The Amazon Rainforest is one of the main draws to the South American continent. With its lush vegetation, abundance of animals, and quality tours, many people visit the Amazon for a look back in time, a chance to see the world before human dominance, and as simply a break from normal life.
Here we will go over some of the main tourist attractions in the Amazon Rainforest so you can make the most of your visit. We will also mention places to go to get a good experience in a few days of a tropical ecosystem that covers almost half the entire South American continent. We think the entire Amazon Rainforest is incredible, but there are definitely areas to maximize your experience, especially if you have a limited time to explore this fantastic forest or have a particular activity in mind.
Some of the favorite attractions in the Amazon Rainforest are the clay licks, which are where macaws and other animals feed on different clays to obtain salts and other chemicals to neutralize toxic foods they have eaten in the forest. These areas often draw hundreds of large and colorful macaws, parrots and parakeets creating a fantastic experience for anyone even a little interested in the natural world. The clay licks are also visited by other animals, such as monkeys and tapir, and because of their attraction to herbivores, the forests surrounding the clay licks often have a healthy population of jaguar.
If you’re after a comfortable lodge with skilled naturalist guides to visit these clay licks, we can recommend a few of the Amazon best experiences. If you’re after only a short tour, you should have a look at the Refugio Amazonas Lodge or the recently added Amazon Villa. From these lodges you can take tours to see the nearby parakeet clay licks.
If you would like to see the macaw clay licks or tapir licks, you should consider the deeper Amazon lodges. We recommend the Tambopata Research Center in Tambopata National Reserve which is close to a very large macaw clay lick, and also the Heath River Wildlife Center or Manu Wildlife Center for both tapir clay licks and macaw clay licks.
From these last two lodges, you can see macaws, giant river otters, and tapir. For Heath River Wildlife Center, you can combine with Sandoval Lake Lodge to see the otters and all three are possible to be seen from the Manu Wildlife Center (a lodge hailed by nature lovers and travel publications the world over). To see some more rainforest tour ideas, you can see our guide to Amazon Rainforest tours in Peru.
In terms of man-made ways to experience the Amazon Rainforest, there are some great attractions built to provide a different perspective on the forest, opening up a new way of appreciation. Perhaps one of the most impressive is the Sacha Lodge canopy walkway which stretches 940 foot (275 meter) across the rainforest and stands 94 feet (30 meters) from the forest floor. If you find this structure difficult to imagine, you can see what that translates to below.
Of course, some tours of the Amazon Rainforest really add to the natural attraction, and this is certainly true for luxury Amazon tours. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Amazon Rainforest, but to experience incredible wildlife in supreme comfort, sipping on cocktails, while laying on thick soft beds lined with alpaca-wool throws after a massage or spa treatment is certainly alluring. We will mention three of our choice for luxury tours in the Amazon, such as the highly exclusive Delfin I with its private whirlpools and large private suites, to the slightly less exclusive (but only slightly) Delfin II, with its very comfortable suites, large picture windows, gourmet food and carefully thought out details.
For a lodge experience offering a little luxury in the Amazon Rainforest, it’s hard to beat La Selva Lodge. The lodge provides one of the most comfortable experiences we have seen in Amazon lodges and it is also Rainforest Alliance certified. Rainforest Alliance certification, environmental responsibility, and luxury are definitely a winning combination. Enjoy private hot showers, suite balconies and panoramic views. La Selva’s family suites feature a private hot tub and the quality accommodation matches the guided tours in the rainforest to spot different rainforest animals and plants.
Other natural attraction in the Amazon Rainforest include the beautiful oxbow lakes. These are areas where the river once ran but has since changed route. This behaviour of the river sometimes leaves behind and arc shaped lake, which soon become a haven for Amazon life. Sandoval Lake is one example of a beautiful oxbow lake and is located inside Tambopata National Reserve accessed from Puerto Maldonado. The best way to see the lake is from Sandoval Lake Lodge, a Rainforest Alliance certified tour where you head out on the lake to see several different monkeys at the water’s edge, including howler monkeys, capuchins, titi monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. The lake life itself includes giant Arapaima fish, caiman, prehistoric-looking hoatzin birds, and turtles. However, it’s often the playful and curious giant amazon otters that steal the show.
Another great place to see beautiful Amazon lakes is the forest surrounding Manu National Park. From Manu Wildlife Center, you will visit two fantastic lakes decorated with sunken logs and attractive water lilies. The lakes are home to giant otters, troops of monkeys, wattled jacanas, sun grebes, anhingas, and provide great places to spotting osprey. Of course, as we’re in Amazonia, the lake edges are home to a bizarre bird known as the hoatzin. The lakes are also great places to see woodpeckers, tanagers, macaws, toucans and parakeets.
These are some of the main attractions in the Amazon rainforest but as mentioned the wildlife, undoubtedly the main attraction of the rainforest, can be found throughout this vast forest. The protected areas are the best places to visit to maximise wildlife opportunities and we will go over some of these below to make this incredible and giant forest a little more digestible.
Peru contains one of richest areas of Amazon Rainforest and is home to the vast majority of clay licks as mentioned above. Clay licks are great places to encounter fantastic wildlife experiences of giant colorful parrots, monkeys, tapir and more. Clay licks are mostly concentrated in the Tambopata and Manu rainforest areas, which can be visited on Amazon tours from Puerto Maldonado.
Other beautiful Peruvian protected areas with an abundance of rainforest animals include the flooded Pacaya Samiria National Reserve and Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve. Tamshiyacu contains a 1000 acre primate research grid to stand a great chance of seeing a diversity of different monkeys and also a poison dart frog conservation zone, which can be visited on tours of 6 days or more from the Tahuayo Lodge. Both Pacaya Samiria cruises like the Delfin II and the Tahuayo Lodge are accessible from Iquitos. As you can see, the two gateways for the Amazon Rainforest in Peru are Puerto Maldonado in the south and Iquitos in the north near the Amazon River, but you can also reach the Amazon on tours from Cusco by first visiting Peru’s incredible cloud forest.
The Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador is another of our favorites. Here you can visit the protected area of the Yasuni National Park and its surrounding forest on Amazon tours from Coca. Enjoy one of the few parrot clay licks in the northern Amazon, canopy towers for seeing many different amazon birds, the canopy walkway of Sacha Lodge, and the luxury tours of the La Selva Lodge, Napo Wildlife Center and the Anakonda Amazon Cruise.
Brazil contains the largest section of the Amazon and our favorite tours are focused on the Anavilhanas protected area, which you can visit aboard the Tucano Amazon Cruise, and the Cristalino Reserve. The Cristalino Lodge & Reserve is a fantastic area to visit for nature lovers and the lodge has a passionate approach to ecotourism, strengthened by the deforestation in the southern Brazilian Amazon. The reserve supports a high amount of wildlife and you can enjoy guided Amazon tours to see different animals, including viewing the canopy from their two giant canopy towers.
Finally for this list, we have the Madidi National Park and surrounding rainforest in Bolivia. The area is home to the award-winning Chalalan Lodge and the conservation focused Serere Lodge & Reserve. On tours from these lodges, you can enjoy many different colorful birds, several different primates, and chance sightings of giant otters. These areas can be experienced on Amazon tours from Rurrenabaque.