Puerto Maldonado, Southern Peru’s Amazon Gateway

Puerto Maldonado is the tourism, transportation and economic centre of Peru’s southern Amazon Basin. Direct buses and flights from Cusco make Puerto Maldonado a convenient Amazon alternative to Iquitos in Peru’s north.

Puerto Maldonado lies at the confluence of two large rivers, the Madre de Dios and Tambopata. The Tambopata joins the Madre de Dios which in turn flows into the Madeira River, a tributary of the Amazon River.

Giant mural, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios

A giant mural covering the side of a Puerto Maldonado building; the object held by the mural subject resembles a blowgun, a traditional hunting weapon used by indigenous

The capital of Madre de Dios region, Puerto Maldonado itself doesn’t have major tourist attractions. However, the surrounding area has great biodiversity and many people come to visit nearby Manú National Park, Tambopata National Reserve, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park or one of the many jungle lodges.

Rocío and I visited Puerto Maldonado twice, in September and October 2016. We enjoyed our stay in the city, including the tropical food. Eating in Puerto Maldonado is covered in a separate blog post.

Following are parts of Puerto Maldonado I found notable.

Central Market (Mercado Modelo)

Puerto Maldonado’s primary market is divided into sections including fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, grains, meat, restaurants, groceries, clothing, toys and sewing. In addition to eating and buying food there, I got my hat repaired by a sewing machine operator for only one sol (AUD$0.40)!

Sewing machines and machinists, Puerto Maldonado Central Market

Machinists sew in a dedicated section of Puerto Maldonado’s Central Market (Mercado Modelo)

The Puerto Maldonado Obelisk (Obelisco; El Mirador de la Biodiversidad)

Six blocks north west from the Central Market along Avenida Fitzcarrald is one of the world’s ugliest lookout towers. Known locally as Obelisco or El Mirador de la Biodiversidad, the Puerto Maldonado Obelisk may lack aesthetic values but it provides fantastic views on clear days.

For a small fee, visitors can climb the stairs to the top and look over the city and surrounding rivers and jungle. Inside the tower are written accounts of the region’s history and biodiversity in Spanish accompanied by photos.

Lookout tower, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

The Obelisk lookout tower; did the designer spend time in the Soviet Union?

Confluence of rivers Madre de Dios and Tambopata behind central Puerto Maldonado

A view from the tower, the Tambopata River flows from the right, joining the Madre de Dios River flowing from the left

On top of lookout tower, Puerto Maldonado

Standing at the top of the Obelisk on a lovely late afternoon

Plaza de Armas

Not far from the river confluence in Puerto Maldonado’s east is Plaza de Armas, the city’s primary town square. A clock tower lies in the centre although this is dwarfed by a gigantic mango tree. Mangoes occasionally fell and although bruised were often still edible.

Giant mango tree, Plaza de Armas, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

The soldiers in the bottom left look tiny in comparison with the plaza’s mango tree towering over them

Puerto Maldonado Accommodation

On our first night we stayed in a basic local hotel, exhausted after an epic journey.

The next day we moved into the comfortable Pirwa Maldonado Hostel for two nights. The lovely staff even provided a table and chairs on the rooftop terrace with table cloth, glasses and cork screw for us to enjoy a bottle of wine Rocío had carried across southern Peru.

Returning to Puerto Maldonado from Brazil, we upgraded our Amazon experience and stayed at the Wasai Eco Lodge. The lodge’s lush surroundings and river views belie its central location. Two nights in a bungalow were good but the suites were better, especially the views. Drinking cocktails at the lodge’s swimming pool was also great in the tropical heat.

Suite with river views, Wasai Eco Lodge, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

A beautiful view to wake up to from Room 1004 at Wasai’s Puerto Maldonado Eco Lodge

Early morning view of Madre de Dios River, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Sunrise over the Madre de Dios River from our suite

The lodge’s gardens, bird feeding stations and surroundings also attracted animals.

Red-crested cardinals, Puerto Maldonado, Madre de Dios, Peru

Red-crested cardinals at Wasai’s feeding station

Sloth, Wasai Eco Lodge, Puerto Maldonado

A sloth in the lodge grounds

Wild rodent by the river, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Bigger than a rat and smaller than a capybara, I saw several of these rodents between the lodge and river

Cicada on red metal, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Rocío’s favourite insect, a cicada

Banana flower, Wasai Eco Lodge, Puerto Maldonado

A beautiful pink and orange-yellow banana flower

Billinghurst Bridge (Puente Billinghurst)

723 metre long Billinghurst Bridge traverses the Madre de Dios River and is Peru’s longest suspension bridge. Completed in 2011 it is part of the modern Interoceanic Highway crossing Peru and Brazil. Interestingly, the bridge’s steelwork was received back in 1978 but remained in warehousing for decades.

The enormous bridge connects Puerto Maldonado to the town of El Triunfo and one morning I walked across and back again.

Each day someone placed huge stuffed animals on the Puerto Maldonado end of the bridge. I don’t know why they are there. Perhaps a tour agency uses them to attract people’s attentions. Can anyone solve this mystery?

Stuffed tiger, lion and donkey in front of Billinghurst Bridge, Puerto Maldonado

A tiger, lion and donkey guarding Billinghurst Bridge

Puente Billinghurst bridge, River Madre de Dios, Peru

The bridge as viewed from Wasai Eco Lodge

Video of clouds floating past Billinghurst Bridge; the Madre de Dios River flows from left to right

4 thoughts on “Puerto Maldonado, Southern Peru’s Amazon Gateway

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