A large, forested region, with a manic climate (usually searingly hot and humid, but with sudden cold spells – friajes – between June and August, due to icy winds coming down from the Andean glaciers), the southern selva has only been systematically explored since the 1950s.

Named after the broad river that flows through the heart of the southern jungle, the still relatively wild departamento of MADRE DE DIOS is centred on the fast-growing river town of Puerto Maldonado, near the Bolivian border and just 180m above sea level. The town extends a tenuous political and economic hold over the vast departamento and has a fast-growing population of over 40,000, but most visitors come for the nearby wildlife, either in the strictly protected Manu Biosphere Reserve – still essentially an expedition zone – and the cheaper and easy-to-access Reserva Nacional Tambopata, chiefly visited by groups staying at lodges. Both offer some of the most luxuriant jungle and richest flora and fauna in the world. Another massive protected area, the Parque Nacional Bahuaja-Sonene, is adjacent to Tambopata.

Less accessible than the protected zones, but nevertheless offering travellers staying in Puerto Maldonado a taste of the rainforest, are Lago Sandoval and the huge expanse of Lago Valencia, both great wildlife spots east along the Río Madre de Dios and close to the Bolivian border. At the least, you’re likely to spot a few caimans and the strange hoatzin bird, and if you’re very lucky, larger mammals such as capybara, tapir or, less likely, jaguar – and at Valencia, you can fish for piranha. A little further southeast lies the Pampas del Heath, the only tropical grassland within Peru.

The Río Madre de Dios itself is fed by two main tributaries, the Río Manu and the Río Alto Madre de Dios, which roll off the Paucartambo Ridge just north of Cusco. West of this ridge, the Río Urubamba watershed starts and its river flows on past Machu Picchu and down to the jungle area around the town of Quillabamba, before entering lowland Amazon beyond the rapids of Pongo de Mainique.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Peru features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
20 seriously weird places around the world

20 seriously weird places around the world

The world is a weird (and wonderful) place. And from a rose-coloured lake to a Japanese island ruled by cats, we've got twenty pictures to prove it. 1. Spotted…

26 Jul 2017 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs