The Amazon Rainforest covers 40% of South America and crosses nine nations. However, the largest amount of Amazonia is housed by Peru and Brazil.
First, let’s introduce the Amazon Rainforest and then mention the Amazon of Peru and Brazil specifically. After this, we will cover some of the differences between these fantastic regions to help you make the most of this incredible forest.
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’ largest tropical forest. This is also the world’s largest home to wildlife with more species found here than anywhere else on Earth.
The nine nations crossed by the Amazon Rainforest are Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname.
The countries with the most of Amazonia are Peru, Brazil and Colombia. Around 10% is then divided between the other 6 nations.
Within this vast tropical forest, you can find an incredible diversity of animals and plants. The iconic wildlife includes the many different monkeys, toucans, macaw parrots, giant river otters, jaguar and tapir. The forest is then full of tall emergent trees and many fascinating plants, including delicate orchids and bromeliads.
The Amazon River and its many tributaries feed this vast forest. Starting as a trickle in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Andes, the river officially begins near the port city of Iquitos in northern Peru. The Amazon River forms with the merging of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers.
From Iquitos in Peru, the Amazon River flows east across the continent passing the southern tip of Colombia before entering Brazil for the rest of its journey.
Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest
Brazil contains the majority of the Amazon Rainforest with 60% of the forest housed within Brazil’s borders. This translates to around 1,283,000 square miles (3,323,000 square km) of rainforest.
Because the majority of this vast tropical forest is housed within Brazil, it’s no surprise that Brazil is considered the world’s most biodiverse country.
This is also where you find the majority of the Amazon River as it flows from Tabatinga, the first Brazilian port the river encounters, to the river mouth near the Brazilian port city of Belém.
The main city visitors to the Brazilian Amazon use as their gateway to the rainforest is Manaus. This is also the largest city in Amazonia. Manaus is also where you can find the confluence of the Amazon River and the Rio Negro, the Amazon’s largest tributary.
The area where these rivers merge is known as the meeting of the waters and is an attraction in its own right. This is where both rivers run side by side for many miles. The Rio Negro is dark from tannins and the Amazon is lighter from the different sediments collected enroute. This creates a visual spectacle popular for visitors to Manaus.
Note that in Brazil it is only after this merging that the river is known as the Amazon. Before this point, right up to the Peruvian border, it is locally called the Rio Solimões.
From Manaus, you can enjoy fantastic expedition cruises into the Amazon Rainforest. Explore the forest to find different monkeys, colorful birds and hopefully some lesser seen animals and plants. You will also see tall rainforest trees with delicate bromeliads and orchids balanced on the branches.
Expedition cruises, such as the Tucano Cruise from Manaus, not only take you on a river cruise, but also enable you to leave the main vessel aboard small skiffs for rainforest exploration. Led by skilled naturalist guides, enjoy finding some fascinating rainforest life as you explore smaller Amazonian waterways.
Another excellent area of Brazilian Amazon to visit is accessed from the gateway of Alta Floresta at the southern edge of Amazonia. Here, you can find the Cristalino Lodge and Cristalino Reserve. This backs onto a protected area mosaic of over 2 million hectares of Amazonia, which includes different connected reserves and parks. This is also one of the most well studied areas of the Brazilian Amazon.
This area of Amazonia is very near the incredible Pantanal Wetlands, which is another of the world’s most ecologically rich regions. This adds to the diversity of animals and plants you will see from the Cristalino Lodge as you explore surrounding rainforest.
Not surprisingly, on guided tours from the luxurious Cristalino Lodge you have a chance of spotting some incredible Amazon Rainforest animals and plants.
Peru’s Amazon Rainforest
Peru contains the second highest amount of Amazon Rainforest after Brazil. This is also a fantastic section of Amazonia. The Peruvian Amazon contains one of the highest diversities of animals and plants, which is thought to be linked to the Andes mountains.
Aside from incredible wildlife, the Peruvian Amazon is fortunate to be home to beautiful oxbow lakes, protected areas and claylicks.
The oxbow lakes are attractive areas where tributaries of the Amazon river once flowed. As these rivers constantly move through the forest, changing routes with their flow, the rivers often leave behind bodies of water of previous routes. These areas are often arced with the river’s previous curved ‘oxbow’ shape.
The lakes that form become very attractive to different animals and fruiting trees often grow at the lake edges. The water itself is often a home for giant river otters, lake-living birds and different amphibians. The different plants and trees that grow are also a draw for several different monkeys, hoatzin birds and macaws. Kingfishers and herons also perch on the branches and wait for fish.
Another attraction of the Peruvian Amazon, claylicks are areas of exposed riverbank where many different animals come to feed from the salt-rich and medicinal clay.
Not only helping top up necessary salts, the clay also contains chemicals that neutralize toxins found in different forest foods, such as unripe fruits and seeds.
Of the different animals that feed from the clay, such as monkeys, tapir, capybara and peccary, the most famous of claylick visitors are the large and colorful macaws.
The many large and colorful macaws of Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve have inspired many magazine cover stories. Witnessing these areas is an incredible experience as you’re greeted with an almost guaranteed spectacle of sound and color.
Peru’s Amazon Rainforest of Puerto Maldonado
Mentioning the incredible Tambopata National Reserve from Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s south leads us to the gateways to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.
Puerto Maldonado is located in Peru’s southern Amazon Rainforest and is a favored gateway for visitors combining Machu Picchu with the rainforest.
The protected areas you can visit from Puerto Maldonado include the lowland rainforest of Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve.
Both of these protected areas contain beautiful oxbow lakes and many macaw claylicks to see hundreds of colorful birds and other wildlife.
Fantastic lodges for visiting the claylicks include the deep rainforest lodge of the Tambopata Research Center, which offers some of the best wildlife experiences in the Amazon Rainforest, and the Refugio Amazonas Lodge in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve.
From the Refugio Amazonas Lodge, you can also visit a beautiful oxbow lake to see different lake-living animals. The lodge offers a similar experience to the community-owned Posada Amazonas Lodge.
However, note that from Posada Amazonas Lodge you have a higher chance of spotting giant river otters. From Refugio Amazonas lodge, you can visit a large macaw claylicks and the area has a slightly higher diversity of animals and plants.
Peru’s Amazon Rainforest of Iquitos
Peru’s Amazon Rainforest of Iquitos provides access to the rainforest of the Amazon River itself. The Amazon River begins near Iquitos at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers.
The protected areas near Iquitos for fantastic experiences of Amazonia include the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is one of the largest of Peru’s protected areas. The reserve includes a high amount of flooded tropical forest and an incredible diversity of animals and plants.
Known as the Forest of Mirrors, the Pacaya Samiria Reserve also offers some beautiful scenery with the green canopy and blue sky reflected in the reserve’s nutrient-rich waters.
On fantastic river cruises, enjoy guided expeditions aboard motorized skiffs and on forest walks to see several different monkeys, colorful toucans and parrots, many other birds, fascinating reptiles and tall rainforest trees.
To complement the beauty of the Pacaya Samiria Reserve, we especially recommend some of the excellent luxury cruises from Iquitos, such as the Delfin I, Delfin II, Aqua Amazon or the Zafiro Amazon Cruise.
Relax in comfortable surroundings, enjoy delicious cuisine and head out to explore the Pacaya Samiria with skilled naturalist guides.
From Iquitos, you also have the option of an adventure-category cruise aboard La Perla. Although La Perla offers simpler accommodation, the cruise still offers comfortable suites and excellent guided tours.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Another area of exceptional wildlife near Iquitos is called the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
The reserve offers a higher amount of accessible higher-ground forest for guided rainforest walks to see some fantastic animals and tall emergent trees.
The reserve was initially established to protect the range of a rare bald-headed primate named the uakari. These monkeys can be seen deep in the reserve and are more unusual than the many other monkeys living in the area.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is also a great place for birdwatching. Over 600 different birds have been recorded within the reserve, including colorful toucans, macaws, tanagers, cotingas and parakeets.
The reserve contains many other fascinating animals and plants, including delicate orchids, many tall emergent trees, tamandua anteaters, giant river otters, tapir and more. Camera traps placed by the Tahuayo Lodge, a top-rated lodge for visiting the reserve, have even captured images of resident and visiting jaguars.
The Tahuayo Lodge offers custom itineraries and a private guide for exploring the incredible biodiversity of the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
On tours over 6-days, you will visit both the main Tahuayo Lodge and the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center located in even more pristine rainforest.
Enjoy a 1000 acre primate research grid, the largest canopy zipline in Amazonia, canoeing the reserve’s waterways and expertly guided wildlife walks. For an additional rate, you can also choose a dedicated birding guide, jungle survival and camping in Amazonia.
Differences Between the Amazon Rainforest of Peru and Brazil
Although both the Amazon Rainforest of Peru and Brazil are fantastic places to visit, there are some differences between regions.
As an example, the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest contains more claylicks than anywhere else in South America.
Studies on claylick distribution show the rainforest of Puerto Maldonado in southern Peru as having more licks than anywhere else. This not only increases your chances of seeing several different colorful macaws, parrots and parakeets, but also wild cats, including ocelots, margays and jaguar that patrol the areas.
This region of Peruvian Amazon Rainforest also offers more accessible oxbow lakes to see giant river otters, hoatzin birds, cormorants, herons and birds. You can also spot different monkeys in lakeside trees.
The northern Peruvian Amazon of Iquitos then offers the most options for luxury Amazon River cruises.
Here, you have your choice of the Delfin I, Delfin II, Zafiro, and Aria Amazon Cruises. This is therefore the best option for a luxury experience of Amazonia if you would prefer a cruise.
The Brazilian Amazon also offers a luxury experience at the highly regarded Cristalino Lodge from the gateway town of Alta Floresta.
The Cristalino Lodge also offers two giant canopy towers for excellent rainforest observation and birding opportunities.
Finally, the Tambopata Research Center offers a 20% chance of spotting wild jaguar, which is one of the highest chances of a jaguar encounter in the Amazon Rainforest.
Recommended Tours for the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest
The gateways to visit the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil are Manaus, a port of the Amazon River and the largest city in the Amazon, and Alta Floresta in Brazil’s southern rainforest.
The Cristalino Lodge
Accessed from Alta Floresta and nestled in the rainforest of southern Brazil, you can find the Cristalino Lodge.
The Cristalino Lodge offers one of the most comfortable rainforest lodges in Amazonia. Enjoy a very tall canopy tower, expertly guided tours, comfortable suites and relaxation areas with wildlife-filled surroundings.
When you aren’t relaxing in the lodge itself or enjoying delicious cuisine, you will be exploring Amazonia with your professional guide. Head out on guided expeditions to find an incredible diversity of animals and plants.
The wildlife you’re likely to see on Cristalino Lodge tours includes several different monkey, colorful birds like toucans, parrots, cotingas and tanagers, and much more.
Over 500 different bird species have been seen from the lodge and there are some fantastic facilities to help you see as many as possible. Enjoy two giant canopy towers to see over the rainforest with the many birds flying over the trees.
The Tucano Cruise
The Tucano Amazon Cruise is an excellent cruise options from Manaus. Voyage up the Rio Negro, the Amazon’s largest tributary, to explore the Amazon Rainforest.
Because the Tucano is an expedition cruise, you will head out with naturalist guides on skiff expeditions and on rainforest walks to discover Amazonian animals and plants.
The Tucano vessel itself has been designed to get you deeper into the rainforest than other cruises, which means you have a higher chance of finding the most wildlife in the region.
Styled as a 19th Century steamship, the vessel offers a historic interior with solid wood decor, varnished panelling, and polished wooden timber flooring throughout. For accommodation, the vessel offers nine comfortable cabins with private bathrooms.
Recommended Tours for the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
There are some excellent tours in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. The two main gateways in Peru are Iquitos in the north as a port of the Amazon River and Puerto Maldonado for access to the incredible Manu region and Tambopata National Reserve.
Some of the top recommended experiences include:
The Delfin II Cruise
The Delfin II offers a luxury cruise of the Amazon River from Iquitos in Peru’s northern rainforest.
Enjoy delicious cuisine, very comfortable suites and relaxation areas, and excellent guided tours to see iconic animals, trees and plants.
There are different suite types to enjoy aboard the Delfin II. These include the 4 Master Suites at the front of the vessel for the largest suite category, which also offers incredible views from the front of the vessel as you head deep into Amazonia.
Aboard the Delfin II, you will cruise the wildlife rich Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. As one of Peru’s largest protected areas, the Pacaya Samiria offers astounding levels of diversity.
Head into the rainforest to explore the waterways on skiff expeditions and trail walks over the dry season. Your guide will be pointing out the interesting animals and plants as you explore the Amazon. On these expeditions, you’re likely to see toucans, colorful macaws, several different monkeys, orchids, tall emergent trees and hopefully some lesser seen animals and plants.
The Aria Amazon Cruise
The Aria Amazon Cruise offers a luxury cruise of the Amazon with longer itineraries than the Delfin vessels.
The Aria features a beautiful black hull, elegant interiors and offers delicious cuisine in their window-wrapped dining room.
As you cruise deep into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, you will enjoy incredible scenery from your comfortable suite. Guests aboard the Aria frequently mention that some favorite moments were simply laying on their comfortable beds and looking out their floor-to-ceiling suite window.
While on expeditions from the main vessel, your skilled Amazon guide will be helping you find many colorful birds, such as toucans, cotingas, tanagers, parrots, macaws and parakeets. You are also likely to find several different monkeys, tamandua anteaters, two different sloths, caiman crocodilians, orchids and delicate tree frogs.
Of course, the beautiful scenery of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is another main attraction.
The vessel itself is decorated with polished timber floors and large windows throughout. Your suite then has a California king size bed and a comfortable window-side daybed. The elegant ensuite is then fitted with rain showers and organic bath products.
La Perla Amazon Cruise
As an adventure-category cruise, La Perla offers simpler accommodation than the others mentioned. However, accommodation is comfortable and there are relaxation areas throughout the vessel to admire the rainforest.
From La Perla Cruise, enjoy small-group expeditions from the main vessel into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Your guide will help you to see the many colorful birds, sloths, different monkeys, caiman crocodilians and many other animals and plants.
You can enjoy either 3-night or 6-night itineraries aboard La Perla Amazon Cruise. Travel deep into Amazonia as you explore the Yarapa River, Ucayali River, Maranon River, and Pacaya Samiria. The rainforest surrounding these tributaries offers an incredible diversity of wildlife and beautiful scenery.
The Tambopata Research Center
The Tambopata Research Center offers one of the deepest lodges in the Amazon Rainforest. Not only this, but recent upgrades have turned this lodge into one of the most comfortable deep rainforest lodges.
Choose from a range of suite options and leave the lodge each day with your professional rainforest guide.
There are many rainforest trails to enjoy from the Tambopata Research Center. Your guide will be helping you spot spider monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, peccary, and many other animals and plants.
A main attraction near the Tambopata Research Center is a very large macaw claylick where guests can observe hundreds of macaws at the clay. Several of Peru’s large and colorful parrots gather at the clay, which also increases your chances of seeing predatory cats, such as margays, ocelots and even jaguar.
Guests at the Tambopata Research Center also have a 20% chance of seeing wild jaguar by the river. In addition to these incredible wildlife spectacles, enjoy beautiful scenery of the Tambopata region, delicious food, and comfortable accommodation.
The Tahuayo Lodge
The Tahuayo Lodge offers a fantastic experience of the Amazon Rainforest from Iquitos in northern Peru. Enjoy a custom itinerary and private guide as standard to explore the wildlife-rich Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
On tours of 6-days or more from the Tahuayo Lodge, you will experience both the main lodge and the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center. The research center is located in even more pristine rainforest where you can see some fantastic wildlife. It’s from here that you stand the best chance of spotting the rarely sighted uakari monkeys, which were a reason for the reserve’s foundation.
Behind the Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center is a 1,000 acre primate research grid, which researchers are using to study reserve wildlife. This also offers you some fantastic trails and a better chance of spotting wildlife displaying normal behaviors.
Enjoy rainforest walks scouting for several different monkeys, colorful birds, different reptiles and amphibians, and caiman crocodiles on nocturnal tours. You will also experience the reserve on canoe tours, motorised boats, the large canopy towers and zipline.
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge is a great option for shorter tours in the Amazon Rainforest. Nestled in the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve, enjoy fantastic tours to see many different monkeys, colorful birds, giant trees and different flowers.
The lodge offers a choice of accommodation options, including some luxury suites. Enjoy delicious cuisine, different relaxation areas and cultural attractions. You will then enjoy morning and afternoon guided exploration of the surrounding Amazon Rainforest.
The lodge has found that this area is a preferred nesting site of harpy eagles, which means the lodge offers one of the highest chances of seeing the magnificent birds, as they nest in the nearby ironwood trees.
Not only a great lodge for shorter experience of 3 or 4-days, the Refugio Amazonas Lodge is also a great lodge for a family rainforest vacation. This is due to the comfort of the lodge and the childrens’ trail, which communicates rainforest information in a child friendly way.