By Allie E. Almario
A popular destination for adventure travelers is the Amazon rainforest, which occupies a huge swath of South America (nine countries) and offers some of the most exciting wildlife viewing opportunities in the world. On a daily basis, you may find yourself birdwatching at dawn, hiking through pristine reserves, or canoeing along mangroves looking for giant river otters or capybaras, the world’s largest rodents. Feeling lucky? Try your hand at fishing for the biggest catfish you’ll ever land. Take a canopy walk among the treetops as a confetti of colorful butterflies flit around you. Track for jaguars or take on a night safari hike.
Grab your binoculars, and follow our top recommendations to help you make the best choices for your dream trip to the Amazon in Peru or Ecuador.
Choose between traveling to Peru or Ecuador
Deciding between Peru or Ecuador’s Amazon region may be dictated by other components of your itinerary. Going to Machu Picchu? Then choose the Peruvian Amazon by heading to either Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos, the most popular gateway cities. Already booked your Galapagos cruise? Then you’ll likely fly from Quito, Ecuador to get to your lodge.
Choose between a lodge or a cruise
One of the most difficult choices is deciding between staying at an eco-lodge or to board a small ship. While your wildlife viewing experience may not vary that much, there are other factors that may matter to you, depending on your personal preference. For those who choose a lodge, you’ll be able to concentrate on a specific region within a day’s travel time. Local guides will know the local wildlife really well as they can easily track patterns on a daily basis.
Those who chose to travel by boat will typically see a greater variety of landscapes since you tend to disembark at different small ports each day. Accommodations vary, but tend to be at least first-class with wonderful amenities not usually found at a lodge such as on-board small pools and air-conditioning.
Note that if you prefer to cruise, Peru has more upscale ship options than Ecuador.
Choose how many days to spend in the Amazon
Because of flight and transfer logistics, we recommend a minimum of five days on board any cruise or lodge stay. Day 1 of your trip means a flight to the nearest gateway.
From the airport, it’s usually a short transfer to a nearby dock where you’ll either board your small cruise ship or a motorized canoe to take you on a longer (two or more hours) scenic transfer to a lodge. By lunchtime, you should be at your destination.
You’ll repeat this transfer on your last day in the Amazon departing after breakfast, so a typical five-day package really gives you three and a half days in situ.
Choose when to go to the Amazon
There’s no bad time to travel to the Amazon. There’s always a plethora of wildlife. Generally, peak season tends to be from about June to December. High demand can obviously mean more expensive rates. For most visitors, deciding between two seasons – low water or high water season – may be an important factor. High water season (January to June) will allow you greater access to different regions within the river tributaries by boats, canoes or kayaks. At the same time, be prepared for biting insects and mosquitos, so pack wisely.
Shoulder seasons, just before and after the high season, means more hiking trails are exposed and perhaps less bugs.