The Tambopata National Reserve, or Reserva Nacional Tambopata, is the pristine and internationally important wildlife reserve on the Río Tambopata in southeast Peru. It is one of the most popular wildlife-watching locations in the Peruvian Amazon. To travel the 982 miles (1,581 km) from Lima to here, you will always need to take a combination of plane or bus to Puerto Maldonado, from where private transfer or bus followed by boat are used to transfer you to your Tambopata river lodge.
The last part of the journey, from Puerto Maldonado to the river lodge on the Río Tambopata where you will be staying, is almost always going to be included in the price you paid for your river lodge stay.
See here for more on a sample 3-day adventure in the Tambopata region.
By Plane, Private Transfer or Bus and Boat
Duration: 4.5-5 hours
Flight time from Lima to Puerto Maldonado is around 1.5 hours. There are 2-3 direct flights daily with Latam, the most dependable carrier. More indirect flights, with a sometimes lengthy change at Cusco, are also available.
Tambopata lodges are scattered all along the riverbank over a distance of many miles, and journey time from Puerto Maldonado to each will vary. From the airport in Puerto Maldonado, Padre Aldamiz International Airport (PEM), the standard trip to Tambopata itself, using the example of a lodge about halfway along the Río Tambopata such as Refugio Amazonas, would then be a 45-minute bus transfer to the community of Infierno followed by a 2.5-3 hour journey upriver to your chosen river lodge.
Allowing for the invariable delays and change-overs that regularly affect Amazon transport in Peru, making the whole trip in under 5 hours would be good going.
Flights are sometimes but not always included in river lodge package stays, transfers from the airport are usually included in all river lodge stay packages. The exception is if you stay at a homestay such as those around the community of Baltimore. Then you will have to catch a bus bound for the community of Laberinto and ask the driver to drop you at Km 37 of the Puerto Maldonado-Cusco road. From there, a path, walkable in three hours, leads to the riverbank at Baltimore.
This is the quickest and most expensive option, and by far the most popular.
By Bus, Private Transfer and Boat
Duration: 37-44 hours
The first leg of the journey is the longest of all: by bus from Lima to Cusco which is occasionally as quick as 22 hours but more commonly takes 24-30 hours. Even buses on this long route take at least a one-hour break and by private transfer (uncommon on this route because of the huge distance) you will need to allow for several hours' break or an overnight stay.
The second leg of this journey is from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado via the Carretera Interoceaníca (Hwy 30C). On this fairly recently constructed road, travel time by bus or private transfer via Quince Mil is around ten hours. It is a wonderful thing to see the transition between mountains and jungle on this section, but by bus this journey is often done at night.
Once in Puerto Maldonado, be aware that Tambopata lodges are scattered all along the riverbank of the Río Tambopata over many miles and that journey time to each from Puerto Maldonado varies. To a lodge halfway along such as Refugio Amazonas journey time consists of a 45-minute bus transfer to the community of Infierno, followed by a 2.5-3 boat ride on motorized canoe.
This last part of the journey from Puerto Maldonado will be invariably included in your river lodge stay. The exception is if you stay at a homestay such as those around the community of Baltimore. Then you will have to catch a bus bound for the community of Laberinto and ask the driver to drop you at Km 37 of the Puerto Maldonado-Cusco road. From there, a path, walkable in three hours, leads to the riverbank at Baltimore.
This is the cheapest and most time-consuming option.