The Peruvian Amazon is a fascinating, rare and beautiful place, anyone who decides to visit the rainforest as part of a vacation, will undoubtedly have the opportunity to observe the incredible wildlife, hear fascinating sounds of the rainforest at night, while one sleeps in the lodge, a unique and wonderful experience. On our planet Earth there are many tropical places with rainforest, but Peru is the country that offers the Amazon rainforest with the high levels of biodiversity, places with better opportunities for different tourist activities such as rainforest walks, excursions, exploration of lakes, towers, boat trips, bird watching and wildlife viewing.
Peru has three regions for excursions to the rainforest and you can be able to visit from different parts of the country, access to the Peruvian rainforest is much easier, safer and more abundant with wildlife compared to other countries like Brazil (which requires extensive trips to reach the true heart of the rainforest). The other advantage is that Peru offers other wonderful places to visit, so the visit to the rainforest could be as part of a larger vacation throughout the country, visits to the rainforest can easily be added to the tours of Machu Picchu, Camino Inca or other treks in the Andes.
Iquitos, Manu and Tambopata. Although it would be wonderful to visit the three regions, of course it is possible, but in reality most travelers select a destination that has a connection to another attraction in or close to the same region during their visit in Peru.
Iquitos is a city in the Loreto region in northeast Peru, a fascinating and living example of a rainforest city, and cannot be reached by road, travel to the city it is only possible by plane or by boat. Most people who travel through the Amazon use the city of Iquitos as a transit point for cruises or for guided visits to the Amazon rainforest that surrounds the city. This region has a great variety of hostels that cover the exceptional of a traveler.
One of the benefits of getting to know the Amazon in the Iquitos region is that it is the only region in Peru where it is possible to visit the true “Amazon river”. The river contains wildlife that is not found in any other smaller tributaries in this region, like pink dolphins. There are also some great excursions, including piranha fishing and walking along an extended canopy in the treetops.
One of the other benefits of this region is that it is one of the only places where it is possible to visit villages and learn traditional ways of life. There are indigenous people throughout the Amazon, the true “uncontacted” tribes. They are protected and tourists cannot visit these places, but there are some towns that can be visited like the Yagua tribe in this region, and they have opened their towns to share demonstrations of their traditional dance and hunting techniques.
The main disadvantage of traveling to this rainforest region compared to other regions in Peru could be the travel costs to Iquitos (regular daily flights from Lima) are usually more expensive than the travel costs to other rainforest regions – Particularly for people who also want to visit Machu Piccchu – Cusco, Manu and Tambopata are much closer.
The large size of Iquitos also means that wildlife is less abundant in places close to the city, so if you travel to this region to observe bird life or wildlife in general, chances will be less than elsewhere from Peru, unless you travel for prolonged periods of time in the Amazon far from the city.
A good option for you if you want to navigate the Amazon river, interested in staying in high-quality lodges, visiting traditional towns and for those who also want to visit the city of Iquitos. Bird watchers and anyone who travels to the Amazon specifically to observe wildlife may find better options elsewhere.
The Manu National Park is protected by UNESCO and contains incredible levels of biodiversity with more than 15,000 plant species, more than 1000 species of birds and more than 400 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
The Manu National Park is made up of two wildlife zones called cultural and reserve. Both are controlled by the Peruvian government through park guards. There is also a presence of institutions that carry out research and travel agents that carry out activities complying with the conservation regulations and protocols.
One of the benefits of the Cultural Zone is that one can arrive by road on a full-day trip from Cusco, which is an impressive and dazzling trip to do, travel through the Andes on a mountain pass and then descend again to the cloud forests of the Amazon. Due to its ease of access by road and the lack of flights to the place, the Cultural Zone is a very good value option for tours to Manu, and excursions of 3 days (or more) can be made from Cusco. Another advantage of the Cultural Zone and the cloud forest is that it offers very good opportunities for bird watching, hiking, getting to know small rainforest towns and being able to observe the Cock of the Rocks.
The main advantage of traveling to the Manu Cultural Zone compared to the Tambopata and Iquitos region is that, due to its proximity to Cusco, it is perceived as a more valuable option, as it can be reached by road observing nature and you will be able to find accommodation with adequate standards for a traveler who likes nature and rainforest.
The Manu Reserved Zone is located in the heart of Manu, far from Cusco and can be reached through a very long journey, first by road from Cusco, then by boat on the deep river into the rainforest. The wildlife there is very abundant, therefore this region is very popular for wildlife enthusiasts, hikers and bird watchers or those who want a specific type of vacation, such as wildlife photography vacation. On-site accommodation is comfortable but not luxurious, it should be understood that due to its remoteness, however, due to the duration of the trip, specialized nature guides, accommodation and also the isolated location of the accommodation make travel costs for food and resource logistics to be more expensive, this can be a much more expensive.
If you are desperate to see the Peruvian Cock of the Rock or are looking for the best option to travel to the Peruvian Amazon, then the Manu Cultural Zone is a good option and you can do a tour up to six days. If your budget allows it and you are looking for a type of vacation with more nature, such as a bird watching vacation, photography then the Reserved Zone is an excellent option and you can take a tour from 6 days. However, if you want to visit the real “Amazon River” instead of a tributary, want to avoid the long road trip from Cusco to Manu, or prefer a higher level of accommodation, then you can find better options elsewhere.
Tambopata is a province within the Madre de Dios region in southeastern Peru, near the border with Bolivia. The rainforest region of Tambopata is generally accessed via short flights from Lima or Cusco, to the city of Puerto Maldonado the capital of the Madre de Dios region.
There are many advantages of Tambopata as an option for a visit to the Amazon rainforest in Peru, and as a consequence, this is actually a very popular option for rainforest tours.
Tambopata is close to Manu and therefore has almost the same levels of flora and fauna biodiversity as Manu itself, making it a good option for those looking to observe wildlife. Puerto Maldonado is also a much smaller city than Iquitos, in southern Peru, and therefore has less impact on the region’s wildlife, which means that long boat trips through the depths of the Amazon are not always necessary away from the city to observe wildlife. Another plus is that there are some great options for daily excursions in this region, the tour to the macaw and parrot clay licks, the canopy towers, the otter lakes and other natural places of interest that attract wildlife.
Tambopata also contains some excellent lodges that offer a good mix of comfortable services, with location and easy access to wildlife, with local guides with good knowledge of wildlife.
The disadvantages of traveling to the Tambopata rainforest region are few and far between with Manu, as the region generally has fabulous wildlife opportunities and good standards of accommodation. However, it may be a more expensive option compared to the Manu Cultural Zone due to the requirement of domestic flights to Puerto Maldonado, and the Manu Reserved Zone is probably a better option if you are looking for nature and wildlife.
Tambopata gets a choice as the best rainforest option in Peru, ease of access, accommodation standards, and opportunities to observe wildlife and experience the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Tambopata can be a region can be better value to visit when compared to Iquitos due to the cheaper travel costs to the region, and compared to the Manu Reserved Zone, since the accommodations can be easier to access. However, if you are looking for a budget option, or want to visit the Amazon River (rather than a tributary), then you can find better options elsewhere.