Peru Amazon Tours
All Peru Amazon tours by cruiseship start and finish in Iquitos, located on the banks of the Amazon River, or the city of Nauta, some two hours drive toward the south. Both cities are found in the enormous province of Loreto in North-East. In fact, two-thirds of Peru's land mass is covered by the Peruvian Amazon jungle, much of it unspoiled and waiting to be explored, making them the ideal destination for Amazon tours.
Iquitos, which is the largest city in the world only accessible by plane or by waterway, is surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest in all directions. Amazon cruises in Peru have the unique advantage of thousands of square miles of rich wilderness to explore. Peruvian Amazon tours can be enjoyed in a number of national parks with some of the greatest bio-diversity on Earth.
The most popular Peru Amazon tour destination is the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, a protected area of flooded forests containing 5 million acres of rich ecological diversity. Pacaya Samiria is home to iconic Amazonian species such as pink river dolphins, giant otters, macaws, sloths, and caiman, all commonly observed during an Amazon River cruise. The Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth, and an ideal tour destination for an ecologically-focused Amazon tour.
From Peru, it is possible to cruise down the Amazon River all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, at Belem in Brazil, where the mighty Amazon empties into the sea.
Browse through our selection of Amazon riverboats to find your ideal Peru Amazon River cruise.
Amazon Riverboat Cruises in Peru
Iquitos has the highest concentration of Amazon River cruises in the whole of Amazonia, covering a wide range of itineraries and Amazon cruise styles. Rainforest Cruises offers a wide range of riverboats in the Peruvian Amazon to choose from. Click on any of the below images to learn more about that particular Amazon cruise.
Delfin I ~ Luxury Class
This boutique Amazon cruiseship has only 4 cabins, and no detail has been overlooked to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere. She offers 4 and 5-day itineraries to Pacaya Samiria, and your time off the boat - on highly-informative guided excursions aboard smaller skiffs - will be as enjoyable as your time on board.
Delfin II ~ Luxury Class
The sister ship of the Delfin I, this Amazon cruiseship has 14 beautifully-appointed cabins, and a first-class crew dedicated to your comfort and enjoyment.
Like her sister, the Delfin II makes informative exploratory 4 and 5-day trips to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the largest protected wetland reserve in the world.
M/V Aqua ~ Luxury Class
The Aqua has 12 guest cabins, making her the perfect size to sail along the Amazon River, providing extremely comfortable lounge, dining and sleeping accommodations and modern navigation equipment for safe and eminently enjoyable cruiseship travel. She offers 4 and 5-day itineraries to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
M/V Aria ~ Luxury Class
The Aria is the sister ship of the Aqua, and was custom-built to cruise Peru's northern Amazon in total luxury. With 4 and 5-day itineraries, she offers an extraordinary level of comfort and security for her guests, with 16 extremely comfortable cabins, lounge, outdoor jacuzzi, exercise room, dining room and modern navigation techniques.
Ayapua ~ Historical Class
Built in Germany in 1906, the Ayapua played an important role in the Rubber Boom of the early 20th Century. She has now been lovingly refurbished to include 10 cabins with modern amenities, while maintaining the traditional features. The owner is a well-respected biologist, and the 8-day tours have a scientific focus on the flora and fauna of Pacaya-Samiria.
Clavero ~ Historical Class
Built in 1878, the Clavero is the oldest riverboat still operating on the Amazon.
Like the Ayapua, this Historical Riverboat and her six cabins have been meticulously restored and she now operates biologically-focused 8-day tours to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve.
La Amatista ~ Comfort Class
M/V La Amatista is a classic, wooden Amazon River vessel. The amenities include delicious international and local cuisine; an observation point and bar on the boat's upper deck; and cabins that are air-conditioned and with hot water in their private bathrooms. La Amatista operates fixed six and seven-day departures to Pacaya-Samiria and is also available for charter to special interest groups.
Selva Viva ~ Budget Class
The Selva Viva offers the widest selection of itineraries in the upper Amazon region of Peru, from 3 days to the Allpahuayo-Mishano Reserve to a 12-day epic up the Curaray River. While the facilities are functional, rather than luxurious, she is still big enough to be comfortable ... and small enough to access the small tributaries where larger ships cannot go.
Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, with a population of around half a million. It is the capital of Loreto Region and Maynas Province.
Iquitos is situated on the Amazon River, 78 miles / 125 km downstream of the confluence of the Ucayali and Marañón rivers, the two main headwaters of the Amazon River. Despite being more than 1,864 miles / 3,000 km from the mouth of the Amazon at Belém (Brazil), on the Atlantic Ocean, Iquitos is only 348 ft / 106 m above sea level. Nonetheless, ocean-going vessels can make their way all the way up the Amazon River to Iquitos, meaning that it has long been a major port in the Amazon Basin.
Iquitos has a tropical rainforest climate with abundant rainfall and hot temperatures all year round. The average relative humidity is 85%. The wet season lasts from around November to May, with the river reaching its highest point in May. The river's low point is in October.
The history of Iquitos is marked by its key role in the rubber boom of the first decades of the 20th century. Although European-Peruvians established Iquitos as a Jesuit mission to the indigenous peoples in the 1750s, it was only when the local rubber industry took off, to feed the demands of the new automobile industry, that Iquitos grew markedly. The boom attracted thousands of immigrants - mostly young, single men - hoping to make their fortunes in rubber. Many of the European men married indigenous women and stayed in Peru, founding ethnically mixed families.
The immigration brought European cultural elements to Iquitos, such as clothing styles, music and most notably, architecture. The wealthiest Europeans built great mansions in the late 19th century, some of which survive. For example, La Casa de Fierro (Iron House), located in the main square, was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. And the owners of the Historical Riverboats Clavero and Ayapu have restored the Casa de Morey to its former glory, and it is now an atmospheric hotel.
After rubber seeds were smuggled out of the Amazon Rainforest and cultivated in quantity elsewhere, the rubber boom in Peru came to an end. Iquitos is, however, still an important trading port in the Amazon basin, shipping Amazon Rainforest lumber, oil, rum, beer and tropical fruit, such as vitamin C-rich camu-camu, to elsewhere in Peru and abroad.
Iquitos is defined by the rivers which surround it: the Nanay, the Itaya, and the Amazon itself. Transportation to nearby towns often requires a river trip via peque-peque, a small public motorized boat, and Rainforest Cruises recommends taking one to visit Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm, if you have the time and it is not already included in your Amazon cruise itinerary.
Most travel within the city is via bus, motorcycle, or the ubiquitous auto rickshaw (known locally as mototaxi, motocarro or motokar) - essentially a modified motorcycle with a cabin behind supported by two wheels, seating three. Again, if you spend a day or two in Iquitos, be sure to visit the remarkable Floating Market of Belen: it is only a short ride by mototaxi from the center of Iquitos and has a unique atmosphere, and astonishing array of Amazon jungle products.
Slightly further afield, but well worth a visit, is the Amazonian Manatee Rescue Center, situated outside Iquitos. It is a special experience spending time with rescued manatees, and for that reason, many of the Amazon river cruises include a visit in their itineraries.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve covers an area larger than 20,000 square kilometers (5 million acres) and is located in Peru’s Loreto department. The park currently protects around 1.5% of the total surface area of Peru. Established in 1982, the park is located between the rivers Maranon and Ucayali, both major tributaries of the Amazon, and ends at their confluence near the town of Iquitos, Peru. The principal objective of the Park is to protect the incredible biodiversity of the flooded forest (vareza) of the Omagua region, as well as to promote the sustainable development of local towns and villages. Pacaya Samiria is commonly referred to as the 'Jungle of Mirrors' owing to the impressive reflections one can observe during the high-water period.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is considered the second largest ecological reserve in the entire Amazon, behind Grão-Pará Ecological Station of Brazil. Many Amazon riverboat cruises offered by Rainforest Cruises visit this important reserve as it is relatively easy to reach from the Amazon port town of Nauta. Amazon riverboat cruises tour up the Rio Marañon to an entry checkpoint controlled by the Peruvian Government, and after paying an entrance fee and registering, one can embark on short trips, touring the surrounding virgin Amazon Jungle.
How to get there:
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is located 114 miles southwest of Iquitos. The quickest way there is to travel overland from Iquitos to the port town of Nauta. This can be done in approximately 2 hours. From Nauta, there are a number of Amazon riverboat cruises and Jungle tours one can take to enjoy the staggering beauty the park has to offer. Once you are in the park, the principal activity would be adventure or eco tourism.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve boasts some of the Amazon’s most abundant biodiversity. Scientists have registered the presence of 527 species of birds, 102 mammal species, 69 species of reptiles, 58 amphibian species, 269 different kinds of fish, and 1024 species of wild or domesticated plants. This incredible concentration of life is made possible by the abundant rainfall and stable temperatures typical of the region. Annual rainfall ranges from 2000 - 3000 millimeters and temperatures range from 20°C (68°F) and 33°C (91°F). A few of the endangered, charismatic megafauna one has the possibility of viewing while touring the wild Amazon jungles of Pacaya Samiria are:
- Pink River Dolphin
- Grey River Dolphin
- Giant River Otter
- Red Macaw
- Black Caiman
- Amazonian Manatee
Natural Cycles of the Park:
You have two choices in deciding when to take your Peru Amazon riverboat cruise, high or low water season. The cycle of crescent and reflux of the rivers is a unique characteristic of this protected area. Each year, between the months of October and April, heavy rains fall and the water levels in creeks and rivers rises. This makes for easy accessibility, and is an ideal time to enjoy an Amazon Riverboat Cruise as you can whitness the incredible sights of a flooded rainforest. This is the period which gives Pacaya Samiria the name “Jungle of Mirrors.” Conversely, from May to September, when rainfall decreases, the water levels gently retreat reaching their lowest levels in August of each year. This time of year allows for some trekking within the park (due to dry patches), and much better fishing as the wildlife is concentrated in the streams and lakes. The seasonal pattern of crescent and reflux are as vital to the Amazon as the tides are to the oceans, and provide two very different experiences when touring Pacaya Samiria aboard your Peru Amazon cruise.
Over the course of thousands of years, wildlife has adapted perfectly to the cycle of crescent and reflux. When the forests are flooded, animals seek shelter in the highest areas which remain dry throughout the year. During reflux, water that remains in small creeks and lakes provides refuge to immense concentrations of wildlife. Large beaches also form which are used as nesting sites for animals such as the charapa and taricaya turtles, as well as humans who use the flat, fertile soil to plant crops such as rice, beans, and peanuts.
The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is part of the National System of Natural Areas and is protected by the Peruvian Government. Its administration is in hands of INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources), which has offices in Lima and Iquitos. According to the Master Plan for the Conservation of the Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development of the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, tourists have access only to determined zones of the Reserve -previous payment of an entrance fee. Most Amazon riverboat cruises are sold with entrance tickets included, and the procedure for entering the park is relatively easy so as not to disrupt your tour of the Amazon Jungle.
It is important to remember that although Pacaya Samiria is considered a park and receives some “protection” from the Peruvian Government, it is still home to a number of native communities. There is a population of approximately 42.000 people, who earn a living through subsistence farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering of forest products. Tourism will undoubtedly remain an important income stream for native communities. Visitors to the park by Amazon riverboat cruise are encouraged to buy handicrafts at fair value from local artisans. The tourism industry helps to preserve the national park by providing jobs which reduce the pressure to hunt and harvest wood illegally. Participation in a tour of the Amazon jungle helps to preserve the jungle by providing economic alternatives to local populations.
Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve
Created in 1999 and covering an area of 142,272 acres, The Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve (AMNR) is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. It contains 500 varieties of trees per 2.5 acres, more than anywhere else on Earth, and nearly 100 unique plant species. There are over 1,900 flora species; 475 bird species; 143 species of reptiles; 71 species of amphibians;more than 90 species of parasitic wasps; and more butterfly species than any other site in the world. Morevoer,more than 500 species of animals over 2.5 centimeters in length were found in a three-quarter hectare area of the Reserve which is a world record!
This wide variety is derived from the fact that the rainforest in the Reserve is composed of several soil types - ranging from rare white quartz sands to red clays - and each of these soil types supports a unique community of plants and animals.
White sand forests are rare and accordingly many of the white-sand species contained within them are extremely rare. There are 21 species of bird found within the Reserve that are associated only with the white sand forests, and new, unique species are continually being discovered. The Ancient Antwren, the Mishana tyrannulet, the Allpahuayo Antbird, and the Northern Chesnut-tailed Antbird are all thought to exist only within the boundaries of the Allpahuayo Mishana Reserve.
Three species of endangered primates are found within the reserve, and for two of them, the Yellow-handed Titi Monkey, and the Equatorial Saki Monkey, the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve is the only place in Peru where these monkeys and their habitat has been officially protected.
This fragile ecosystem is only 23 km / 14 miles from Iquitos, around the Nanay River and its black water tributaries; and being so close to a large urban centre puts the Allpahuayo-Mishana under a lot of pressure, from such practices as illegal invasion, agriculture and logging. By taking a Rainforest Cruises riverboat cruise to the Allpahuayo-Mishana, you are not just enjoying one of the planet's most remarkable environments - you are supporting an economic enterprise that has a vested interest in maintaining the ecological integrity of the area.