Peru Amazon tours and cruises start and finish in Iquitos, located on the banks of the Amazon River, or in the city of Nauta, some two hour’s drive 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. Rainforest Cruises will help you find the best Peru Amazon cruise for your vacation.
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Why Take an Amazon Cruise in Peru
An Amazon River cruise in Peru will provide you with a genuine experience of the mighty Amazon River, the rainforest and all the wildlife and people who call it their home. Mischievous capuchin monkeys, tasty Amazonian superfruits, smiling locals and rich rainforest scenery will be sure to give you a lifetime of lasting memories.
The best way to visit the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest is to tour backwaters aboard a traditional riverboat. River travel is still the primary method of transportation in the region as the Amazon rainforest is mainly a roadless wonder. An Amazon cruise is the only way to access the narrow, winding creeks and tributaries. Trips head deep into the rainforest for the best wildlife-spotting opportunities, jungle treks and local community visits.
The Amazon Rainforest contains some of the most vibrant and exotic wildlife in the world. It is home to pink and grey river dolphins, three-toed sloths, jaguars, macaws, capuchin monkeys, anacondas, to name just a few. Some of these creatures are endemic to the Amazon region, so being able to see them in their natural habitat is quite spectacular. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in Peru boasts some of the Amazon’s most abundant biodiversity. Once you are there, just sit tight, be very quiet and use each of your senses to listen to leaves rustling in the trees!
For many Rainforest Cruises travelers, an unexpected highlight of an Amazon River tour is the chance to sample many of the region’s popular dishes, both traditional and modern. Meals are lovingly prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients from the surrounding environment . You can expect to sample a variety of exquisite fish, meat and vegetable dishes, accompanied perhaps by a cocktail made with exotic tropical fruits. Ask your guide for a Pisco Sour lesson. With any style of Amazon cruise you choose, the food and drinks onboard will be a trip highlight!
The Peruvian Amazon is home to a diverse population of Amazonian tribes and mestizo communities. Many retain traditional lifestyles, some even remain wholly uncontacted by outsiders. Some communities have decided to share their culture with visitors to the Amazon, inviting tour groups to learn about their lifestyle. You may meet a local shaman, learn about natural medicine, meet local school kids and see first hand how Amazonian food is prepared. Hand-made goods are often available for sale, which helps to sustainably support these communities
The Amazon River and rainforest make for prime adventure opportunities. From the water to the depths of the jungle, active travelers will find plenty to do here. Many Amazon cruises have Kayaks onboard, offer Piranha fishing excursions and guided jungle treks. In the Peruvian Amazon there are several canopy walkway systems, which enable travelers to explore the treetops and take in dramatic views from up to 25 meters above the ground. Swim in an oxbow lake, play a soccer match with a local community, or simply watch others take the plunge from the comfort of your bar stool with cocktail in hand!
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Visiting Iquitos, Peru
Iquitos, the largest city in the world only accessible by plane or waterway, is surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest in all directions. Iquitos boasts the highest concentration of Amazon River cruises in Peru. Tours out of Iquitos visit one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth, and have the unique advantage of thousands of square miles wilderness to explore. The most popular 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 potentially viewed 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. Iquitos should not only be considered a jumping off point for an Amazon tour, but a destination in itself, there are plenty of interesting things to do.
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.
Best Time to Go to the Peruvian Amazon
Which season should a traveler choose when planning an Amazon River cruise? The Amazon is known for two seasons, the high-water season (December-May) and the low-water season (June-December). Both seasons offer amazing opportunities to see the best of what the Amazon has to offer, however when booking your Amazon River cruise in Peru, there are a few characteristics to keep in mind.
Low-Water Season: June-December
The low-water season runs through June-December, being the warmer season, temperatures average about 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and despite its name, the low-water season still gets some heavy rains. A key difference is that jungle trails that are flooded from December to May are now easily accessible, allowing groups to explore deep in the Amazon jungle by foot. If you like to trek, this season will allow you to explore jungle paths and trails. There are fewer mosquitoes in the low-water season than during the flooded season. During these months it is much easier to spot snakes and lizards, and fishing is much easier, Piranha fishing is a popular Amazon cruise excursion during this time.
High-Water Season: December-May
The high-water season runs through December-May, and though it may seem like this is the season with more rain, it only receives slightly more rainfall than the low-water season. The high-water season in the Amazon is a result of rain in the Andean Highlands running off into the tributaries of the Amazon River, so the area is more flooded with water. This means that Amazonian rivers and streams are about 23 feet (7 meters) higher, making them navigable by riverboats. This season will allow you to explore the hidden tributaries of the Amazon River, and areas of the jungle that are not accessible by foot. The average temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 12
degrees cooler than in the dry season.