Peru Amazon tours and cruises 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 the center of Amazon River cruise activity in Peru, and are found in the enormous province of Loreto in North-Eastern Peru. 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 by riverboat.
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The Jungle of Mirrors
Iquitos, which is the largest city in the world only accessible by plane or by waterway, is surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest in all direction and has the highest concentration of Amazon River cruises in Amazonia. Amazon cruises in Peru visit one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth and have the unique advantage of thousands of square miles of rich wilderness to explore. 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.
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.
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, commonly referred to as the 'Jungle of Mirrors' owing to the impressive reflections one can observe during the high-water period, 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.
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).
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. This fragile ecosystem is only 23 km / 14 miles from Iquitos, around the Nanay River and its black water tributaries.