Wildlife lodges in Peru offer unparalleled access to some of the country's most fascinating fauna and flora. These can be found nestled in the Andean mountainsides, flooded rainforests and places in between. The type of accommodation also varies widely, from rustic bungalows to luxury retreats.
Peru is renowned for three topographical zones: coast, mountains and jungle. It's in the jungle where you will find the best wilderness experiences, particularly if spotting wildlife is on your agenda.
Because of the distances involved and packages on offer, be prepared to spend at least two nights at the below retreats, although a stay of three more nights is recommended. All these retreats are constructed with environmental concerns as well as human comforts in mind, so some are quite rustic and lacking in modern conveniences. Internet access and power points at these lodges can be limited or non-existent, for example, and in all cases, you should bring insect repellent.
Tahuayo Lodge, Río Tahuayo, Northern Peru
The rustic Tahuayo Lodge is located right on the edge of primary jungle, up a tributary 40 miles from the main Amazon River and four hours' speedboat ride from Iquitos. The adjoining Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo Reserve is often cited as being the most biodiverse part of the entire Peruvian Amazon — no small claim. Wildlife to be spotted here includes the hard-to-spot red ukari monkey, pygmy marmosets and colorful hoatzins, known for their stink and elaborate mating rituals. The lodge has 17 cabins built on stilts above the river bank. A research center, run by the lodge is located even deeper into the primary jungle.
OtoEx Amazon River Lodge, Northern Peru
Formerly known as Otorongo Lodge, this accommodation option just up a tributary of the Amazon River is the brainchild of former falconer Anthony Giardinelli. Anthony, who likes to be involved with all trips personally, has the unique talent of attracting birds by mimicking their songs — his guests often get to glimpse many rare types of bird that would otherwise remain elusive.
This 12-room lodge sits at 2.5 hours' speedboat ride from Iquitos, with the main complex of thatched buildings facing onto a pretty garden. A couple of secluded separate houses overlooking the beautiful nearby creek offer a particularly isolated jungle experience.
ExplorNapo Lodge, Northern Peru
Explorama is one of the best and longest-established companies with lodges in Peru's northern jungle wilderness, operating several accommodation options. Almost 100 miles from Iquitos on the Río Napo, the highlight of a stay at their rustic ExplorNapo Lodge is the unparalleled means at guests' disposal for viewing wildlife.
As well as boasting its own nature trails and an ethnobotanical garden, managed by a shaman, the lodge is only a short walk away from a canopy walkway suspended 115 ft above the forest floor. There are also walks to a wilderness camp, two hours' hike from the main lodge. The lodge has shared bathroom facilities. Because of the distances involved, minimum stay is normally five days. For more luxury and less wildlife viewing, try the company's fancy Ceiba Tops Lodge, located closer to Iquitos.
Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and Manu Wildlife Center, Central Peru
On the exhilarating road from Cusco to the Parque Nacional Manu (Manu National Park), you descend out of the barren higher peaks into lush cloud forest, boasting its own distinct ecosystems and some of the most dazzling bird life on the planet.
One of the best lodges here, where the Andes bow down to meet the jungle below, is Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, accessible by road from Cusco. The lodge has 12 well-appointed wooden bungalows, sitting in a photogenic location at 5200 feet. The accommodation takes its name from one of the area's most bizarre birds, the gaudy orange cock-of-the-rock, found only in a few locations worldwide.
The lodge is run by the highly-regarded outfit InkaNatura, the company that also runs the more famous Manu Wildlife Center deeper into the Parque Nacional Manu, and an adventurous road and river trip from Cusco. Jaguar sightings are possible at the lodge and you can also visit a macaw feeding ground.
Collpas Tambopata Lodge, Río Tambopata, Southern Peru
If wildlife viewing is your thing, then one of the best wilderness experiences to be had in the southern part of Peru awaits at Collpas Tambopata Lodge. The lodge is one of the more recent additions to those on the Río Tambopata. One of the region's most renowned guides, Gerson Medina Valera, operates the lodge, with trips running out here from his Puerto Maldonado-based hostel.
Here, you are in the best hands possible to see the wildlife of this part of Peru, including several different types of monkey and macaws on the nearby clay licks. One quirk of the lodge is that you have the opportunity (with help from a guide) to forage for your own dinner in the Amazon jungle, just as indigenous tribes have done for thousands of years.
Sandoval Lake Lodge, Lago Sandoval, Southern Peru
Sandoval Lake Lodge, operated by InkaNatura, combines arguably the best of rainforest luxury with some of the most memorable wildlife watching in Southern Peru. It is rare to find somewhere so remote with such well-furnished accommodation. Lago Sandoval itself is a jungle lake which acts as a window onto an incredible diversity of wildlife including giant river otters, black caimans and turtles.
Just getting to the lodge, with part of the journey a canoe paddle through flooded forest, makes this option a real adventure. Aside from the wildlife, the rooms are some of the best in the Peruvian wilderness. Constructed in eco-friendly driftwood mahogany, the lodge has 25 large, smart, comfortable doubles with en-suite facilities, and a large restaurant and bar.