Amazon Woodpecker - Lucas Bustamante

Accounting for around 13% of the entire Amazon, the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest runs down the western side of Peru cradled by the Andean Mountains as the jungle’s spine. These mountains themselves rocket up biodiversity estimates for the forest and their slopes are home to the incredible bird-rich Cloud Forests. It’s these mountains and other factors that contribute to the world records in diversity set in this western half of the forest. There are some iconic animals living in Peru’s Amazon Rainforest, such as colorful macaws, giant river otters, toucans, many different monkeys, jaguar, anaconda, tapir, and the black caiman crocodilians. The plant life here is incredible with many of the highly sought after orchids to find and giant emergent trees dotting the forest.

You can find the Peruvian Amazon up the eastern half of the country backing onto the Andean mountains, but there are different areas to visit to access the rainforest and we will mention the recommendations below for the best Amazon experience.

Main Amazon Gateways

To visit the Amazon Rainforest near the Amazon River, the Peruvian rainforest gateway to visit is called Iquitos in Peru’s north, which is a port city of the river and the largest city in the world unconnected to any other by road. Iquitos is a great place to enjoy different Amazon River cruises and to enjoy some deep rainforest lodges, but it isn’t the best place for a short experience of the Amazon of one or two nights. For that, we recommend the other rainforest gateway of Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s south and specifically Tambopata lodges for the rainforest surrounding Tambopata National Reserve. Here we will go over these rainforest gateways in a little more detail, the protected areas you can visit from each one, and some highly recommended lodges and cruises for the Amazon Rainforest.

Plum Throated Cotinga at the Tahuayo Lodge, Peru Birding

Iquitos

Iquitos is Peru’s gateway to the northern Amazon Rainforest near the Amazon River and is a port city of the river itself. The city houses around 500,000 people and is the largest city in the world unconnected to any other by road. The only way in and out of Iquitos is by aircraft or by boat on the Amazon River. A great place to visit a deep rainforest lodge, Iquitos is also one of the best places in the entire Amazon Rainforest to enjoy an Amazon River cruise into some astounding protected areas. We will suggest some fantastic Amazon River tours from Iquitos below for each protected area.

There are also some interesting things to do in Iquitos itself, such as visiting the Manatee Rescue Center and enjoying delicious restaurants and lively bars around the Plaza de Armas and the boulevard. The city still retains its jungle feel and the main way to get around Iquitos is three-wheeled motocarro taxis. After arranging your tour from Iquitos, you will be collected from the airport and taken to one of the beautiful protected areas to begin your Amazon adventure.

The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve

The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is a fantastic section of wildlife-filled rainforest and covers a little over 400,000 hectares of Amazonia. You can find many iconic Amazon animals in the reserve, such as giant otters, many different monkeys, pink river dolphins, poison dart frogs, colorful macaw parrots, and different sloths.

The reserve was established for community initiatives and to protect the range of a fantastic red monkey called the uakari. These shy primates lives deep in the reserve and have been seen by some determined guests at the Tahuayo Lodge, which is the only lodge offering exclusive access to this incredible section of rainforest.

Titi Monkey, Tahuayo Lodge, Iquitos, Peru

From the Tahuayo Lodge, you can visit two different rainforest lodges. The main lodge is located near the largest canopy zipline system in Amazonia and is a great place to canoe different lakes and rivers. The Tahuayo Amazon Research Center is then positioned in more pristine rainforest and is next to a 1,000 acre primate research grid where you can find many different monkeys. You can visit both these fantastic lodges on a program from 6 days and over and will see an incredible amount of wildlife. From the Tahuayo Lodge, enjoy a custom itinerary and a private guide to explore the reserve on guided walking tours, canoe expeditions, motorized boats, and deep forest hikes. The more adventurous can also choose camping experiences or even survival tours.

The Tahuayo Lodge

The Tahuayo Lodge

Iquitos, Peru, Amazon Rainforest, South America
Price per person from $
You are assigned a private guide and custom itinerary as standard to explore the wildlife filled Tahuayo Reserve. More info

The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

The impressive Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is a fantastic section of flooded Amazon Rainforest and covers a little over 2 million hectares. This makes it one of the largest protected areas in Peru and is larger than the more famous and highly diverse Manu National Park.

The Pacaya Samiria is home to some incredible wildlife, including a jaguar and other endangered species, many different Amazonian monkey like capuchins, tamarins, marmosets, howler monkeys, and spider monkeys, tapir, and a diversity of colorful birds and fascinating reptiles. In addition to the wildlife, the reserve is also home to a few different communities of people known as the ribereños who make a living using the river and sustainable harvesting of reserve resources. There is even some sustainable initiatives for harvesting some of the reserve’s fruits, such as camu camu, which is taken to be sold in Iquitos.

Pacaya Samiria aboard the Delfin II Luxury Cruise, Peru

The reserve is bordered by the Ucayali and Marañón River forming a triangle that points towards the city of Iquitos, which is around 180 km from the reserve and is your gateway to this incredible section of Amazon Rainforest. As this is a flooded reserve, the Pacaya Samiria is best explored on a cruise and there are a few different options to consider.

For the best experience possible of the reserve, we especially recommend a luxury cruise as the indulgent experience of gourmet food, luxurious linen, spacious suites, large suite windows, and some of the best guides in the Amazon is perfectly complimented by the nature of the incredible Pacaya Samiria.

Some recommended luxury cruises in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve include the very comfortable Delfin II for cruises of 4 or 5 days and the Aria Amazon Cruise for itineraries ranging to 8 days for deep exploration of the reserve. You can also treat yourself to the Delfin I, which offers more exclusivity on the Amazon as the vessel is fitted with only four oversized suites with luxurious linen and floor-to-ceiling windows for incredible views of the reserve. You can also choose the Amazon Discovery, which offers one of the most affordable luxury Amazon River cruises. From all of these vessels, you will enjoy guided tours around the waterways of the Pacaya Samiria to find some incredible wildlife, including several different monkeys, colorful toucans and parrots, sloths hanging from the trees, pink river dolphins, delicate tree frogs, and a diversity of birdlife.

Delfin II

The Delfin II

9 / 10
Price per person from $
The Delfin II Luxury Amazon Cruise begins near Iquitos from the small town of Nauta. You will be tra More info

Cusco

The most famous tourist destination in Peru, Cusco offers a base to explore the incredible ruins of Machu Picchu and to see many other Incan sites. A lesser known area to visit from Cusco is the incredible cloud forest of Manu National Park. This threatened habitat is filled with incredible birdlife, including many different hummingbirds and Peru’s national bird, the cock of the rock. This is a bright red bird best seen from the Cock of the Rock Lodge where you can explore the cloud forest to find woolly monkeys, orchids, spectacled birds, and a diversity of different birds.

Cock of the Rock Lodge

Cock of the Rock Lodge

Cusco, Peru, Amazon Rainforest, South America
Price per person from $
The Cock of the Rock Lodge is situated on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes in pristine Cloud More info

Andes to Amazon from Cusco

If you want to visit the lowland rainforest, you can also combine the Cock of the Rock Lodge with the Manu Wildlife Center on the incredible Manu BioTrip. The tour starts from Cusco to visit the Cock of the Rock Lodge for a guided tour of the incredible cloud forest. After this, you will descend down the Andes to see an incredible transition of environments as you get deep into the lowland Amazon Rainforest. In the Amazon Rainforest, you will enjoy a stay at the Manu Wildlife Center to see fantastic Amazon icons, including macaws, giant otters, and tapir at the clay licks. You can also combine the Cock of the Rock Lodge, the Manu Wildlife Center, and the Manu Tented Camp, which is located inside the Reserved Zone of Manu National Park for an incredible in depth experience of the Manu rainforest.

Manu Tapir & Macaws

Manu Tapir & Macaws

Cusco, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
Regarded as one of the most incredible natural tours on the continent, you will visit the Andean clo More info

Puerto Maldonado

Just a short flight south from Cusco, Puerto Maldonado is a fantastic place to experience the Amazon Rainforest. This quiet jungle town is only around 30 minutes from the incredible Tambopata National Reserve making it a great place for a short Amazon tour of 1 or 2 nights. Puerto Maldonado is also the base to experience the wildlife-rich lowland rainforest of the Manu National Park and surrounding areas. Research has found the region is home to more animal clay licks than anywhere else in Amazonia where different macaws, smaller parrots, monkeys, capybara, and tapir come to visit for the salt content and medicinal properties.

Tambopata National Reserve

The Tambopata National Reserve is a protected section of Amazon Rainforest full of iconic Amazonian species. The reserve is home to a healthy population of jaguar, many different oxbow lakes to find giant river otters, large clay licks to observe colorful macaw parrots, and there are even nearby areas to see tapir in their natural habitat. Research in the reserve has found that many animals in Tambopata rainforest are harder to spot in other areas of the Amazon, including spider monkeys, jaguar, tapir, and different species of peccary. In total, there are around 600 different bird species, 1,000 different butterflies, and 100 mammals. This makes the Tambopata rainforest an excellent place to visit for an Amazon Rainforest tour and there are a few highly recommended Tambopata lodges.

Scarlet Macaws, Tambopata Research Center, Peru

For a deep experience of the Tambopata National Reserve, we recommend a visit to the Tambopata Research Center, which is positioned in the middle of this incredible reserve. Enjoy visiting the nearby macaw clay lick, which is one of the largest in the Amazon Rainforest. Here, you can spot hundreds of brightly colored macaw parrots visiting the clay for almost guaranteed wildlife sightings. In addition to the clay lick, enjoy guided tours in surrounding rainforest on different trails to find a diversity of wildlife, such as several different monkeys, colorful birds, fascinating reptiles, and hopefully some rarer animals and plants. As the lodge is positioned in the middle of the reserve where the wildlife is at carrying capacity for the environment, the Tambopata Research Center makes a great choice for a deep rainforest experience.

Tambopata Research Center

Tambopata Research Center

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
The Tambopata Research Center is a deep Amazon lodge located near one of the largest known clay lick More info

If you have less time available, for example 2 or 3 days, you should consider the Sandoval Lake Lodge or Refugio Amazonas Lodge. The Sandoval Lake Lodge is located by the beautiful Sandoval Lake home to a resident family of giant river otters. Although the otters are the stars of the area, you will also see several different monkeys visiting the lake in the mornings, including howler monkeys, titi monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and more. The lake is also home to giant arapaima fish and black caiman, which would will spot on night tours.

Sandoval Lake Lodge

Sandoval Lake Lodge

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
Sandoval Lake Lodge is located in the Tambopata National Reserve on the bank of the glistening Sando More info
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge

The Refugio Amazonas Lodge

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge & Spa is an Amazon Rainforest lodge located in the buffer zone of Ta More info

Manu National Park

Possibly the most famous protected section of Amazon Rainforest in Peru, Manu National Park is the largest national park in the country. World renowned for its incredible biodiversity, the protected area is home to an abundance of rainforest life. Although not permitted in the national park itself, you can visit the surrounding rainforest and even enter the Reserved Zone for a restricted time, which are sections of connected rainforest with the national park and the wildlife roams freely throughout these areas. Enjoy spotting various primates, giant river otters, tapir, large macaw parrots, and even jaguar prowling the rainforest or sunning themselves by the river. The park is especially famous with birdwatchers and there are 1,000 different species to find, which is around 10% of the total birds to find worldwide.

Manu Macaws - Manu Wildlife Center

A fantastic wildlife lodge to visit to explore the Manu rainforest is the Manu Wildlife Center. The lodge is located just outside the park boundary in the Amarakaeri Reserve and provides guided tours to see one of the most photogenic large macaw clay licks in the rainforest, a tapir clay lick for the best chance of seeing South America’s largest land mammal, and a beautiful oxbow lake to see giant river otters. In addition to these attractions, enjoy guided tours around the Manu Wildlife Center through the rainforest to find many different monkeys, colorful birds, reptiles, and different rainforest animals. Guests at the Manu Wildlife Center also enjoy a 10% chance of spotting wild jaguar, which is one of the highest chances in Amazonia.

Manu Wildlife Center

Manu Wildlife Center

Puerto Maldonado, Amazon Rainforest, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
Enjoy your stay at the incredible Manu Wildlife Center, a world renowned Amazon lodge located in a p More info

To get into the Reserved Zone of Manu National Park, you can combine the Manu Wildlife Center and the Manu National Park Wildlife Center built inside the Reserved Zone. The tented camp is located near Lake Salvador, which is one of the most beautiful oxbow lakes in the Manu region and home to an abundance of wildlife. You will enjoy seeing a few different animals to the surrounding rainforest, but note that your chances of seeing the largest Amazon animals, including jaguar is higher at the Manu Wildlife Center. You can combine both of these lodges on a tour program called the Manu Adventurer.

Manu Adventurer

Manu Adventurer

Puerto Maldonado, Peru, South America
Price per person from $
You will have an indepth experience of the Manu lowlands by visiting the Manu Wildlife Center, which More info
Ash - Author & Travel AdvisorAbout the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Amazon and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical destinations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the Amazon. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.
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