Most tourists pass through Puerto Maldonado briefly on their way to national reserves and jungle lodges in the surrounding region. The heat, the incessant mototaxis, and the rough-around-the-edges nature of Puerto Maldonado certainly won't appeal to everyone, but the city is brimming with jungle-settlement quirkiness and a few interesting sights.
Sitting on the confluence of the Tambopata and Madre de Dios rivers, Puerto Maldonado serves as a starting point for voyages on both rivers, and for tours into the nearby Tambopata National Reserve and the more distant Manu National Park. The surrounding area is also home to numerous jungle lodges (including the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica), many of which are just a few hours boat ride from the city.
If you don't have either the time or the money for a full jungle tour, you can base yourself in Puerto Maldonado and explore the area from the local dock. Most tour operators offer day trips to Lake Sandoval, involving a short boat ride down the Madre de Dios River and a trek to the lake itself. With a little luck, you might see parrots, macaws, monkeys, caimans and perhaps a giant otter.
For butterfly spotting, you don't even need to leave the city: The small but interesting Butterfly House is located near the airport. Other reasons to explore Puerto Maldonado include the pretty Plaza de Armas, the rather ugly Obelisco (a 147-ft-/45-m-high tower and lookout point), and the city's nightlife, which is vibrant but not for the faint-hearted (informal miners and dockworkers make for interesting drinking companions).
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