Peru: Are Lake Titicaca and Amazon Jungle Reopen After Covid-19?
If you haven't heard by now, Machu Picchu is open for business after covid-19. In spite of a couple of setbacks due to covid restrictions in Peru, it's full steam ahead. At least for now.
Every day I get calls and inquiries from travelers planning to travel to Machu Picchu, who have the time and interest to visit other destinations in Peru. It makes perfect sense to look at spending 3-4 days in the Amazon rainforest and Lake Titicaca because they're both literally 1 day from Cusco.
As of August 2021, here's what you need to know about reopening in Peru and travel to the Amazon jungle and Lake Titicaca. Machu Picchu is the "most open" region in Peru and the corridor from Cusco to Sacred Valley to the ancient Inca citadel is raring to go. Although not every single hotel and restaurant is open after covid, there's enough infrastructure, that travelers can choose from a variety of hotel classes to meet every budget. And I'm happy to report that the Madre de Dios region in the jungle has attained the lowest level of covid restrictions in Peru, and the lodges are functioning as demand increases.
Peru: Machu Picchu with Amazon Jungle.
It's important to know how to schedule a visit to the Amazon jungle on your trip to Machu Picchu. I think the most efficient way is to do the following:
- schedule your visit to the jungle at the beginning of your trip to Peru. This works well with limited flights all of which are routed through Lima. There are no direct flights from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco right now. But you can get from your lodge to Cusco in one day even if routed through Lima. Eventually we expect Latam Airlines to restore direct flights between Puerto Maldonado and Cusco.
- It's best to fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado (PEM) in the morning where the lodge staff will meet you and transfer you to the lodge before dark. This is important to know because there is not enough time to get to the lodge on the same day, if you arrive in PEM on an afternoon flight Could you go to Cusco first, then fly to PEM. Yes, but if you do that the flight will go through Lima and you will not arrive in the morning.
- confirm lodge availability for the dates you want. Not all lodges are open full time. Many are only open based on demand. Also check flight availabilty as you need to arrive and depart at specific times
- book your flights with Latam airlines. This is the most reliable at this time. The lodge will help you choose the correct flight time from PEM to Cusco. There used to be a direct 45m flight from PEM to CUZ. But not right now. All flights from PEM to Cusco are routed through Lima. On the morning you leave the lodge, book your flight to Cusco around midday and you should be there by 4-5PM the same day.
- another reason to go to the jungle at the beginning of your trip to Peru is to make sure you are near a clinic at the end of your trip in case you need a negative covid test to fly home. Covid tests for tourists are not available in PEM. You can get those in Cusco and Lima. Cusco is the easiest. Here's a link to read more
- My strategy for booking our groups into jungle lodges (at this time) is to put a soft hold on reservations for specific dates and monitor flight availability for those dates. Once you book the flights, it gets complicated to back out of your reservation if there is a last minute problem. Most lodges have a flexible no-risk cancellation policy. But once you make your payment, there is no refund for any reason.
- The Peru government imposes different covid restrictions on different locations. This affects the demand for buses to the lesser known regions in the desert communities south of Lima. For instance Ica and Nazca. The Peru government has announced that they will review covid restrictions every 15 days.
Peru: Machu Picchu with Lake Titicaca
- The trip to Lake Titicaca is best to schedule at the end of your trip to Peru. This is due to logistics and because Lake Titicaca is higher altitude. (12,500 ft)
- Puno is now open after covid, and there is at least 1 boat per day departing each morning on Lake Titicaca. Each boat holds around 20 people, so tourism is still emerging
- Takile Island, Amantani Island and Uros Islands are open.
- Amantani Island are reopened for 1 night homestays.
- Sillustani ruins and the Chucuito Fertility Temple are open. (is the temple a fake? See for yourself)
- From Cusco, the buses are only running at night and irregularly during the day based on demand. Departing 10pm, arriving Puno 5am. Buses have reclining seats and usually a toilet (only for #1). The buses may not be heated and the highlands are chilly at night. Dress warmly. Day bus service kind of resumed on July 15 with service based on demand. For people who need to plan ahead, the most reliable option is to arrange private driver and vehicle.
- Latam flights from Cusco to Juliaca (the nearest airport) fluctuate daily. Weekday flights from Cusco may go through Lima and arrive JUL the same day. However on weekends, the flights to Lima may be overnight. Check the flight schedule before you decide to go to Lake Titikaka if riding the bus is a deal breaker. (I've done this a few times. It's not bad)
- Private drivers and vehicles from Cusco can be arranged if you have the budget. You could depart Cusco early AM and spend the day driving to Puno with stops along the way. The "Sistene Chapel of the Andes," Andahuaylillas, may, or may not be open. And Raqchi ruins may or may not be open.
- A 1-day excursion on Lake Titikaka takes 3-days of travel to do. Add 1 more day to your itinerary if you want to include a 1 night homestay on Amantani Island.
- The most convenient and efficient way to get back to Lima, is a direct flight from Juliaca. I found 2 flights per day, which is a reduction in the normal pre-covid schedule. Most people want to fly down to Lima airport then make their international connection home later the same day. That makes perfect sense. There is a risk that flights from JUL can be delayed or even cancelled. Airports in high altitude places have to cope with seasonal and daily weather conditions that can affect flights. Should you add an extra day in Lima? That's your call.
- If you have the time, you can backtrack to Cusco by bus and fly to Lima directly. But it's usually not necessary.
Can you travel to Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca?
Yes. The trip to the Amazon jungle would be the first segment with a flight from Lima to PEM, then fly to Cusco and explore the Machu Picchu region, and finally visit Lake Titicaca before flying back to Lima. It's a loop connected by 1-way flights and 1 way bus from Cusco to Puno.