For a quick Amazon fix on long weekends and holidays, limeños (inhabitants of Lima) usually head for this relatively accessible Amazon region, reachable in eight hours by bus. The tropical Chanchamayo province is as different to the coastal desert strip or the Andean mountains as can be.
Abutting the neighboring nations of Bolivia and Brazil, the vast tract of the southern Amazon Basin is one of the Peru’s remotest territories: comparatively little of it is either inhabited or explored. That said, this is changing almost as fast as a Peruvian bus timetable, thanks to the Trans-Oceanic Highway transecting much of the region.
The busy port of Pucallpa has a distinctly less jungle-like appearance than other Amazonian towns. Although this is an important distribution center for goods along the broad, brown Río Ucayali, which sweeps past the city en route to join the Río Amazonas, the rainforest feels far away.
This sleepy, unspectacular port is one of the Peruvian Amazon’s best-connected towns and the gateway to the northern tract of the Amazonas. It’s visited by travelers looking for boats down the Río Huallaga to Iquitos and the Amazon proper or by those wanting to experience one of Peru’s most animal-rich paradises, the Pacaya-Samiria reserve, which is accessible from here.
The Manu area encompasses the Parque Nacional Manu and much of the surrounding jungle and cloud forest. Covering almost 20,000 sq km (about the size of Wales), the park is one of the best places in South America to see a wide variety of tropical wildlife. The park is divided into three zones.
About 10km northwest of central Pucallpa, Yarinacocha is a lovely oxbow lake where you can go canoeing, observe wildlife, and visit indigenous communities and purchase their handicrafts. The lake, once part of the Río Ucayali, is now entirely landlocked, though a small canal links the two bodies of water during the rainy season.
Travelers come to muddy, mosquito-rich Lagunas because it is the best point from which to begin a trip to the Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. It’s a spread-out, remote place; there are stores but stock (slightly pricier than elsewhere in Peru) is limited, so it’s wise to bring your own supplies as back-up. There are no money-changing facilities and hardly any public phones.