The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
A beautiful section of flooded Amazon Rainforest.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve sits in Peru’s northern Amazon Rainforest and is accessed from the city of Iquitos.
This is the largest city in the world unconnected to any other by road. And it’s one of Peru’s main gateways to the rainforest.
Visiting the Pacaya Samiria is one of the top things to do in Iquitos. But as this is a flooded tropical forest, the best way to get deep into the Pacaya Samiria is by cruise. And it tells you something that this region is home to the top luxury cruises in the Amazon.
There are a few fantastic cruises available. We will recommend a few further down so you can make the most of the protected area. These are also featured in our video guide for Peru’s Amazon tours.
The Pacaya Samiria Reserve covers two million hectares of rainforest. It’s also the country’s largest reserve.
In addition to wildlife, there are a few different communities living within the reserve boundaries. They practice sustainable harvesting of reserve resources, such as fruits, nuts and fish.
A successful initiative in the reserve is the re-introduction and sustainable fishing of Arapaima. Arapaima are one of the world’s largest freshwater fish and are impressive to see.
On cruises in the Pacaya Samiria, you will be escorted through the rainforest on skiff expeditions led by skilled Amazon guides. For a luxury Pacaya Samiria cruise, a favorite experience is the Delfin II.
Enjoy spotting howler monkeys, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, saki monkeys and tamarins. You will see the monkeys making their way through the branches, as you watch from the comfort of the skiff. The reserve contains a healthy population of jaguar, tapir, two and three toed sloths and many other animals. Spot colorful birds flying over the trees, such as toucans, paradise tanagers and blue and gold macaws.
This particular reserve contains some of the Amazon Rainforest’s most luxurious cruises. On these, you can treat yourself to high quality service, gourmet food, fine wines and luxurious comfort.
These cruises rank on our list for the top luxury tours in the Amazon. Aboard these fantastic vessels, you will see incredible wildlife and the highest quality service available in the Amazon.
The Tambopata National Reserve
Tambopata is a section of one of the largest tracts of protected tropical forest.
The Tambopata National Reserve covers 274,690 hectares of rainforest. And it contains an impressive diversity of animals and plants.
The reserve has some of the best Amazon tours in Peru to see incredible wildlife. You can also learn about the culture of rainforest communities. A favorite Amazon tour for the best wildlife experiences is the Tambopata Research Center.
Enjoy some of the rainforest’s largest macaw clay licks to see hundreds of birds gathered at the clay. The Tambopata Amazon is the best choice for a shorter Amazon tour because it’s so close to the base town of Puerto Maldonado. This means you can be in the middle of fantastic wildlife after only 30 minutes of travel time.
Enjoy spotting several different monkeys, colorful birds and some fascinating rare species.
The Posada Amazonas is a fantastic option to spot giant river otters. These are a social species often seen playing or hunting as a group.
The Refugio Amazonas Lodge the choice for a higher chance of seeing harpy eagles. The birds often nest in surrounding ironwood trees. Make sure you ask the lodge if they have any recent sightings.
If you’re interested in maximizing your wildlife sightings, the recommendation is the Tambopata Research Center.
This is a deep Amazon Rainforest lodges located far from Puerto Maldonado where the wildlife is at carrying capacity. You will enjoy seeing many different monkeys plus more less frequently encountered animals. The Tambopata Research Center is located near one of the Amazon’s largest clay licks to see the colorful macaw parrots and ranks as one of the best lodges for Tambopata.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
An incredible protected area, this reserve is one of the richest areas for monkeys in the Amazon.
The Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve is a smaller protected area than the Pacaya Samiria, but is home to fantastic diversity of species. This includes a healthy population of Amazon icons.
Enjoy seeing a diversity of birds, such as paradise tanagers, colorful macaws and many kingfishers. You can also find one of the richest regions for primates in Peru.
The reserve was established to help protect the uakari monkeys, which have a bright red hairless face and are rarely seen in the wild. There’s one pictured in the photo above. Guests at the Tahuayo Lodge spot them occasionally if they choose deeper rainforest adventures. The Tahuayo Lodge is the only lodge with access to the reserve.
The Tahuayo Lodge offers a private guide and a customized itinerary. This means you can focus on your own interests while exploring the reserve.
Choose from many different options. You can choose photography tours, camping, searching for different monkeys, or birdwatching. Most visitors choose a general experience of the Amazon Rainforest.
If you’re after a little more adventure, the Tahuayo Lodge has the largest canopy zipline in the rainforest. This has been enjoyed by young children through to their grandparents.
The protected area covers 420,000 hectares of Amazon Rainforest. And you can find many different animals living in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve.
The reserve protects over 600 different bird species. This makes it a great place for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers. Enjoy spotting the hoatzin at the different oxbow lakes, jacanas, tiger herons and many wonderful parrots.
This is also one of the best places to spot different monkeys. On tours of 6 days or more, you can stay at the Tahuayo Lodge’s Amazon Research Center with its 1,000 acre primate research grid.
Click the video below to learn more.
Explore the area with your private guide to find different monkeys. You can see saki monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, marmosets, howler monkeys and squirrel monkeys. You may also spot some of the lesser seen species. Guests have also enjoyed sightings of giant river otters, which have built a home near the lodge.
The Amazon River and its tributaries have created many oxbow lakes. These are areas where the river has changed direction. Surrounding the river on its journey are now lakes that draw fantastic wildlife. Here you can find caiman crocodilians, hoatzin birds, horned screamers, jacanas, tiger herons and parrots.
Experience the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve and the fantastic wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest. Click the tour bubble below to learn more about the Tahuayo Lodge and to book your Amazon tour.
The Manu National Park
The Manu National Park contains an incredible richness of animals and plants. Although not allowed inside the actual park itself, you can visit the Reserved Zone from Puerto Maldonado. There are also combination Amazon tours available from Cusco.
At 1.7 million hectares, this is one of the largest national parks in Peru. And it’s one of the most significant sections of Amazon Rainforest to visit for nature lovers.
Along with the Tambopata Reserve above, Manu is one of the top places in Amazonia to see the large and colorful macaw parrots. You can visit a very large clay lick where hundreds of parrots visit the clay. Here, you will have some fantastic photography opportunities as you witness the incredible display of sound and color.
Manu also includes the highly diverse cloud forest on the Andes. Here, you can find hummingbirds, butterflies and a few different monkeys.
The Huascaran National Park
Huascarán National Park protects 340,000 hectares of Cordillera Blanca habitat. This is an area of the central Andean mountain range.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park includes threatened habitats and a great many animals and plants.
Home to hundreds of glaciers, this is also where you find Mount Huascaran, which ranks as the highest mountain in Peru. Huascaran measures 6,768 meters (22,205 feet) making it the fourth highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.
The park has around 100 different birds and many endangered mammals. You can find the Andean condor, Andean cats and spectacled bears. This is also home to one of the iconic camelids of Peru, the vicuñas.
In addition to wildlife, you can find fantastic lagoons and spectacular scenery. There are 300 glacial lagoons and over 600 intact glaciers. However, it’s the mountains themselves that draw many visitors. People visit to walk and climb the mountains and enjoy the park’s fantastic hiking and climbing trails.
To reach Huascarán National Park, you start your adventure in northern Peru from the city of Huaraz. Not just a great place for serious climbers, all visitors can enjoy the region, as there are different hikes suited to any level.
That being said, remember that the park is at a high altitude as we are in the Andes, so some acclimatization is required. Walking at altitude is often harder than at lower elevations so make sure you’re prepared. The scenery and wildlife is definitely worth the trek.
Some of the lake treks are also remarkable as the glacial lakes have a unique beauty and clarity hard to find elsewhere.
The Titicaca National Reserve
Protected by the Titicaca National Reserve, Titicaca is the world’s highest large-lake and is accessed from the town of Puno in Peru.
The reserve was established to protect the wildlife and the culture of the Titicaca. A main cultural group are the Uros community living on the lake’s islands. The islands are made from reeds and are thought to have once been for defense. Nowadays, you can visit the communities to learn about the culture and history of the region.
One of the most famous of the Titicaca animals is the giant Titicaca frog. They live in the lake and have fascinating folds of skin over their body to help them breathe at this altitude.
Intense hunting pressure on the frog almost drove it to extinction. But protection within the reserve is allowing populations to recover. Other iconic Titicaca animals in the protected area include the Titicaca duck and Titicaca grebe. In total, the lake area is home to around 60 different birds, 14 types of fish, and 18 different frogs.
The park measures just over 36,000 hectares and a narrow bit of land separates the lake into two bodies of water. The Peruvian water body is named Lake Pequeño and the water on the Bolivian side is called Lake Huinaymarca. The average depth of the lake is around 500 feet (165 meters), but is almost double this closer to the Bolivian shore.
A main reason for the area’s protection was to conserve the lake wildlife and Titicaca’s communities. However, another benefit was to allow managed tourism in the area with an aim to benefit local people.
The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve
This protected area is close to Iquitos city in northern Peru. The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is famous for its high amount of endemic white-sand bird species. In addition to white sand forests, you can find a diversity of other habitats, such as floodplain forests and swamp forests.
You can hire a guide at the information center near the reserve entrance. Your guide will help you spot some of the fantastic animals living inside the protected area. They will also help to point out the different habitats. The reserve protects 145 species of mammals, 100 or so different reptiles and amphibians and 475 different bird species.
Allpahuayo Mishana covers around 60,000 hectares. It isn’t as large as the other Iquitos protected areas, such as the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve mentioned further up. Nevertheless, the reserve makes a great day trip while back in Iquitos city.
To reach the reserve, you simply need to hail a mototaxi from Iquitos city. You can also ask your tour operator for a possible add-on experience to your visit to the Tahuayo Lodge as part as a city tour.
In addition to the diverse and endemic birds to see in the Allpahuayo Mishana, there are also a variety of monkeys. These include the equatorial saki and Goeldi’s marmoset.
Some of the favorite birds to find are the Allpahuayo antbird, Mishana tyrannulet and the elegant pompadour cotinga.
There are number of trails within the area that wind past the many different habitats. You will be given a map of the reserve upon entry while being assigned your tour guide.
The reserve also has a collection of Amazon fruits and medicinal plants. These still have importance for rainforest communities. This is a fascinating section of the park to see some weird and wonderful plants and fruits that grow wild in Amazonia.
The Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve is in southern Peru on the Paracas Peninsula. The reserve protects a section of mainland, as well as over 200,000 hectares of coastal waters and different islands.
The reserve covers an area where artifacts of the Paracas culture have been found. This is one of the most mysterious of all America’s ancient cultures.
The reserve is the location where archaeologists discovered some of the oldest human remains in the Americas. These date to over 8,000 years ago. For information on the discoveries, as well as learning about the area’s animals and plants, you can visit a small museum at the reserve entrance.
There have been around 100 different archaeological sites identified within the protected area. You can learn about these at the museum.
In addition to the archaeological importance, you can find many different birds concentrated around the coastline. There are over 200 different migratory birds that visit the Paracas Reserve for part of their lives.
As another attraction, you can also take a boat to visit the Ballestas Islands to see different birds and sea lions. You should look back when heading away from the shore to see the Paracas Candelabra, which is one of the giant glyph structures in the area.
Near the museum, there is a walkway to a lookout where you can often spot Chilean flamingos. There are a few different lookouts like this around the park. From these you can spot sea lions, birds and other wildlife.
The Cordillera Azul National Park
The Cordillera Azul National Park protects tropical montane forest on the eastern slope of the Andes. It covers an impressive area, over 1.3 million hectares, including lowland forest and entire mountains.
Crossing four of the country’s regions, the Cordillera Azul National Park is one of the largest of Peru’s protected areas.
Because of the mountainous landscape in combination with the national park status, there are areas of the park that are in a truly virgin state. These are places that have been completely untouched by people.
The park contains many lakes and over 6,000 different plants. These have helped create habitat for around 80 large mammals and nearly 200 different fish species.
Over this vast expanse of Andean environment, you can find an impressive diversity of birds. There are around 600 registered species.
The favorite birds living in the park include harpy eagles and different parrots, such as the iconic macaws. And the mammals include otters, spectacled bears, different monkeys, mountain lions and jaguars.
There are also a number of interesting amphibians and reptiles. New discoveries are continually being made. In 2013 a few different lizard species were discovered, which were previously unknown to Science.
The new discoveries highlight the reason for the park’s protection. The Cordillera Azul houses many different endangered species aas well as animals found nowhere else on Earth.
The Tumbes National Reserve
Located near the border with Ecuador, Tumbes National Reserve covers around 70,000 hectares of habitat. The reserve protects wildlife living in the hilly dry tropical forest. The animals here evolved in a different environment to their tropical rainforest and montane forest cousins.
Desert surrounds the protected area and the vegetation you can find within the park is suited to a dry climate. There are small trees, bushes and some cacti. The Tumbes National Reserve is then separated from the rainforest by the Andes Mountains. All of these factors combined mean the reserve is home to some unusual and endangered animals.
The wildlife you can find in the reserve include some familiar animals to other environments. These include jaguar and margays but also some rarer species you can’t find in nearby areas.
There are also several different monkeys living in the reserve. You can find mantled howler monkeys and white-headed capuchins. Other animals here include river otters and Tumbes crocodiles.
There is also fantastic bird life to see. You can see Andean condors, yellow-faced parrotlets, Peruvian antpittas, grey-backed hawks and pale-legged horneros. Because of its unique diversity of birds, Tumbes Reserve is often on the itinerary for different birding tours in northern Peru. There are around 250 different species to find.
Despite the grand size of the park and its incredible diversity of wildlife, the Tumbes National Reserve is relatively close to the city of Tumbes. Portions of the area have remained more or less untouched for centuries.
The Cutervo National Park
The oldest protected area in Peru, Cutervo National Park sits in the northern Peruvian Andes and covers over 8,000 hectares of habitat.
You can find many different animals in and around the area including tapir, spectacled bears, jaguar, ocelot and cock of the rock birds.
There are many forest types in the park, as well as different lakes and rivers. There are many strange and interesting plants that differ from the lowland forests and you can find an abundance of orchids.
The park is accessed from Cajamarca and its Guacharos Cave, containing nocturnal birds and streams, is a main attraction. You can enjoy different walks in the area and there are also places to camp.
In addition to main Oilbird Cave, or Gruta de los Guácharos, you also have a couple of others to explore. These include the White Cave (Gruta Blanca) and Bat Cave (Gruta del Murciélago).
There are some excellent trails in the park. On these you can enjoy fantastic views. You can also walk the palm tree forests to see a variety of different birds. When you reach the higher areas, you can enjoy beautiful lakes, grasslands and beautiful scenery.
The Amotape Hills National Park
Protecting a fraction of Peru’s equatorial dry forest, the Amotape Hills National Park is located in northern Peru. You can access the park from the cities of Piura and Tumbes.
Within the protected area, you can find some fantastic examples of orchids and many different animals. The park protects spectacled bears and over 100 different bird species.
The objective of the national park was to protect the Amotape Range and its forests. A hit with birdwatchers, you can find 400 different species. These include a number of endemic species. The park is on the itinerary of many birdwatching tours in northern Peru.
Not just a great place for birds, the park protects different mammals. These include howler monkeys, neotropical otters, anteaters, deer, ocelots, and jaguar. There is also a population of American crocodiles in the waterways.
You can enjoy some fantastic walking trails through the park leading you past different animals and plants and through changing scenery. Choose trails over the hills and through the ravines.
The hight diversity of animals and plants meant the Amotape Hills National Park was incorporated into the North-East Biosphere Reserve.
The Pampas Galeras National Reserve
Located near Nasca on the road to Cusco, the Pampa Galeras Vicuña Reserve was set up to protect Peru’s native camelids, the vicuñas.
These are related to llamas and are thought to be the wild ancestor of alpacas before domestication. The area has been home to the vicuñas for hundreds of years. And it’s a fantastic experience to see them in the hills, although many people wait for the annual shearing event.
The reserve is located at high altitude, at around 4,000 and 5,000 meters above sea level, and is mainly covered with different dry grasses.
Covering 60,000 hectares, the grasslands is prime habitat for the vicuñas. The park was established because intense hunting threatened the vicuña population. But since protection and employed rangers, the population now stands at over 50,000 individuals. There is also another wild camelid living in the reserve named the guanaco and both species look very similar.
Although hunting has stopped, the local communities are still involved with the vicuñas. Every year there is a shearing event in the reserve where the herds of animals are rounded up and shawn. This is a tourist attraction in itself and visitors can observe the event on tours from nearby Nazca.
Any visitor interested in nature or Peruvian and Andean history would enjoy a visit to the reserve. The reserve is home to 70% of the world’s vicuña population. Despite sometimes being being hard to spot, the vicuñas are unique to this landscape and its worth the time to see them.
Highly prized for the Inca, only royalty were allowed to wear clothing made from vicuña wool. Note that the vicuña also appears on Peru’s flag.
The Rio Abiseo National Park
The Rio Abiseo National Park protects forest on the tropical Andes.
You can find a range of animals and plants, and many archaeological sites dating back to before the Incan civilization. The park is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its wildlife and archaeology. This is rare that both archaeology and nature are taken into account when listing one area.
The park covers 270,000 hectares of diverse Andean forests and grasslands. It’s thought to have been a haven for wildlife since before the last glaciation event. The protected area contains a high number of endemic species that live in the different habitats.
The archaeological sites you can find in the Rio Abiseo National Park date to 8,000 years ago. So far 36 sites have been found, but there are probably many more waiting to be discovered. The sites are often linked to the Chachapoyas culture, a pre-Incan civilization who largely remain a mystery.
Wildlife in the park includes many different bird species, woolly monkeys, king vultures, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, jaguar, spectacled bears, capuchins and almost 5,000 different plants.
The Tingo Maria National Park
Attracting 80,000 visitors each year, the Tingo Maria National Park covers over 4,500 hectares and is best known for its owl cave. In Spanish this is known as La Cueva de Las Lechuzas. The cave is frequented by bats, oilbirds and parrots. These make a fantastic spectacle and the cave is one of the main reasons people visit the park.
You can reach the park from the city of Tingo Maria. You will find many different waterfalls and streams throughout the area. Some favorite places are the Cueva de Las Pavas, Jacintillo Medicinal Springs and the Cueva de los Tambos. You can also enjoy different swimming areas.
You can find around 178 different bird species in the national park, including the national bird called the cock of the rock. This is a magnificent species where the males have a bright red plumage and perform fascinating dances. The dances attract their mates and watching the displays is often a favorite spectacle for nature lovers.
Other animals living in the park include different toucans and parrots, several different monkeys and deer. You can also find tapir, which are the largest land mammal in South America. In addition to the birds flying around the area, you find dozens of colorful butterflies.
About 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 has interests including 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.