If you are traveling to Peru and want to visit the Amazon there is no need going to Brazil - the Peruvian Amazon offers one of the best opportunities to explore the rainforest. Peru contains the second largest portion of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil. Peruvian Amazonia makes up around 60% of the country and is one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas with the largest number of bird species and third largest number of mammals. Protected areas include the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the north, Manu National Park and the Tambopata National Reserve in the south. Travelers can explore the Amazon of Peru based at jungle lodges or on river cruises.
Peru offers some of the best all-inclusive Amazon jungle lodges in all of Amazonia. Many are located upriver and downriver from Puerto Maldonado, the gateway to the southern Peruvian Amazon, along the Madre de Dios and Tambopata rivers. There are lodges based out of Iquitos but the ones in the Puerto Maldonado/Madre de Dios/Tambopata region are among the best and most remote. A typical day includes an early morning excursion before breakfast (the best time to visit clay licks), a morning excursion, afternoon excursion and an optional nocturnal wildlife spotting walk.
- One word – space. Lodges offer individual cabanas with porches and hammocks, meals are served in spacious dining areas, you can wander the lodge grounds or trail systems.
- Many lodges offer a selection of excursions and activities, on foot and by canoe - focusing on ecology, photography, birding, native life, families with children.
- Depending on the lodge the vehicle and boat transfer from Puerto Maldonado can take an hour or more. The boat rides are rainforest-scenic though.
Your Amazon cruise experience will start at the airport in Iquitos, where you will be met by guides and staff for the van transfer to the river port in Nauta. Embark and set sail up the Marañon River, a tributary of the Amazon. Cruise itineraries will follow the Marañon and/or Ucayali rivers to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. On excursions you will explore smaller tributaries by skiff, visit villages, fish for piranha, take jungle walks, paddle canoes and kayaks.
- The cruise experience many travelers are looking for. Luxury vessels are equipped with cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, observation decks.
- Cruises will cover more distance, reaching the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
- One word – space. Even the most luxurious boats are not large so you are limited to your cabin and social areas when not on excursions.
- Excursions are set and scheduled for all passengers.
Jungle Lodge or River Cruise, Peru offers the best ways to explore Amazonia. Here are some of our favorite lodges and cruises:
Reserva Amazonica is located 45 minutes down the Madre de Dios River from Puerto Maldonado. Exotic, yet accessible, Reserva Amazonica Lodge is situated in a private reserve, surrounded by a vast jungle canopy.
All individual cabanas screened-in with private bathrooms, siesta lounge area with hammocks. Lodge facilities include the ENA Spa, located on the banks of the Madre de Dios River, facing Rolin Island, providing a great spot for watching Amazonian sunsets, adding to the relaxation of the traveler's experience.
Choose from the 14 different excursions available at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica. These are just a few:
Guided walk along the Reserva Amazonica Trail system – an excellent introduction to the forest environment, winding past impressive trees such as the Shihuahuaco, and the strangely beautiful strangler fig, offering excellent opportunities for bird watching and observing exotic insects.
Twilight River excursion — a guided afternoon boat ride on the Madre de Dios River. Witness the transformation from a diurnal to a nocturnal world as animals and birds of the daytime give way to species specially adapted to the night. As you enjoy their paradise, you will learn about their habits, while you search for nightjars, owls, capybaras and up to three different caiman species.
Lake Sandoval excursion in the Tambopata National Reserve – Glide in a canoe, across a beautiful, mirror-like oxbow lake that is home to the endangered giant river otter, as well as red howler monkeys, prehistoric hoatzins, point-tailed palmcreepers and yellow spotted side-neck turtles, blue and yellow macaw, black caiman, and one of the world’s biggest fresh water scaled fish, the paiche.
The Inkaterra Canopy Walkway – 29 meters above the forest ground, you begin your encounter with the treetop realm. For more than a quarter of a mile, you will literally walk through the rainforest canopy on a suspension bridge network linking eight observation platforms. Be on the lookout for colorful toucans, woodpeckers, trogons, monkeys, and sloths.
Gamitana Creek – explore the rainforest along the banks of a winding, dark-water creek that is home to many piranha, caiman, turtles and birds. From the Sanipanga landing point navigate by boat back downstream, observing the abundant flora and fauna along the way. You will return to Gamitana Farm to do a short guided tour to see how local farmers grow fruits and vegetables.
Rainforest by Night – venture into the forest and experience the mystery of the animal activity that awakens in the rainforest after dark, enhancing animal resources to create new adaptation mechanisms. Listen to nocturnal forest sounds and spot species that only emerge at night. Return to the lodge.
Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion is located 25 minutes down the Madre de Dios River from Puerto Maldonado on 819 hectares of natural rainforest within walking distance of beautiful and solitary Lake Sandoval. The lodge was built on a former cacao and rubber plantation, on the grounds of what was back in the 1950’s “Fundo Concepción”, an Amazon Catholic medical mission center. The rainforest acts as a buffer zone between the Tambopata National Park Reserve and the shores of the vast Madre de Dios River.
There are 25 private cabanas equipped with two twin or one king bed, private bathrooms with light and hot water, natural essence toiletries, ceiling fan, evening turn down service. Cabanas also come with a sitting area with hammock.
Hacienda Concepcion offers many of the same experiences as Reserva Amazonica and shares the Inkaterra Canopy Walkway.
Additionally, you can visit the cacao plantation at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción and take part of the chocolate making process. Learn how to select the fresh cacao fruits and discover how the seeds are fermented and sundried. After peeling the toasted cacao seeds and grinding them into an aromatic paste, end the excursion with a selection of treats made from our organic chocolate.
The Manu Wildlife Center lodge is located east of the Manu River on the north bank of the Madre de Dios River. The lodge is famous for its abundant and varied wildlife, with its own Tapir clay lick, a nearby macaw clay lick project, two nearby oxbow lakes and two tall canopy viewing towers among its impressive highlights.
The Manu Wildlife Center is one of the furthest (and most remote) lodges from Puerto Maldonado.
Highlights include the Macaw Clay Lick Project, Canopy Tower and Tapir Clay lick.
During your stay you will explore some of the 30 miles of forest trails that surround the lodge. You will have an excellent chance of encountering some of the 12 species of monkeys, including the Spider Monkey and Emperor Tamarin, which inhabit the surrounding forest. The Macaw Lick project is a short walk through the forest. In groups of twos and threes the scarlet Macaws come flapping in, landing in the treetops as they eye the main stage below – the eroded clay banks of the river and the occasional villain, a menacing and unwelcome Great Black Hawk. The drama plays out in first in tentative and then bolder approaches to the lick, until finally nearly all the macaws form a colorful and noisy spectacle on the bare banks, squabbling as they scrape clay from the hard surface. After this you continue walking and exploring on the network of trails surrounding the lodge then return to the lodge for lunch.
On the Canopy Tower platform you witness the frantic rush-hour activity of twilight in the rainforest canopy, before night closes in. Then you set off along the “collpa trail” which will take you to the lodge’s famous Tapir Clay Lick. Here at the most active tapir lick known in all the Amazon, research has identified from 8-12 individual 600-pound tapirs who come to this lick to eat clay from under the tree roots around the edge. The Tapir is the largest land animal in Latin America. The Tapir Experience is unique and exciting because these normally very shy creatures are visible up close.
Hike to an Oxbow Lake and the Wildlife Trails - set off early in the morning for an old oxbow lake full of water lilies and sunken logs. As you circle the lake on a catamaran you may encounter the resident Giant Otter family or troops of monkeys crashing noisily through the trees. Wattled Jacanas step lightly on the lily pads, dainty Sun Grebes paddle across the water, supple-necked Anhingas air-dry their wide, black wings, and perhaps an Osprey scans for fish from a high branch. Among the bushes near the waterline, Hoatzins, which look like rust-colored, punk chickens, announce their presence with distinctive, bizarre wheezing and grunts. Woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and parakeets all finally come swooping in to trees surrounding the lake. Many of them roost around the lake for the night.
The Manu Wildlife Center Bio Trip – a 6-day/5-night program that begins in Cusco and cmbines a spectacular descent through mountainous cloud forest from Andes to Amazon, with lodge visits in the cloud forest and along the wild Alto Madre de Dios river, culminating in a lowland rainforest experience amidst the comfortable yet wildlife-rich surroundings of the famous Manu Wildlife Center. The overland route crosses an extraordinary range of life zones from highlands to lowlands, through an array of ecosystems found nowhere else on the planet in such close proximity. You will see high altitude farming valleys and traverse stark highland puna, plunge through layers of grassland, elfin forest, layers of lush, ever-changing cloud forest, and then lowland tropical valleys where farmers cultivate coca and exotic fruits. Along the way you traverse the habitat of innumerable bird species. Then the journey winds its way by river through lowland rainforest to the Manu Wildlife Center. Tapirs are nightly visitors to the lodge’s mud wallow, and each morning the nearby Macaw clay lick project teems with macaws. The network trails, tower for forest canopy viewing and two adjacent pristine lakes round out the perfect rainforest experience.
Located on the Tambopata River, one hour by car and another hour by boat from Puerto Maldonado.
Rainforest Expeditions also operates Refugio Amazonas, another couple of hours up the Tambopata River, and the Tambopata Research Center, another four hours upriver. With four nights or more you can combine Refugio Amazonas with the Tambopata Research Center.
Contact a Lost World Adventures consultant for complete itineraries, availability and pricing.
Cruises from Iquitos
Aria Amazon – 3, 4 and 7-night cruises
The 45 meter (147 foot) long Aria was designed by the innovative Peruvian architect Jordi Puig. Extremely generous dining and lounging areas include an outdoor river facing Jacuzzi.
Floor to ceiling windows face the Amazon River in the ship’s 16 Design Suites, each measuring 23 square meters (250 square feet). Four suites can interconnect for families. Upgrades to the spa include new decor for enhanced relaxation.
Delfins I/II/III – 3 and 4-night cruises
Delfin I - a classic river vessel features 4 oversized suites, all with private panoramic terraces, 2 of which offer a private whirlpool. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow nature to be part of the natural suite décor, and cabin service 3 times a day will ensure you the most personalized experience. On the top deck, guests will find a lounge area, bar and entertainment center which are perfect places to relax in while the jungle unfolds before your eyes.
Delfin II - the 14 cabins of Delfin II include 4 Master Suites with 180° panoramic windows and 10 Suites. With movie screen sized windows and first-rate design, they offer both elegance and comfort while sailing through the Amazon region. An array of spaces, including the dining room, an observation deck and lounge, a bar, an entertainment center, and a lecture room, among others, provide ideal gathering places for all guests.
Delfin III - the largest vessel in the Delfin fleet offers 22 suites. On the first deck there are 8 Suites complete with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows as well as 2 spacious Corner Suites facing the front of the ship. The second deck is comprised of 10 Upper Suites and the largest of all, the Owner’s Suite. The top deck features beautiful indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a sundeck with plunge pool, a spa and gym, and of course the bar.
Other cruises include the Amatista, Cattleya, La Perla, Zafiro, Amazonas. Review all Peru Amazon cruises here.
More in our "Things to do in Peru" series
Contact a Lost World Adventures consultant for complete itineraries, availability and pricing.