Travel Guide for Puerto Maldonado in Southern Peru

Sometimes, a city associated with the word port brings up the imagery of a coastal place influenced by the sea. This is not the case here. This city is influenced -and delimited by rivers, Amazonian rivers: Madre de Dios and Tambopata.

Puerto Maldonado is really a hub, you probably won’t spend much time in the city itself, but in different locations towards the north (Las Piedras, Bello Horizonte), south (Tambopata ecological corridor and National Reserve), and east (another section of the reserve, and other places of interest). What is left is the west, as a way of accessing and leaving the city, where the road connects with Cusco.

A hot and humid climate gives place to a lush, verdant jungle (as jungles should be despite illegal mining and logging) which surrounds the city. Copious rains feed the rivers and make them periodically overflow depending on the season. Puerto, as Puerto Maldonado is commonly known, is full of motorcycles because they are fast and cool ways of transportation in this hot environment, while the private personal ones are linear motorbikes, the ones destined to public transportation are roofed tricycles to allow more passengers and to make it easier during rains. Refreshments are being offered on every corner, so try as many as you can to introduce your palate to the flavors of the rainforest of southern Peru.

Here, you will experience nature at its best, conservation efforts of all kinds and sizes, adventure and relaxation, mosquitos and storks, geckos and caimans, ants and tapirs, fungi and gigantic trees. This is Puerto Maldonado, Tambopata, Madre de Dios (“mother of God”!).

What we recommed for you

This is easy, the first thing to do is heading to K’erenda Homet Nature Reserve. This is a family owned private conservation area of relatively small size, but big in terms of dedication. Here, our friend and conservation leader Víctor Zambrano fought many battles to defend its land and, in between, he was able to plant as many trees as you can imagine, to reforest the bare land that was (as many in the area) transformed into a cattle ranch. Nowadays, K’erenda, his real flesh and bone daughter, is taking the relay, and the reserve is safe for at least one more generation. It is a real story of struggle and success, about nature interpretation, about agroforestry and ornament plantations, all in all about the future of the region.

Watch the video we produced with our dear friend Torazza Gazzone

In the same area, Amazon Shelter is the next logical step to take. Magaly, a retired flight attendant, creates miracles on a daily basis. She literally dedicates her life to saving the lives of others: monkeys primarily, but you will also see parrots and macaws, sloths, peccaries, deers, tapirs, and basically any animal with the bad luck of having been in the hands of traffickers, or held as domestic pets. She goes through a daily struggle to get funds to sustain the place, train volunteers, transport animals for their release and monitor them, and keep away the thieves always surrounding her property. She deserves an award for a life dedicated to wildlife rescue.

Three-toed sloth being fed with a Cecropia leaf by Magaly

So, with the previous experience now you are ready to keep due south, to the National Reserve, and to any (or all three) of the marvelous lodges that lead more and more into the jungle. First, the community-managed Posada Amazonas, offering a unique set of activities and ample opportunities to observe wildlife and to discover ancient indigenous heritage (in this case the Ese Eja people of the Infierno community), where travelers can choose to create their own personal adventure. Then comes Refugio Amazonas, a luxurious oasis in the wilderness. With its wide variety of a la carte activities, the lodge is ideal for nature-lovers. And as the headquarters of a Citizen Science program, you can even contribute to science! Last but not least the Tambopata Research Center, the only lodge that lies within the Tambopata National Reserve, making it one of the most remote lodges in South America! The lodge’s pristine location means that it’s surrounded by the best wildlife the Amazon jungle has to offer.

OK, up until this point we covered the section down the Tambopata river. Now we turn north, to the Las Piedras river area, and Estancia Bello Horizonte. Both are socially and environmentally driven initiatives that we love (the reality is that we love all the places we mention in this guide).

Bello Horizonte is a lodge of which all its profits are channeled to support the foster house Hogar Principito, as well as keeping the last relic of aguaje palm forest in the vicinities of Puerto Maldonado. Most, if not all, of its staff are people coming from the Hogar Principito and the place is isolated and located in a beautiful area, so you will never forget sunrises and sunsets in this piece of jungle.

Aguaje palms stand out over the other trees by their white stems

Las Piedras Amazon Center (a.k.a. LPAC) is a simple but extraordinary place where everything is genius. Starting from their unique way to call for supper to the fantastic support they give to neighboring communities, an alliance needed to keep as many eyes on the forest as possible. The activities in the area consist of jungle walks (day and night), boat rides, and shared time with researchers and students of the natural sciences. Besides, having the opportunity to see how LPAC and its mother organization, ARC Amazon, give tools to neighboring families to economically sustain themselves with responsibility.

A sensational lizard found during a night jungle walk that could have been easily overlooked if it weren’t for the specialists

Deeper (upstream) in Las Piedras, is where one of our favorite donation recipient is located. Arbio is a forest concession, which means that the beneficiary can literally bring down the whole forest, and then return it to the State, but luckily what our dear Tatiana did was totally the opposite, so we (as many others) have the opportunity to adopt hectares of forest from time to time. We normally do not organize activities here, but through our customized service we can make it happen.

Las Piedras river at sunset from the lookout is a must do experience during your stay at LPAC

Now, all that is left is the east and this is where the most renowned cocha of the region lies. Cochas are lakes, in this case oxbow lakes that offer amazing opportunities of calm contemplations of nature while navigating its still waters. The experience that Cocha Sandoval offers include accessibility for wheelchairs (unique in its kind) and we value it as tourism of inclusion.

The Sandoval (oxbow) lake always captivate with the close contact that provides to the Aguaje palm trees and wildlife

How Puerto Maldonado connects to other destinations

Puerto Maldonado is normally included in our itineraries right after or before getting to Cusco. It is connected by air with Lima, and by road with Cusco, so strategically well placed. Today we are working on connecting Manu, the other jungle jewel of the south, by boat (and the last section by car) with Puerto Maldonado.

The Puerto Maldonado’s airport is a postcard of the tropics

Summarizing, the longest flight (from Lima) will take a couple of hours, while a night bus from Cusco (the most responsible and affordable way of transportation), will take about nine hours, so perfect for sleeping and saving one night of accomodation. Don’t you worry as buses in Peru can be VERY comfy!

Consider the easy way

If you prefer real experts to plan your itinerary for you, consider taking a look at our custom itineraries section. We have more than a decade experience in tailor-making unique travel experiences throughout our beautiful country. We’ll take all the work out of your hands and leave you only to look forward to your dream trip. 

Here are more images to eye-candy you

About RESPONSible Travel Peru

RESPONS’ mission is to improve living conditions in Peru through developing and promoting sustainable tourism. We’ve implemented a business model in which all areas of human relations are respected, and – equally important – respect for the planet is incorporated.

Following this business model, we practice fair trade, foster cultural identity, promote equal opportunities, and we preserve the environment that surrounds us and other species.

Together with you we improve, day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

Tours in Peru

Selia and three young travelers showing off the dishes after the cooking class | Responsible Travel Peru

Cooking Class in Cusco

Local artisan from Pachacamac sharing with a traveler on a tour with RESPONSible Travel Peru

Stripe Test Tour

Child Matsiguenga posing for our photographer | Responsible Travel Peru

Exploration to the heart of the Manu National Park

Spectacular view of the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca from the community of Vicos | Responsible Travel Peru

Short immersion in the Andean community of Vicos

Guido assisting the locals in Vicos with opening the Pachamanca and gathering the freshly cooked potatoes. Community-Based Tourism in the Andes - RESPONSible Travel Peru

The complete Vicos experience with Pachamanca

San Martin square is characterized by the big monument to the independence leader | Responsible Travel Peru

Lima Walking Tour

Close up of a chef serving ceviche on a dish | Responsible Travel Peru

Lambayeque Gastronomy Workshop