What is the Best Region to Visit in the Amazon Rainforest in Peru?
The truth is that the Amazon in Peru is a fascinating, rare and beautiful location on our planet. Whichever part of the Amazon you decide to visit, you will undoubtedly have opportunities to spot incredible wildlife. Moreover, you can listen to the fascinating sounds of the jungle at night, sleep in a jungle lodge, and have unique and wonderful experiences.
In Peru there are three main regions where it is possible to go on tours to the Amazon Rainforest. You can experience the true vibrancy of the jungle in Manu National Park, Tambopata, and the Iquitos Region. Although, it would be wonderful to visit all three regions and of course this is possible, in reality most tourists would select one jungle region from these options.
Iquitos Amazon Jungle Region
Iquitos is a city in the north-eastern Amazon in Peru and is the largest city in the world that cannot be accessed by road – travel to the city is only possible via flight or river boat.
One of the benefits of visiting the Amazon in the Iquitos region of Peru is this is the only region of Peru where it is possible to visit the true “Amazon River”. If sailing down the vast Amazon River is something you want to tick off your bucket-list, then you must visit this region. The river also has wildlife those are not found in some of the smaller tributaries. Hence spotting for rare pink river dolphins is possible. In addition to the fantastic lodges in this region there are also some excellent excursions. Famous excursions are piranha fishing, and walking along an extended canopy on the tree-tops.
One of the other benefits of this region is that it is the only place where it is possible to visit villages and see traditional ways of life. Although indigenous villages and peoples exist throughout the entire Amazon, the true “uncontacted” tribes are protected and it is not possible for tourists to visit those locations. The Yagua tribe, are one example of the types of villages that can be visited in this region. They have opened their villages to share demonstrations of their traditional dancing and hunting techniques.
There are some disadvantages of travelling to this jungle region when compared to other jungle regions in Peru. Travel costs to / from Iquitos (regular daily flights from Lima) are usually more expensive than travel costs to other jungle regions in Peru. Particularly for people who also want to visit Cusco as both Manu and Tambopata are much closer to Cusco.
Manu Amazon Jungle
Manu National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains incredible levels of biodiversity with over 15,000 species of plants, over 1000 species of birds. It is also home to over 400 species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
One of the benefits of the Cultural Zone is that it can be accessed via road on a full day journey from Cusco. This can be a breath-taking and stunning journey to make. Travelling up and over the Andes at a mountain pass then back down to descend into the cloud forests of the Amazon. Due to its ease of access via road, and lack of requirement for flights, the Cultural Zone is a very good value option for tours to Manu, and 3-day tours (or longer) are possible from Cusco. Another advantage to the Cultural Zone is that it provides a very good chance you will be able to observe the Peruvian Cock of the Rock bird of paradise (photo below).
The main disadvantage of travel to the Manu Cultural Zone compared to both Tambopata and Iquitos region is that due to its proximity with Cusco. It is perceived to be more of a value option, and the standards of some of the lodges are not quite as good as those found in other jungle locations in Peru.
Tambopata Amazon Jungle
Tambopata is a province within the Madre de Dios region in south-eastern Peru. It is close to the Bolivian border. The jungle region is usually accessed via short flights from Lima or Cusco to the city of Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the Madre de Dios region.
Tambopata is close to Manu, and therefore has almost the same levels of biodiversity and flora and fauna as Manu. Hence it is a good option for those looking to observe wildlife. Puerto Maldonado is also a much smaller city than Iquitos, in northern Peru. Therefore has less of an impact on the wildlife in the region meaning that lengthy riverboat journeys deep within the Amazon away from the city are not always necessary to allow you to observe some fabulous wildlife. Another advantage is that there are some great options for daily excursions in this region, with macaw and parrot clay-licks being a highlight, but with canopy towers, ox-bow lakes and other natural landmarks also attracting wildlife.
Tambopata also has some excellent lodges offering a good blend of comfort and services. With an accessible location and access to wildlife. Tambopata also has good guides employed from the local region with good wildlife knowledge.
It gets our pick as the best “all-round” jungle to visit in Amazon Peru. In general offering the best overall value in terms of ease of access, standards of accommodation, and opportunities to observe wildlife and experience the Peruvian Amazon in Peru. Tambopata can be a more cost-effective region to visit compared to Iquitos due to cheaper travel costs to the region. When compared to Manu Reserved Zone the lodges can be easier to access. However if you are looking for a budget option, or want to visit the Amazon River (instead of a tributary), then you may find better options elsewhere.