Puerto Maldonado – Peru’s Forgotten Amazonian Destination
August 21, 2018
Puerto Maldonado, Peru is a great base to explore the Amazon Jungle. Getting from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado is easy and the Amazon near Puerto Maldonado is less touristy than other areas! This blog is about our experience in the Puerto Maldonado Amazon including everything you need to know to go for yourself!
The Puerto Maldonado Amazon
The Amazon Rainforest is the most diverse region in the world. It produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and is home to 20% of the worlds river water. With 40,000 different plant species and approximately 2.5million insect species, it’s no wonder why its one of the most visited places in South America.
The Amazon actually spans over 9 countries which give visitors lots of choice of where to visit. However, in this post, I want to talk about one small city located in Peru, Puerto Maldonado.
Puerto Maldonado is a rather forgotten city when it comes to a place to visit the Amazon. In Brazil, you have the famous Manaus, and in Peru, you have the city of Iquitos. That being said, when a place that is a gateway to mother nature then the less visited option can actually be a good thing!
With the millions of people who visit the Amazone each year finding unique and spectacular wildlife can become more difficult as a place becomes more populated. That’s why during our visit to Peru we decided to make the long journey from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to visit the Amazon Jungle.
Here is my guide and review of my trip to the Amazon Jungle in Peru!
Where is Puerto Maldonado
The city of Puerto Maldonado is a 10-hour bus ride east of Cusco. The city sits along the banks of the Rio Madre De Dios River and is surrounded by thick Amazon Jungle.
Puerto Maldonado is actually located right next to the border of Brazil and Bolivia and shares the Amazon Jungle with them. Although it is not overly touristic Puerto Maldonado is not a dangerous city and the people were very friendly in and around the city. There are plenty of places to stay and the prices are very affordable.
The town itself is not overly beautiful but the sunsets at the river are spectacular!
Getting From Cusco to Puerto Maldonado
Most people visit Puerto Maldonado from Cusco. Cusco, being the gateway to Machu Picchu, is a place everyone visits on a trip to Peru. From Cusco, the easiest place to see the Amazon Jungle is to go to Puerto Maldonado thanks to a highway that was recently built connecting the two cities.
From Cusco, there are many direct day and night buses that make the long journey through this remote and untouristic part of Peru.
Busbud.com is a great place to book a bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. The journey costs about $10 USD and takes about 10 hours.
If you have time, I suggest taking a day bus and the views along the way are absolutely breathtaking! You climb up to over 4,000m above sea level and you drive over the top of a mountain, It is crazy to watch the scenery go from mountain tops with cold weather to think jungle, rivers, and hot weather within a matter of hours.
Typical tours from Puerto Maldonado
The most common tours we saw advertised at various tour agencies were 3 to 5-day adventures down the Rio Madre De Dio River. Almost all of the tours included a trip to the famous Mineral Mackay wall. The tours include food, transport, English guide, and accommodation in a lodge in the jungle.
Of course, some tours are more luxurious, and some are more budget oriented.
We booked our Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour through our hostel, Tambopata Hostel, as we found it the most reasonably priced for what we got. The advertised price is $275 USD at the moment for three days and two nights, but we negotiated them down to $225 USD each but we were there during the slow season.
We opted for the 3-days and 2-nights adventure down the Rio dos de Madre river. Our tour began in the early hours of the morning as we made the 1.5 hour drive through an off-road track that winded it’s way through the jungle once we arrived in the remote banks of the Rio Madre we boarded a small wooden boat and headed for the eco-lodge.
The boat ride to the lodge was around 30 minutes long and as we moved through the river we realised just how remote we now were. As we pulled up there was no sign of a lodge and simply and small wooden post and step to tie the boat to. Then we headed through the forest lead by our Amazonian guide to the lodge.
We breached the thick green jungle to find a small clearing with a few wooden cabins. The lodge relied heavily on sourcing there own food from there gardens and ran off solar power. There were no sounds in the air except for nature. The birds cheered and the trees blew in the wind. This was our home for the next two nights and wow, we were excited.
That day and night our guide took us down a few trails around the camp showing us all the cool, unique and dangerous parts of the forest. We learned about the Amazonian culture and talked about the environmental dangers that now face this once pristine region.
We saw monkeys swing from the trees and huge ants building their nests. Spiders as large as our hands were all too easy to find.
The next morning we rose early from our beds and headed even further down the Rio Madre. This time we were headed for one particular spot, the clay cliffs to watch the macaws come and lick the clay.
For those unaware, this natural phenomenon is created as mineral-rich soil eroded from the clay on the rock wall. These minerals are a favourite to the macaws and other birds in the region and every morning they head here for a morning feed.
On some days no birds can show and on others hundreds will be sitting on the wall licking it for the rich minerals. When we were there we were lucky enough to see several macaws and many other birds come to the clay wall for a morning snack. This experience was amazing! But it wasn’t over yet.
After watching the feeding we headed back on the main section of the Rio Madre and went animal spotting. I wasn’t sure how hard finding some cool and unique animals would be but it was actually easy. Within minutes we were only meters from a large caiman that sat on the banks of the river. Then we saw the world’s largest rodent the capybara (which looks like an over-sized guinea pig!)
That day concluded with an after-dark bush walk searching for nocturnal creatures. We didn’t get too lucky this time though and only spotted a few huge spiders and a frog.
On the last day, we headed down some smaller streams and went piranha fishing. With some red meat as bait, we put our lines in the river and hoped for a catch. Within minutes we all had bites and I ended up landing one! Seeing these guys up close I realised where they got their reputation from. Their jaws where large and their bite was strong. These little guys were fierce and getting them off the hook was difficult!
We ended the day with two fish which we cooked up and shared for lunch.
It was day three and our time in the Amazon was over, but what a fantastic time we had!
Our Review of the Puerto Maldonado Amazon
Overall, we had a great time! It was nice to experience the Amazon Jungle in such a remote location from our lodge only accessible by boat.
While the experience is much more expensive than most trips in Peru, it was well worth it. If you are already planning a trip to Cusco, then consider extending for a few days to visit Puerto Maldonado!
Have you been to the Amazon Jungle before? If so, where did you go? Tell us in the comments!
If you are planning a trip in Peru be sure to check out our Peru Travel Guide for tons of great travel tips!