Discover the best places to visit the Amazon Rainforest in South America and what to combine your visit with.
Our preferred Amazon cruises and specialist lodges are generally clustered around four regions; near the port city of Manaus in the north of Brazil, those around Coca in eastern Ecuador and in two different parts of Peru. We have chosen these locations because of the immersive Amazon experience that they offer our clients; luxury cruises and excellent lodges all operating in areas of extraordinary biodiversity, largely untouched by humans and with experienced naturalist guides that have intimate knowledge of their regions.
In addition, these areas are all relatively easily accessible from the main airports of the countries and so can be combined with some of the continent's most popular travel destinations, including Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. For many this may be the starting point when deciding where to visit the Amazon Rainforest, so the first step would be to consider what other locations most attract you. You may wish to consider some of the tours at the bottom to aid you in this.
Let's have a look at each area in a bit more depth to give you an overview of what each has to offer.
Visiting the Brazilian Amazon
Brazil is perhaps the country most synonymous with the Amazon, boasting over 60% of the region and home to most of the actual Amazon River. There are a couple of things that distinguish Brazil's Amazon from the areas visited in Ecuador and in the Tambopata region of Peru. Firstly, much of the land near Manaus is subject to flooding when the rainy season arrives in the Andes, from where the water of the Amazon originates. This dramatic raising of water levels causes many forests to flood for around eight months each year, submerging the forest floors and creating bizarre habitats that allow exploration in boats and canoes, taking you closer to the wildlife activity of the forest canopies.
The second distinction is that the area around Manaus is the best place to visit the actual Amazon River; the lodges in Peru cover the Tambopata Reserve much further south and the river does not actually flow through Ecuador. Whilst the river actually starts in Peru, most Brazilians only consider it to be the true Rio Amazonas beyond the 'Meeting of the Waters' near Manaus. This is where the silty waters of the Rio Solimões run side-by-side with the darker Rio Negro for several miles. This natural phenomenon creates a remarkable landscape and one of the highlights of the Brazilian Amazon, particularly as this is one of the best places to spot the Amazon pink river dolphin.
We offer a number of lodges around Manaus and also the Tucano Amazon cruise, which lasts four or seven nights and also starts and finishes in Manaus, visiting the the world's largest river island system - the Anavilhanas Archipelago. The closest lodge to Manaus is the Amazon Ecopark Lodge, a short boat ride away, whilst the others require longer journeys in motorized canoes, but are in more pristine areas of the rainforest, far away from the city.
What to combine with the Brazilian Amazon: The most popular places to combine with the Brazilian Amazon are the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia and the beaches of Praia do Forte. Wildlife enthusiasts might consider visiting the Pantanal wetlands, whilst further south are the mighty Iguassu Falls.
Meeting of the Waters (by Juma Lodge), sloth, flooded forest & community member (by Visit Brasil)
Visiting the Peruvian Amazon
The cruises are accessed from Iquitos airport and the surrounding area is known as the 'mirror forest', as it is thought to be the largest protected flooded forest in the world. This stands in contrast to the lodges of the south, which mainly exist in terra firme conditions that never flood. Cruises here offer the same comprehensive Amazon experience; abundant wildlife, diverse flora and local community visits, all from the comfort of a luxury traditional riverboat. You will also cruise along the Marañón River, that will eventually merge into the Ucayali River to form the start of the Amazon River.
The lodges are accessed from Puerto Maldonado, reached by a short flight from Lima or Cusco. Upon arrival, you will transfer to the port and board a motorized canoe that will transport you to your lodge, deep in the Amazon Rainforest. This area of the Peruvian Rainforest is known for its extraordinary biodiveristy. Macaw and parrot clay licks, canopy observation towers, oxbow lake visits and jungle night walks all allow you to better observe the exotic and varied wildlife of the area, whilst nature trails showcase the remarkable trees and plants of the jungle. At various lodges here you might also have the chance to kayak, mountain bike, paddle board or even climb a tree! There are also local communities that you can visit to see how they have adapted to jungle life.
What to combine with the Peruvian Amazon: Given that British Airways fly direct to the capital Lima, this is the most natural starting point for your trip. For first time visitors to Peru it is highly likely that you will want to visit the Inca heartland of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, perhaps undertaking the Inca Trail if you have the time and fitness levels. Further south on the Bolivian border is magical Lake Titicaca, home to remote traditional communities.
Clay lick, observation tower, kayaking and jungle walk (by Perunature)
Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon
Much like the area around the Tambopata River in Peru, the Ecuadorian Amazon offers areas of immense biodiversity and untouched natural beauty. The majority of the jungle lodges and the Manatee and Anakonda cruises are based along the Napo River in the Yasuni Biosphere area and Yasuni National Park and are accessed from the town of Coca, a short flight from Quito. The one exception to this is the Kapawi Lodge, which is further south in splendid isolation at the confluence over the Pastaza and Capahuari Rivers, near the Peruvian border. To arrive here, you will be transferred by road from Quito to the town of Shell and then take a short flight in a small plane. The lodge is around ten days walk from the nearest road!
Visitors to the Ecuadorian Amazon can witness colourful macaws and parrots descending on clay licks, climb canopy observation towers for a closer look at the wildlife hidden high above the forest floor, meet local communities carving out a life in the world's biggest rainforest and head out after dark in search of nocturnal wildlife activity. As in all parts of the Amazon, the jungle trails of the region immerse you in the sights and sounds of the jungle and guests of the Sacha Lodge can walk across their 275 metre treetop walkway or visit their very own butterfly house.
What to combine with the Ecuadorian Amazon: The capital Quito is surrounded by high Andean peaks and boasts some of the continent's best churches. Travelling south you could drive through the Avenue of the Volcanoes to the colonial city of Cuenca. Most visitors to Ecuador combine the mainland with a seven night cruise around the famous Galapagos archipelago, getting incredibly close to a huge range of wildlife.
Treetop walkway at Sacha Lodge, hiking on Manatee Cruise, Giant Otters (by Napo Wildlife Centre), Rainforest view
Want to know more? Now that you know where the best places to visit the Amazon Rainforest are, you might like to browse below for a selection of itineraries which include the Amazon in Brazil, Peru or Ecuador, or perhaps see our other articles about what you can expect from a visit to the Amazon Rainforest and when the best time to visit is.
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