streaked Puffbird, Crested Quetzal, Crimson-Mantled Woodpecker, and, as always, many more! By late morning we arrive at COTR Lodge, where we have lunch. We spend the afternoon at the COTR bird feeders, hoping to see Golden and Silver-beaked Tanagers, Buff-throated Saltator, and hummingbirds including Fork-tailed Hummingbird, Many-spotted Hummingbird, and more. We have our first dinner and overnight stay at this special place, surrounded by luxuriant montane forest at an altitude of 1500m. NB the Lodge does not currently have an independent website.

Days 10 - 12: Mon 21 - Wed 23 October            Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
With three days to explore, this is a key birding highlight of the holiday. We begin by birding the forest around the lodge, where the main attraction is the Andean Cock-of-the Rock lek, the biggest lek of these birds known in Peru, and we hope to see several birds here. During our stay we hope to visit the lek on two of our three mornings, well worth repeating as this is one of the birding world's most memorable experiences! In the gardens of the lodge it's not difficult to find Versicolored Barbet and Rufescent Screech-Owl, whilst the forest roundabouts holds a high diversity of birds including some endemic species: Ash-browed Spinetail, Black-billed Treehunter, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Ornate Antwren, Yungas Manakin, Cerulean-capped Manakin, Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant, Ornate Flycatcher, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, and many more: the complete list for this area has about 500 species, and the forests can produce mixed flocks containing a huge diversity of brightly-coloured species. On one day we will drive for about one hour to reach higher altitudes that are good for Golden-plumed Parakeet, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, White-throated Hawk and Black-and-Chestnut Eagle. We also visit a trail into a patch of dense swampy forest just below the lodge, to look for the very elusive Rufus-breasted Antthrush and perhaps Stripe-faced Wood-Quail. During days at the lodge we take a siesta after lunch, returning to the forest later in the afternoon to continue our birding exploration.

Day 13: Thurs 24 October            Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge - Wayqecha Lodge
This morning we take the road back to Wayqecha Lodge, birding for species we could have missed in the cloud and elfin forests. After lunch at the Lodge, we drive to the highest parts of the area, again looking for high altitude birds like Puna Thisteltail, Scribble-tailed Canastero, Diademed Tapaculo, Masked Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, White-browed Conebill, and others. Overnight at Wayqecha Lodge.

Day 14: Fri 25 October       Wayqecha - Cusco
We drive back to the city of Cusco, with a few stops for birding in the cloud and elfin forests. If we have enough time we could spend one or two hours at Huacarpay lake again. Arriving in time for lunch, our afternoon is at leisure, and we stay overnight at Hotel San Agustin international once more.

Day 15: Sat 26 October                Cuzco - Lima
After breakfast we have some free time for shopping, souvenirs and walk around the city centre at your leisure, followed by our farewell lunch at a local restaurant. We then transfer to the airport for the flight to Lima, arriving in good time for our international connection back home, arriving Heathrow on Sun 27 October 2024.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • scheduled return flights  London and Lima, Peru. Domestic flights Lima - Cuzco - Lima. Airport taxes and transfers.
  • ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Peru in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle. Services of driver and Tour Leader throughout.
  • return train tickets to Machu Picchu.
  • accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leaders. National guides, with expert cultural guides in Machu Picchu and Cuzco.
  • entrance fees to historical sites including Machu Picchu. Entrance fees to parks and reserves, and tips to hotels and restaurants.
  • departure taxes.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more....

FREE! ‘Birds of Peru’ field guide by Thomas S. Schulenberg, Douglas F. Stotz, Daniel F. Lane, John P. O'Neill, Theodore A. Parker III,  is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, visa costs where necessary, optional tips to the driver and local guide, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is en-suite in comfortable hotels. Hotels in Lima and Cuzco are comfortable to a higher standard than those in the biosphere, and Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and Wayqecha are less luxurious but nevertheless very comfortable. There is a limited electricity supply in Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where electric lighting is substituted by candles and lamps late in the evening. 
Food Breakfast is usually served as a buffet, with a wide choice. Lunch and dinner is usually traditional local dishes. For convenience, we will take some boxed-lunches when in the field. Meals include water/soft drink, and snacks and beverages during outings. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome. A large water dispenser will be available on our bus, please bring your own water bottle so you can refill it as you need to.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There is some uphill track and road walking, and an average level of fitness is required. At Machu Picchu, the walk is moderate and can be long, but at a slow pace; because we have planned to spend around three hours inside the archaeological site, you should be able to walk at a comfortable pace. Please note, there are a great number of steps at Machu Picchu, unavoidable if you want to thoroughly explore the site. Only rubber-tipped walking sticks are allow in Machu Picchu.
Weather will be mixed. Mostly the temperature will be slightly cold in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. Temperatures in October are usually around 8ºC at dawn, and can reach up to 25ºC at noon on sunny days. Temperatures are slightly warmer in Machu Picchu but there are more chances of rain. The road to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge traverses different ecosystems, so weather conditions will be varied during the day: during the morning, we will be driving across a typical Andean ecosystem with probably a dry and slightly cold weather. Once we reach the eastern slope of the Andes, after the Acjanaco Pass (at about 3000m), we will start losing altitude and the weather becomes warmer and more humid. Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge is located at 1500m.
Insects There are biting insects around Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, though not usually as a major problem. The lodge has mosquito nets covering the windows and beds.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Heathrow. Currently, departure from Heathrow is scheduled for early morning, arriving in Lima in the evening. return flight is an overnight departure, arriving back at Heathrow early evening. Should you wish to extend your stay in Peru, either before or after your holiday, we will be happy to arrange this for you. All arrangements will be tailored to your requirements, please contact us.

Altitude considerations Cuzco is located at an altitude of 3200m and the hotel in the Sacred Valley is somewhat lower, at around 2900m. We spend our first nights in the Andes at the lower altitudes of the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes to help you to adjust before we travel to Cuzco. Nevertheless, should you suffer from altitude sickness, some rest and locally available Coca-leaf infusion should help!

Your Leaders:

Wilson Diaz is a biologist based in north Peru, who we first met in 2014, and he has led for us several times in his homeland. He started birding when working on a conservation project focused on an endemic Peruvian hummingbird. He has travelled extensively across the country, and is an experienced tour leader. Wilson says: “When I travel I enjoy nature, and my greatest satisfaction is to share this joy with visitors.”

We will also be joined by Danny Vargas in Cusco, another excellent Peruvian Guide.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in South America

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Peru

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

Trip Reports

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248