Peru is the proud owner of the second largest area of the Amazon Rainforest only losing out to Brazil. Almost 60% of Peru is made up out of both subtropical cloud forests and tropical jungles. Nevertheless only 8% of the country’s population lives in these regions. The regions boasts forests as far as the eye can see, only now and then interrupted by a river running snake-wise through the forests. The region holds the largest selection of wildlife in Peru and is world-renowned for its amount of birds and reptiles.
For a lot of people these are all reasons for visiting the area and experiencing what it is to spend some time in these deep and dense forests. As the number of people interested increases, the number of great lodges and retreats also increases. In Peru the two most famous cities from which to visit the surrounding rainforest are Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado. Iquitos is located in the far north of Peru on the banks of the Amazon River. It is the second biggest jungle city in the world after Manaus (Brazil), located about 5 days down the Amazon River. Puerto Maldonado is located in the South of Peru close to the border with Bolivia and Brazil. Both destinations provide great jungle excursion possibilities and places for wildlife spotting. Nevertheless there are small differences between the two cities and areas.
Puerto Maldonado, located in the south of Peru has due to its location gained quite some importance when it comes to having great lodges and amazingly accessible rainforest. The city of Puerto Maldonado is a relatively small town located at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers. The city is reached by road or by plane from Lima or Cusco. The road from Cusco takes about 10 hours by bus, the main reason why most people fly to Puerto Maldonado. The flights departs from Lima with a short stop in Cusco. The flight takes about 2 hours from Lima and an hour from Cusco. There are several flights daily with different airlines. Therefore the area is easily reachable from Cusco and Machu Picchu. As the city is quite small, access to the rainforest is only an hour by boat. Nearby are the Manú National Park, Tambopata National Reserve, and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. These are some of the most pristine primary rain forests in the world, which include several oxbow lakes and clay licks, where hundreds of birds including macaws feed on clay.
There are several lodges to be found ranging from basic to the more luxurious lodges all located close to either Manu or Tambopata National park. The lodges are in most cases built with local materials and with respect for the surrounding forests. As the lodges are located close to the parks, excursions can be done from the lodge, also making it possible to return to the lodges for lunch and dinner. This also results that in general a greater number of different types of excursions are possible in one day. Typical excursions done with most lodges in the Tambopata or Manu area are; canopy walkways, bird watching excursions, short jungle hikes, excursions to oxbow lakes and clay licks, fishing excursions (piranhas), evening excursions and lectures.
The number of days for a jungle lodge stay in the Puerto Maldonado area range from 3 to 8 days. Most people do a 3 or 4 day stay in one of the lodges closer to Puerto Maldonado, these lodges are reached with a 1 or 2 hour boat drive. The Amazon packages that consist of more than 5 days often use lodges further into the jungle and reached by boat taking up to 3 or 4 hours.
Iquitos is probably one of the most famous jungle cities together with Manaus and makes for a very interesting city due to its size and importance for the region. Being such a large city with the most important airfield in the region and direct access to the Amazon River further into Peru or downstream to Brazil and Colombia, the city makes for a large trade hub for imports and exports. The city has several interesting sites such as the Iron House built by Eifel which was completely imported or the Floating Market of Belen, one of the most entertaining markets in South America. Nevertheless the most popular attraction of Iquitos is the Amazon River and the surrounding Amazon rainforests. As Iquitos is located in the far north of the country, it is only reachable by river or plane and do Iquitos is somewhat out of the way for people coming from Machu Picchu. As boat travel can be a multi-day experience, most people fly to Iquitos from Lima. The flight takes about 2 hours and there are several flights daily.
Iquitos is home to about 500,000 people and therefore quite a big city. Being such a sizeable city the city expands far into the surrounding forests and due to industry a lot of the surrounding lands are being deforested. Therefore in the direct surrounding of Iquitos there are not too many lodges found and even less natural parks. Most lodges are found about 2 hours downriver from Iquitos and several about 3-4 hours upriver from Iquitos. Some of the lodges downriver are quite fancy and come with all amenities of a hotel such as multiple restaurants, swimming pools and electricity. These lodges are nice to spend time in but do not offer the real jungle feel the lodges upriver from Iquitos or in the Puerto Maldonado do offer. Therefore the best lodges to visit for some true jungle feel in Iquitos are the lodges upriver from Iquitos. These lodges are located at quite some hours in boat making them less adequate for short jungle stays.
Nevertheless, if you have a keen interest in knowing the Amazon Rainforest and have the time, the lodges here provide great experiences. Keep in mind that the lodges due to their location are much more basic than the ones downriver or in Puerto Maldonado but that wildlife spotting is almost guaranteed. These lodges also offer camping trips into the jungle. Keep in mind though that these lodges mostly do not offer packages fewer than 4 or 5 days. As you will also need one day to fly from Lima (or Cusco) to Iquitos, one would need about one week for a good jungle excursion in the Iquitos area.
Puerto Maldonado on the other hand does provide good lodges and great wildlife spotting on only a few hours from Cusco making it a much more adequate destination for shorter jungle excursions. In any case being such an elaborate part of Peru and Peruvian culture, the Amazon Rainforest, whether it is Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, is an experience that rewards the travel efforts to get there and for many people provides the highlights of their Peru vacation package.
If you liked this article and found it useful please share with others and click the like or send button below