Puerto Maldonado: Piranha Fishing, Eco-touring

Lake in Puerto Maldonado, Peru.
Lake in Puerto Maldonado, Peru.

Visit Puerto Maldonado Peru to Experience the World’s Most Pristine Rainforest

By Harold Greene


Puerto Maldonado is the ultimate destination for adventurous eco-travelers. This Peruvian city offers you a combination of rich ecological diversity, stunning rainforest landscapes, and nearby Unesco World Heritage sites.

Whether you’re interested in photographing or studying wildlife, having an epic jungle adventure, Piranha fishing or simply spending some relaxing time with your family, Puerto Maldonado is sure to be a destination of interest for you.

Fried piranhas for lunch.
Fried piranhas for lunch in Peru.

Puerto Maldonado is located near the Bolivian border in the southeastern part of Peru. This unassuming city is part of the Amazon basin; it is located on the banks of the Rio Madre De Dios River, which is a whitewater tributary of the world-renowned Amazon River.

The weather in this region is perpetually warm and humid, with an average year-round temperature of 79°F (26°C).

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Why Go?

With so much of the world has been “big-boxified”, it can sometimes seem like a challenge to pick a travel destination that still offers an authentic atmosphere and experiences. If you’re seeking a unique destination, Puerto Maldonado is able to meet that expectation beautifully.

If you’re looking for a spot that isn’t too expensive, too remote or too much of a tourist trap, definitely put Puerto Maldonado at the top of the list of destinations you’d want to consider visiting.

You’ll find the planet’s most pristine remaining rain forests in the areas surrounding Puerto Maldonado. This is a destination that environmentalists are drawn to and emotional about.

Voyagers cruise on the Amazon.
Voyagers cruise on the Amazon.

The local residents in Puerto Maldonado tend to be hospitable, friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. They welcome visitors and delight in offering them insights about the area. Quite a few of them are multi-lingual and are able to speak at least some English.

How to Get There

By Air

Multiple airlines including Delta, United, Alaska Air, Avianca, COPA and LATAM Airlines Group provide flights to Puerto Maldonado. If you’re departing from the United States, you will most likely have to book a connecting flight from Cusco, Lima or another city, as there are currently no direct flights from any US cities to Puerto Maldonado.

Aeropuerto Internacional Padre Aldamiz
Carretera Pastora-La Joya Km 7,
Distrito y Provincia de Tambopata,
Departamento de Madre de Dios — Perú
TELEPHONE: 082502029

Getting There By Land

If you plan to visit Cusco during your trip to Peru, it is possible to reach Puerto Maldonado by taking a 297 mile (477 km) bus trip to the east from there. You typically have the option to catch buses during the day and at night.

It is also possible to catch a bus from Lima to Puerto Maldonado, but be advised that it is a long trip of 982 miles (1,580 km) altogether.

By Sea

It is technically possible to travel by boat on the Madre de Dios river to reach Puerto Maldonado. Visitors to the area do not typically choose this option – so if it is of interest to you, you might encounter challenges in making your travel arrangements.

You would have to go against the current to reach Puerto Maldonado from the Bolivian border, and you’d most likely have a hard time finding a willing charter for that particular trip. But if you plan to visit Manu first and then go to Puerto Maldonado, you’d be traveling with the current; in that case, it might be slightly easier to find charters. In any case, if traveling by boat is what you plan to do, it would be wise to make the arrangements in advance.

What to See

Puerto Maldonado offers you spectacular river views and sunsets, but you will have to venture outside the city and into the remote areas of the rainforest if you hope to make the most of your opportunities to view local wildlife. If you want to spend some time traveling out of the immediate area, there are many worthwhile attractions to see.

Tambopata National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve in Peru

Tambopata National Reserve

Tambopata National Reserve is a protected area located south of Puerto Maldonado. This reserve includes several remarkable attractions including Lake Sandoval, which is an incredible spot for watching giant river otters frolic. If you’re in the mood for a hike, you can travel by boat to reach the trailhead, hike for about 2 miles (3 km) and then row a kayak out to the lake.

This reserve is also home to an area known as a “clay lick” where birds flock to consume the local natural mineral salts. If you want to view macaws and other colorful rainforest birds, this location is one of the best spots on earth to do so.

Manú National Park (Parque Nacional del Manú)

About 311 miles (501 km) from Puerto Maldonado you’ll find Manú National Park, which is a biosphere reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This attraction does not have roads and is not easily accessible – so if you want to visit, it’s beneficial to find a qualified local guide who can take you there.

From the UNESCO website, Manu is quite an extraordinary park. “The immense variety of Manu National Park in terms of altitude, microclimate, soils and other ecological conditions results in a complex mosaic of habitats and niches. There is a broad spectrum of plant communities, ranging from the seemingly homogenous but highly diverse Andean grasslands to a range of mostly pristine forest types.

Estimates of plant diversity range between 2,000 and 5,000, with some scientists even assuming considerably higher numbers. Records of fauna are similarly impressive with well over 1000 vertebrate species, including at least 200 species of mammals and more than 800 species of birds.

Manu National Park is a globally renowned haven of terrestrial biodiversity at the meeting point of the Tropical Andes and the Amazon Basin in Southwestern Peru. As a vast, geographically and economically isolated watershed, the still roadless property has been spared from most human impacts and is difficult to access to this day.

Be sure to plan for this part of your trip in advance, because your group will need a permit for gaining admittance to the sanctuary.

This park is a birder’s paradise, with more than 800 species of birds making their homes in the local habitat. Big cats including jaguars, pumas and Andean Mountain Cats prowl in the area. Other noteworthy wildlife you can see in this region include Giant Otters and Giant Armadillos.

amazon riverBest Activity and Tour

You can visit Puerto Maldonado as part of a 9 day Peru vacation by Voyagers Travel. This tour begins in the historic city of Lima, which is the capital city of Peru. You’ll also spend time in Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, and Cusco.

Highlights of the Puerto Maldonado excursion include a river kayaking adventure and an exhilarating hike through the rainforest. Local Park website

Voyagers Travel

Toll-free number: 1-866-725-3255
Telephone: 1 949 682 7745
E-mail:  reservations@voyagers.travel


Because eco-tourism is a primary industry in the region, there are numerous accommodations available in and around Puerto Maldonado. These range from jungle camps to hostels to hotels. Prices start at around $10 US per night and can be as expensive as $200 per night or even more.

Visas and Documents

The US Embassy in Peru advises travelers from the United States to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the time of your anticipated departure from Peru. If you’re entering Peru on a tourist visa, you will be required to provide evidence of where you plan to go after your trip. Typically, visitors to Peru are allowed to visit for up to 90 days and are not allowed to extend the visit beyond that.

Health and Safety

No vaccinations are currently required to enter Peru. However, some destinations within the country may require yellow fever vaccinations.

Emergency Contacts

US Embassy in Peru
Telephone: [011] (51-1) 618-2000.

Cusco Consular Agency

Telephone: [011] (51-84) 231-474
Email: CuscoACS@state.gov

British Embassy in Peru
Telephone: 00 51 1 617 3000

Australian Embassy in Peru
Telephone: +51 1 630 0500

Harold Greene



Harold Greene is a retired pilot and freelance writer who lives in Lima, Peru.

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