The largest city in the Amazon Rainforest, Manaus is a bustling port of the Amazon River. It is also a major Brazilian industrial hub with its Free Economic Zone. Many tourists visit Manaus to shop, take guided tours into the surrounding Amazon Rainforest, visit the archaeological sites, see the rubber boom architecture, and cruise the Amazon River.
The Anavilhanas protects flooded forest, sandy soil, shrubland, and includes a large number of river islands of the lower Rio Negro. For bird watchers, 60% of the birds observed in the Central Amazon have been seen in this section of the reserve.
Jau National Park
A World Heritage Site, Jau National Park is the largest national park in the Amazon rainforest and contains iconic Amazon wildlife, such as Jaguar, Tapir, and Harpy Eagles. The protected area includes the entire watershed of the Jaú River.
The rubber boom period from 1879 to 1912 grew Amazon cities, such as Manaus and other rainforest gateways, and is very noticeable when walking their streets. In Manaus, the most well known rubber boom building is the Amazon Theater in central Manaus, which was built as a symbol of prosperity during this time.
Meeting of the Waters
The meeting of the waters is one of the attractions hundreds of tourists come to visit every day. This is where the dark Rio Negro meets with the Solimões River’s lighter brown water to merge into the Amazon River. The attraction is that for 4 miles (6 km) along the river, the light brown and dark brown water run side by side without mixing creating a natural phenomenon. The lack of mixing is caused by different factors of the rivers, such as differences in temperature and current speed.
Brazil takes up half the area of South America and is bordered by every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador. It then meets with the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Because of its incredible size, the 5th largest nation on earth, Brazil includes a diversity of biomes including savannas, tropical and subtropical forest, and wetlands.
The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest has been called the lungs of the Earth and contains the largest amount of the world’s most untouched tropical forest. Brazil contains the majority of the rainforest, around 60%, and here you can find protected areas aiming to conserve the Amazon and it’s wildlife against the continuing threats of deforestation.
The tropical north contains the largest portion of Amazon Rainforest in the states of Acre, Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, Tocantins, Roraima, and Amapá with a smaller amount of the tropical forest stretching into the central state of Matto Grosso.
The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest is the largest section of Amazonia. From Tabatinga in the west to Belem in the east, the Brazilian Amazon is incredible. To put the Brazilian Amazon into perspective, Brazil contains 60% of the entire Amazon Rainforest with Peru holding the second highest amount of 16%. This translates to about 3, 300, 000 km of the Amazon Rainforest being contained by Brazil. Within this vast tract of forest, you can find incredible tropical rainforest life including Amazon icons, such as Jaguar, Tapir, Giant Ottters and Harpy Eagles. Many species of Amazon life are only found in Brazil, such as the Aracá uakari (Cacajao ayresi).
You can visit many different Amazon Rainforest lodges or cruise the Amazon River and take professionally guided walks into surrounding forest. Some of the Amazon base cities and towns include:
Manaus is a busy industrial port of the Amazon River and is the largest city in the rainforest. Here you can visit several Amazon lodges and cruise the Amazon River itself. To help with any confusion, the Amazon River is known in Brazil as the Rio Solimões from Manaus (the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões) east to its emergence into the Atlantic Ocean just above Belem.
The Anavilhanas or the Parque Nacional de Anavilhanas is a protected area near Manaus concentrated around the Amazon River and its banks. The Anavilhanas covers hundreds of Amazonian islands over an area of 100, 000 hectares as well as 260, 000 hectares of riverside forest.
Jau National Park
Jau National Park is the largest national park in the Amazon region and is a protected area of tropical forest within the Rio Negro watershed. Jau National Park also protects the entire 1,000,000 ha watershed of the Jaú River. With a park of this size (2,272,000 hectares), the wildlife protected is incredible including many emergent trees, endemic and threatened species, and keystone animals. The park provides habitat for the Amazon’s top predators, such as Harpy Eagle, Jaguar and Mountain Lion as well as Giant Amazon Otters and Manatees.
Santarém is a lesser known Amazon Rainforest gateway than its larger neighbours of Manaus and Belem, but offers a unique look at a variety of lakes formed near the city. As with many Amazon cities and towns, before European colonisation the area was inhabited by an indigenous community. The community here were known as the Tapajós, where the Rio Tapajós and the protected area accessible from the city got their names.
Santarém provides access to some beautiful ‘Aquarium Lakes’ where you can see many tropical fish in their natural habitat. These lakes surround Santarém due to geographical features, as well as the Tapajós River, which emerges just west of the city and combines with the Amazon River. This merger of a creamy brown Rio Amazonas and a darker Rio Tapajós means Santarém has its own meeting of the waters, a phrase more famously known in Manaus due to the merger of the Rio Amazonas and Rio Negro.
Floresta Nacional do Tapajós
To the south west of Santarém, along the Rio Tapajós, is the Floresta Nacional do Tapajós protected area where you can hike, canoe and stay for a few days to sample the Amazon and its wildlife. The Floresta Nacional do Tapajós is an example of community governed forest, which is separated in different uses, such as regeneration, sustainable harvesting (non-logging), total preservation, and logging research.
The world’s largest continuous freshwater wetland (54,000 miles² | 140,000 km²), the Pantanal is home to incredible wildlife opportunities and ranks highly for ability to see some of tropical South America’s sort after nature sightings, such as Anaconda and Jaguar, which are often too elusive and difficult to spot in the rainforest. The Pantanal stretches across Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso states, also extending into Paraguay and Bolivia.
The Cerrado is a savanna-like environment that experiences a humid climate and an intense dry period. Many interesting animals are found here, such as Maned Wolves, Hyacinth Macaws and a unique population of tool-using Capuchin Monkeys. In addition to the animals, 44% of the plant life in the Cerrado is found nowhere else on Earth. The Cerrado is Brazil’s second largest habitat after the Amazon Rainforest mentioned above.
One of the most threatened tropical forests on Earth, the Atlantic Forest is composed of tropical and subtropical habitats and extends down the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Very little of the original forest cover remains, but there is an extraordinary effort among businesses and NGOs to restore the area. Although severely deforested, around 50% of its animals and plants are only found in this forest making restoration and conservation a significant priority.
Cities of Interest
The main cities to base yourself for a Brazilian adventure are:
- Brasilia | Brazil’s Capital, Culture and Itiquira Falls
- Rio de Janeiro | Culture, Carnaval, Atlantic Forest gateway
- Sao Paulo | Culture, Atlantic Forest gateway
- Foz do Iguaçu | Iguaçu Falls
- Salvador | Culture, History, Gastronomy, Atlantic Forest Gateway
- Manaus | Amazon Rainforest Gateway
- Santarem | Amazon Rainforest Gateway
- Cuiaba | Pantanal Wetlands Gateway
Earth’s largest continuous tropical rainforest, the Amazon contains more life than anywhere else. Spanning nine nations, you can take a tour in the Amazon Rainforest from a variety of places, some well known and others for the more adventurous. The main countries to access the Amazon are Peru and Brazil, which contain the highest amounts of the forest, but there are another 7 to choose from. We have selected the top tour operators for visiting this impressive forest where you will be shown the Amazon’s scenic beauty and its life within.
How impressive is the Amazon Rainforest?
The largest intact tropical wildernesses are the Amazon, the Congo in west Africa, and the rainforested landmass of New Guinea. If you combined New Guinea and the Congo rainforest, the resulting land area could fit snugly inside the Amazon Rainforest. Not only that, the Amazon contains 1/5th of the world’s fresh water, covers nearly half of South America (40%) and provides 20% of the planet’s Oxygen. This incredible forest contains 1/10th of all the species on Earth. The Amazon Rainforest is fed by the Amazon River, which is a remarkable natural feature in its own right. This is Earth’s largest river by volume and second longest after the Nile.
While you’re reading this, there is an intense struggle going on in the Amazon between people who see the rainforest as a resource to be exploited and used up for its huge amounts of timber, precious metals, meat, pets, and oil and those of us who think its existence is worth its weight in oil and timber. The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is at the moment sitting on the world’s largest untapped oil reserve. This is creating a bit of tension between our fellow humans who live inside the national park and oil prospectors constantly trying to penetrate the forest. If this is important to you, you can convince people to de-invest in oil companies who don’t play ball. If deforestation continues at current rates, the WWF estimate 55% of the Amazon Rainforest will be gone by 2030.
Size of the Amazon Rainforest
To get geographical, the Amazon Rainforest spans 2, 300, 000 square miles (6,000,000 square km) and is contained by the mountain ranges of the Guiana Highlands in the north, the Andes in the west and then the Brazilian plateau in the south.
Although dominated by rainforest, the Amazon also contains many other vegetation types, such as seasonal, flooded and deciduous forests, as well as savannahs. This vegetation is fed by the Amazon River and occurs in the Amazon’s drainage basin
Amazon Rainforest Animals
As the world’s largest container of life, you can see many different animals in the Amazon including the famed Scarlet Macaws and Toucans, more easily seen at clay licks in the Manu or Madidi National Park or the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru and Bolivia. Tapir are the largest land mammal in the Amazon and these strange looking mammals can also be seen at the Amazon’s clay licks where they come to feed off nutrient rich clay. As well as Tapir, the other main animals Amazon tourists like to see are the Giant River Otters and Jaguar. However, there is an incredible diversity of other animals to amaze you as you wander or canoe Amazonia with your professional Amazon guide. They will spot Sloths clinging to the branches high the trees and draw your attention to the Monkeys following you through the forest.
The Amazon River
The Amazon River is the planet’s most voluminous, with a mouth of 300 miles, which drains 500 billion cubic feet of water each day. The river and its 1000 or more tributaries contain an incredible diversity of fish as well as aquatic mammals like Manatees and River Dolphins. On the Amazon River, you will find the main bases for the Amazon Rainforest such as the port cities of Iquitos in Peru, and Manaus and Santarem in Brazil.
Amazon Rainforest Tourism
Tourism in the southern Amazon Rainforest of southern Peru and Bolivia is at its most developed whereas in the north it is still in its infancy. The small Peruvian town of Puerto Maldonado gives you access to the edge of the Madidi National Park in Bolivia, the Tambopata National Reserve close to town, and the famous Manu National Park, the most pristine national park in the Peru. These areas are fantastic for clay lick to see Macaws, Toucans, Tapir, as well as Jaguar, which prey on the mammals. These areas are also a good choice to see the endangered Giant River Otters. If, however, you would like a cruise or to see the rainforest near the Amazon River itself, you can choose the forests of Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Here you can see the abundant Monkeys and many different Amazon Birds. So what are you waiting for? Jump in and TourTheTropics!
Amazon Tours from Peru
Iquitos is the largest Peruvian city in the Amazon Rainforest and is the Amazon gateway for visits to Peruvian rainforest along the Amazon River. Iquitos is also the largest city in the world unreachable by road, which means to access Iquitos you are likely to enter the region by air. To see the breathtaking carpet of green spanning the horizon as you fly over the rainforest is a spectacle in itself. From Iquitos, you will have access to cruises along the Amazon River focusing on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and Amazon Rainforest lodges. To fully enjoy this region, we advise choosing tours that take you far from the city (~150 km) to see the incredible diversity of animals and plants this region boasts. We have selected the best tours in the region to make sure you make the most of your visit to this fun and welcoming Amazon Rainforest gateway. Continue to Iquitos Tours >>
Cusco is the main tourist destination in Peru. Hundreds of thousands of tourists travel to Cusco each year to visit the very well marketed Machu Picchu and other archaeological sites in the region. Natural wonders are also on the list of activities, however, as Cusco provides a base to visit the Amazon Rainforest Cloud Forest in the Andean Mountain Range. Manu National Park is regarded as the most pristine protected in Peru and contains both lowland and Cloud Forest habitats containing an incredible diversity of Amazon plants and animals. You can combine both the lowland and Andean rainforest from an Amazon tour from cusco and take advantage of three excellent lodges in the region. Continue to Cusco Tours >>
A short flight from Cusco will bring you to this unassuming Amazon Rainforest gateway. As well as Cusco, the Puerto Maldonado region has access to one of the most developed tourism industries in the Amazon Rainforest. Here you can visit the Manu National Park, Madidi National Park (Bolivia) and the Tambopata National Reserve — the closest protected area to Puerto Maldonado (only 45 minutes), which contains exceptional Amazon wildlife. Puerto Maldonado is your best choice for short tours into the Amazon (~3 Days) as you can quickly get in and out. We have collected the best tours for visits to the Amazon, the majority of which have environmental certification. Continue to Puerto Maldonado Tours >>
Amazon Tours from Brazil
Manaus is the main Amazon Rainforest gateway in Brazil, where you can visit the impressive Central Amazon Ecological Corridor — a mega-reserve that incorporates several protected areas. The closest of these protected areas to Manaus is the Anavilhanas. From Manaus you can organise cruises on the Amazon River or Rio Negro, the meeting of these rivers creates one of the main short tours near the city. Manaus is a bustling industrial port boasting incredible architecture from the rubber boom period of Amazon history. Continue to Manaus Tours >>
Another Brazilian gateway to the Amazon Rainforest, Santarém is surrounded by impressive lakes fed by the Amazon River and 100 kms of attractive beaches. Like Manaus, in Santarém you can find impressive architecture and many historical buildings.
Amazon Tours from Ecuador
Sitting in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest is the Yasuni National Park occupied by various indigenous groups and to the north is the Cuyabeno Reserve. The Yasuni region contains the highest amount of life anywhere on Earth, but sits on one of the largest remaining untapped oil reserves. This places a considerable threat on the heads of many of the world’s animals and plants, but also on the indigenous population. Some communities have adopted ecotourism as a way of showing visitors the extraordinary diversity of this region and why it should be protected, as well as communicating their ongoing struggle against oil companies. Continue to Ecuador Tours >>
Amazon Tours from Colombia
Leticia is the Amazon Rainforest gateway in Colombia and is one of the safest places in the country, but we always advise checking with your country’s government for the latest news. Leticia will be a stopping point on cruises and ferries between Iquitos (Peru) and Manaus (Brazil).
Amazon Tours from Venezuela
The Amazon Rainforest in Venezeuala is mostly known for the Yanomami indigenous group, who occupy the largest tract of land of any native community. The Yanomami occur on the border between Venezuela and Brazil and have accepted tourism as a means to communicate their struggle for forest protection.
Amazon Tours from Bolivia
The Bolivian Amazon Rainforest is mostly known for the Madidi National Park, an impressive protected area containing a high diversity of Amazon wildlife. Your entry point for the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest is the town of Rurrenabaque and here you can take tours to the surrounding rainforest. Madidi had a history of misusing the power of tourism as too many tourists resulted in park degradation, a big no no when it comes to eco tourism. With much improved park management and regulations, tourism is now being used to protect the forests.
Amazon Tours from Guyana
These last three countries (and parts of countries–French Guiana is actually in France) are the smallest and most neglected areas to visit the Amazon Rainforest. They are included in an area of South America known as the the Guianan Shield (geological section of the South American plate) that encompasses all three nations as well as parts of Brazil, Venezeuala and Colombia. Guyana is the largest of the three nations and probably the most well known. Although, because French Guiana is part of the European Union, it isn’t as popular as a tourist destination as French Guiana and neighboring Suriname. Guyana is growing in popularity with nature lovers and is especially haled by birdwatchers worldwide.
Amazon Tours from Suriname
Tourism in Suriname remains important for the economy and is centered around the Amazon Rainforest. The largest protected area in the country is the Central Suriname Nature Reserve and is also its most popular. Suriname presents exceptional wildlife experiences with over 30% of the country protected in wildlife reserves.
Amazon Tours from French Guiana
French Guiana is the wealthiest of these three regions and contains 31, 000 square miles (8 million hectares) of tropical forest with a large fraction protected in ecological reserves.
A continent of contrasts, South America split from the African landmass and joined with North America to merge a distinct set of flora, fauna and geographical features. The South American continent is bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west and is the jumping off point for Antarctica to the south. After the merger with North America, the Isthmus of Panama in the north would be the land bridge by which many different animals, including humans, migrated south into this diverse continent. Welcome to South America.
South American Rainforest
The largest tract of continuous rainforest on Earth is found in South America. The Amazon is larger than the other largest rainforests, the Congo Rainforest in West Africa and the New Guinean Rainforest in Australasia, combined. This incredible forest has filled the hearts and minds of naturalists and explorers for hundreds of years and can be accessed from any one of the nine nations it crosses. For the majority of Amazon tourists, the two countries to base themselves for an Amazon Adventure are Peru and Brazil, which contain the largest portions of the rainforest, but there are lesser known adventurous alternatives…
The Brazilian Cerrado
The Brazilian Cerrado is the country’s 2nd largest habitat after the Amazon Rainforest. The Cerrado is a tropical savanna habitat that experiences a humid climate. The habitat is home to many endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. Here you will see incredible wildlife, such as Endangered Maned Wolves, Hyacinth Macaws, and tool-using Capuchin Monkeys.
The Pantanal Wetlands allows a higher chance of seeing some of the Amazon Rainforest’s most sort-after wildlife, such as Jaguar, Giant Otters and Capybara. The open and often treeless habitat means Capybara can roam the grasslands in huge numbers and animals cannot easily hide from view. Although lesser known than the Amazon, the Pantanal houses an equal concentration of wildlife to the densest areas in Africa.
Brazilian Atlantic Forest
When the Portuguese first set foot on South America over 500 years ago, they were met with the Atlantic Forest. One of the most threatened tropical forests, the Atlantic forest in southern Brazil is home to many highly threatened animals and plants. Over 85% of the original forest cover has been deforested, but because of its significance as a home for many endemic species, hundreds of businesses, NGOs and charities are working to restore this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South American Countries
The main countries that make up South America are, in order of highest population, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (France).
Eco Regions in South America
Tourists can explore the different eco-regions in South America, which offer a chance to view breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife and contrasting environments. You can explore the Amazon Rainforest or Atlantic Forest previously mentioned, the wetlands, which are home to abundant animals and plants, Andean Cloud Forest to see incredible bird life, the Atacama desert, Earth’s driest area, the Andean mountain range, the world’s longest mountain range, and the famous Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador to see uniquely famous animals and plants.
Wildlife and Protected Areas
Within these Bio Regions are the main National Parks that protect South America’s famous and world renowned wildlife for future generations. View the famous macaws of Tambopata National Reserve and Manu National Park and see Jaguar in the Pantanal.
Tourist Attractions – Culture, History and Nature
In addition to South America’s cities and bio regions, tourists flock to South America to see its rich cultural heritage for a glimpse into a land before the modern world as well as natural wonders, such as Angel Falls in Venezuela, the world’s highest waterfall.
South America History
Like the pyramids of Egypt, South America is home to its own archeological sites of now vanished societies. Machu Picchu in Peru alone draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to visit this mystical Incan ruin. As well as Machu Picchu, Peru is home to other archaeological sites like the Cradle of Gold and the latest tourist destination, the Northern Kingdoms.
There have been many different civilizations in South America, such as the Chavin, which spanned 900 BC to 300 AD, the Moche, from 100 BC to 700 AD, the Chachopayas, from 1000–1450, but none that have caught the public attention as much as the Inkas, which dominated the Andean region from 1438 to 1533 and were invaded by the Spanish in one of the most significant periods in South American history. To explore South America’s rich and interesting Archeological sites, travel to one of our popular Ancient Destinations.