Visit the world’s most diverse ecosystem from the easily accessible town of Puerto Maldonado within close proximity to Cusco. Enjoy long, deep experiences of the Amazon Rainforest from lodges like the Heath River or Tambopata Research Center or simply drop by to see what all the fuss is about on 2 or 3 night tours at Sandoval Lake or Posada Amazonas.
To get to Puerto Maldonado, you can fly, coach, drive or even cycle. By far the most popular and quickest method is by plane. The main places to fly to Puerto Maldonado are Lima, Peru’s capital city, and Cusco, Peru’s most popular tourism destination due to Machu Picchu. Puerto Maldonado is just 320 km north-east of Cusco. After visiting Machu Picchu, Puerto Maldonado is an excellent choice for a short Amazon tour as many people simply want to experience the Amazon Rainforest for a couple of nights.
Puerto Maldonado is Peru’s gateway to the southern Amazon to experience the Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park. You can also experience the Bolivian Madidi National Park from Heath River Lodge. Puerto Maldonado is only 50 km from the Bolivia border. These protected areas represent the most diverse places in the entire Amazon Rainforest, the world’s largest container of life.
Most flights from Lima first land in Cusco then on to Puerto Maldonado. The flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado takes about 45 minutes and there are some that go direct, which takes about 90 minutes. You will then land in Puerto Maldonado’s Padre Aldamiz (PEM) airport after flying over incredible areas of rainforest. The most reliable airline for punctuality is LAN and this is the airline most Peruvian tour operators recommend, however, this can change with time so it’s best to ask the tour operator or contact us for any latest news.
There is a road to Puerto Maldonado, which is best traveled during the dry season and will take 12 hours from Cusco. If comfort and time are a priority then it is best to consider flying. However, seeing the changing scenery and landscape is one of the incredible highlights of this option. The Interoceanic Highway linking Puerto Maldonado is now complete as before this the journey took much longer and you may still find outdated information online. The road connects Peru to Brazil and unfortunately cuts straight through primary rainforest, which will inevitably open up otherwise inaccessible areas of rainforest to logging, agriculture and settlement. However, as the road has already been made, it does provide a shorter time to get to Puerto Maldonado as well as exceptional views of southern Amazonia. At the very least, the road may provide easier access for tourists interested in sustainable tourism.
You can even cycle to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco, which is a hard trek traversing incredible landscapes on a descent from Andes to Amazon. This tour can be arranged with Wasai Lodges and is an incredible experience for cycling enthusiasts.
Getting to the Amazon Rainforest near Puerto Maldonado
The protected areas near Puerto Maldonado such as Tambopata National Reserve, Manu National Park and Madidi National Park posses phenomenal diversity. Here you can find several different primate species, including Howler Monkeys, Tamarins, Squirrel Monkeys and Capuchins as well many other mammals like Jaguar, Tapir and Giant Amazon River Otters. The bird diversity is also incredible with 1000 species in Tambopata alone, plus incredible reptiles, amphibians and plant life. The southern Amazon also includes many clay licks, more than other areas of the Amazon Rainforest. These areas are where colorful birds such as parakeets and macaws come to eat medicinal clay to counter toxins in their food. The licks also attract tapir and other animals to feed on the clay, which in turn attracts larger predators. Jaguar can sometimes be spotted sunning themselves on logs along the waterways and offer tourists an incredible wildlife experience.
Getting to Tambopata National Reserve from Puerto Maldonado
The closest protected area to Puerto Maldonado is Tambopata National Reserve, which is only 30 – 45 minutes away. Puerto Maldonado is unique with how close it is situated to such an incredibly diverse section of forest.
If you have arranged your visit with one of the reputable Amazon Rainforest tours, you will be collected from the airport and will most likely be transported to a port of the river. If traveling to Posada Amazonas Lodge, Refugio Amazonas or Tambopata Research Center, you will first visit Infierno River Port, named after the local community, and will then board a boat to travel down the Rio Madre de Dios running west of Puerto Maldonado.
If you’re staying at the Posada Amazonas Lodge, you will only need to travel 45 minutes from Puerto Maldonado to see incredible wildlife. However, if you’re staying at farther lodges, such as Tambopata Research Center near the largest known clay lick in the Amazon, you will travel the river for around two and a half hours to the Refugio Amazonas to rest, and will then journey on for another four hours deep into Amazonia.
Getting to Manu National Park from Puerto Maldonado
Getting to Manu National Park lowlands from Puerto Maldonado requires a little more time than getting to Tambopata. Instead of traveling directly alongside the Tambopata National Reserve, you will first travel overland for around three hours before another three hour voyage up the Rio Madre de Dios by motorized canoe following the river west towards the Parque Nacional Manu. You will head into the surroundings of one of the largest and most pristine protected areas in Peru. You can then enjoy a Manu Amazon Rainforest tour from Manu Wildlife Center or combine the visit with Manu Tented Camp, a low impact lodge actually built inside Manu National Park itself.