Exploring Amazonia

  • 3 Weeks

More than half of Peru is jungle, populated by spectacular wildlife and tribal peoples. Go overland and drop dramatically away from the eastern slopes of the Andes to slip deep into the Amazon Basin, which stretches all the way to the Atlantic. This entire itinerary takes a month, or it can be divided by region into one- or two-week segments.

The most popular excursion starts from Cuzco and heads to the Manu area, itself the size of a small country, albeit one with kingdoms of jungle lodges. Another option is to fly from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado and kick back in a thatch-roofed bungalow with a view, either along the Río Madre de Dios, the gateway to lovely Lago Sandoval, or along the Río Tambopata, where a national reserve protects one of the country’s largest clay licks. The dry season (July and August) is traditionally the best time to return overland back to Cuzco, although the recent paving of this route means it’s now possible outside these months.

Or return to Lima and turn your focus to the north. The easiest way to get there is to fly from Lima to Pucallpa, a city experiencing a resurgence in popularity, and staying in a lodge or a bungalow in the nearby traveler hangout of Yarinacocha. The lovely oxbow lake is ringed by tribal villages. You can visit some of these, including those of the matriarchal Shipibo people, renowned for their pottery. Hardcore overland travelers can opt to reach Pucallpa from Lima via a multiday river trip to San Ramón, a coffee-growing settlement.

From Pucallpa, begin the classic slow riverboat journey north along the Río Ucayali to Iquitos, the world’s largest city with no road access! This northern jungle capital has a buoyant cultural and nightlife scene, a floating market and a bustling port, where you can catch a more comfortable cruise into Peru’s largest protected space, Reserva Nacional Pacaya-Samiria. You can also access Iquitos flying from Cuzco. It’s also tempting to float over into Colombia or Brazil via the unique tri-border zone.

It’s best to fly if your time is limited; if not, lose yourself for weeks on epic river and road journeys through jungle terrain. Bring bucketloads of patience and self-reliance – and a lot of luck never hurts.