Things to Do in Amazon
The mighty Amazon River and its enormous, thickly forested basin are the heart of South America and the guardian of 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh water. Visitors from around the globe come to Iquitos to cruise the river’s storied waters and catch a glimpse of diverse fauna both above and below the surface.
The sprawling Peruvian Amazon covers nearly 60 percent of the entire country, stretching from the Andes Mountains to the borders of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia. The expanse is generally divided into two ecological regions—the lowland jungle and the highland jungle—with two main gateways, Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado.
The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in Peru’s northern Loreto region is the country’s largest and most pristine protected area and the second largest reserve in the Amazon. Located at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers, the reserve has some of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world.
This impressive and historic fortress is located a three-hours walk from the hotel district of Santa Maria and attracts travelers from across the globe thanks to its imposing stone walls and the four hundred individual buildings that make up the complex.
Travelers can climb to the top of the Kuelap Fortress and look out over the lush vegetation of the Utcubamba Valley on a trip to this remote destination. Locals agree that the pre-Incan structure is far less visited than the famed Inca Trail, but travelers say its impeccable views, ancient history and steep hiking paths make it the perfect stop for anyone looking to learn more about the culture and history of Peru. Be advised that high elevation means weather can change in an instant, so warm and dry clothes are essential. Though Kuelap is well off the beaten path, visitors say the journey to get there is almost as scenic as the destination itself.
This Amazon Rescue Center establishment is a haven for orphaned and injured manatees. Established in 2007 and run by the Institute for the Investigation of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP) in partnership with the Dallas Aquarium, the Amazon Rescue Center educates visitors and allows for interaction with these endangered animals.
Visitors can see rescued adult and baby manatees in natural pools and witness their rehabilitation. It is also possible to volunteer with the center and even bottle feed a baby manatee. The staff members take great care to teach about the importance of preserving the species and the present dangers to their habitat, as many local manatees are poached and babies captured to be sold as sold as pets, often with a high mortality rate. Tours are conducted in both English and Spanish.
Commonly known as “The Venice of the Amazon,” the floating town of Belén near the outskirts of Iquitos offers a unique cultural experience. A boat ride through the market of Belén will give you a rare glimpse into the lifestyle of the locals. A shantytown of modest thatch-roofed homes, restaurants and bars sit atop balsawood foundations, Belen is one of Iquitos’s top tourist attractions.
This research and conservation center in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon began with the gift of 100 acres of land from the local San Juan de Yanayacu Indians. Today, it serves as a leading lodge and excursion center in one of the world’s most biologically diverse settings. Available guided activities include bird watching, photography and both cultural and wildlife excursions in the jungle and on the river. The center caters to photographers, visiting research teams and wildlife enthusiasts who want to experience the raw Amazon jungle, while working to employ local people and allow visitors to access the Amazon sustainably and in harmony with nature.
Naturalists lead walks through the rain forest ecosystem to view hundreds of species of unique plants and animals. With over 100 species of mammals such as jaguars, monkeys and the famous pink Amazon dolphin, colorful reptiles and over 500 species of birds, there is no shortage of natural beauty and adventure to experience. There are camping treks, jungle tours and river cruises offered for both individuals and groups.
In the upper Amazon basin, in the heart of the Chachapoyas region, the bi-level Gocta Waterfalls(Catarata de Gocta) tumble from a dizzying height of 2,529 feet (771 meters). They are approachable by hiking or horseback riding. Known only to locals until 2002 when a German explorer discovered it, the falls are a relatively new attraction for visitors to Peru.
Running along the northern border of the rainforest city of Iquitos, Nanay is a slow tributary of the Amazon River where rare white-sand beaches appear when water levels are low. Lodges scattered along the banks offer day trips, journeys upriver into the wilderness, and visits to native Yagua, Bora, and Mestizo communities.
The Itaya River is a tributary of the mighty Amazon River in the northern Loreto Region in Peru, flowing parallel to the city of Iquitos and the floating town of Belén. Forming the eatern border of the city, the waterway offers the easiest access in and out and most of the city’s main attractions fall along its banks.
More Things to Do in Amazon
Dominating the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos, this 2-story building seems delicate and elegant in the midst of the otherwise rough jungle town. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the so-called Iron House was forged in Belgium and shipped to the Amazon where it was reconstructed piece by piece during the height of the rubber boom.
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