A classic Amazon destination, this modern city of two million people lies pretty much smack-bang in the middle of the rainforest. Plenty of first-rate jungle lodges are scattered throughout the region while a number of river cruise liners ply murky waters in search of colorful and exotic wildlife. Day trippers are in luck too, as there are loads of fascinating attractions within easy reach of the city. Note that Manaus is extremely isolated, requiring a domestic flight or riverboat journey of several days to reach it.
As Bolivia’s Amazon haven, the far-flung jungle town of Rurrenabaque is a hit with backpackers and upmarket travelers alike. A three-day pampas tour is the region’s bread and butter, offering an incredibly cheap wildlife safari experience where travelers come face to face with caiman, monkeys, and more creepy crawlies than you can poke a stick at. Those with a bit of cash to splash should opt for the more high-end Chalalán lodge which is nestled deep within Madidi, the country’s most diverse national park.
The largest city in the world to be completely unreachable by road, the Peruvian town of Iquitos is the epitome of isolation. A favorite among upmarket travelers for the wide range of luxury river cruises on offer, Iquitos is without question the country’s most lucrative eco-tourism hub. For the less well-heeled, a plethora of more reasonably priced jungle lodges and day tours offer exceptional Amazon wildlife experiences.
Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Unbeknownst to many travelers is that Peru has a second world-class Amazon adventure destination. Situated east of Cusco towards the border with Bolivia and Brazil, this steamy jungle town is flanked by the Tambopata and Manu national parks, widely considered among the best in the continent. Bird lovers adore the region for its clay licks that attract a flurry of colorful bird life including the rainbow colored macaw, although a myriad of other exotic animals can be spotted in the region as well.
Of Ecuador’s numerous Amazon hubs, Coca is widely considered the best due to its proximity to Yasuni National Park which is thought to be the most bio-diverse region on earth. Bird watching is the big draw card here, with some 600 confirmed species which constitutes about a third of Amazon bird life. For the non-birders among us, there are plenty of reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects to spot as well. Just be sure to get in quick because the park has recently been approved for oil exploitation.
As the undisputed capital of Colombia’s Amazon, Leticica is the hub city of choice for exploring the most pristine rainforest the country has to offer. Interestingly, the town is located right on the border with Peru and Brazil, meaning intrepid travelers can explore sections of the Amazon in all three countries in just one day. A number of local jungle lodges offer immersive multi-day forays that include ample wildlife spotting opportunities.
The Pantanal, Brazil
Okay, we know. Brazil’s expansive pantanal isn’t technically part of the Amazon. Nevertheless, the wildlife spotting here is so good we feel it’s still worthy of a mention. Essentially a huge flooded swamp, the pantanal is largely devoid of thick foliage meaning wildlife spotting is a breeze. Although tours are a bit on the pricey side, a dizzying array of reptiles, bird life, and cute fuzzy mammals make it all worthwhile.