Luxury Amazon Cruises and Lodges
To visit Peru’s Amazon you can choose between a luxury Amazon cruise or lodge – the difference centers on the experience being more water or land based. Overall, the level of comfort is higher on a luxury cruise, though arguably lodges – especially the most remote lodge Tambopata Research Center – offer a more ‘authentic’ and up-close wildlife experience.
Luxury Amazon Cruises: Iquitos
Cruises depart from Iquitos, in Peru’s north, which has direct flights from Lima. As of 2018 there are also limited direct flights to and from Cusco. Cruises focus on the Amazon river and rivers leading into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This is the second largest national reserve in Peru, spanning 5 million acres. The Pacaya Samiria Reserve sits within the tropical Amazon rainforest but functions like a flooded forest – in fact the largest protected flooded forest in the world. As such, if you visit in the high water season (November – May), almost every river, creek and lake is navigable. If you visit in the low water season (June-October) some trails and jungle paths become accessible, as opposed to only exploring by boat. By taking a luxury Amazon cruise you may spot the pink river dolphin – which you won’ see if you stay in a lodge. Cruises are three nights, four nights or seven nights in duration with set departures – unless you privately charter a vessel.
Luxury Amazon Lodges: Tambopata
There are a range of lodges in Peru that offer different levels of comfort – at Aracari we recommend authentic jungle lodges that provide comfort balanced with the best wildlife watching opportunities. We only recommend staying in lodges in, and near, to Tambopata National Reserve, although lodges do exist in the north of Peru by Iquitos. Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica and Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion are the most luxurious options. They are also closest to Puerto Maldonado city, the gateway into the this part of the Amazon with direct flights from Lima and Cusco. Delving deeper into the Amazon requires longer boat rides to reach properties like Refugio Amazonas. Tambopata Research Center is the most remote property.
Authentic Amazon Lodges: Manu
Avid wildlife watchers may also want to consider visiting Manu National Park – the biggest national park in Peru. Despite being harder to access and with more rustic accommodation, this region is bursting with wildlife opportunities and particularly attracts keen birders.
The Amazon rainforests and rivers are the richest of all environments — full of amazing plants, animals and insects and also very beautiful. But someone entering a tropical forest for the first time is amazed by how quiet and lifeless it seems. This is because most of the action is far above our heads in the canopy, or it is nocturnal, or animals move very fast through the dense vegetation, or they are hidden by brilliant camouflage.
This is why the right guide is essential. A good guide knows something about botany, zoology, entomology, hydrology, anthropology, history and many other disciplines. That expert can reveal the secrets, find the wildlife and tell innumerable stories about the most fascinating (and important) ecosystem on earth.
Written for Aracari by Dr. John Hemming, a renowned historian and expert on the indigenous people of the Amazon.
Top Tips on visiting the Amazon Rainforest
When traveling to the Amazon Rainforest one expects to see exotic wildlife, but you have to know where to go and have an expert guide help point it out. Tropical forests are fragile, complex and incredibly diverse ecosystems that deserve time and focus in order to be valued for what they are: the richest of all environments on the earth. Wildlife will be elusive and you will be lucky if you spot many mammals. Birds abound here, but big animals are rare and even more difficult to see. These are some of the key factors we look at when making personalized recommendations for tailormade trips to the Amazon rainforest.
UK journalist Chris Moss has written an extensive Amazon travel guide, and lists Aracari’s four-day Amazon exploration based at Refugio Amazonas.
Family Travel to the Amazon
The rainforest is an ideal place to travel on a Peru family tour and some of the lodges we promote have wonderful family programmes, such as Refugio Amazonas. You can go on jungle trails both by day and night and climb through tree top canopies for a varied experiences and perspective on the mighty Amazon rainforest. With or without a dedicated family programme, we would recommend the rainforest as one of the top destinations to visit during a family trip to Peru.