Amazon Jungle Tours

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Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado

How to choose between Iquitos & Puerto Maldonado

Iquitos for the Pacaya Samiria & Tambopata Reserve

Puerto Maldonado for Manu & Tambopata Reserve

Suggested Amazon Tours photo
Suggested Amazon Tours map

tamshiyacu tahuayo reserve wildlife

If you’re deciding between Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado for an Amazon Rainforest tour, you are clearly someone who wants to get the most out of your experience to the Amazon Rainforest.

In summary, if you’re looking for a short experience in the Amazon Rainforest, Puerto Maldonado is your best choice. With its more developed tourism industry, Puerto Maldonado has a lot more choice than the northern Amazon surrounding Iquitos.

If your budget doesn’t allow much freedom, Puerto Maldonado is also your best bet as generally the cost of a tour depends on how far you are from the urban center. Puerto Maldonado is gifted with a reserve close to town, and plants and animals often wander outside the reserve into surrounding forests. A lodge just 45 minutes from town where you can see Amazon wildlife is the Posada Amazonas, which is owned by the native community.

  • refugio amazonas lodge, puerto maldonado

    Five Days:

    Refugio Amazonas Lodge Puerto Maldonado, Peru

    If you’re visiting the Tambopata with your family of small children, the Refugio Amazonas is a good choice with the only children’s trail in the Amazon Rainforest. Tour the lake in search of Amazon water life, visit the canopy tower to see toucans and parrots, take guided walks, and relax in the Refugio’s wellness center. You can enjoy activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, canopy climbing and more.

    Children’s Trail, Wellness Center

Lodges in Puerto Maldonado’s section of southern Amazon are often built within range of clay licks where animals come to feed off clay detoxifying food they have eaten in the forest. If we were their predators, this is where we would lay in wait to catch unsuspecting birds or mammals. Instead, we build hides near the licks so we can capture photographs of animals while they graze on the medicinal substrate. Predators like jaguar have more sinister uses for these licks, however, as they lay in wait to ambush prey. This makes these places highly desirable for tourists as they stand a good chance of seeing the Amazon Rainforest’s iconic birds and herbivores with an additional chance of seeing elusive predators. Clay licks present a sustainable way to almost guarantee wildlife sightings.

From Puerto Maldonado, you can also visit Peru’s largest National Park, Manu, with the Manu Wildlife Center. Here you can also see the clay licks and you will stand a 10% chance of seeing wild jaguar.

If you’re looking for less tourists, the freedom to choose your own itinerary, or to take a cruise on the Amazon River then opt for the Iquitos. If you’ve been researching tours in Iquitos, you may have come across the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. A recommended tour of the area is the Delfin Cruise where you can choose their Delfin II or luxury Delfin I.

If you would rather see drier tropical forest near Iquitos to catch sight of monkeys, poison dart frogs, birds, dolphins, and other mammals, you may not yet have heard of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. Albeit smaller than the Pacaya, the wildlife sightings in this reserve are spectacular and you receive a private guide as standard with the only tourist lodge in the reserve, the Tahuayo Lodge. If you’re after adventure, you can camp in the forest in search of some of the rarer wildlife.

  • what lodge amazon rainforest

    Eight Days

    Tahuayo Lodge Iquitos, Peru

    Visit the highly regarded Tahuayo Lodge & Amazon Research Center as part of your tour of the bio-diverse Tahuayo Reserve. You are assigned a private guide & you can choose an itinerary to reflect your interests. Boasting the most itinerary options in Amazonia, you can whiz through the trees on the canopy zipline, view poison dart frog initiatives, & observe different monkeys on the A.R.C primate research grid.
    Private Guide, Zipline, Primate Research Grid

Those who are not familiar with this reserve may conclude wildlife near Iquitos is absent unless you visit the Pacaya, but this is not at all the case. If you visit the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve page on, you will see all the wildlife articles written mainly due to photos from the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo. See latest photos from the Tahuayo Lodge or see Tahuayo guide profiles at the Tahuayo Lodge, the only lodge with access to this reserve. My personal choice if I had to choose between Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado would be Iquitos. This may be because this is the Amazon city I am most familiar with and this was where my first experience of the Amazon originates. My favoured memories of the Amazon are from Iquitos.

Ash - Author & Travel AdvisorAbout the Author: is a frequent visitor to the Amazon Rainforest and is passionate about helping people get the best experiences from the Amazon. Ash is a contributor to both and writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the Amazon. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away.

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