10 Things to Know Before Exploring the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

Belen gas station | © Apollo / Flickr
Belen gas station | © Apollo / Flickr
The Amazon is a wild place, and abides by its own rules. Things move a bit more slowly there, and the world is a bit stranger than you first supposed. You’ll experience things both odd and inspiring, and it’s all a part of the Amazon experience. Getting around can be tricky at times if you don’t know what to expect, which is where our guide can help. Here are some things you need to know before you set out to explore the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

It’s Best to Explore by Boat

There’s no better way of exploring the Amazon River than by actually being on it, looking out at the dense rainforest. You’ll see river dolphins, if you’re lucky, and you’ll pass by some amazing floating villages.

Speedboats Get You There Faster

This isn’t the most scenic way to see the Amazon, because you’ll be speeding along it, but it does allow you to travel around the Amazon quickly. While the boat does fly by, you’ll still have opportunities to see wildlife at a glance, and spot some of the more remote villages.

Amazon riverboat © Henri Bergius / Flickr

You’ll See More on a Cargo Ship

This is the slowest way to get around the Amazon, but it is definitely the most remarkable experience. You’ll be stuck in a cargo ship that is delivering supplies all up and down the Amazon River, so the main focus of the trip is supplies; the passengers are a second thought. You’ll sleep in a room with about 70 other Peruvians, all strung up in hammocks with chickens roaming underneath. It’s the best way to see the river, as you slowly crawl your way through it. A popular route is from Yurimaguas, which is a popular port town, to Iquitos, which will take about three days.

Guided Hikes Keep You Safe

While in the rainforest, it’s best to take advantage of experts, who can show you all there is to explore. You can’t just show up and say, “I’m going into the jungle.” Decisions like that are reckless and dangerous.

Amazon jungle © Rob / Flickr

Multi-Day Hikes Get You Close to the Action

This is how you really get down and dirty and explore the Amazon rainforest for real. Expert guides will take you through virgin rainforests with machetes, but this isn’t for the faint of heart. The Amazon heat is exhausting and will wear you out. Bring plenty of clothes and bug spray and enjoy the close proximity to the jungle; you can’t get much closer.

Day Hikes Are Fun

These the most recommended, because they’ll be less strenuous and you’ll be back in a bed soon after it’s over. You can do day trips to see crocodiles, manatees, snakes, and monkeys, and there’s plenty of birdwatching, too. Most companies will include attempts to view many of these animals in a day trip.

The Best Places to Go

The Amazon is a gigantic place, so it can be difficult figuring out where best to start your trip. The following ideas will help get you started.

Iquitos © Laura de Marco / Flickr

Iquitos is a Great Place to Start

You can only get to Iquitos by boat or plane; there are no roads leading there, which gives you the best opportunities to explore virgin rainforests undisturbed by cars and roads. Out of Iquitos you can arrange all tours form one of the many tour operators located around the Plaza de Armas or along the Malecon.

Parque Manu is Unmissable

The combination of the Andes and the Amazon rainforest creates a an ecology and biodiversity unlike anywhere else in the world. After you’ve explored the Andes, shed your jackets and scarfs and head down to the jungle. Parque Manu is Peru’s most well-preserved national park and gives you the best shot of seeing some wildlife.

Not All Tours Are Equal: How to Avoid Scams

The best way to avoid amateur tour guides is to head for reputable tour companies; they will be located in the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos, and can be found and researched online. Pay attention to the reviews for each tour, and check out how long they have been doing tours for. While more reputable companies will be a little bit more expensive, it’s worth it in order to get the most out of the Amazon. Always avoid people who approach you on the streets claiming to be guides.