Fly into the jungle
Puerto Maldonado is a tropical jungle city, where the Tambopata River joins the Madre de Dios before flowing into Bolivia. Many travelers book with a tour agency, which picks you up at the airport, whisks you onto a boat for the trip to their lodge. You can spend 3 to 5 days at most lodges, from which they’ll organize activities in the jungle and on the river.
You can also plan a couple nights in Puerto Maldonado to do day trips and do your own evaluation of the local tour agencies before you set off to spend a few nights in the jungle. On the north side of the Plaza de Armas is a side street with over a dozen tour agencies to choose from.
Eco-tourism is a growing part of the economy, which unfortunately still includes gold mining and logging. The rubber industry collapsed long ago, ending some truly terrible exploitation of local indigenous people. By visiting Puerto Maldonado, you are contributing to the development of tourism and helping people gain an income without mining or logging.
Puerto Maldonado has one of the few airports in the region, with direct flights from Lima and Cusco. It’s 55km (34mi) from Bolivia and on the route to the border crossing at Iñapari, where you can enter either Brazil or Bolivia.
Regardless of where you go from Puerto Maldonado, you’ll probably get there by boat. There are three main waterways from town: upriver on the Tambopata or Madre de Dios rivers or downriver on the Madre de Dios, which is a tributary of the Amazon.