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Home > Tours> Birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Tour, Peru

Birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Tour, Peru - 5 Days

Birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Tour, Peru
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Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Birdwatching Tour

This 5-day Birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Tour is reasonably strenuous but a perfect blend of birdwatching and culture. The birdwatching Machu Picchu itinerary is ideal for beginners as it offers the magic and fascination of the Incan culture along with spotting some iconic avian species in the cloud forests near the Inca ruins. It is a particularly good chance to see exciting South American birds such as Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and Torrent Duck. The birding Machu Picchu tour is available as a set departure (or available request) where you can expect to see around 200 species of birds, including a dozen or so endemics.

The birding Machu Picchu tour also visits the Polylepis forests at Abra Malaga and the upper part of the Rio Apurimac drainage along the road to Salcantay in order to find the rare, endemic and near-endemic birds of this region. This is an exciting prospect for any birder, no matter how much experience they have.

"Gunnar like a brilliant conductor orchestrated our 18 day trip of Peru. From a fantastic trip to Machu Picchu, two days in the St Eulalia valley and Marcopomacocha with the crescendo being a 10 day odyssey through central Peru. Both the driver Manuel Zamora and bird guide Carlos Altamirano were outstanding and the famous Kolibri field meals were excellent. " - Bradord Decker

To avoid altitude sickness, the birding Machu Picchu tour starts at a modest altitude, at Aguas Calientes and the archeological site, and then gradually climbs higher over the five days. There is a lot of walking at Abra Malaga and, of course, many steps to climb at Machu Picchu, so this combination makes the tour moderately difficult, requiring a decent level of fitness. However, the birding is easy and rewarding in this popular region of Peru.

There are three levels of pricing for this tour, to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. Details of the differences can be found on our tour operator page.

Birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga Tour Highlights:

  • Several iconic and endemic bird species
  • Visit to a specialist hummingbird feeder to find Sword-billed Hummingbird
  • Views of Torrent Ducks in the Urubamba River
  • Learning about the amazing Incan culture

Please note: The above from pricing is based on 5 travellers participating in this tour.  With just two people on the tour the surcharge is $500/person. With 3 people signed up the surcharge is $250, and with four just $90/person

Are you keen to focus on photographing the birds you see on tour? Why not have a look at this specialist Hummingbird Photography Marvellous Spatuletail Tour?

Alternative Tour Name: Abra Malaga and Machu Picchu Tour
Day 1
Day 1 - Cusco-Sacsayhuaman-Ollantaytambo-Aguas Calientes

You either get picked up at the airport at 6 am or at hotel at around 7 am. We’ll take a short drive around Cusco's main plaza with the cathedral and a short stop if time permits to bird close to the impressive Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman above town (entrance not included, but non-birding partners may choose to do a visit while the others bird-watch. Most birds should be seen on the following days). Creamy-crested Spinetail, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Chiguanco Thrush, Red-backed Hawk, Black-backed Grosbeak, Sparkling Violetear and Golden-billed Saltator are all possible here. At 8:00am we leave for Ollantaytambo.

After leaving our luggage at the hotels in Ollantaytambo, and if time permits, some birding in Ollantaytambo specifically looking for Bearded Mountaineer. We board the 10:30am train to Aguas Calientes

. From the train we shall look out for Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper and Torrent Tyrannulet in the stream that runs along the railroad track. Usually, these are seen also in Aguas Calientes, but there since the river is regulated for hydroelectric purposes upstream sometimes there is not enough water for the duck in the Aguas Calientes.

After checking at our hotels and lunch we’ll take the bus to Machu Picchu citadel for an afternoon visit. A little known fact is that the light for photography at Machu Picchu is much better in the afternoon than early morning and there are far less people. Close to the ruins one can find the endemic Inca Wren, Cuzco Brush-Finch, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Dull-colored Seedeater, Highland Elaenia, sometimes Peregrine or Orange-breasted Falcon and Green-and-White Hummingbird.


Back in Aguas Calientes at dusk, those who want, can look for Lyre-tailed Nightjar close to the Kolibri Pro Hotel.

Hotels:

Kolibri MST deluxe - Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Here you get marvelous birding and bird photography on the premises of the hotel with feeders for tanagers and hummingbirds and a exquisite evening meal (those who do not stay there, cannot bird the area). Fantastic pre-dawn breakfast, Porters for luggage etc.

Kolibri Pro. Hotel Pachakutek or similar. Good service mid-range hotel which we have used for years. Good predawn breakfast included.

Kolibri Backbacker. Depending what is available at your time of booking, it may be a backpacker hostel dorm or an Airbnb type room. We always book the best option available in the backpacker price range. We use safe, recommended places only.

Day 2
Day 2 - Birding Machu Picchu

Predawn breakfast. The area below the ruins is rich with birds and many good species can be seen such as: Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Mitred Parakeet, Barred Parakeet, Andean Guan, Andean Cock-of-the Rock, Ocellated Piculet, White-eared Solitaire, Highland Motmot, Variable Antshrike, Black-streaked Puffbird, White-crowned, Sierran and Highland Elaenias, the endemic Masked Fruiteater, Saffron-crowned, Flame-faced, Rust-and-Yellow and Beryl-spangled Tanagers, Mottled-cheeked and Sclater's Tyrannulet and many more.

Lunch together in Aguas Calientes.

The train back to Ollantaytambo leaves from 3pm, depending on the category chosen and takes two hours.

Hotels in Ollantaytambo:

Kolibri MST. Hotel Pakaritampu (best place for Bearded Mountaineer in town)

Kolibri Pro. Hotel Munay Tika or Tunupa

Kolibri Backpacker. Backpacker hostel or airbnb type room.

Day 3
Day 3 - Birding Abra Malaga

We will get up very early for the drive up beyond the Abra Malaga pass at 4200m and continue to the north side of the pass and the wet temperate forest at Canchayoc.

Here we may see Diademed Tapaculo, Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Golden-collared Tanager, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Parodi´s Hemispingus, Marcapata Spinetail, Tit-like Dacnis, Cuzco Brushfinch and Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant. Rusty-breasted (Leimebamba), Red-and-White, Rufous (occubambae race) and Undulated Antpitta are often heard and with some luck we may be able to lure some of them into view with play-back of its call. Returning to the pass around mid morning we will do a short, but quite strenuous walk to the Polylepis woodland on the ridge beside us.

This is the most accessible high Polylepis woodland that holds the very rare Royal Cinclodes, Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant and White-browed Tit-Spinetail. Among other specialties are Giant Conebill, Line-fronted and Junin Canstero, Puna Tapaculo, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Thick-billed Siskin, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant and Puna Thistletail. As we come out of the valley, we stand good chance of encountering Andean Parakeet and Tit-like Dacnis. Back on the main road in roadside scrub we often find Junin Canastero, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch and Golden-billed Saltator.

Kolibri MST. Hotel Pakaritampu (best place for Bearded Mountaineer in town)

Kolibri Pro. Hotel Munay Tika or Tunupa

Kolibri Backpacker. Backpacker hostel or airbnb type room.

Day 4
Day 4 - Morning Abra Malaga - Afternoon Apurimac Valley

After additional morning at Abra Malaga to pick up species we may have missed the previous day, we shall continue to Laguna Huaypo for some marshland birding with Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Andean Lapwing, Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean (Masked) Duck, Puna Ibis, Andean Gull and many more. It is a long drive through the dry Apurimac valley, and over to the other side where we shall particularly look for the yet undescribed “Apurimac Tapaculo” and Apurimac Spinetail. Some night birding may award us with the Apurimac forms of Peruvian Pygmy Owl and Koepcke's Screech-Owl, and with lots of luck perhaps Buff-fronted Owl.

MST and Pro: Altaruna Lodge.

Backpack: Casona Mollepata, Mollepata village.

Day 5
Day 5 - Apurimac Endemics

We'll start looking for Pale-tailed Canastero and Spot-eared Puffbird near Moyopata and then spend the rest of the morning birding on Salcantay road. Apurimac Spinetail, Apurimac Brushfinch, White-tufted Sundbeam, Chestnut-breasted Warbling-Finch, Undulated Antpitta and Vilcabamba Tapaculo are found here. If you have a flight in the afternoon we'd arrange for the transfer too the airport, but if you are staying in Cusco, we shall end the day with a visit at Chonta to see Condors. It is a 3 km hike each way. People watching condors will possibly arrive late to Cusco - around 8 PM.

Top five birds that you can see on this itinerary.

  • Condor
  • Royal Cinclodes (CR)
  • Andean Cock of the Rock
  • Bearded Mountaineer (E)
  • Torrent Duck.

Other endemic birds

  • Inca Wren
  • Green-and-White Hummingbird
  • White-browed Tit-Spinetail
  • Cuzco Brush-Finch
  • Marcapata Spinetail
  • Parodi’s Hemispingus
  • Unstreaked Tit-Spinetail
  • Apurimac Tapaculo
  • Vilcabamba Tapaculo
  • Apurimac Spinetail
  • Apurimac Brush-Finch
  • Koepcke’s Screech-Owl
  • Pale-tailed Canastero
  • Scaled Metaltail

What is included?

  • Price is based on Kolibri Backpacker service which includes more basic lodging and no dinners.
  • Our Kolibri Pro service double room occupancy with private bath and dinners included is $160 additional.
  • For deluxe service with Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel and Pakaritampu Hotel in Ollantaytambo contact us.
  • All services include:
  • Transfer to and from your Cuzco hotel or Cuzco airport
  • Expert Guiding
  • Transport
  • Hotel pickup
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Entrance fee to Machu Picchu
  • Train to Aguas Calientes and back
  • Bus to and from Machu Picchu ruins
  • Safe drinking water (bring empty field bottle to fill up)

What is not included?

  • Dinners in backpacker service.
  • breakfast on day 1 (your hotel likely includes that - or even you fly from Lima you can get coffee etc at the airport or on the flight).
  • Dinner and hotel on day 5.
  • Gratitudes
  • Personal snacks
  • Bottled drinks.
  • Transfer to Lima aiport day one.
  • Domestic flights from or to Lima.
Wildlife Reviews
4.75 stars
- based on 4  reviews
  1. Manu road
    Garan storensten28 May 2018
    5
    Overall

    Tours

    Wildlife

    Guides

    Conservation

    Location

    Value

    Outstanding
  2. Machu pichu and Mano road
    Garan storensten14 Oct 2013
    5
    Overall

    Tours

    Wildlife

    Guides

    Conservation

    Location

    Value

    A fantstic tour with fantastic guides. I had the opportunity to catch photos of many beautiful birds, among them inca wren and cook-of-the-rock. I really would like to do another trip eith colibri expidition. They are the best!!!
  3. Peru October 2017
    Bradord Decker08 Oct 2017
    4.67
    Overall

    Tours

    Wildlife

    Guides

    Conservation

    Location

    Value

    Gunnar like a brilliant conductor orchestrated our 18 day trip of Peru. From a fantastic trip to Machu Picchu, two days in the St Eulalia valley and Marcopomacocha with the crescendo being a 10 day odyssey through central Peru. Both the driver Manuel Zamora and bird guide Carlos Altamirano were outstanding and the famous Kolibri field meals were excellent. From our close encounter with the Golden Backed Mountain Tanager to the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, the variety of birds including many endemics, surpassed our expectations. Thanks to our experience with Kolibri our first trip to Peru will not be our last. Fiorella Williams and Bradford Decker, London
  4. Our Peru Experince
    Ram and Sudha09 Jun 2018
    4.33
    Overall

    Tours

    Wildlife

    Guides

    Conservation

    Location

    Value

    We had a great time Birding in Peru - our first time. We would have wished a detailed Bird List at each location well ahead of the trip. Our guides were excellent and took the time to help us spot the bird and provided info about the Bird as well

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Why book with Kolibri Expeditions?

Our 5 day birding Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga tour runs every Monday-Friday or on request; and it also includes Apurimac valley for many endemics. It is a very time efficient program to maximise your birding time. If you have little time and want to see both the most iconic aspects of Peru like Machu Picchu and the colorful culture, and some of the best birds, this is a great trip for you. You may think that a trip this short it is best suited for beginners or light birders with non-birding spouses, we don't deny that birders with these caracteristics will not feel misplaced on this tour, but on the other hand more experienced birders will find that this trip also covers all the endemic birds of the region. An experienced birder with more time and after a very long list of new birds will simply just add another program, such as Manu road or North Peru, before or after this trip. We are extremely flexible.

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5 Days

Price & Availability

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USD1,245 / per person
Based on twin/double room
Single Suppliment USD 75
This tour is operated by: Kolibri Expeditions
4.76 based on 13 reviews

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Operator Review Summary

4.76 Based on 13 reviews
Tours
Wildlife
Guides
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Tour Facts

  • Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo
  • On Request
  • Multi-Day Tour
  • Birds
  • 5 days
  • 4 to 8px
  • Throughout the Year
  • No
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish
  • Alejandro Velasco Astete Cusco Airport (CUZ)
  • Alejandro Velasco Astete Cusco Airport (CUZ)