The Wild South: Exploring the Peruvian Amazon

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The Amazon has caught the collective imagination of people for the longest time. It has inspired explorers, discoverers, biologists, anthropologists, marine scientists, authors, artists, and countless other people. It is a diverse area, rich in biodiversity and in culture. While most people go to Brazil to explore the Amazon, a trip to Peru offers a quieter alternative route. You can experience the beautiful rainforest by foot or through the river.

Peru has been fierce about protecting its rainforests when compared to many other South American countries. This makes it the best possible location for you to observe the beautiful rivers and impenetrable jungle that has made the Amazon this popular.

So, what places should you be visiting when you’re in the Amazon? Here’s a list of 5 destinations for you to gain inspiration from!

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1. Puerto Maldonado

The southern jungles are filled with serene rivers and thick forests. The capital is Puerto Maldonado, a city you must definitely not miss out on. Puerto Maldonado is the easiest point of connection to the other areas in the southern jungle, as it has a direct connection to Cusco. Nestled between the Tambopata River, Made de Dios river, and Heath river, this fertile land is full of life, and great food. This is a great place for you to set off on a river cruise, as it is home to Tambopata Research Centre, one of the most important study centers for Amazon’s wildlife. Get a guided tour of the area, and learn more about the rich biodiversity and unique animals!

2. Iquitos

Iquitos city an amazon River port in the northeastern Peru
Iquitos a city in Peru's northeastern Amazon

Iquitos is a unique city in many ways. It’s got some amazing museums, great restaurants, and beautiful mansions that will make you envious. Oh, it is also not reachable by road! You read that right - Iquitos is a city of around half a million people, and it is only accessible through the Amazon river. Now, that is the kind of adventure everybody should embark on!

Iquitos is a city you will never get bored in. You can go for a relaxing walk by the promenade on the banks of the Amazon river, you can treat yourself to authentic Peruvian dishes in one of the city’s many famous restaurants, or explore an animal rescue centre in Padre Cocha. If you’re in the mood for adventure, you can hike up to the northern jungles on the outskirts of Iquitos - presumed to be the most biodiverse part of the Amazon!

3. Northern Jungle

The Amazon River outside of Iquitos in the northern jungle
The Amazon River outside of Iquitos in the northern jungle

The Northern Jungle provides equal opportunities for exploration and encounters as the South Jungle. To explore this area, you will have to get to Iquitos, and take one of the many river tours available. You will be able to explore a lot more of this area, and also have the benefit of a knowledgeable guide who can tell you more about the area’s historical and biological significance. One of the best river tours you can take will lead you down the Amazon, till the border, where Peru meets Brazil and Colombia. This border is definitely one of the most beautiful ones in the entire world!

Oh, the best part? You can choose the kind of boat you’d like to go on as well! Are you more interested in a speed boat? Or would you want to step back in time and take a 19th century boat instead? It’s all up to you!

4. Parque Nacional Manu

A Jaguar in the Peruvian amazon jungle Madre de Dios Peru
Manu National Park a world cultural heritage site with greatest biodiversity on the planet

This is the original name of Manu National Park, the park nestled in that stunning cloud forest. The best way to explore the park is through guided tour from Cusco that will ensure you get all the information you require to understand the beauty of the place. Manu National Park is famous among bird-watchers and fans of conservation. The Peruvian government has taken exceptional steps to protect the forest, its biodiversity and the indigenous people that live there. If you want to explore the depths of the park, you will have to get a lot of permits from the government- but the guided tour will cover substantial portions of the jungle and the Alto Madre de Dios river.

5. Oxapampa

Oxapampa is a city established by Germans in the 19th century. The town still retains a lot of its German roots to this date! It’s quite the experience — running into a German town in the middle of the Peruvian jungles. Oxapampa lies at the edge of the cloud forest (yes, there is a cloud forest so close to town, and yes, it is as magical as it sounds). The cloud forest gets its name from the fact that it is a high altitude forest that is always cloaked in a layer of clouds.

Travel up to Oxapampa, enjoy some fine German hospitality and food, then set off on a hike in Yanachaga-Chemilen, one of Peru’s best national parks. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a sight of the spectacled bear!

Check out these amazing tours to the Peruvian Amazon.

Some Tips for Traveling in the Peruvian Amazon

  • Make sure you do your research. Some of these places are rather remote, and you will want to ensure that you know your way in and out beforehand.
  • Do not forget to carry your binoculars and go birdwatching wherever you are — it’s the best activity to do in the Amazon, after all.
  • Instead of staying in a hotel, opt for a jungle lodge. This will put you right in the middle of the action, and will be a far more unique experience.
  • If you want to fly to the Amazon from Lima, your destinations will be Iquitos (for the north), and Puerto Maldonado (for the south). You can reach both these places by bus from Cusco as well.
  • There are connections between the northern and southern jungles as well. There’s a river trip that connects Yurimaguas and Iquitos.

Being in the Peruvian Amazon gives you a perspective on life that you won’t find anywhere else - and will reconnect you to your roots, and your soul. The Amazon has been facing the problems of global warming and deforestation for a long time, and visiting this beautiful country will give you an understanding of how important it is to conserve it. So put on your trekking shoes, grab a mosquito repellent, and set off on the adventure of a lifetime!

Published by Erik Jensen, updated on April 23, 2024

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