Puerto Maldonado is host to the most developed tourism industry in the Amazon Rainforest and there are numerous lodges and tours to choose from, many of which have eco-certification. Puerto Maldonado is a sleepy town and is very unique among Amazon Rainforest gateways as an incredibly biodiverse and large protected area is only 20 minutes from town, the Tambopata National Reserve. As well as Tambopata, Puerto Maldonado is also the base destination to experience Manu National Park, thought to be the most pristine and largest national park in the country. Because Puerto Maldonado is so close to the Bolivian border, you can also visit the edges of the Bolivian Madidi National Park via the Heath River on a tour from the Heath River Lodge.
The Lago Sandoval is a picturesque oxbow lake, which means part of the river was cut off in the region’s history forming an arced body of water. The lake is surrounded by Amazon vegetation, such as Aguaje Palms among others. Surrounding the lake, you will also find emergent trees, such as Mahogany, and beautiful Orchids, a firm favorite. The birdlife around the lake is incredible and visitors often see Toucans, Macaws, Parrots, Herons, Horned Screamers, as well as the mysterious hoatzins. After all this, you have the wildlife that lives in the lake itself e.g. giant otters, turtles and caiman. To tour the lake, you can visit the Sandoval Lake Lodge
Tambopata National Reserve
Puerto Maldonado’s closest protected area, the Tambopata National Reserve contains 274,690 hectares of tropical forest and savannah protecting an incredible diversity of Amazon animals and plants. The protected area is home to the Big Three animals to see in South America, the Giant Otters, Jaguar, Tapir, and also many endemic species. The main indigenous group living in the Tambopata are the Ese-Eja who have lived in the area for at least 11, 000 years. The Tambopata National Reserve contains the largest clay lick in the entire forest, which you can visit from some of the top lodges in Tambopata.
Manu National Park
The largest and reportedly most pristine national park in Peru, the Manu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage listed area. The Manu National Park contains both lowland Amazon Rainforest and cloud forest. In the Manu lowlands, you can enjoy beautiful oxbow lakes and clay licks where hundreds of macaws and tapir come to eat the medicinal clay. Manu contains a similar wildlife assortment as the Tambopata National Reserve, as jaguar, giant otters, tapir, macaws and many different monkeys call this national park home. There are some great tours for Manu National Park to see some incredible wildlife.
Madidi National Park
Madidi is the jewel in the crown of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest and is the country’s most important protected area. Because the park is along the Peruvian border, you can visit Madidi National Park from Puerto Maldonado via the Heath River. Around 80% of Madidi is tropical forest and protects thousands of Amazon Rainforest plant and animal species, including Jaguar, Harpy Eagle, Giant Otters and Tapir.
The hotspot in Peru is the city of Cusco located in the southern portion of the country. From Cusco, you can organise tours to see the archaeological sites of the Inkas, the main attraction being Machu Picchu. This 15th-century Inka site draws hundreds of thousands of tourists each year to see the ancient ruins and hike the Inka Trail. However, there is much more to Peru than this site and there are even more archaeological interests, such as the Inka Cradle of Gold and Northern Kingdoms.
In addition to archaeology, Peru boasts the second largest amount of Amazon Rainforest and more species of animals and plants have been found in this region than in others. As Earth’s largest container of life, this is clearly a must see if you’re even a little bit interested in nature.
If you like Monkeys, Sloths, Macaws, Parrots and other Birds, the Amazon Rainforest should be on your list. If you would like to unwind free from the stresses of city life, a tour of the Amazon Rainforest is also recommended. You can choose budget friendly visits, such as from Puerto Maldonado, as well as luxury cruises from Iquitos. If you’re after adventure for deeper experiences of the Amazon Rainforest, you can find these tours from both Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. We have selected some of the best tour operators to make sure you make the most of your visit. Continue To Amazon Tours >>
The protected areas in Peru include the following UNESCO World Heritage listed areas:
UNESCO World Heritage listed Cultural Protected Areas:
- Chan Chan Archaeological Zone (1986)
- Chavin (Archaeological Site) (1985)
- City of Cuzco (1983)
- Historic Centre of Lima (1988)
- Historical Centre of the City of Arequipa (2000)
- Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Pampas de Jumana (1994)
- Sacred City of Caral-Supe (2009)
- Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu (1983)
UNESCO World Heritage listed Natural Protected Areas:
- Huascarán National Park (1985)
- Manú National Park (1987)
- Río Abiseo National Park (1990)
Complementing these areas, there are many more national parks and reserves that protect an incredible number and diversity of birds, mammals, amphibians, plants, insects and reptiles as well as offering protection for the Amazon’s remaining indigenous populations.
Other protected areas of Amazon Rainforest:
- Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Loreto
- Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve, Loreto
- Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve, Loreto
- Matsés National Reserve, Loreto
- Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, Madre de Dios
- Tambopata National Reserve, Madre de Dios
- Otishi National Park, Junín
Other Peruvian protected areas:
- Paracas National Reserve, Ica
- Lachay Hills Reserve, Lima
- Titicaca, Puno
- National Reserve of Pampa Galeras Barbara D’Achille, Ayacucho
- Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, Arequipa
- Tumbes National Reserve, Tumbes
These reserves, especially those in the Amazon Rainforest, contain an incredible diversity of wildlife. Some reserves, such as the Pampa Galeras National Reserve, protect Peru’s wild camelids, the ancestors of llamas and alpacas.
Peru is a bird enthusiast’s paradise. From the Andes to the Amazon, you can find incredible bird life. The National Bird of Peru is the Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), easily seen near the Cock of the Rock Lodge on a 3D/2N tour from Cusco.
As Peru contains a large portion of the Amazon Rainforest, the country includes a large amount of Amazon wildlife, such as sloths, monkeys, macaws, giant otters, anacondas and much more, which you can see from Peru’s top Amazon Rainforest Lodges.
Peru is a hit with food lovers worldwide for its traditional and unique cuisine. If you’re even a little bit interested in sampling different foods, you will have already heard about ceviche, a dish originating in Peru consisting of raw fish drizzled with lemon, lime and spices.
Lock up your pets for the next dish, as you may not have realised that Guinea Pigs were originally bred for food and as Europeans farmed Sheep, Goats and Cows, Peruvians living in the Andes farmed Guinea Pigs known locally as cuy.
There are many other main meals to try like various beef, chicken and even alpaca dishes as well as meals centered around the potato. Potatoes originated in Peru and only a few varieties from the thousands available were exported to the rest of the world.
For dessert, again there are many varieties available like the Suspiro a la Limeña, which had its origins in the 19th Century and includes peanut and meringue flavors. Another traditional dessert from the colonial era is Frejol Colado, which is made using black or red beans, honey molasses, clove and toasted sesame seeds. The preparation varies, but usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, red wine, molasses, and brown sugar.
Of an evening, the cocktail of choice is the Pisco Sour, which has a heavy citrus, sour flavor and had its origins in Lima, Peru.
The main cities in Peru to base yourself for a Peruvian adventure are:
- Lima: Gastronomy, culture, base for tours to other areas
- Cusco: Machu Picchu, Cradle of Gold, Manu cloud forest
- Puerto Maldonado: Most developed Amazon tourism industry
- Iquito: Amazon lodges & cruises on the Amazon River
- Cajamarca: Explore Inca history
- Chiclayo: Explore Chachapoyas history
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.