Madre de Dios

Puerto Maldonado

Location, altitude and population:

Madre de Dios is a department located in the southeast portion of Perú. Ucayali is on the north border, with Puno to the southeast and Brazil and Bolivia bordering it. Its total height is 537km.2 and its population about 46,732. Puerto Maldonado is the capitol and situated in the province of Tambopata.

Historical snapshot

There are indications of the presence of human beings found in the ancient remains like the petroglyphs in the rivers of Palotoa, Shinkebenia and Urubamba. This occurred before the conquest and rise to power of the Incan empire. In the Pantiacolla mountain range there are also petroglyphs and ancient remains that attract archeologists. They estimate that the first settlers of Madre de Dios appeared thousands of years ago. Known as the Arahuacanos—and their predecessors, the proto-arahuacanos—historians surmise they arrived via migration. From there, the tribe divided into various ethnicities which later assimilated with the Incans and Spanish. Some tribes, such as the Machiguengas, survive to this day. What is today known as Madre de Dios once formed part of the ancient Incan empire in a region formerly called Antisuyo. However, little is known about its exact formation. Indeed, some chronicles by Inca Garcilazo de la Vega have been put into doubt due to contradictory dating. Still, historians are unanimous in the fact that an Incan conquest was hard-won and arduous due to warring local tribes and a region rife with combative armies. During colonization many reconnaissance missions met with tragic results. Only in 1567 with the support of 250 soldiers did J. Alvarez arrive near to what is presently known as Madre de Dios,. In 1871, Colonel Faustino Maldonado traveled its present boundaries, arriving at the Brazilian border. On December 26th, 1912, the department of Madre de Dios was created with Puerto Maldonado deemed its capitol. Recently, the arrival of ecological tourism and the advertisement of Manu national park and the Tambopata-Candamo natural reserve has converted this hospitable and picturesque region into an area of great interest for international travelers.

Tourist attractions outside of the city

Manu bio-sphere reserve. Manu national park, with 1,532 hectares, is the largest protected natural reserve of its kind in Perú. Together with the cultural and reserved portions of the park and called the Manu bio-sphere reserve, it’s located in the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios and embarks from the shores of the river Manu. Visits to the National Park are not permitted, however, the adjacent reserved and cultural zones offer the same attractions and various hospitable areas to tourists. The principal routes leave from the city of Cusco either via land (around 12 hours) to Atalaya or Shintuy. From there by water (6 hours) via the rivers Alto Madre de Dios or Manu Another option is by plane (about 30 minutes) until Boca Manu and from there via Manu river (about 4 hours).

Monkey Island: In one extraordinary walk, one is enveloped in exuberant flora which provides shelter and a great variety of monkey species in their natural habitat, such as the Maquisapas, Martin, Leoncitos, Frailes, and Achuñis, among others. There is also a great multitude of bird species to observe.

Apu Victor Lake: With crystalline waters and surrounded by an immense panorama of giant trees, the look-out points allow us to appreciate the view and observe parakeets, toucans, guacamayos, shanshos and a wide variety of others according to the luck one has when observing. Don’t miss one of the most spectacular animals of the jungle, the sea otter.

La Cocha Perdida constitutes an ecosystem of refuge and nutrition for an immense variety of animals such as the otter, crocodiles, and turtles, birds with multi-colored plumage, the majestic jaguar and a variety of fish. This zone is unique and part of the Ecoamazonia reserve which maintains the integrity of the marshes.

Colpa de gucamayos: located in the Tambopata-Candamo zone on the left margin of the Tambopata River, 70 kl. From Puerto Maldonado and about 8 hours in boat Renowned for its peerless wonder, and the largest of its kind in all of the Amazonian Perú, through this site one can observe a large quantity of parakeets, parrots and guacamayos every morning at 6:00am when they enact their ceremonial arrival in flight to the clay banks of the river-bed.
After 30 minutes, they leave until the following morning.

Bahuaja-Sonene National Park (Tambopata-Heath): with local names, this conservation site of 320,000 hectares is located in the Tambopata province. Via the Tambopata River (5 hrs) or the Madre de Dios river (1 day), one arrives to witness phenomena of diversity in the flora and fauna.

Heath pampas: located to the southeast of Puerto Maldonado, one can arrive downriver by the Madre de Dios river to the Heath river (about 4 hrs.) and from there continue via the Heath river (1 day) to the pampas, which constitute the only vegetation of its kind located in the profound tropical jungles of Perú. In addition, there is a profundity of unique species of fauna. Today, it forms part of Bahuaja-Sonene national park.

Tambopata-Candamo Reservation Zone: Created January 26th, 1990 in order to protect the eco-systems that embank the rivers Health and Tambopata. 40 kilometerfrom Puerto Maldonado and about 3 hours in canoe by the river Tambopata.  The river basin adjoins a variety of rivers: Tambopata, Malinowski and La Torre, in addition to Tavara and Candamo.
On the north lies the river Madre de Dios. The great majority of the forest is intact. In the south zone of the reserve reside Quechua and Aymara populations whom cultivate coffee, a new emergence of an important market for the indigenous people.

Tres cruces: A look-out situated just of the highway Paucartambo-Salvación, close to Cuzco. Its most famous attraction is the ¨white rays¨ produced when the sun surges onto the horizon. This is the result of the light that radiates through the humid atmosphere which distorts the effect as if it were through a prism light, producing the vision of 3 suns at the same time, one which jumps from side-to-side. This peculiar event occurs during the sunrise of the winter solstice (June 22nd). On any day, however, one can appreciate the spectacular sunrises when the sun emerges from the misty jungle and visible from a distance of about 100km.

Sandoval Lake: On the right side of the Madre de Dios river about 10 km. de Puerto Maldonado, about 25 minutes  by boat and then a brief walk through the forest for about 1 hr. and 30 minutes. On the way, you can enjoy a great variety of vegetation such as: orquids, banana trees and hugurahuis As far as local wildlife there is an abundance of ducks, alligators, wild chickens, turtles and a wide variety of fish as well.
There is a sector of the lake where the temperature vacillates between 20 and 24C–here; visitors may enjoy a refreshing bath without risk. The trips via canoes are run by experimented canoeists.

Valencia Lake: about 60 km. de Puerto Maldonado and about 4 hours via motor, during the trip you can interact closely with natives such as the Huaracayos. There is also an incredible variety of flora and fauna; if you like, fishing is also available.

Puente Billinghurst Madre De Dios
Puente Billinghurst Madre De Dios


The average annual temperature is 26C (maximum 34C–minimum 21C) the rainy season is from December to March.


BY LAND: From Lima-Arequipa-Cuzco-Puerto Maldonado, duration of about 42 hours. Another recommended route is via Lima-Nasca-Abancay-Cuzco-Puerto Maldonado with duration of about 43 hours. One can also combine land and water routes. By land from Cusco to Paucartambeo-Salvación and from Boca Manu-Colorado by the Madre de Dios River until Puerto Maldonado. This trip lasts 4 days.
By Air: Flight from Lima (one hour and a half) or Cusco (about 45 minutes).


In spite of being a sparsely populated department with few inhabitants, Madre de Dios has its unique dishes which are based on a heavily-vegetative nature that the location provides. The most well-known dishes are the following: patarasha–a fish wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over coals; Motelo soup–prepared with turtle meat and served in its own shell; Muchangue–elaborated with turtle eggs and accompanied by a green banana known as sancochado; timbuche or chilcano–a soup with a local fish base of palometa, sapamana, mojarreta or gusasaco; tachacho–sausage shish kabobs with onions cooked over coal. To drink there are typical drinks made from regiononal ferments such as yuca or chapo or another option is a mixture of ripe bananas with milk.


San John Festival (June) St. John the Baptist reached great fame in the jungle as a grand character symbolized by a vital element such as water. With this in mind, the region prepares to celebrate with typical musical groups and traditional dishes of the region.
Other important festivals: Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Tourist week and Ecological festival of Madre de Dios. July 12th–the anniversary of Puerto Maldonado Festivities throughout the city, including civic, social and cultural presentations