Amazon


Overview

Amazon travel guide, including map of the Amazon, top Amazon experiences, tips for the Amazon, when to visit the Amazon and Amazon advice

The Amazon is vast. Covering 5,500,000 sq km, the Amazon spreads into nine countries: predominantly Brazil, but also Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

The Amazon is the world’s wildest place, home to an incredible biodiversity. Within this abundant rainforest you’ll find sharp-toothed piranhas, snapping caiman, bright birds, buzzing insects, howling monkeys and – if you’re lucky – prowling jaguar.

There are also people living in this jungly domain. Many indigenous tribes still live traditional lives in the forest. Some, such as the Emberá of Brazil, are fighting to hang on to their land in the face of deforestation; others, such as the Huaorani in Ecuador, have set up acclaimed ecolodges to provide funds for their community.

So, where to start?

Brazil, containing the lion’s share of the Amazon, is the obvious first choice. Gateway city Manaus provides easy access (you can fly in); board a boat from here to dip into the fingery tributaries. The Anavilhanas islands, 64km from Manaus, is the world’s largest freshwater archipelago and a haven for birds.

In Peru you’ll find the mountainous source of the Amazon, but also wildlife-rich national parks (head to Manu National Park for a fine range of species) and curious clay-licks, where huge flocks of parrots gather to feed on the soft rock.

Ecuador’s Oriente (Amazon) region offers a range of experiences. Easily accessible ‘rainforest-lite’ trips into the fringes of the jungle are good for cash- and time-poor travellers, while luxury ecolodges deep in the forest offer the full experience, with excellent indigenous guides.

Bolivia is the Amazon’s bargain option – boats, transport and accommodation tend to be cheaper here, though there are still high-end options. For the ultimate exclusivity, trek into the wonderful Noel Kempf Mercado National Park, an elevated plateau where jaguars roam.

Colombia is the place for a real trailblazing Amazon adventure. Leticia, in southern Colombia, is a good access point: from here you can visit lily-pad dotted lakes and canoe with pink dolphins, as well as popping over the borders into Brazil and Peru.

The Amazon is many things. It’s hot, sticky and difficult to comprehend. It’s noisy and rainy and packed full of bugs. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s challenging. Often it’s electrifying. But it will never, ever be dull.

Further Reading

Amazon Top 5

  1. Stay at a lodge owned by the local tribes in the Oriente – the Ecuadorian Amazon. Not only are there a range of community-run places to suit all many of budgets, but you'll get more than just a wildlife experience: many offer activities such as visits to traditional villages, blowpipe lessons and opportunities to track animals with the tribal hunters
  2. Track jaguars in Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, Bolivia. This remote area of extremely biodiverse north-east Bolivia is little-visited yet packed with a range of species, including river otters, river dolphins, tapirs, giant armadillo and jaguars.
  3. Join a parrot-counting conservation project in the Tambopata region of Peru. It's fascinating to watch congregations of rainbow macaw at riverside clay licks, but it's possible to get more deeply involved on a volunteering project with a specialised organisation.
  4. Take a long boat journey. To get a real feel for the scale of the Amazon, tackle a stretch of it on the ferries that ply the waters. The biggest journey takes you from Pucallpa in Peru to Belém, Brazil – the longest section navigable by regular riverboat. You'll need to change boats several times, but you'll see a whole lot of river. Allow at least three weeks (and a lot of patience).
  5. Look for a world of wildlife in the little-visited Colombian portion of the Amazon. Few travellers make it down to southern Colombia, but those who do find great hiking trails (try Amacayacu National Park), plenty of pink dolphins and quick border hops to the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon.