Peruvian Cities
Puerto Maldonado, MADRE DE DIOS
Location, extension and population | Brief historic overview | Main attractions in Madre de Dios | Typical dishes and beverages | Tourist calendarMadre de Dios

The department of Madre de Dios is located in the southeastern part of the country. It limits to the north with Ucayali, to the south and west with Puno, and to the east with Brazil and Bolivia. Its territory comprises parts of the High and Low Jungle, with hot and humid tropical weather, and rains from November through April. The average temperature is 25ºC (77ºF).

Madre de Dios has an extension of 78,403 km² (30,272 sq ml) and a population that hardly amounts to 50,000 people.

The capital is Puerto Maldonado, in the province of Tambopata.


Guacamayo azul y amarillo. Madre de Dios. Fotografía: Aníbal Solimano / PromPerú.BRIEF HISTORIC OVERVIEW
There is evidence of human presence in this region before the Spanish conquest and rising of the Inca empire. These pieces of evidence include very ancient vestiges of engraved stones found in the Palotoa, Shinkebenia and Urubamba rivers; in the cordillera of Patiacolla; and in the Madre de Dios high upper heads. This is a very attractive site for archeologists.

Researchers assess that the first settlers in Madre de Dios should have appeared thousands of years ago, and that Arahuacos or their ancestors, the proto-Arahuacos, migrated to this region. From this tribe many other ethnic groups emerged and, later on, had contact with the Incas and the Spanish. Some of these tribes, such as the Machiguengas, survive until today.

The territory known as Madre de Dios today was also one of the four regions in which the Inca empire was divided, the Antisuyo. Little is known about its creation. Even some chronicles written on the subject by Garcilazo de la Vega are on debate today for contradictions in the data. Historians, nonetheless, coincide in saying that the conquest of this region was very difficult for the Incas who fought against fearless tribes. These tribes, well acquainted with the region, later on also devastated several Spanish armies.

During Colonial times, all those adventurers who organized expeditions to into Madre de Dios died tragically in the hands of the different tribes. In the year 1567, however, Juan Maldonado, along with 250 men, was able to get very close to the region of Madre de Dios. Centuries later, in 1861, Colonel Faustino Maldonado finally went through the whole region, and reached, as well, the frontier with Brazil.

On December 26, 1912, the Department of Madre de Dios was officially founded, and Puerto Maldonado chosen as the capital.


Reserva Nacional de Tambopata-Candamo
. This reserve is located at the junction of the La Torre and Tambopata rivers. With an extension of 5,500 hectares of virgin Jungle, it stands out for the richness and variety of its different species of birds (above 600), butterflies (over 900) and dragonflies (approximately 115).

Santuario Nacional de las Pampas del Heath. With an extension of 109 hectares, this reserve was founded in 1983. It houses the priceless lobo de crin (horsehair wolf).

ManuReserva de la Biósfera del Manu. In 1973, UNESCO declared this region a natural reserve. It has an extension of 1'881,200 hectares and is divided into three areas: the Parque Nacional del Manu (1'532,806 hectares), an intangible territory; Zona Reservada (257,000 hectares), an area for tourist activities; and Bajo Manu (91,394 hectares), a free zone inhabited by different human groups. There are beautiful lagoons in the region, such as, Valencia, Copa Manu, Sandoval, La Pastora, Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Cocococha, Tres Chimbadas y Amigos. The rivers that run through this territory are Manu, Tambopata, Madre de Dios, La Torre, Manuripe, Las Piedras and Tahuamanu.

This reserve is an ecosystem that has had an unchanging evolution throughout thousands of years, housing one of the biggest variety of flora and fauna in the world. It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 bird species in the park and over 200 mammals. There are between 2,000 and 3,000 plant species, 10% of which are still unknown by scientists.

To go into the reserve visitors must have the authorization of the Dirección del Parque Nacional. Visitors need a travel time of, at least, a full week.

Lago Valencia is located at 60 km (37.3 ml) from Puerto Maldonado. In the four hour ride on motor boat it is possible to see gold seekers working at the bank of the Madre de Dios river; the native settlements of the Huarayos; and a great variety of flora and fauna. The lake holds corvinas, dorados, doncellas, among other fish species. The most representative native communities located in this region are the Amaralari, Arasaeri, Kisambaeri, Pukirieri, Sapiteri, Toyoeri, Wachipari, Arawak, Machiguenga and Piro-Mashko.


In spite of having a very small population, Madre de Dios does have typical dishes based on the food of the zone. Among the most well-known dishes are patarashca, a steam cooked fish wrapped around banana leaves; motelo, a turtle meat soup served in its shell; muchangue, turtle eggs served with unripe steamed bananas; timbuche or chilcano, a soup of regional fishes, such as, the palometa, sapamana, mojarreta or gusasaco; tacacho, coal cooked bananas served with pieces of fried pork cracklings and chopped onions.

The mazato, the typical drink in the area, is made of fermented yucca, chapo and a blend of very ripe bananas and milk.


July 12.
Anniversary of Puerto Maldonado. Festivities to celebrate the founding of the city include a variety of public, social and cultural events.