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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 Puerto Maldonado and the Amazon including everything you need to know to go for yourself!
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 world’s river water. With 40,000 different plant species and approximately 2.5 million insect species, it’s no wonder why it’s 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. When we were traveling in South America we had a hard time deciding where to visit the Amazon. Some places were too expensive, some were too remote, and some were too mainstream and overcrowded with tourists.
That’s why we chose to go to the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado in Peru.
Puerto Maldonado, Peru 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 more popular city of Iquitos.
In addition, Puerto Maldonado is rather easy to get to from Cusco and multi-day trips to remote eco-lodges (only accessible by boat) are affordable.
With the millions of people who visit the Amazon each year, finding unique and spectacular wildlife can become more difficult as a place becomes more populated. That’s why while traveling to the best places around Peru we decided to make the journey from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado to visit the Amazon jungle.
Here’s my guide and review of visiting the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado, Peru including information on getting there, the wildlife, booking an Amazon trip, what to expect, and more!
About Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Puerto Maldonado is a small city located in Peru. It is right next to the country’s border with both Bolivia and Brazil, and also very close to the Amazon Jungle. The Interoceanic Highway that was completed in 2012 connects Puerto Maldonado with Cusco and also serves as a major transport route into Brazil.
Of course, the main draw to Puerto Maldonado for tourists is the easy access to the Amazon. Tours from Puerto Maldonado to eco-lodges in the remote Amazon are popular. However, there is more to Puerto Maldonado than this. It’s a culturally rich city home to approximately 85,000 people. You’ll find a colorful central square here and plenty of nice restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Puerto Maldonado borders the huge Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers. In fact, the city is near where these two rivers meet! Nearby is also Manu National Park, one of the most biodiverse places in Peru, and Tambopata National Reserve. All of these protected areas mean that Puerto Maldonado is the perfect base for wildlife lovers – and we couldn’t agree more!
Where is Puerto Maldonado, Peru?
The city of Puerto Maldonado, Peru is an 8-hour bus ride east of Cusco (allow up to 10 hours as the bus is usually slow). The city sits along the banks of the Rio Madre De Dios River and is surrounded by a thick Amazon jungle.
Puerto Maldonado, Peru is a small city within the greater Amazon Rainforest. However, if you want to have a true jungle experience where you see lots of wildlife then you will have to leave Puerto Maldonado city by boat to more remote places.
In the city itself, expect to see some amazing sunsets and river views.
Getting to Puerto Maldonado, Peru
You can reach Puerto Maldonado, Peru by either bus or flight.
Many people visit Puerto Maldonado by bus from Cusco as it is the cheapest route.
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 buses (both daytime and nighttime) that make the long journey through this remote and somewhat untouristic part of Peru.
Busbud.com is a great place to book a bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. The journey costs about $12 to $30 USD and takes about 10 hours.
If you have time, I suggest taking a day bus as the views along the way are absolutely breathtaking! You climb up to over 4,000 m (13,123 ft) 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 thick jungles, rivers, and hot weather within a matter of hours.
There are regular domestic flights to Puerto Maldonado from both Cusco and Lima.
Amazon Tours from Puerto Maldonado, Peru
The most common Puerto Maldonado Amazon 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 Mackaw Wall.
The tours include food, transport, an English-speaking guide, and accommodation in an eco-lodge in the jungle.
You can also book similar tours online in advance with Viator (the company we use) and the pro of this is that you’ll be able to compare and contrast the different options and prices to find exactly what you are looking for. No getting ripped off here!
Of course, some tours are more luxurious, and some are more budget-oriented. Below are some great options for tours in the Amazon Jungle from Puerto Maldonado, Peru:
1-Day Amazon Tour from Puerto Maldonado, Peru (Day Trip)
If you are really short on time you can go on a full-day trip to the Amazon Jungle from Puerto Maldonado. I recommend spending a couple of nights at an eco-lodge if you can, but if not, then a day trip to the Tambopata Jungle is a possibility.
This full-day tour includes seeing the famous Macaw Clay Lick and a boat ride in the Tambopata River right in the heart of the Amazon jungle! It is by far the most popular one-day tour choice because no other tours actually go to this area in just one day. It costs $221 USD per person and last 11 hours long.
2-Days, 1-Night Amazon Tour from Puerto Maldonado, Peru
With only 1 night you can go out to the Amazon jungle from Peru and still have time to do an afternoon and evening walk to check out all of the wildlife! You’ll spend a night in a lodge in the heart of the Amazon before getting up early to attend the famous Macaw Clay Lick.
The one-night option gives you more time than a day tour to see wildlife, especially since many animals are nocturnal. This tour still caters to those who are short on time too.
Most tours that are only 2 days and 1 night skip the Macaw Clay Click altogether (since it’s a fair distance away), but not this particular tour! It includes one night at a lodge at Sandoval Lake and other activities like kayaking and hiking.
The cost is $280 USD which is just $60 USD more than the full-day tour so if you can spare the extra time I definitely recommend doing this tour instead.
3-Days, 2-Nights Amazon Tour from Puerto Maldonado, Peru
This is the most popular trip to the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado and exactly what we did (keep reading below for our complete experience.) The great thing about the 3-day trip is that you have time to go deep into the Tambopata Reserve and explore some of the more isolated areas.
I highly recommend choosing a tour that allows you to stay at an eco-lodge that is only accessible by the river and very close to the popular Macaw Clay Lick (as opposed to the Lodges located close to Lake Sandoval) This region is also where you have the chance to see Jaguars!
In terms of choosing a tour, this particular tour is a great option for being isolated, having a nice eco-lodge to stay in, as well as seeing lots of wildlife. It also includes visiting the Macaw Clay Lick (which most tours seem to skip these days).
It is the same type of tour that we did with a location deep in the Amazon only accessible by an hour-long drive and then an hour-long boat ride. It’s definitely a better tour than those that only visit Sandoval Lake (which you can easily do on a day trip from Puerto Maldonado due to its close proximity.) You can book it online for $512 USD and check the reviews here.
Related Read: Planning to do some hiking in Peru? Check out our blog that’s a complete guide to trekking/hiking in Peru!
4-Days, 3-Nights Amazon Tour from Puerto Maldonado
The more time you have to spend in the Amazon jungle the better! A 4-day tour will allow you to go very remote, see the Macaws, go on various walks, go on hikes, boat tours, and even go fishing.
While you might expect this length of a tour to be the most expensive it isn’t! It is a little bit cheaper than the 3-day tour that we did for just $449 USD. You’re basically getting your 4th day for free – what a deal! You’ll also have the best chance to see tons of wildlife including wildcats or Jaguars!
This 4-day tour includes it all! You’ll go piranha fishing, visit the Macaw Clay Lick, go to Monkey Island, and have the option to go ziplining. It’s the perfect option for those with the budget and time. Although we did the 3-day tour, we wish we would’ve had more time, so we would recommend this 4-day tour to everybody. It also has amazing reviews!
There is also one extensive 5-day tour for those who really want to maximize their time in the jungle!
4 Things to do in Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Obviously, the main reason to visit Puerto Maldonado is to go into the Amazon and do some exploring, but there are a few other things to do in Puerto Maldonado that will keep you busy before and after your Amazon tours.
Some of the best things to do in Puerto Maldonado (other than a multi-day Amazon tour) are:
1. Visit Sandoval Lake
This beautiful lake is only a short 45-minute boat ride from Puerto Maldonado Harbour. Here, you can go for a jungle walk to try and spot wildlife such as Macaws, monkeys, and reptiles before jumping in a canoe in the lake and trying to find otters.
Wildlife is plenty at Sandoval Lake and day trips here are very reasonably priced (and include lunch at a lodge by the lake!) This particular day trip includes all of your transport, lunch, and even a hike for $88 USD!
One thing to note is that most overnight Amazon tours are at Sandoval Lake. So, if you’ve chosen one of those then you won’t want to visit the lake again on a day trip.
2. Visit Monkey Island
Monkey Island (or Rolling Island) is a conservation effort where they rescue wild animals from urban areas of Peru. So not only are you supporting a non-profit organization with your visit here, but you are also guaranteed to see some wildlife including various kinds of monkeys!
You can organize your own boat to Monkey Island from Puerto Maldonado and spend a night or two in an eco-lodge, or you can go on a full-day tour including ziplining and kayaking.
On this tour, you’ll get taken by a motorized boat for about 30 minutes until you reach kayaks. Then, by kayak, you’ll paddle to Monkey Island. Here, it is time to hike and spot wildlife (yes, you’ll see monkeys!) before doing a canopy walk and zipline. It’s an affordable $65 USD full-day tour that’s not to be missed in Puerto Maldonado.
3. Walk on Peru’s Largest Bridge
Puente Billinghurst is the name of this large bridge in Peru and it is located right in Puerto Maldonado! This bridge is important for transport as it is part of the main highway that connects Peru with its neighboring countries.
But for tourists, this huge bridge is the perfect place to go for a walk. It is especially beautiful at sunset as you watch the sun go down over the river. There is a railed walkway on each side of the bridge so that you can safely, and easily, walk on it.
4. Sunset Cruise and River Night Tour
If you want to do something even more special at sunset, then consider going on a sunset cruise from Puerto Maldonado! Here, you will have the chance to spot wildlife, watch the sunset, as well as do stargazing.
On this particular cruise, you’ll get to sit back and relax as you cruise along the river while your guide points out wildlife. The tour costs $52 USD and starts at around 4 pm with pick up from your hotel in Puerto Maldonado and it lasts for 2.5 hours in total.
You can also do the same sunset cruise but from a kayak! This particular tour costs $49 USD and lasts 3 hours.
Where to Stay in Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Although it is not overly touristic, Puerto Maldonado is not a dangerous city and the people were very friendly in and around the city. Therefore, it is a nice place to stay for a night or two before or after your Amazon tour. Below are our recommended places to stay in Puerto Maldonado:
Tambopata Hostel (budget hostel)
This is where we stayed in Puerto Maldonado and it was a great budget hostel right in the town center. It is a huge hostel with clean rooms and a large common area including a rooftop area and outdoor pool! You can get dorm rooms for as little as $10 USD. They also have budget private rooms available.
Hotel Enai (mid-range budget)
After roughing it in the Amazon Jungle for a couple of days this hotel will be pure luxury and for a reasonable price of $99 USD a night. Rooms all have balconies with river views and the hotel is right in the town center! They also have a restaurant and a swimming pool!
You can check reviews and book Hotel Enai online here.
Wasai Puerto Maldonado Eco Lodge (luxury)
Wasai Puerto Maldonado Eco Lodge is located right in the city of Puerto Maldonado but is an oasis of its own. Here, you’ll find a huge outdoor pool surrounded by manicured gardens. In your room, you can enjoy a balcony with a river view. It feels like a quiet escape but you’ll only be 100 meters from the main square of Puerto Maldonado.
You can check prices and book Wasai Puerto Maldonado Eco Lodge online here.
Related Read: Another awesome experience in Peru is going on a tour of the Colca Canyon!
What to Expect on a Puerto Maldonado Amazon Tour
We booked our Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour through our hostel, Tambopata Hostel, as we found it the most reasonably priced for what we got.
All tours have a slightly different itinerary, but for the most part, they are all very similar in the types of wildlife you can see and the activities offered.
Here is a detailed breakdown of what our Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour looked like so you know what to expect if you book something similar:
We opted for the 3-day and 2-night adventure tour down the Rio Madre De Dios river.
Our Puerto Maldonado Amazon tour began in the early hours of the morning as we made the 1.5-hour drive through an off-road track that winded its way through the jungle.
Once we arrived on 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 realized 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 led 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 their own food from their 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 afternoon we saw monkeys swing from the trees above our lodge and HUGE ants building their nests.
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 favorite 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 to 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, a capybara (which looks like an oversized 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 hoping we’d catch something. Within minutes we all had bites and I ended up landing one!
Seeing these guys up close I realized where they got their reputation from. Their jaws were 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! We head back to Puerto Maldonado in the afternoon.
Our Review of Puerto Maldonado, Peru, and the 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 it for a few days to visit Puerto Maldonado!
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Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for reading! 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 to Peru be sure to check out all of our Peru travel blogs! Here are a few of the articles you might like: