Peruvian Amazon travel guide

When people think of the Amazon theyíre often thinking of Brazil. But, although itís home to the biggest expanse of rainforest, Brazil isnít the best place to visit the Amazon. That would be Peru. The Peruvian Amazon is a densely packed biodiversity hotspot and, because it hasnít yet seen the same scale of development and road building that already threatens many parts of the Brazilian Amazon, itís incredible for wildlife spotting.
If you want to see the Amazon, itís much more cost effective Ė and time effective Ė to visit the Peruvian side.
Itís why responsible tourism is so important here Ė to keep the rainforest free from the large cruise ships and luxury hotels that would otherwise swamp the rivers, and to provide local communities with a sustainable income that will allow them to protect it. Itís also a much better destination for first-time travelers to South America who really want to make their flights count and get the most out of their visit. Brazil is simply massive. Peru is much quicker and cheaper to get around. Read more in our Peruvian Amazon travel guide.

The Peruvian Amazon isÖ

perfect for first-time travelers to South America who want to get the most from their visit and see more of Peru at the same time.

The Peruvian Amazon isnítÖ

a luxury, laid-back vacation. Travelers here will have to cope with the humidity and need a minimum level of fitness to enjoy the jungle walks.

Peruvian Amazon map & highlights

Most Amazon tours take a connecting flight from Lima or Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, and from here on out your main mode of transport will most likely be by boat. River journeys through the thickly overhanging Amazon rainforest can average about six hours. For many visitors, however, this is one of their vacation highlights. ďItís all part of the trip,Ē says Kathy Jarvis from our Peru travel experts Andean Trails. ďWhen youíre on the river boat you see masses and itís a great experience; itís not like youíre sitting on a bus.Ē
Bahuaja-Sonene National Park

1. Bahuaja-Sonene National Park

Navigate upstream on the Tambopata River and you'll discover a very different Amazonian landscape. This is Peru's only tropical savannah, similar to the flooded grasslands of Brazil's Pantanal. Arrive with the early morning sun and you'll see noisy flurries of blue and yellow, and scarlet macaws swooping in to eat salt from the exposed river banks - known as salt clay lick sites.
Eco lodges

2. Eco lodges

Amazon eco lodges are really a part of the vacation, rather than just somewhere you go at the end of it all. It's as close to sleeping comfortably in the heart of the jungle as you can get (camping is not recommended) and many lodges offer educational experiences, including medicinal plant tours and the chance to fly ecological research drones or use wildlife camera traps.
Ese eja Native Community of Infierno

3. Ese eja Native Community of Infierno

Formed in 1974, this is the first officially recognised Native Community in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Travelers here can stay at the renowned community-owned eco lodge and learn about local handicrafts, medicinal plant use and traditional storytelling. Profits from the lodge, which is mostly staffed by people from the community, provide an income for over 150 local families.
Manu National Park

4. Manu National Park

There are no roads into Manu... yet. Unmarred by modern development, this huge protected park is a hotspot for biodiversity, home to jaguars and giant otters and just about every other animal you could hope to see in the Amazon. The only permanent inhabitants are the Indigenous communities, some of which have regular contact with outsiders, while others choose to avoid them.
Puerto Maldonado

5. Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado is a city in south-eastern Peru, just north of Tambopata National Reserve and near the Bolivian border. A former frontier town founded in 1902 as a base for rubber exportation, it has burgeoned into the lively capital of the Madre de Dios region. It's often overlooked by visitors, who view it only as a gateway to the Amazon rainforest.
Sandoval Lake

6. Sandoval Lake

Sandoval is said to be the most beautiful oxbow lake in southern Peru. From the center, in your dugout canoe, thereís no sign of a shoreline Ė only the reflection of the flooded palm forests. Salt lick sites attract macaws, monkeys and tapirs, while giant otters, fat on piranhas and catfish, lounge against the tree trunks that emerge from the lake.
Tambopata National Reserve

7. Tambopata National Reserve

The reserve is a beautiful area of lowland rainforest, swamps, rivers and oxbow lakes Ė a range of ecosystems that has resulted in an incredible array of biodiversity. Over 600 bird species and 1,200 different butterflies make their home here, alongside large jungle animals, from caimans to capybaras, and the harpy eagles and Hoffmanís two-toed sloths that hide amongst the trees.
Tombopata River

8. Tombopata River

The Amazonís rivers act as roads into its most inaccessible regions, and the Tambopata will take you south from Puerto Maldonado until the snow-covered Andean peaks peek above the leafy horizon. Small boat cruises and motorised canoes can slip beneath the overhanging jungle that crowds the edges of the river, where dense foliage hides the monkeys heard rustling in the leaves.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Christian Vinces] [Is isn't: Murray Foubister] [Bahuaja-Sonene National Park: Murray Foubister] [Eco lodges: Ivn Mlinaric] [Ese'eja Native Community of Infierno: USAID Digital Development] [Manu National Park: oarranzli] [Puerto Maldonado: tommy chheng] [Sandoval Lake: Patrick Nouhailler] [Tambopata National Reserve: Murray Foubister]