How to Best Experience the Amazon

The Amazon is a vast ecosystem that covers roughly 2.5 million square miles and spans nine South American countries—including Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. More than half the size of the United States, the Amazon is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and boasts a biodiversity unlike anywhere else on earth. It is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, varied terrains, and countless indigenous communities, making the Amazon so much more than just the river that bears its name. In actuality, it is a region that offers visitors numerous ways to explore and experience its magic—from both water and land.


One of the Amazon’s largest draws is its animals—and no matter where you choose to stay, you are bound to encounter an incredible array of wildlife. The rainforest houses many species of monkeys – from the common squirrel to the capuchin – and visitors can spot additional mammals, including tapirs, capybaras, sloths, peccaries, and the elusive jaguar. Birds also abound, with rare species like scarlet macaws, harpy eagles, Cock of the Rock, and hoatzins found in the region. The Amazon also boasts interesting insects and reptiles, such as snakes (including the anaconda) and frogs. It is truly a wildlife enthusiasts dream.


Peru affords travelers some of the very best opportunities to experience the Amazon rainforest from both land-based lodges and river boats.

Sailing aboard a luxury riverboat through the Pacaya Samiria Reserve is without a doubt the most deluxe way to explore the region. Beginning in Iquitos in the remote north of the country, you will sail through pristine landscapes to the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River. Over the course of three or four nights, you can enjoy the epitome of comfort and style with air-conditioned cabins, gourmet food, and naturalists who are local to the area and know the hidden spots to explore. The itinerary includes visits to local communities along the river and brings you to the best place to see the famed pink river dolphins. The gorgeous vessel Aqua Nera is a Travel Beyond favorite, and not to be missed on a trip to Peru.

For those seeking a more immersive experience, including sleeping to the sounds of the rainforest in open-air cabanas, Peru’s best Amazon lodges are near Puerto Maldonado, in the south of the country. There are several within easy boating distance, including Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, and all options boast comfortable rooms and amenities. Deeper into the nearby Tambopata National Reserve the lodges are more rustic, but the wildlife is more abundant. The recently renovated Tambopata Research Center is the furthest afield and includes an added educational element provided by resident researchers. It is perfect for those seeking a deeper knowledge of the ecosystem. No matter where you stay, all lodge accommodations in this area offer a wide variety of activities including hiking, canopy tower climbing, boat and canoe rides, fishing, night exploration, and access to clay licks that attract wildlife. The lodge experiences are ideal for families!


When traveling in Ecuador, a visit to the Amazon Rainforest is easy to combine with the Andean Highlands, as the region is accessed via short flight from Quito to Coca. Here, La Selva Jungle Lodge is the perfect base from which to dive deeply into the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park, a pristine area that offers visitors incredible natural wonders and cultural experiences. The lodge’s design and décor instantly immerse you into the rainforest and the many activities bring you into the heart of this rich ecosystem. Guided hikes take you through dense jungles in which you will encounter a rich variety of plant and animal species. The park’s many lakes and rivers are ideal serene canoe rides, kayaking and for spotting unique wildlife. You can also engage with the local communities, learning about their ancient customs and traditions. The lodge is ideal for simply relaxing and reveling in the region’s beauty. La Selva Lodge and the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve and National Park offer an incredible experience for travelers of all kinds, especially multi-generational families.

There are also handful of other lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon—as well as river boat options—but for those looking to cruise, Peru offers better choices and a more ideal setting.


The largest portion of the Amazon Basin is found in Brazil—which means it has ample opportunities for exploration. One of our favorite destinations is the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, accessible from Alta Floresta, a city in the center of the country. Nestled in its own private reserve, the lodge offers comfortable accommodations that blend into its surroundings and immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the jungle. While here, you can venture out on hikes or hop in a canoe alongside lodge guides to explore the diverse ecosystem. Climbing up the canopy tower offers a bird’s eye view of the jungle below and so much wildlife abounds, including rare and endemic species, such as the colorful macaws and jaguars. What’s more, the lodge focuses on sustainable practices, utilizing a low-impact design model and renewable energy and also supports local communities. Located in the southern portion of the Brazilian Amazon, Cristalino Jungle Lodge also makes for a fun and convenient pairing with the Pantanal, another biodiverse region of Brazil.

The Amazon River also runs through the northern portion of Brazil, and its tributaries are home to a number of jungle lodges and riverboats. While many of the accommodations in this area don’t offer the level of comfort or service that is typical to Travel Beyond trips, Anavilhanas on the Rio Negro is a good choice. Here, you can stay in either cottages or bungalows and find yourself instantly at home in the Amazon.

Whether visiting the Amazon from land or by boat, the region is home to truly incredible experiences and activities. No matter your preferences or interests, there is a part of the Amazon that is just perfect for you to explore!