Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Tambopata

This place is home to some of the wildest and least impacted habitats in the Amazon and the world. It is among the essential and stunning natural destinations in Peru and South America. That’s why we recommend traveling to Tambopata.

However, planning a trip to Tambopata can be confusing. There’s a lot of information on the internet about the destination, lodges, and tour operators. There are also many synonyms. Tambopata is a river, a province, and a national reserve. It is accessed through the gateway city of Puerto Maldonado and is directly adjacent to another great natural destination, the Bahuaja Sonene National Park, and Tambopata shares visits with two other good destinations in the Peruvian Amazon, the Manu National Park and Iquitos.

What is Tambopata?

Most people know Tambopata for the Tambopata River and the huge Tambopata National Reserve that protects it. Tambopata is also one of the provinces of the Amazonian state of “MADRE DE DIOS” However, we will refer to the Tambopata National Reserve when we say “Tambopata” in this article.

Tambopata is home to some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the country and possibly the entire Amazon basin, huge protected areas, and is home to several thousand people. Remote, wild, but still easily accessible, this contrasting combination has helped it become one of the global access points for ecotourism.

The largest city in Tambopata is Puerto Maldonado, and that’s where most travelers fly to start their jungle journey. You’ll get an idea of why Tambopata is such a wild area just before landing at Puerto Maldonado airport. At the end of a quick flight to Tambopata from Lima or Cuzco, a vast green carpet stretching to the horizon comes into view. Winding brown rivers make their way through the dense Amazon rainforest, huge ancient Ceibas and other rainforest giants emerge from a 90-foot canopy. Hidden beneath the trees are troops of monkeys, toucans, brightly colored macaws, and even jaguars. You never know what you’re going to find in the rainforests of Tambopata, but that view from the plane promises adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


A Brief History of Tambopata

“Tambopata” is derived from two Quechua words meaning “inn” or “lodging place” (tambo) and “high point” (pata). The reason why the lowland and quite flat tropical forests of Tambopata received this name. Despite its Quechua name, the Incas did not use the region for much of their history. Tambopata was first colonized thousands of years ago by Amazonian indigenous ethnicities such as the Ese’Eja. Living in small villages, they cultivated yucca and hunted in the surrounding forests. The rainforest plants also provided them with building materials and a wide variety of medicines.

During the Spanish colonial period, access to the Tambopata region was so difficult that it was largely ignored and left to its own devices. This changed in the early 20th century during the rubber boom in Peru. As people from outside the region sought rubber trees in Tambopata and many other areas of southeastern Peru, they often came into conflict with indigenous groups. Many locals were enslaved and died from diseases brought by the new settlers. Although the rubber boom didn’t last long, it had a significant impact on the indigenous groups of the Tambopata region, and as a result, their populations declined.

What can I see in Tambopata?

When travelers arrive in Tambopata, they usually visit the Tambopata National Reserve and the surrounding areas. The reserve is huge and protects 274,690 hectares (1,061 square miles) of pristine nature. It contains a great diversity of habitats, from ancient Amazon rainforest to bamboo forests, from alluvial plains and wetlands to oxbow lakes and palm swamps.

Thanks to this variety of well-preserved habitats, Tambopata is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. There are over 1000 species of butterflies, 100 species of mammals, 600 species of birds, and hundreds of species of trees and plants! During your visit, you are likely to see monkeys, parrots and macaws, caimans, toucans, and much more.

How to get to Tambopata.

To get to Tambopata National Reserve, you must first go to Puerto Maldonado. Puerto Maldonado is the gateway city to the reserve and the capital of Madre de Dios. There are daily incoming flights to Puerto Maldonado. These flights arrive from Lima or Cuzco, at least three times a day.

Flights from Lima depart from the domestic flights terminal at Jorge Chavez airport. Direct flights take approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. There are flights from Cusco departing from the domestic terminal of Velasco Astete airport. The trip can take between 3.5 and 4.5 hours, as they make a stopover in Lima.

LATAM has 3 weekly frequencies (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado lasting 45 minutes. Keep in mind that this varies depending on the airline.

You can also travel by the Interoceanic Highway from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, which takes 11 hours, and from Puno to Puerto Maldonado, which takes 13 hours. It is not advisable to travel by bus during the rainy season.

In Puerto Maldonado, PALOTOA AMAZON TRAVEL and most lodging companies and tour operators will be waiting for you at the airport arrivals terminal. And from the bus terminal, From there, you take a bus to make a quick stop at our office before continuing to the river ports.

Once at the port, you will board boats to continue to the lodges. The lodges are between 1 and 4 hours by boat from the port. Keep in mind: the further you go, the better the wildlife.

Boat schedules are designed to accommodate incoming and outgoing flights, but you should not arrive after 3:00 pm. because then you may have to travel by boat in the dark before reaching your lodge. Boat rides are great. You’ll probably see capybaras and caimans in the Tambopata River and, with a lot of luck, a jaguar!

When to travel to Tambopata?

Tambopata is slightly seasonal, although it looks nothing like the temperate zone. Although it can rain at any time of the year, Tambopata is drier from April to November, when the rains stop and start, respectively. The rainiest months are January and February.

The advantages of visiting during the dry season are that there is very little chance that your activities will be affected by the rain.

The advantages of visiting during the rainy season are that the macaws are more active in the clay licks and nesting. If you like macaws, come between December and February, when the nesting season is in full swing.


What to do in Tambopata?

This is a key question: no one goes to the Amazon to stay inside the lodge. The vast majority of lodges and tour operators include activities in their nightly rates. In Tambopata, you don’t wake up and choose a path to take (that’s towards Paris!). Nor do you sit and do nothing (that’s for Cancun!). Nor do you have a single trail to follow to reach a destination (that’s the Inca Trail!). Every day, in Tambopata, your operator offers a variety of selected activities to choose from, and most of them should be included in your rate.

There are many activities. But you should stay at least three nights to be able to do:

• Boat or canoe on meander-shaped lakes.

• Canopy tower or hanging bridges

• Clay licks.

• Kayak

• Walks in forests

Biodiversity of Tambopata.

The lowland forests and tropical savannas of Tambopata are some of the most biodiverse areas in the world.

Birds: 670 species of birds have been identified, including the harpy eagle, a large and rare raptor that feeds on monkeys and sloths, the strange Hoatzin, and eight species of macaws (six of which can be seen at the Tambopata Research Center clay lick).

Mammals: 200 species, including healthy populations of jaguar, giant anteater, Amazonian tapir 

Reptiles and amphibians: 210 species, including several species of tree frogs, the colorful Tambopata poison frog, and the beautiful rainbow boa.

Insects and other arthropods: The number of species of insects and spiders living in the rainforests of Tambopata runs into the thousands. Many are expected to be species unknown to science.

Trees and plants: More than 10,000 species of plants have been identified in Tambopata, Peru, making it one of the most plant-diverse areas on the planet. Some of the most notable plants are the Brazil nut, the huge ceiba, and the fast-growing balsa trees.

Tambopata Lodges and Tours

In Tambopata, all lodges come with a tour operator. This means lodges will have boats to transport you, guides to accompany your activities, and take care of everything from airport pick-up to return. However, some tour operators don’t have lodges. We will focus here only on accommodations.

To know if a lodge is good, check if it’s clean, if the food is good, if boats and trucks are punctual, and if the staff is friendly. Visitors who have already stayed there can offer insights. For any service-related queries, TripAdvisor is your best bet.

You probably know, but Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com) is the world’s largest travel review site. Look up your destination and check the top-rated hotels and tour operators. It’s important to know that Trip Advisor users, not experts, define destinations. Therefore, a destination might have different names. For example, lodges around the Tambopata National Reserve can be found under both Puerto Maldonado and Tambopata.


What to Pack for a Trip to Tambopata

Here are some suggestions:

– Binoculars

– Camera gear, bring your long lens!

– Long cotton trousers, tightly woven, in light colors.

– Light-colored, tightly woven cotton shirts, long-sleeved.

– Hiking boots and ankle-high sneakers.

– Flashlight (headlamp) with batteries.

– Sunscreen

– Sunglasses

– Wide-brimmed hat

– Rain suit or poncho

– Insect repellent

– Small denomination bills

– Small backpack

– Slippers or sandals for walking around the lodges.

Most lodges, including all of those from Palotoa Amazon Travel, lend rubber boots so you don’t have to bring your own.

Yes, that was a lot of information, but hopefully, now you have a clearer picture and are ready to plan your next adventure to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Let our tropical forest specialist find the right fit for you.


The Tambopata National Reserve is one of the remaining true jewels of the Amazon rainforest. It’s a must-visit destination for Peruvian travelers and nature lovers from around the world. Here we provide some background on the history, ecology, and diversity of the Reserve.

What is the Tambopata National Reserve?

The Tambopata National Reserve encompasses 274,690 hectares (1,061 square miles) of preserved land in southeastern Peru. The Reserve features diverse habitats including lowland Amazon rainforest, riverine forests, and meander lakes. It is traversed by three rivers: the Malinowski, Tambopata, and Madre de Dios rivers.

Due to its protected status and isolated location, the Reserve boasts incredible biodiversity. It is home to over 1,000 species of butterflies, 100 species of mammals, about 600 species of birds, and hundreds of species of trees and plants. In fact, this reserve and its surrounding region are among the most biodiverse places on the planet!

In the Tambopata National Reserve, the following have been recorded:

– 1,200 species of butterflies

– 632 species of birds

– 180 species of fish

– 169 species of mammals

– 103 species of amphibians

– 103 species of reptiles

– 17 plant associations by forest type

– 1,255 species of plants

Tambopata National Reserve

How Was the Tambopata National Reserve Created?

Since 1990, various biologists and conservationists began pushing for the protection of the Tambopata area from development. They were passionate about preserving this area because it was (and is) one of the last and largest remaining areas of pristine rainforest. Specifically, Tambopata is one of the few areas that contain lowland tropical forests at the foothills, connecting with cloud forests at higher elevations and wet savannas. Moreover, very few people lived in the most remote areas of Tambopata. Conservationists realized that the region could act as an important corridor between Manu National Park and the forests of Bolivia. The area also harbored healthy populations of tapirs, jaguars, other big cats, giant otters, harpy eagles, many types of macaws, and other animals that had disappeared from other parts of the Amazon.

Initially, the area that includes the current Tambopata National Reserve and the nearby Bahuaja Sonene National Park was known as the “Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone,” as a former form of protection. While the “reserved zone” status provided some protection, it left the window open for land-use changes, so the area was still at risk. Conservation organizations conducted more studies to help give the area a more permanent protected status, demonstrating that protecting the region was vital for biodiversity and could work with local cultures. These studies helped build strong arguments for changing Tambopata’s status from a “reserved zone” to a “national reserve,” a more official and permanent protection. Thus, the Tambopata National Reserve was born!

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