While Peru is known mainly for its gorgeous hikes, stunning Inca ruins, and breathtaking mountains, there is more to Peru than originally meets the eye. Once Machu Picchu has been checked off your list, it’s time to take a trip further inland to explore the Peruvian Amazon.

The Amazon jungle lies partially in Peru, but many overlook the tropical paradise. It’s easy to understand why, as Peru has a variety of geographical features, from beaches to rocky mountaintops. However, if you make your way east, Peru displays some of the most abundant greenery in all of South America, along with diverse wildlife.

When considering your trip to the jungle, you’ll find information advising you to visit either Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, or sometimes both! While each city is in the incredible Peruvian Amazon, there are differences you should take into account.

So which one to choose? To help you make the most informed decision for your Amazon adventure, we have gathered information and compared both destinations including activities, budgets, time considerations, and travel tips.

Peruvian Amazon: Iquitos

Located in the northeast corner of Peru along the Amazon River, Iquitos is the world’s largest city that cannot be reached by road. It has about 377,600 inhabitants. To get there, you must take one of the local flights or boats up the river.

Iquitos is a city of contrasts, as the man-made infrastructure backs up to the lush Peruvian Amazon jungle, tiny local canoes paddle past cruise ships, and mud huts sit next door to tile mansions. We recommend spending at least three days in Iquitos to experience all it has to offer.

Things to Do in Iquitos
While the city is known for its surrounding jungle and nature-based activities, there is also plenty to do within the city limits. Between the town itself and the outside setting, this region is sure to provide the adventure you are searching for!

Peruvian Amazon: Puerto Maldonado

While visiting Iquitos makes for a memorable experience, Puerto Maldonado has just as many adventures in store. Located in the Southern Amazon, the city is known as the capital of the southern jungle. In contrast to Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado is home to a population of just 85,000 people.

The city is accessible by both plane and car and easiest to reach from Cusco. Thanks to its easy access to wildlife, Puerto Maldonado is a great destination for solo travelers and families alike.

Things to Do in Puerto Maldonado
Puerto Maldonado reflects a slower pace of life and provides plenty of opportunities to relax alongside its more thrill-seeking options. There are a variety of things to do in Puerto Maldonado to satisfy everyone on your trip.

Price Comparison of Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado

Whether you decide to venture to Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado during your Amazonian adventure may depend on your budget. Are you cutting your costs during your visit or willing to go the extra mile?

As with any trip, prices will vary depending on what accommodation you would like and what restaurants you chose to eat at, as well as what you plan to do while you’re there. Overall, both Iquitos are Puerto Maldonado are fairly inexpensive, with Iquitos costing a little bit more.

One Week Price Comparison Iquitos Puerto Maldonado
Activities and Excursions $120-500 $150-500
Transportation to Location $30-90 $10-100
Accommodations (per night) $8-50 $10-80
Food (per day) $15-45 $6-40

Activities and Excursions
Depending on exactly what you want to do in Iquitos, you could spend anywhere from $20 USD for a city tour to $120 USD on a tour that includes guided canoe trips and visiting indigenous communities, or up to $500 USD on multi-day tours.

In Puerto Maldonado, the experience is similar. If you are looking to explore National Reserves and skip the tours, you could spend $10-20 USD on fees and transportation per day. However, if you want to experience the area and participate in activities with the help of a tour guide, you are looking at spending $150-500 USD, depending on the length of your tour.

How to Get to Iquitos from Lima
The only way to get to Iquitos is by either plane or boat, as there are no roads leading to the city. The most hassle-free and popular way to reach Iquitos is by taking a plane from Lima.

Flights from Lima to Iquitos’ airport (Coronel FAP Francisco Secada Vignetta International Airport) leave multiple times each day and cost anywhere from $50-90 USD roundtrip, making it an easy and cost-effective route.

If you have a longer time to reach the city, you can do so by boat in order to experience more of the Amazon. However, when deciding whether or not to take the boat, keep in mind that this trip will be basic and lack the aspects of a luxury stay.

Taking a boat to Iquitos usually involves boarding a cargo ship and sleeping on the decks in a hammock. The boat trip is unforgettable and authentic, but may be uncomfortable.

In order to reach the boat departure points, take a bus from Lima to Pucallpa or Tarapoto. In Pucallpa, you directly board a boat to Iquitos on the Ucayali River at Puerto Henry. The trip from this location takes 4-5 days.

In Tarapoto, take a shared van/car to Yurimaguas, about a 2-hour drive. Once there, you will be able to find a boat to take you to Iquitos, a 2-3 day journey. Boat tickets cost around $30 USD.

How to Get to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco
The trip to Puerto Maldonado is usually by either plane or bus, as there are roads that lead directly to this town. One thing to keep in mind when arriving in Puerto Maldonado is to have a proof of Yellow Fever vaccination ready, as officials will sometimes ask for it.

Flights from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) in Cusco leave once daily, typically in the morning or early afternoon. These flights to Puerto Maldonado will cost around $100-120 USD roundtrip. From the airport in Puerto Maldonado, take a moto taxi into the town, costing $3 USD.

Taking the bus is another option, which will cost much less and take around 10 hours. Most bus tickets will cost anywhere from $10-30 USD, depending on the company. Many providers offer overnight buses where you can sleep through the journey. You can book bus tickets online ahead of time with Busbud.

Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos Hotels
Staying in Iquitos can be an affordable way to experience the Peruvian Amazon jungle. You can find a hostel bed for around $8 USD per night and mid-range accommodations for around $50 USD per night.

We recommend these hotels in Iquitos:

Puerto Maldonado has a wide range of accommodations to fit your budget needs. If you are looking for the bare basics, you can get a hostel for around $10 USD a night or a hotel from $25 USD. For more private and luxurious accommodations, you can expect to pay up to $80 USD per night.

We recommend these hotels in Puerto Maldonado:

Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos Restaurants Prices
Eating in Iquitos mimics the style of much of Peru – incredibly delicious food for a low price. You can expect to pay around $4-7 USD per meal in Iquitos, with higher-end restaurants charging $12-15 USD for a main dish.

Cuisine in Puerto Maldonado is priced lower than that of Iquitos, although the two are comparable. You can find cheap meals in Puerto Maldonado for around $2-4 USD. However, if you dine at more mid to high-range eateries, you can expect to pay $10-13 USD.

Basic Rainforest

Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado Weather

The Amazon rainforest does not have seasons such as summer and winter. Instead, the Amazon has high-water season and low-water season. However, the difference between the two is minimal in terms of temperature.

November until May is rainy and humid in the rainforest while June through October has sunnier weather. Both time periods feature temperatures ranging from 70-95°F (21-35°C).

Although you can visit year-round with similar weather, the high-water season (November to May) is the best for seeing marine wildlife.

So, Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado?

Your ultimate Peruvian Amazon destination depends largely on your location, as Iquitos is in the North and Puerto Maldonado is in the South. Iquitos is a perfect addition to a Lima trip, while Puerto Maldonado is convenient if you will be exploring the area around Cusco.

With both destinations, you are bound to enjoy an adventure and immerse yourself in the Amazon like never before. Both offer opportunities for exploring the rainforest, viewing diverse wildlife, and shopping in local markets, all at similar price points.

If you have any further questions, need additional guidance, or would like us to plan your next trip to Peru for you, contact us and we’d be happy to help.