About Pongo de Mainique Peru
For the ancient Inca people, Pongo de Mainique Peru (Door of the Bear) was a magical and sacred place. History shows that this region was used by the Incas to market their products and share their cultures with the Machiguenga native community living deep in the jungles along the Urubamba River.
Location of Pongo de Mainique Peru
Located a 10 hour drive from the city of Cusco, the Pongo is considered one of South America’s most dangerous and feared rapids. This 3km stretch of navigable river is one of the most challenging sections of the entire Amazonian river system and is only guided by a skilled boatman. Highlighted by dozens of waterfalls, the area within the Pongo contains more species of life than any other region on Earth. Traveling through here one gains an appreciation for its incomparable beauty, giant walls of vertical rocks, abundant vegetation and total isolation from the modern world.
Touring Pongo de Mainique Peru
Noted along the 5 hour scenic, winding road from Cusco to Quillabamba are stunning views of the Sacred Valley, highlighted by the villages of Pisac, Urubamba and Ollantaytambo and the heights of the mountains of Veronica. Beginning the gradual descent and entering the jungle region, temperatures increase as you travel to the port of Ivochote observing plantations of tea, coffee and fruit as you complete the 10 hour journey from Cusco.
Upon reaching Ivochote, the end of the road and the staging point for the Pongo de Mainique, boat operators and villagers hustle through it’s rough dirt streets. Ivochote is a friendly working river community, where a few hostels and small cafes host guests prior to departing onto the Urubamba River and entering into the Pongo.
18m gas powered aluminum long boats, operated by a skilled boatman, trained by masters of the Pongo, whisk people into the long canyon lined by soaring rocky cliffs, filled with gigantic volcanic boulders. Passing through small villages, the Pongo is impressive with it’s its flora and fauna. Visiting this natural wonder, allows guests to be in touch with native communities, view macaw and parrot clay licks and explore Pre-Incan petroglyphs. Hiking along remote waterways adds to this wonderful and unforgettable adventure. Overnight camping is allowed along the Urubamba River, allowing for further exploration downstream prior to the return boat ride to Ivochote.
The Pongo de Mainique is truly a photographer’s dream location, rich in history and full of spirituality of past civilizations.
The return trip to Cusco can be connected to a tour with the great archaeological complex of Machu Picchu via the village of Santa Maria.
Best time of year to travel:
May to October, are months of little rain making the river more navigable and non-restricted.
Pongo de Mainique weather:
Temperatures January-December: 23c-30c
Rainy season: December-May
Dry season: June-November
Average rainfall: 2600mm/annual
Wild pigs, deer, variety of monkeys, parrots, macaws, spectacled bears, jaguar, sabalo (giant catfish)
Arrival and Departure: Ivochote and Pongo de Mainique
It is highly recommended to pre-book your travel into the Pongo with prior arrangements for boat transportation and overnight accommodations.
By organized tour: For those that wish an extreme adventure into the Pongo de Mainique, contact Guiding Peru at guidingperu.com. Guiding Peru has privileged relationships and partnerships with Pongo boat operators with Indiginious guides offering return transportation from Cusco. Guiding Peru tours include overnight camping in the Pongo along the riverbanks of the Urubamba.
By bus: To travel from Quillabamba to Ivochote buses leave from Quillabamba’s northern depot between 8am and 10am daily for the 8+ hour transport.