Why travel to the Amazon
For scientists, researchers, and wildlife enthusiasts, the Amazon Basin has been a longstanding source of fascinating discoveries. But despite years of research, the rainforest remains shrouded in mystery. This quality is precisely what makes the Amazon a top destination for travel to South America.
In Peru, the exuberant jungle region stands in stark contrast to the rugged Andean peaks and arid desert coastline that characterize the rest of the country. The Peruvian Amazon covers over half of the national territory and provides unparalleled opportunities for exploration. From Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, you can embark on a personal Amazon travel adventure into the world’s largest jungle.
Peru’s Andes slope down to meet the rainforest lowlands of the Amazon Basin, a geographical confluence that creates several distinctive ecosystems. The various microclimates combine to create the most biologically diverse region on the planet. Although only 5% of Peru’s population lives in the Amazon, this territory is home to a mind-boggling number of species of flora and fauna. These include: 2.5 million different types of insects; 40,000 different plant types; 3,000 species of fish; 1,294 bird species; 427 mammal types; 428 amphibians; and 328 types of reptiles. These numbers represent just the species that have been identified; many more are still awaiting discovery and classification by diligent scientists.
Over the last few decades, the Peru Amazon has seen a dramatic increase in ecotourism. Visitors wishing to explore the spectacular protected areas of Peru now have a growing number of options. Many of these projects are being carried out in an environmentally-responsible manner that seeks to preserve the natural riches that are main draw in Amazon travel.
Air travel is the most efficient way to access the main jungle centers, but once there, options for Amazon tours include cruises, jungle lodges, or day trips. With such immense diversity, the hard part is deciding which jungle adventure is right for you.
What to do in the Amazon
There are 3 main options for Peru Amazon tours.
Iquitos: In the north, Iquitos provides access to the headwaters of the Amazon River. This remote jungle city is the world’s largest settlement that cannot be reached by road. The only ways to get to Iquitos are by air or by boat, which makes getting here another part of the adventure.
Nestled on the banks of the Amazon River and with a population of 370,000 people, Iquitos is a charming, laid back town. The city was founded in 1757 and experienced huge growth during the late 1800s when it became the center of one of the world’s biggest rubber producing booms.
Present-day Iquitos is always hot and humid by day, but has a buzzing cosmopolitan aura and a sizzling night time bar scene. One of the highlights of the city is the shantytown suburb of Puerto Belen, where rustic wooden huts stand on stilts in the Amazon waters and the markets hum with cheerful activity.
For most visitors, however, the reason to travel to Iquitos is quite simply the Amazon itself. The huge, complex river system around Iquitos offers the best access to indigenous villages, lodges, and primary rainforest in the entire Amazon. The jungle around Iquitos is Peru’s largest area of lowland jungle, and the perfect place to launch on an exciting Amazon cruise.
Puerto Maldonado: The city of Puerto Maldonado is located off the banks of the Tambopata River in the southeastern part of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and close to the tri-border with Bolivia and Brazil. This ramshackle jungle town has seen its fortunes rise and fall over the years with the coming and going of rubber and logging industries as well as gold and oil prospecting. Today, it is the capital of the Madre de Dios region.
Puerto Maldonado is the perfect starting point for an Amazon tour to some of the most pristine rainforest areas, including Manu National Park and the beautiful Tambopata National Reserve. This reserve covers over 13,590 acres, boasts some of the finest and most biologically diverse rainforest on the planet, and is home to a huge spectrum of jungle wildlife. The area is also known for its numerous Brazil nut tree trails, indigenous villages, excellent local guides and ecologists, and a great range of Amazon jungle lodges. A stay here is by far the best way to experience the surrounding jungle.
Manu: Located in the foothills of the eastern Andes, the Manu Biosphere Reserve is one of the most important Amazon destinations in Peru, encompassing more than 4.5 million acres of the least-accessible and least-explored primary and secondary jungle forest on the planet, and with some of the richest and most extraordinary biological areas in the Amazon. Manu comprises one of the largest protected areas on the continent and its variety of environments includes Andean highlands, precipitous cloud forests, and dense lowland jungle. The sheer volume and diversity of flora and fauna within the reserve is astonishing.
The highlights of an Amazon tour in Manu are the fantastic trail networks and the lakes of Cocha Salvador and Cocha Otorongo. These areas offer the greatest diversity in animal, bird, and water life. Visitors also marvel at the caiman, giant river otters, wild monkeys, tapirs, capybara, parrots, and macaws which can be spotted in the light-brown waters and among the giant cedars of the lowland jungle. Manu, which can be accessed from Puerto Maldonado, is also home to many indigenous tribes, some of which have constant contact with the outside world and others that still remain relatively secluded.
When to visit the Amazon
In the Peruvian Amazon, the trees are tall and the flat lands along the banks of the mighty Amazon are regularly flooded. Come rainy season from December to March, the area becomes a vast swampland that attracts a phenomenal amount of wildlife, comparable only to that of Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. The flooding allows boats to get to otherwise unreachable areas of jungle. However, during the rainy season, river banks are higher, which makes it more difficult to see animals during an Amazon boat tour. The rainy season also brings about more bugs, so be sure to bring your bug spray if you’re traveling during this time.
Our travel to Puerto Maldonado and the Selva beyond was also great! The boat ride to Refugio Amazonas was such an exciting way to enter the jungle. Refugio Amazonas was like an oasis in the jungle, and when we arrived we were greeted by friendly smiles, icy-cold towels for our faces, and sweet lemonade. The accommodations were tranquil and our jungle itinerary was packed with adventure. Our guide, Johan, was knowledgeable and tireless. He had a wonderful sense of people and made everyone feel included. The food at Refugio was also delicious, produced largely from the local geography.
Sarah Seward (California, USA) traveled to the Amazon in January 2011
We went on many tours and each was lead by extremely knowledgeable tour guides who again, had a wonderful passion for their country. In the Amazon, Explorama Lodge was awesome. We felt that we were in the rain forest but with a group of excited explorers. We hung out on the hammocks, went for a few hikes, watched the sunset over the Amazon, went fishing for piranhas and saw countless creepy but interesting bugs!! This was by far, the best food we had during the trip.
Emily & Geoff Wilson (Minnesota, USA) traveled to the Amazon in October 2010
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Puerto Maldonado Lodges
Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica 5*
Reserva Amazonica is located along the river, on a 40 square mile (103.6 square kilometer) private ecological reserve, which is adjacent to the Tambopata National Park. Offering 30 private cabanas, 3 suites, and a unique canopy tree house that sits 90 feet above ground and can accommodate two, the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica provides comfortable accommodation amidst spectacular scenery. All guest rooms and common areas are built with local materials and high-pitched palm-thatched roofs in local Ese-Eja and Machiguenga native styles. Each room is attractively furnished with log chairs, comfortable beds covered by mosquito netting, and a small porch with two hammocks. The rooms have no electricity, and after dinner guests return to their cabanas across tree-trunk-boardwalks to find the entryways and bathrooms lit with candles and kerosene lamps. Reserva Amazonica is a perfect place to be to relax and enjoy everything the Amazon Rainforest has to offer.
Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Photos & Info »
Posada Amazonas Jungle Lodge 4*
Posada Amazonas is a comfortable, low profile, 24-bedroom jungle eco-lodge owned jointly by Rainforest Expeditions and the Ese'eja Native Community of Tambopata. Each quaint room features three bamboo-walls that act as mesh nets to allow a refreshing cross-breeze through your private accommodation. The fourth side of the charming room is wide open to provide an amazing view of the Puerto Maldonado tropics and to let guests enjoy the natural wonders of this region unobstructed. Because of its accessibility, opportunities for excellent wildlife observation, and comfortable accommodation, a stay at Posada Amazonas is the ideal introductory nature tour to the Amazonian rain forests.
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Manu Wildlife Center 3*
The Manu Wildlife Center is ideally located in a large private rainforest reserve adjacent to the even larger Amarakaeri Reserved Zone. With numerous wildlife hotspots within easy reach on foot or by boat, the lodge is perfect for those who want an intense experience during their Peru vacation in Manu. In 2002, Conde Nast Traveler magazine wrote: “Manu Wildlife Center has become a base of choice for elite bird-watching tours and wildlife-documentary crews – people willing to spend good money to be treated well.” Visitors will welcome the amenities and exclusive comfort of this attractive lodge - boasting 22 roomy, private bungalows with en suite private bathrooms and hot showers - especially if they are arriving from the rustic simplicity of Manu National Park.
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Manu Cloud Forest Lodge 3*
The first accommodation ever built in the cloud forests of Manu, the Manu Cloud Forest Lodge is idyllically situated among mist-shrouded Andean slopes and adjacent to a narrow 400-foot-high waterfall. Rushing streams next to the site belong to two of the small water courses that descend from the mountains to the Qosñipata River. Amenities include private bathrooms with hot water, private verandas overlooking the pristine Union creek, and a sauna to relax in after an activity-filled Peru vacation in the Amazon.
Manu Cloud Forest Lodge Photos & Info »
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The mighty Delfin I cruise ship provides visitors with a Peru Amazon vacation equal parts onboard opulence and wilderness adventure. This 69-foot-long vessel provides travelers with the luxury of first-class amenities and gourmet dining, all within the lush setting of Peru’s rainforest, one of the world’s most wildlife-rich habitats. The ship has four elegantly appointed and charming cabins in total – two deluxe and two master suites – which feature comfortable king size beds with 100% Peruvian cotton sheets, bathrooms with all-cotton towels, soft bath robes, and eco-friendly amenities.
Each suite is equipped with a silent air-conditioning unit and features large panoramic windows that display gorgeous 180° views of the Amazon River. Crystal and fine china await you on Delfin I’s second deck dining room where guests can partake of fine Amazonian-Peruvian cuisine, while the third deck offers a wonderfully furnished observation deck perfect for enjoying a cocktail and a sundeck with inviting hammocks. Finally, there is a quaint shop with indigenous Amazonian arts and crafts available for purchase as the perfect souvenirs to remember your luxurious Peru Amazon getaway.
Gift Shop Restaurant
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The first luxury vessel of its kind to cruise the untamed Amazon River, the Aqua is a 130-foot ship prepared to provide guests with maximum opulence during a Peru Amazon adventure. Designed by an internationally celebrated Peruvian interior designer, this riverboat is a floating five-star hotel that navigates through an unforgettable backdrop of lush Peruvian rainforest.
12 well-appointed and quaint suites are elegantly decorated with chic furnishings, featuring comfortable sitting areas and large panoramic windows for views of the vast Amazon River. Guests can dine on delicious top-end meals served in the Aqua's restaurant, do a bit of sunbathing on the cruise ship's observation deck, or even purchase indigenous Peru handicrafts in the charming boutique shop. Setting sail on this first-rate cruise ship guarantees the most luxurious Peru Amazon vacation imaginable.
Gift Shop Restaurant
M/V Aqua Photos & Info »
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Featured Amazon Tours
Browse our full range of customizable Amazon Tours:
#6 Discover Peru
15 days / 14 nights
Lima, Paracas & Nazca, Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Cusco & MaPi, Puno, Amazon
from $ 3369
4 days / 3 nights
Iquitos - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
from $ 3349
5 days / 4 nights
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
from $ 4869
4 days / 3 nights
Two jungle experiences in one
from $ 689