A vast area of steamy jungle interwoven with twisting river tributaries, the Amazon basin is home to incredible wildlife, indigenous villages and the world's mightiest river.
Our guide to the Amazon includes the best places to visit, things to do and our favourite lodges and hotels to stay in. Our South America specialists have travelled extensively throughout the Amazon river basin, and their expert knowledge on the region will help you to plan your own tailor-made trip to the Amazon, making your visit one to remember.
Where to experience the Amazon
The Amazon region encompasses almost seven million square kilometres of land in the northern half of South America, with territory reaching across the borders of nine different nations.
Here, we highlight some of the best places to experience the fascinating wildlife, indigenous settlements and bio-diverse rainforest on a tailor-made trip to the Amazon.
The two rivers that are adjacent to Manaus, the Rio Solimões and the Rio Negro, merge to form what we know as the mighty Amazon River, which is 10 kilometres wide even here, 1,600 kilometres from the Atlantic. Their meeting is one of the first sights you will see as you head out of Manaus and into the rainforest, entering a world that from the air seems totally impenetrable.
This immense network of vegetation, waterways and lakes is home to a tenth of the world’s plant and animal species, with many more yet to be discovered. The area’s sheer vastness means that whilst a stay here in one of the excellent lodges will be a fascinating experience, you are unlikely to see much in the way of animal life, as most of the animals have travelled deeper into the rainforest where there are fewer visitors. However, it is still enjoyable to spend a few days walking with biologist guides and taking boat trips along the peaceful rivers.
Giant Lillypads, Brazilian Amazon
Uacari monkey, the Amazon
Characteristics of the Peruvian section of the Amazon include meandering rivers and ox-bow lakes, which are thriving with animal life. It is not uncommon to spot foraging capybara, the world’s largest rodent, whilst throngs of small parrots can be found feeding on clay licks. A couple of the world’s most bizarre-looking creatures are also resident here - the tapir, with its spiky mane, and the pre-historic hoatzin bird, which hops around the edges of the numerous lakes.
Wildlife in the Amazon
The Ecuadorian wedge of the Amazon rainforest enchants visitors with its cacophony of birdsong, the playful whoops of monkeys, the still black waters of the rivers, and the flutter of colourful butterflies and tropical birds.
Wildlife spotting opportunities are excellent at the lodges here and your guides may well be from local indigenous communities. The local tribes are becoming increasingly involved with eco-tourism due partly to their unrivalled knowledge of Amazonian flora and fauna.
Owl butterfly, Sacha Lodge, Ecuadorian Amazon
Frog in the Amazon basin, Ecuador
Alternative destinations to experience the Amazon
Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia also boast areas of Amazon rainforest within their borders. Although not as popular as the countries listed above, they do make for a great alternative destination, and the fact that they receive fewer visitors only adds to their attraction and increases your opportunity to spot wildlife. We can suggest the best places to visit throughout the Amazon depending on your own interests and budget.
Amazon lodges and cruises
Lodges present by far the widest range of opportunities for exploration of the Amazon rainforest. There are options for the keenest wildlife fans, those looking for a wonderful overview of the Amazon or those seeking a more ‘hands-on’ experience staying with a local community.
Excursions from lodges are usually undertaken at dawn and dusk when wildlife is at its most active and out of the heat of the day. Experiences range from walking well-marked nature trails looking for various types of birds and species of monkey and sloth, to paddling a canoe across a peaceful blackwater lake in search of caiman and shore birds.
Below we've listed a selection of our favourite lodges and cruise boats in the Amazon.