Iquitos vs. Puerto Maldonado - Which Peru Jungle Destination is Best?
Famous for its Highlands, Peru has always been known more for its Andean mountainscapes than for what lies behind them – the Amazonian jungle. Nearly 60% of Peru is jungle, which means travelers who don’t visit the Amazon Basin are missing a huge piece of knowing Peru.
Fortunately with jet service getting to the wild and exotic Amazon doesn’t have to be an adventure. Peru has two major gateway entry points to the Amazon Basin – the smaller Puerto Maldonado and the much larger jungle city of Iquitos.
The effort it takes to have a proper jungle experience and enjoy a few days of jungle tours in the Peruvian Amazon means most travelers are left with choosing one or the other. Before choosing blindly, here’s a few of our top considerations we advise for our clients and which gateway city comes out on top.
How do you get to Iquitos, Peru? It used to be only possible by boat. But ever since daily jet service started from Lima to Iquitos the city, which is still the largest city in
the world without access by road, can be reached with a 2-hour flight to its Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport.
Most jungle lodges in Iquitos will greet you at the airport, and the river transfer to your Amazon jungle lodge will typically be at least 2 hours away. It’s jungle tranquility you have to work for.
Deforestation and development has taken its toll near and around Iquitos. This means that most reputable jungle lodges sit further away from the city up or down the mighty Amazon River making both your arrival day and departure day an extended adventure. Additionally, consider that if you plan to travel from Cusco to Iquitos (or vice versa) the Cusco Airport only offers the occasional direct flight to Iquitos (in July 2018 LATAM will offer several direct Cusco to Iquitos flights per week).
Most travelers will have to return to Lima and board a separate direct flight to Iquitos. These layovers can add up and eat into time best spent exploring the jungle, especially if you’re working with four days or less.
On the other hand Puerto Maldonado sits fairly near to Cusco. Land travel can be treacherous and that means most opt, even from Cusco, to take a quick 40-minute direct flight to its Padre Aldamiz International Airport. Of course, daily flights also arrive from Lima.
Puerto Maldonado is less than one-fifth the size of Iquitos and that means a quicker in and out. After being greeted at the airport by your jungle lodge, the average river transfer takes about 45 minutes to an hour. All things being equal, arrival to an eco-lodge in Puerto Maldonado or