Experience Peru's Amazon! Tell us your details, and let a local local operator plan the perfect trip.
- Stay in a remote jungle lodge, far from any hint of civilization
- Walk through the jungle and try to spot as many bird species as you can
- Take a multi-day river trip down one of the beautiful tributaries of the Amazon
- Add a 3-5 day visit to the Amazon onto your current itinerary for Peru
The Amazon Basin possesses the planet’s highest levels of biodiversity, and is one of the most wild places on earth. Coiling rivers and impenetrable rainforests have shielded the indigenous communities and vivid wildlife from almost all contact with the outside world.
Peru has been more stringent than most other South American nations in protecting its portion of this immense jungle, and thus the Peruvian Amazon has become one of the best places in the world to experience the rainforest.
Covering an estimated 60% of the total territory of the country, Peru’s jungle is a region of many contrasts. There are multi-day river trips, and there are thousands of birds and animals and plants that exist nowhere else on Earth. There are villages where tribes live much as they did when conquistadors first glimpsed this region, there are thriving modern cities, and there are remote lodges to stay at lying many hours’ journey from the nearest electricity cable.
The biggest, most bizarre and most interesting city in the Peruvian Amazon, Iquitos is the largest city in the world (population in excess of 450,000) that cannot be reached by road. Right by the Amazon River — and with a lovely riverside promenade — it boasts several good museums, a celebrated culinary scene and an abundance of resplendent tiled mansions dating from the late 19th century rubber boom.
Most importantly, it is the base from which to launch a trip out into the dense northern swathe of the country’s jungle, several parts of which claim to be the most biodiverse in the entire Amazon Basin.
Expert tip: Take a trip to Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm, accessed by a 20-minute boat ride from the Iquitos port of Bellavista-Nanay to Padre Cocha. Here you can see many species of Amazonian butterfly, as well as a rescue centre for orphaned jungle animals.
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The Northern Jungle Lodges
Outside Iquitos, the Amazon River and its tributaries entice travellers with some phenomenal jungle experiences. It is possible to visit this area by historic 19th century riverboat, speedboat or even by dug-out canoe.
One of the best activities here is simply to embark on a river trip. You can continue east all the way from Iquitos down the Amazon River to the border with Colombia and Brazil, south down the Ucayali river to Pucallpa and the central jungle, and west along the Maraňon and Huallaga rivers to Yurimaguas. Practically, you need to reserve in advance at any lodge in the northern jungle, and arrive with one of that lodge’s organised daily boats trips.
Best Lodge for Wildlife Watching: Tahuayo Lodge, the only lodge with access to the Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo reserve, which has among the Amazon’s greatest biodiversity rates.
Best Lodge for Luxury: Ceiba Tops, with 75 well-furnished en suite rooms, landscaped gardens and a swimming pool.
Oxapampa is the most eye-catching destination in the central jungle, and not for any of the reasons you might expect. On the cusp between the low jungle and the cloud forest, the town was founded by German immigrants in the 19th century, and retains old German customs, language and quirks to this day. It is additionally the access point for the national park of Yanachaga-Chemillén, a cloud forest with great hiking that provides a refuge to the extremely rare spectacled bear.
Expert tip: You can journey on by bus from Oxapampa four hours to the pretty, and still more quintessentially German town of Pozuzo.
Parque Nacional Manu
With Parque Nacional Manu (Manu National Park) the getting there is as much a part of the enjoyment as arriving. You ascend above Cusco on bumpy roads into cloud forest known for its fabulous bird watching, before making the odyssey down into the lower jungle along the Río Alto Madre de Dios river to the official national park entrance at Boca Manu. Penetrating inside the national park is a rigorously controlled process, but these high levels of protection ensure biodiversity is high, and that the indigenous communities and exceptional fauna here can live in relative peace. It is essential to visit Parque Nacional Manu as part of a guided tour, usually from Cusco.
Best Lodge for Learning About the Region: Bonanza Ecological Reserve, the lodge (and family home) of the only native-run tour operator in Manu.
Best Lodge for Cloud Forest Wildlife Watching: Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, abutting a mating site for the elusive, bright orange Andean cock-of-the-rock, the national bird of Peru.
Best Lodge for Jungle Wildlife Watching: Manu Wildlife Center, near a clay lick famous for the macaws that come there to feed.
Puerto Maldonado & the Southern Jungle
The southern jungle’s capital is Puerto Maldonado, a city thriving since the road from Cusco made getting here infinitely easier. It is a great place to organise a trip to the nearby jungle: on either the Tambopata river (west of the city), or on the Made de Dios and Heath rivers (east).
The lodges that flank the riverbanks here provide the most straightforward access to primary jungle anywhere in Peru, and some of the most developed centres for Amazonian wildlife study in existence. It is essential to visit the majority of locations on all these rivers as part of a guided tour, best organised in Puerto Maldonado.
Best Rio Tambopata Lodge: Tambopata Research Center, a ground-breaking research base for the study of the macaws inhabiting the lodge’s surroundings. It is in an extremely remote location celebrated for its wildlife.
Best Lodge for Wildlife Watching: Heath River Wildlife Center, east of Puerto Maldonado in the isolated Parque Nacional Bahuaja-Sonene, known for its unusual wildlife such as the spider monkey, giant otter and maned wolf.
Getting there & away
The Peruvian Amazon consists of three key sub-regions: north, central and south. Flight is the primary means of access, and there are daily connections from Lima to Iquitos (the main city in the northern jungle) and Puerto Maldonado (the main city in the southern jungle).
Additionally, roads now connect La Merced in the central jungle (eight hours from Lima by bus) and Puerto Maldonado (ten hours from Cusco by bus). Iquitos can also be accessed by multi-day river trip from both Yurimaguas (in the northern jungle) and Pucallpa (in the central jungle).