From its amazing archaeological and gastronomic delights to its scenic beauty and melting pot of cultures, Peru offers visitors a wide array of attractions. While most travellers to Peru make the trip to simply stand in awe as they witness some of the most majestic images in South America (Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley anyone?), there’s a whole new adventure waiting for you to embark on as you journey through the world’s vastly unexplored regions – including the mighty Amazon.
The largest river system in the world, the Amazon spans more than 6000km and passes through the entire South America continent. Covering more than half of Peru, the Peruvian Amazon can be divided into three main areas; the southern, central and northern selva (jungle). However, to visit the actual Amazon River (not a tributary), you have to travel to the northern selva, starting in Iquitos. In order to uncover and witness what life along the Amazon is like, these are the experiences you don’t want to miss!
Iquitos city stay
Accessible only by boat and plane, Iquitos is the largest city in the world that can’t be reached by road. While it’s not part of the Amazon jungle; rather the city is known as the ‘Gateway to the Amazon’, it is still worth spending some time here, before embarking on a jungle tour. Check out the 19th-century boom town with ornate homes built by the “rubber barons” of the day, such as La Casa di Fierro (The Iron House), which was designed by architect Gustave Eiffel; or visit the Manatee Rescue Centre to learn about these endangered Amazon species and the conservation efforts to save these gentle giants.
Wildlife spotting on the Amazon
As the northern selva is the only area in Peru where it is possible to visit the actual Amazon river, there’s a lot of wildlife that can’t be found in other rivers. Embark on a guided panga ride, where a local guide will help you to spot capuchin, howler, tamarin and spider monkeys, iguanas, sloths, the elusive pink water dolphin and a stunning array of birdlife.
Float through the giant water lilies
The Amazon Rainforest is famed for its biodiversity; homing more than half of the world animal, plant and insect species. One such plant is the Victoria Lily, which also goes by the name of Victoria Amazonia or the giant lily. As the name suggests, the giant lily is huge – they can grow up to 3 metres in length! They are also very strong and can easily hold the weight of a human. During the wet season, these massive plants can cover entire sections of the river and at night their pure white flowers open up to release a pineapple-like smell.
Birdwatch at Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Embark on a guided excursion through the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, where you can witness the activity of exotic birds, including trogons, macaws, parrots, falcons, and jacamars.
Explore the local flora
Join a naturalist-guided walk to explore tropical flora including epiphytes, orchids and indigenous jungle vegetation below the rainforest canopy. Find out about indigenous and medicinal plants, fruits and vegetation used in the Amazonian culture for centuries.
Visit a local village
Believe it or not, the entire Amazon River and its catchment is home to more than 20 million people. There are several cities with a population of more than a million, such as Belem and Manaus in Brazil, and Peru’s Iquitos. Beyond the big cities, there are also many riverside villages that are home to many Amazonians.
With a population of 450, San Francisco is home to local villagers who have called the Amazon their home for generations.
Go on a night safari
Join a night safari excursion to spot nocturnal creatures including caiman, frogs, bats, and boa constrictors. Night time is also the perfect time to test your hand at fishing for piranhas!
River cruising is a great way to explore Peru’s Amazon, offering a new perspective of the world’s largest ecosystem. Interested in exploring it yourself? Check out our Peruvian Amazon river cruise itinerary!