Exploring the Amazon: A Comparative Guide to Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

Exploring the Amazon: A Comparative Guide to Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

Ready for an exciting journey deep inside the Amazon rainforest in Peru? Then join us as we explore the special experiences and unique characteristics of Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos, giving you a detailed comparison that will help you decide on your ideal Amazonian exploration.

Learn more about the unique characteristics of each region, its varied ecosystems, and the many opportunities that exist to explore the breathtaking beauty of the largest rainforest in the world.

Let’s delve in so you can discover which Amazon experience is the best fit for you.

Table of contents:

General Information about Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

Geographical Location and Accessibility of Puerto Maldonado

The Tambopata National Reserve in Madre de Dios, which is known as the capital of biodiversity as it contains an extensive variety of animals, is what you’ll discover when traveling to Puerto Maldonado.

This vibrant city, which is located in southeast Peru, is reachable by both air and land. Flights take about 1:40 hours from Lima or 1 hour from Cusco.

main square puerto maldonado

For those looking for an adventurous excursion and prefer to save some money can hop on a bus that drives from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. The bus ride lasts about 8 hours and depends on the weather and the stops you make on the way.

Therefore, most travelers find that flying to Puerto Maldonado after having visited Cusco is the most convenient option.


Natural Beauty and Biodiversity of Puerto Maldonado

Undoubtedly, Puerto Maldonado’s spectacular natural beauty and incredible biodiversity within the Amazon rainforest will enchant you.

two macaws sitting on branch

Towering canopy trees, vibrant orchids and delicate bromeliads paint the surroundings in a rainbow of colors. Beware of monkeys swinging over the branches, colorful macaws flying above you, and the jaguar wandering through the jungle.

You will be overwhelmed by the sounds of natural beauty and the living in the untouched nature.


Geographical Location and Accessibility of Iquitos

Iquitos, a charming city in northeastern Peru, is the entry point to the Amazon jungle. It’s the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road, which makes it stand out due to its unique geographic location. Therefore, the best way to reach this city is by air.

local houses build close to the amazon river

There are daily flights from Lima to Iquitos that take a little less than 2 hours. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Cusco to Iquitos. The only option is to take a flight with an extra layover in Lima.

If you’re trying to figure out the best itinerary for your Peru trip, feel free to contact us.


Natural Beauty and Biodiversity of Iquitos

Just like Puerto Maldonado, Iquitos is also well known for its stunning scenery and biodiversity. A wonderful variety of flora and wildlife are displayed by the area’s rich vegetation and lively ecosystems.

pink river dolphin is looking out of the water

The skyline is dominated by tall trees, such as magnificent ceibas and numerous palm trees, while the area is full of exotic orchids and other tropical flowers. These are only a few of the most fascinating plants in the Amazon rainforest.

You can see a diverse fauna in the deep rainforest, including lively monkeys or tarantulas. Thanks to its unusual geographic setting and proximity to the enormous Amazon River, Iquitos provides a rare chance to explore flooded woods and get up near to pink river dolphins or giant river otters.

Ecotourism and Wildlife Experiences in Puerto Maldonado

Tambopata National Reserve

The Tambopata National Reserve protects more than 1700 different plant species. Apart from that, you’ll also see some incredible jungle creatures, such as jaguars, pumas, monkeys, capybaras, sloths and more.


Wildlife Spotting and Bird Watching

colorful birds sitting on a tree in the jungle

Puerto Maldonado is a top ecotourism location that provides unique wildlife experiences. It offers exciting jungle excursions, secret stillwater lakes, twisting rivers, and encounters with numerous bird species, like harpy eagles, toucans or macaws to name only a few of them. That’s why it’s often referred to as the paradise for bird watching fans.


Canopy Tours and Ziplining

Ziplining and exciting canopy trips are both available in Puerto Maldonado, taking your adventure to new heights. Take in the beautiful canopy of the rainforest from an entirely different perspective as you soar through the treetops.

Seeing a sunset from here with the jungle sounds in the background is a unique experience, trust us.


Availability and Types of Accommodations in Puerto Maldonado

In Puerto Maldonado, you can choose from luxurious eco-lodges hidden deep inside the rainforest to comfortable hotels in the middle of the city. You’ll have the chance to experience the heights of green living at sustainable resorts that provide all-encompassing nature encounters.

Below, we’ll present two options of lodges that we work with.


Inkaterra Jungle Lodges

luxurious jungle lodge at night

Inkaterra offers three jungle lodges, one of the most luxurious lodges is the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica that also offers a massage spa with views of the Madre de Dios forest. The accommodations are equipped with hammocks and balconies from where you can listen to the sounds of the jungle.


Rainforest Expeditions

jungle lodge at night

The Rainforest Expeditions group owns three lodges in the jungle of Tambopata. Each of them offers different excursions and levels of comfort. The open rooms will make you feel like an adventurer in the middle of the jungle.


Ecotourism and Wildlife Experiences in Iquitos

Amazon River Cruises

The luxurious Amazon River Cruises offered on the Delfin boats is a unique, high-end jungle experience. For 3-4 days, you’ll be exploring the Amazon river and its surroundings in an extraordinary way.

Check out our 12-Day Peru tour that includes a stay on the Amazon River Cruises for more information.

luxurious cruise on the amazon river


Dolphin and Manatee Encounters

Interactions with pink river dolphins and manatees allow you to get up close to these amazing aquatic animals, observe their playful nature and learn more about them. These are only a few of incredible Amazon rainforest animals.


Fishing Excursions and Piranha Fishing

In our Iquitos tours, you will enjoy a guided piranha fishing expedition along the Amazon River. Piranha fishing is an exciting activity that will get your adrenaline pumping! Try your luck and put your skills to the test.


Availability and Types of Accommodations in Iquitos

Iquitos offers a variety of lodging options to accommodate different tastes and price ranges. You can choose from luxurious wilderness retreats to warm lodgings in the city.

Below, we’ll mention the lodges we work with.


Treehouse Lodge

treehouse in the middle of the jungle

You’ll find the luxurious treehouse lodge between Pacaya-Samiria and Tahuayo Reserve. The Lodge provides a wonderful jungle experience in bungalows that look like treehouses and are located between 36 ft (11 m) to 67 ft (20 m) above the ground.

At the lodge, you’ll be part of tours, such as jungle explorations, bird watching and more.


Heliconia Lodge

heliconia jungle lodge located next to the amazon riverThis Lodge is located in the heart of the Amazon jungle. It provides an excellent mix of jungle vibes and comfort, such as mosquito protected rooms and a swimming pool.

For more information, feel free to take a look at our 3-day Iquitos jungle tour.


Comparison of the Tours in Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

amazon river during sunset and surrounded by jungle

Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado provide interesting and diverse ecotourism opportunities in the Amazon jungle.

While Iquitos offers unique river-based activities and opportunities to interact with aquatic species, especially the pink river dolphins, Puerto Maldonado focuses more on jungle treks, bird watching, and canopy tours.

Both locations provide amazing chances to fully immerse yourself in the Amazon’s natural treasures.


Comparative Table of Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

Puerto MaldonadoIquitos
Accessibility By plane:

From Lima: 1:40 hours
From Cusco: 1 hour

By plane:

From Lima: 2 hours
From Cusco: no direct flights

 Flora and faunaMany different plants and animal species, such as monkeys, macaws, jaguars and more.Many different plants, such as ceibas, palm trees and aquatic species, such as pink river dolphins, manatees, river otters and more.
 ToursTambopata National Reserve, bird watching, canopy tours and jungle walks. Amazon River boat tours, cruises, pink dolphin observation, piranha fishing and jungle walks.
 Accommodations we work withInkaterra Puerto Maldonado and Rainforest Expedition Iquitos Treehouse Lodge and Heliconia Lodge
 Water seasonHigh: November – March

Low: April – October

High: May – October

Low: November – June

Local community visit Ese Ejas communityYagua community
Best for  Travelers interested in bird watching and jungle treks.Travelers interested in excursions on the Amazon river and short jungle treks.

Local Communities and Cultural Experiences in Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

members of the local community are standing in front of their wooden house

At both locations, you will have the opportunity to interact with local tribes.

Some tour operators will arrange for you to spend a few hours in a local tribal settlement. The tribes will demonstrate their way of life and tell you more about their traditions. The visit of the Yagua community in Iquitos is part of our 8-day Peru adventure.

It’s important to note that visits of Amazonian tribes might occasionally come off as overly touristy. The locals will most likely put on a performance for you and dance while playing their instruments.

Remember that native tribes depend on these interactions to exist, thus buying souvenirs from the village is very helpful to support them.


Safety in Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos

amazon rainforrest

The main priority when traveling to Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos is your safety. Here is some crucial safety advice and practical recommendations to make sure you have a safe trip:

  • Travel with experienced guides: Look for experienced tour operators and always follow the guide’s instructions.
  • Watch your surroundings: Whether you’re in a crowded market in the city or walkin in the jungle, always stay alert.
  • Stay informed: Be aware of travel warnings or recommendations given by regional or embassy officials.
  • Pack smart: Bring breathable, lightweight clothing, sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, a hat and a refillable water bottle with you. For additional insights, learn more about what to wear in the Amazon rainforest.
  • Prioritize your health: Speak to your doctor before your trip to make sure you have the required vaccinations or any medication needed.


Finding Your Perfect Amazon Adventure in Peru

With their different sets of sights and experiences, Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos each provide one-of-a-kind entranceways to the magnificent Amazon jungle.

Iquitos stands out with its fascinating river tours and aquatic wildlife encounters, whereas Puerto Maldonado is well known for its beautiful jungle treks and immense variety of bird species.

No matter where you go, embrace the experience, go out on a quest for knowledge and make lifelong memories amidst the amazing splendor of the Amazon jungle. Feel free to contact us for more information about our jungle tours.

  • 9 November, 2023 at 10:04 am

    Hi, just wondering if the temperatures in late March or early April require A/C in the hotels bedrooms? Very few hotels, even the top ones seem to offer it, maybe due to cost and/or eco-awareness. Would we need it, or are fans sufficient? Thank you

    • 13 November, 2023 at 11:10 am

      Hey Gillian, thank you for your comment. One of our travel experts already contacted you via mail to provide you more information and give you specific recommendations for you.

      Thanks and have a great day,

  • 27 June, 2023 at 12:34 pm

    Great comparison! I would love to visit Perus jungle in August, would you say that visiting both destinations is fine or is it not worth it?

    • 28 June, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Alexander,
      thanks a lot for your comment and great that you are coming to Peru. Visiting one destination is totally fine and use your extra time to visit other sites in Cusco.
      Have a look at our 8-day Peru tour to get inspired.

      If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me.


Leave a comment

Let’s plan your
dream trip to Peru

Let’s plan your
dream trip to Peru

All of our tour itineraries are 100% customizable. Just let us know your preferences below and we’ll get back to you within 24-48 hours.

  • Hotels
    (Optional, multiple choices possible)
    Best Value
  • Trip Length
    Not sure yet