Lima is Peru’s capital city and where many visitors first enter the country. The Amazon Rainforest, which is the world’s largest container of wildlife and the reason a large number of tourists visit Peru is located on the other side of the Andes. This means if you’re interested in Amazon Jungle tours from Lima, you will need to travel to one of the Amazon’s gateway towns.
This can be quite convenient as Puerto Maldonado, a gateway town with incredible wildlife, many beautiful Amazon lakes, and the most animal clay licks in the rainforest, is located via Cusco. This means you can easily combine a tour of the Amazon with a visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu or other Inca ruins.
The rainforest lodges you can enjoy from Puerto Maldonado include great options for an Amazon tour of one or two nights or deep Amazon Rainforest lodges. The deeper options are fantastic for seeing the most animals and plants, which are usually suited for a tour of a week or more.
If you’re interested in an Amazon River cruise, you will need to fly to Iquitos in northern Peru, which takes around 2 hours of flying time. This is Peru’s gateway to the northern Amazon and river and there are some fantastic cruises to choose from. We will go over these gateways below and suggest a few different experiences from each gateway town.
The Puerto Maldonado Rainforest from Lima
The closest gateway to the Amazon Rainforest from Lima for exploring a highly diverse section of the rainforest, Puerto Maldonado is a great choice for an Amazon Rainforest tour. Located only 1.5 hours flying time from Lima, enjoy various lodges catered to both long and short stays, and budget tours or deep rainforest experiences to see the Amazon’s iconic animals.
This is such a great place to visit as the area has more clay licks thank anywhere else in Amazonia. These are areas where macaws and other animals visit to obtain much needed salts and to detoxify fruits and fruits they have eaten in the rainforest. The lodges here have been smart to build ecologically sustainable lodges with easy access to these places to present guests with almost guaranteed wildlife sightings of these incredible birds.
In addition to the macaws and other parrots, certain clay licks are also visited by rainforest mammals, such as monkeys, capybara, and tapir. There are even some specific clay licks you can visit to have a very high chance of seeing tapir, which are the largest land mammals in South America.
Because of the abundance of clay licks and other reasons, deep Amazon Rainforest in Tambopata are also good choices to increases your chances of spotting other rarely seen Amazonian animals, such as jaguar. The Manu Wildlife Center, for example, reports a 10% jaguar-sighting success rate for visitors to the lodge.
The rainforest accessed from Puerto Maldonado, such as Tambopata National Reserve and the Manu National Park is also gifted with many oxbow lakes where you can find different monkeys, caiman, and different colorful birds. We will mention four different lodges with two of these best suited to a short stay and two intended for a deeper rainforest experience.
Short Amazon Tours from Puerto Maldonado
Puerto Maldonado is such a great place for a short Amazon tour of one, two, or three nights because the wildlife-rich Tambopata National Reserve is only 20 or 30 minutes from the gateway town, which means you don’t waste time getting to the biodiversity rich areas. Our suggestions for short amazon tours are the Sandoval Lake Lodge and the Posada Amazonas Lodge. These were chosen for easy access from Puerto Maldonado and incredible wildlife:
The Sandoval Lake Lodge
Sandoval Lake Lodge is one of the best lodges in the Puerto Maldonado area for seeing a range of Amazon Rainforest animals over a short visit, including many different monkeys. The lodge sits on the beautiful Sandoval Lake and offers guided tours around the lake to see monkeys in the nearby forest, black caiman, giant river otters, and giant Arapaima fish. There is also a nesting area of scarlet macaws and you can often see toucans and macaws flying overhead or resting on the branches.
The stars of the Sandoval Lake lodge are the giant river otters, which are resident of the lake and can often be seen playing, hunting, and socializing on the bank. Each morning, you will head out on the lake with your naturalist guide to find various animals and the lodge ranks as the best budget Amazon tour to see the most monkeys. Visiting the lake in the morning, you can find howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and titi monkeys.
Although there are no clay licks located around Lake Sandoval, if you have more time to spend in Tambopata you can combine a fantastic tour to the Heath River Wildlife Center on the Lake Sandoval and Heath River combination program. This means you visit Sandoval to see the giant river otters and Heath River Wildlife Center to see a large macaw clay lick, tapir clay lick, and enjoy guided rainforest walks to find many other animals and plants.
The Posada Amazonas Lodge
A community owned lodge in Puerto Maldonado’s rainforest, the Posada Amazonas provides a fantastic Amazon Rainforest experience. Enjoy exploring an oxbow lake to see giant river otters, hoatzin, caiman crocodilians, and water birds. Enjoy guided tours in the rainforest along well-placed trails to see a wide range of rainforest inhabitants, such as capuchins, howler monkeys, titi monkeys, and squirrel monkeys.
The Posada Amazonas Lodge is also located near a small clay lick where you have a chance to spot agoutis and parakeets feeding from the medicinal and salt-rich clays. In addition to spotting many different rainforest animals and plants, enjoy visiting a local rainforest farm and learn about life in the jungle. Visit a community and shaman to learn about medicinal plants and see how treatments and medicines are made in the rainforest.
The Posada Amazonas has a 30-meter canopy tower where you can look over the rainforest canopy to see a number of different birds, such as toucans, tanagers, parrots, and parakeets flying over the rainforest. You may even catch sight of monkeys moving their way through the jungle. The lodge also contains a rainforest spa where you can enjoy a massage or spa treatment and you can choose a range of add-on activities. Pick from jungle mountain biking, canopy climbing, kayaking, and standup paddleboarding.
Deep Amazon Tours from Puerto Maldonado
Not only a great place for a short and budget conscious Amazon tour as mentioned above, the rainforest surrounding Puerto Maldonado is fantastic for a deep Amazon Rainforest experience. The Tambopata rainforest is part of the world’s largest continuous tract of protected tropical forest and is home to an incredible array of rainforest life. See some of the Amazon largest clay licks where hundreds of macaws gather at the clay and have a higher chance of spotting some of the rarer and most sought after wildlife sightings, such as rare monkeys, birds, and even jaguar.
The Tambopata Research Center
One of the deepest rainforest lodges in Amazonia, the Tambopata Research Center is positioned in the middle of the Tambopata National Reserve and is nearby a very large macaw clay lick. Enjoy guided tours on the many surrounding trails, which wind their way through the rainforest to show off some fascinating things. You will visit the large clay lick to enjoy spotting hundreds of large blue and green macaws and parrots. Because of the lodge’s proximity to this lick, macaw researchers use the lodge as a base to research the birds and you’re free to interact and talk with the scientists about the macaws.
In addition to the macaws, enjoy guided tours to see a very high amount of Amazon Rainforest wildlife. This includes different monkeys, such as tamarins, marmosets, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and howler monkeys, a variety of colorful birds, and hopefully some rarer wildlife.
In addition to wildlife tours, you can choose from a variety of add-on experiences at the Tambopata Research Center, such as canopy climbing, jungle mountain biking, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and romantic sunset cruises.
The Heath River Wildlife Center
The only lodge on the Heath River, the Heath River Wildlife Center sits in continuous rainforest between the Tambopata National Reserve and the Madidi National Park. Enjoy many different trails around the lodge to find fascinating animals, such as the large and loud howler monkeys, intelligent capuchins, curious squirrel monkeys, and the tamarins and marmosets making their way through the branches.
The Heath River Wildlife Center has a floating hide to get as close as possible to the macaw clay lick, which allows for better photographs. Enjoy visiting two different ecosystems of the rainforest and also the savannah. The savannah here has recently be found to support a population of elegant maned wolves and to reach this area we will cross a prime macaw breeding site to see these magnificent birds in another stage of their lives.
You will also visit a tapir clay lick to see and photograph the largest mammal in the continent. Tapir are a fantastic animal to see and look similar to a horse crossed with a pig.
To compliment the experience, you can combine a visit to the Sandoval Lake at the Sandoval Lake Lodge to enjoy spotting the lake’s giant river otters. This means you can see three of the Amazon’s icons in addition to a plethora of other rainforest animals and plants.
The Iquitos Rainforest from Lima
Iquitos is your gateway to the Amazon River and the surrounding rainforest. Iquitos is about a two hour flight from Lima and is in northern Peru as a port of the Amazon River. There are some fantastic reserves to visit from Iquitos and the best to visit are the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is one of the most wildlife-rich and beautiful protected areas in Peru. This is a flooded area of the Amazon Rainforest and is best explored on a cruise. Enjoy spotting many different animals, including several different monkeys, fantastic colorful birds, and hopefully some of the Amazon icons.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is a connected area of rainforest to the Pacaya and offers more higher ground rainforest. This is a fantastic place to see a diversity of different primates and colorful birds. The reserve was founded to help protect the red uakari monkeys, which are very rare monkeys with a bright red face.
The Tahuayo Lodge
The Tahuayo Lodge is an award-winning lodge in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, which is about 150 km from Iquitos in northern Peru. The lodge provides a private guide and a customized itinerary, so you can concentrate on the itinerary options that interest you the most. The personal experience means you can focus on photography, exploration, adventure, birding, or a general wildlife watching experience. Choose canoeing in the flooded areas or hiking in terra firma.
The lodge provides access to some incredible areas for wildlife watching and on tours of a week or more, you will spend time at two fantastic lodges. Enjoy the main Tahuayo Lodge and the Tahuayo Amazon Research Center. The main lodge allows for more itinerary options with better canoeing and access to the largest canopy zipline system in Amazonia.
The Tahuayo Amazon Research Center provides access to a one thousand acre primate research grid where researchers are studying primate behavior. Not only making it easier to find several of the monkeys living in the reserve, you are also able to watch them displaying more natural behaviors. On a stay at the Tahuayo Lodge, enjoy guided tours to spot different animals, such as howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, and pygmy marmosets.
The Delfin II
The Delfin II Amazon Cruise is a luxury cruise from Iquitos taking you deep into the magnificent Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. The cruise provides a very high standard of comfort and luxury.
Enjoy cabin service, massages, gourmet cuisine, fine wine, and personalized treatment. In addition to your luxurious suites and places to relax on the vessel, enjoy guided tours into this very beautiful protected area. Your suite is a fantastic place to relax after your tour. Lay back on your high quality linen and very comfortable bed simply staring out of your suite’s picture window.
Head out with your very knowledgeable rainforest guide to find a diversity of animals and plants. Enjoy spotting several different monkeys moving through the trees, colorful birds flying over the rainforest like macaws and toucans, kingfishers darting along the riverways, and many different monkey. Guests are often greeted with sightings of pink dolphins playing in the water and on some nights, we will spotlight for caiman crocodilians.
The Amazon Discovery
The Amazon Discovery is a fantastic luxury cruise for the Amazon River and one of the most modestly priced luxury experiences we know of. This option is especially fantastic for single travelers due to the single occupancy suites. This is a larger cruise than the Delfin II and offers either a 3 night or 6 night experience. Explore the Marañon and Ucayali Rivers of the Pacaya Samiria scouting for a range of the reserve’s wildlife. Spot different monkeys, colorful birds, sloths hanging to the trees, and hopefully some of the Amazon icons like macaws, pink dolphins, anaconda, and caiman crocodilians.
There are a range of suite options on the Amazon Discovery including the Flora and Fauna Suites distributed among the first and second decks, the Estuary Suites on the first deck at the front of the vessel with spacious suites, and the Amazonia Suite on the second deck, which is the Amazon Discovery’s premier option.
The Rainforest of Cusco from Lima
If you’re in Lima ready to make your way to see Machu Picchu, hike the Inca Trail, or to enjoy other archaeological tours from Cusco, you may like to know that you can enjoy fantastic combination tours for the Amazon Rainforest from here as well. Cusco is just 1 hour and 20 minutes flying time from Lima and is home to some of the best nature tours in South America.
You will first enjoy traveling for a stay in Peru’s incredible cloud forest, which looks quite mysterious with the many epiphytes, lush green vegetation and cloud forest. Adding to the ambience, enjoy spotting a great diversity of birds, including various hummingbirds as the fly around the fascinating plant life. The most famous of the birds here is the cock of the rock, which is Peru’s national bird. The cock of the rock can be seen performing intricate displays near the Cock of the Rock Lodge, which will be your first lodge on your fascinating and enjoyable tour from the incredible Andes to the lowland Amazon Rainforest.
The Bio Trip
Regarded as one of the most incredible nature experiences in South America, enjoy travelling from the highlands of the Andean mountains to see cloud forest down to the lowland Amazon Rainforest for a stay at the renowned Manu Wildlife Center.
We will first head from Cusco to the cloud forests of the highland Manu National Park area to enjoy the Cock of the Rock Lodge. The lodge is near a lek of Peru’s national bird, the cock of the rocks. These birds do dance displays to attract their partners, which we will visit to see. Enjoy spending time in one of the world’s richest areas for bird life as we see many different species, including a variety of hummingbirds. The cloud forest is also a great place to find colorful butterflies, capuchin monkeys, woolly monkeys, spectacled bears, and a variety of fascinating plants.
We will then descend the Andes Mountains and travel up the mighty Madre de Dios River to the Manu Wildlife Center. This is one of the best rainforest lodges in Peru and with your naturalist guide you will enjoy seeing some fascinating animals and plants. The lodge is positioned near an oxbow lake with resident giant river otters, a clay lick to see tapir, and one of the most photogenic macaw clay licks in Amazonia. See hundreds of macaw parrots as they visit to obtain salts and medicinal clay. Because of these wildlife attractions, the lodge was named “the most intense wildlife experience in Amazonia” by Conde Nast Traveller magazine.
You will also enjoy many different trails around Manu Wildlife Center to see capuchins, squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, tamarins, marmosets, parrots, tanagers, tree frogs, and much more. After your time at Manu Wildlife Center, we will head to Puerto Maldonado for your return flight to Lima.
The Tapir & Macaw Clay Lick Tour
Enjoy a full experience of the Manu area from Cusco and into the cloud forest then down to two different lodges in the Manu lowlands. The tour operates from March to December and takes you first to the Cock of the Rock Lodge. The lodge is located in a private reserve of the cloud forest close to Manu National Park. The cloud forest is defined as forest at such a high altitude that it’s penetrated by cloud cover and the wildlife here is incredible. You can find different delicate hummingbirds, the cock of the rock birds, capuchin monkeys, woolly monkeys, and a variety of interesting plants.
We will now head down the mountains to the incredible environment of the lowland Amazon Rainforest. Here we will first travel up the Madre de Dios River and into the Manu National Park. This is a 1.7 million hectare UNESCO listed protected area home to a very high number of animals and plants.
When in Manu, we will stay at a low impact and comfortable lodge located in Manu’s Reserved Zone. From here, we will explore the rainforest scouting for a range of animals, including colorful birds, butterflies, delicate amphibians, different monkeys, and the nearby lake’s resident populations of giant river otters.
After the Reserved Zone, we will head to one of the best jungle lodges in South America to enjoy a stay at the Manu Wildlife Center. This is an incredible lodge where you can spot tapir at the tapir clay lick, giant river otters in the nearby lake, and hundreds of brightly colored macaws at the macaw clay lick. In addition, 10% of guests get lucky and spot jaguar on the river-ways. In addition to these iconic wildlife sightings, head into the rainforest with your naturalist guide to spot a wide range of animals, including several monkeys, birds, amphibians, and fascinating reptiles.