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Travel Guide to Puerto Maldonado in Southern Peru

Sometimes, a city associated with the word port brings up the image of a place characterised by the coast and sea. This is not the case in Puerto Maldonado. This city is influenced and delimited by Amazonian rivers: Madre de Dios and Tambopata.

Puerto Maldonado really is a hub. You probably won’t spend much time in the city itself, before heading to different locations in Tambopata, which is the province of Puerto Maldonado. You have the possibility of making your way to 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). Considering the western part, this is the access point to get in and out of the jungle, where the road connects with Cusco. If you really want to get into it, you can also read our blog on Tambopata Lodges & Attractions

In Puerto Maldonado, the hot and humid climate gives place to a lush, verdant jungle (the way jungles should be despite illegal mining and logging), which surrounds the city. Copious rainfall feeds the rivers and makes them periodically overflow depending on the season.

Puerto (which is what Puerto Maldonado is commonly called) 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 for public transportation are roofed tricycles allowing for more passengers and making it easier to advance during rainfall. Refreshments are being offered on every corner, so try as many as you can to get to know the variety of flavors of the rainforest in 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 when traveling to Puerto Maldonado

This is easy! The first thing to do is head to the K’erenda Homet Nature Reserve. This is a family-owned private conservation area of relatively small size, but it´s 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. His aim is to reforest the bare land that was (as many areas here) transformed into a cattle ranch. Nowadays, K’erenda, Víctor´s daughter, is taking the relay, and the reserve should be safe for at least one more generation. It is a real story of struggle and success, about nature interpretation, about agroforestry and ornament plantations and 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 place to go. 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 these previous experiences, you should be ready to go even further south, to the National Reserve, and to any (or all three) of the marvellous lodges that lead more and more into the jungle.

First, there is the community-managed Posada Amazonas Lodge, where travelers can choose to create their own personal adventure. It offers a unique set of activities and ample opportunities to observe wildlife and to discover an ancient indigenous heritage (in this case the Ese Eja people of the Infierno community).

Then comes Refugio Amazonas, a luxurious oasis in the wilderness. With its wide variety of à 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, there is the Tambopata Research Center This one is the only lodge that actually 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 that dedicated all of its profits to supporting the foster house Hogar Principito, as well as keeping the last relics 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. You will never miss any sunrises and sunsets in this part of the jungle.

Aguaje palms tower over the other trees, showing off their white trunks

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, a much-needed alliance 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 sharing time with researchers and students of natural sciences. Besides, you will get to see how LPAC and its mother organization, ARC Amazon, give tools to neighboring families to take on the responsibility of supporting them.

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

Deeper (upstream) in Las Piedras, is where one of our favorite donation recipients is located. Arbio is a forest concession, which means that the state gives this land to the concessionaire, who can then exploit this land according to his will. In this case, for example, the beneficiary could choose to cut down the whole forest before returning it to the State.

Luckily, what our dear Tatiana (the concessionaire) did, was the exact opposite. Thanks to that, we (as many other forest protectors) have the opportunity to adopt hectares of this part of the forest from time to time. We normally do not organize activities here, but through our customized service, we can make it happen for you.

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

Now, all that is left for us to explore 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 for calm contemplations of nature while navigating its still waters. The experience that Cocha Sandoval offers is accessible for wheelchairs (unique in its kind) and we appreciate this form of inclusive tourism a lot.

The Sandoval (oxbow) lake cruise is captivating thanks to the close contact it provides to the Aguaje palm trees and the 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.

Puerto Maldonado’s airport is a postcard of the tropics

To summarize, 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 accommodation. Don’t you worry, the 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 of experience in tailor-making unique travel experiences throughout our beautiful country. We’ll take all the work from you so that all you have to do is look forward to your dream trip. 

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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.

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