The Peruvian Amazon encompasses approximately 60% of the country. Brimming with wildlife from the north to the south of Peru, the Amazon is not only large however—it’s extremely diverse. We’ve listed some of the best spots in the Amazon and information on how to get there in order that you can decide which city best suits you and your travel itinerary.
From the selva alta (high jungle) to the selva baja (low jungle), here are some of the best spots in the Amazon and how to get there.
Located on the eastern foothills of the northern Peruvian Amazon, Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto region. Some even refer to it as the capital of the Amazon, perhaps because it was a major shipping port during the 19th century rubber boom, if not for the fact that it is the gateway to the world’s largest rainforest.
Considered the world’s most populated city inaccessible by road, the city is a curious mix of bustling urban markets and unadulterated natural spaces that’s worth getting to know. Admire the first prefabricated house in the Americas (Casa de Fierro); stroll the malecón to gaze out at the Rio Itaya, a tributary of the Amazon; take a boat ride across the water to visit a colorful butterfly farm or a monkey island—or better yet, embark on a luxury cruise down the snaking river.
From Lima, direct flights to Iquitos average at 2 hours. Direct flights are also available from Cusco (a 4-hour flight), though keep in mind they are only available between July to November through the airline LATAM. Upon arrival to Iquitos, tourists can take a thrilling mototaxi (or motocarro) ride from the airport to the city center to get a taste of local culture right off the bat.
Sitting on the high jungle plateau (cloud forest), in the valleys of the Cumbaza and Shilcayo rivers, Tarapoto is the largest city in the San Martin region of northern Peru yet has just a third of the population of Iquitos. Mototaxis circle the simple Plaza de Armas, which is often buzzing with craft fairs or local performers.
While the town’s urban areas are certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing, it’s the plethora of waterfalls, lagoons and river access that keep a small yet steady stream of tourists enchanted. Known as the City of Palms, this tropical destination may seem slow-paced but there are plenty of options for adventure tourists. Not to mention the unique day trips to neighboring towns, such as Lamas.
An hour flight from Lima, Tarapoto is an ideal long-weekend getaway for those in the capital city. It can also be reached by road, though bus times clock in at just over 24 hours.
This jungle city in the selva baja is for those looking to get off the beaten path. Capital of the Madre de Dios region, Puerto Maldonado is the gateway to the southern Amazon. Located at the confluence of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata rivers, it is relatively isolated and thus hosts a fair amount of unspoiled rainforest.
From Puerto Maldonado, conservation areas such as the Tambopata National Reserve and Manú National Park can easily be reached. Incredible amounts of lush flora and fauna thrive in both protected areas, and even some (such as the tapirs and spider monkeys) are considered rare to other regions of the Amazon.
At just over 300km northeast of Cusco, this is perhaps the most convenient jungle town to visit before or after a trip to Machu Picchu. Flight time from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado is 45 minutes, while direct flights from Lima clock in at around 1.5 hours.
Those who travel with Traveling in Peru can also customize their Cusco tour to include a route to Many National Park.
Quiet, clean and founded by German-Austrian settlers, Oxapampa is an anomaly in the Peruvian Amazon. Nestled in the high jungle in central Peru (specifically the Pasco region), this quaint jungle town has only recently enjoyed heightened tourism, thanks in large part to the annual music festival, Selvámonos.
Admire the local architecture, built under European influence, with a backdrop of rolling hills covered in wild foliage. Amble around the main square and savor local products such as honey, yogurts and granadilla. For a day trip, head to the neighboring town of Pozuzo for local beer and epic views of the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park.
From Lima, the most direct (and cheapest) option is to go by bus (a 10-hour ride). If opting to go by plane, travelers will need to fly to the closest airport which is located in Jauja, a 30-minute flight from Lima. From there, buses leave the airport and arrive in Oxapampa between 3-4 hours.
Despite having so much to offer tourists in terms of culture and sites, Chachapoyas is largely free of crowds due to the difficult journey in arriving. But we consider it one of the best spots in the Amazon. From the pre-Inca site Kuelap, literally tucked in the clouds, to the sky-high Gocta waterfall, there is much mystery and magic that circulates this northern Peru city making it worth the trek.
Meaning “cloud forest” in Quechua, Chachapoyas takes its name from the fierce warrior culture that once ruled the area. Today, the humble town, lined with charming colonial buildings, is the gateway to natural and archaeological sites. Be sure to spend 3-4 days in the area.
Chachapoyas can be reached by bus, though the journey from Lima will take more than 24 hours. From Tarapoto, the bus ride is about 10 hours.
By plane, travelers can fly from Lima to Jaen (1.5 hours) then take a 3 to 4-hour bus ride to Chachapoyas. As well, Atsa airline has flights from Lima to Chachapoyas (just under 2 hours) on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Cover photo: AmaraPhotos.com
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