Amazon Rainforest Vacations: Where to go to truly experience the Amazon

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Behold! The greenest depths of South America, where the trees seem never-ending and the tarantulas aren’t the largest creepy-crawly. Exploring this wilderness is a dream for many, and fortunately, there are several gateways to this hopefully-more-than-once-in-a-lifetime natural wonder.

Now, you can’t just pack up a little rucksack gleefully set off into the rainforest (well, you can, but your chances in a fight against bugs, predators, tropical diseases, logging activity and cartels aren’t necessarily in your favour), so instead it’s beyond highly recommended that you start any Amazon rainforest vacations in one of the Amazonian towns that exist in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.

The Amazon rainforest also stretches into Guyana & Venezuela, but sadly those are countries whose politics currently pose more of a risk than whatever the rainforest may hold.

SO, in this here post, I’ll guide you through the best towns in South America to go for Amazon Rainforest vacations – canoes at the ready! Now, these are just gateways, and so I recommend you use them as a base or a jump-off point, and then be prepared to put a decent amount of money into multi-day guided tours that can get you truly into the depths of the river and its rainforest. Being as far away from civilisation as you can bear is the best way to feel the sheer immensity of the area, in my opinion.

After you’ve read this post on the best gateway towns for Amazon rainforest vacations, check out these helpful posts:

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Where to go for an Amazon rainforest vacation:

1. Visiting the Amazon in Brazil:

— Santarém

Enjoying its spot on the meeting point of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, Santarém offers one hell of a blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. All of the twists and turns of the two rivers have resulted in the formation of lots of different nooks and crannies in the landscape, like waterfalls and the Maica Lake, which you can take a tours to – the longer the tour, the better, so you can get deep into the rainforest.

This area is also known as Alter do Chão, often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Amazon” due to its stunning white-sanded beaches and crystal clear waters, so don’t miss a river tour around these, either.

The city itself is one of the most built-up of the gateways for Amazon rainforest vacations, so you’ll get to experience urban Brazilian life, too. A 36-hour ride down the Amazon River in a hammock on one of the iconic triple-decker ferries will get you to and from our next rainforest town in Brazil…

Best Amazon lodges in Brazil’s Santarém: Pousada Amazonia and Pousada Alter

— Manaus

I have to admit, the first time I saw pictures of Manaus (especially the famous drone shots showing the unbelievably-defined border between the city and the rainforest), I didn’t really believe it was a real place. But as it turns out, this genuine city in the Brazilian Amazon is a bustling metropolis standing out against lush greenery, and it’s a really fantastic starting point for any Amazon rainforest vacations in Brazil.

From here, you can embark on boat tours along the rio, stare in awe at the waterfalls of Presidente Figueiredo or venture into the heart of the jungle (a reminder to definitely get a guide, do NOT wander out by yourself to any of these places!). You can also take multi-night Amazon rainforest survival courses here – one for the Bear Grylls wannabes among us!

The urban side of Manaus has its draws too, so don’t miss the chance to visit the iconic Teatro Amazonas, a stunning opera house showcasing all the richness of the region’s past. A Manaus city tour can get you to all you want to see!

Best Amazon lodges in Brazil’s Manaus: Ponta Poranga Jungle Lodge and Refugio Samauma

2. Destinations for Amazon rainforest vacations in Peru:

— Puerto Maldonado

Located in southeastern Peru, Puerto Maldonado serves as a gateway to the breathtaking Tambopata National Reserve – a haven for bird-watchers in South America.

Tambopata is considered special because it’s the spot where you can observe the fascinating collpa or ‘clay lick’ being used by the highest concentration of macaws in the world – plus other types of parrots, too. They round up clay from deposits and then eat it in their nearby nests. This behaviour is not fully understood yet, but believed both to remove tannins and toxins ingested from their diet, and also to supplement their salt intake when so far from the ocean.

Puerto Maldonado is the kind of place where you can find a little luxury, so I would say invest properly in this Amazon rainforest vacation with a stay in a proper lodge deep within the forest for a truly immersive experience – these lodges usually offer guided hikes, canopy walks, and night-time excursions to see what wildlife you can stumble upon in the dark.

Best Amazon lodges in Peru’s Puerto Maldonado: Casa Amazonas and Sotupa Ecolodge

— Iquitos

Situated in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon and very almost cut off from the rest of the world, Iquitos is a lively river port city that’s accessible only by boat or plane.

It’s popular with the more adventurous of Peru’s backpackers & holiday-makers keen on rolling their sleeves up to get the most out of their Amazon rainforest vacations, with plenty of opportunities to visit the surrounding Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. This ecotourism hotspot is renowned for its ridiculous biodiversity, where you’ll have a chance at spotting the vibrant birdlife, elusive jaguars, and rare species of monkeys – get lucky and you’ll even come across a pink Amazon dolphin!

There’s lots of experience back in civilisation, as well, and the bustling Belen market in the so-called ‘floating city’ isn’t to be missed.

Best Amazon lodges in Peru’s Iquitos: Amazon Oasis Floating Lodge and Amak Iquitos Ecolodge

3. Experiencing the Amazon in Colombia

— Leticia, Colombia:

Tucked away right in the southereastern corner of Colombia, Leticia is a unique pueblo that shares borders with Brazil and Peru. It feels like a remote outpost, with its stilted river houses and endless chances to hop into a longboat and go on a sweaty Amazon adventure. One of the advantages here is that it’s one of the lesser developed and lesser visited of the Amazon gateway towns, so it’s easier to find small-group, sustainable tours.

Amazon rainforest vacations in Leticia aren’t complete without several days of exploration of the nearby Amacayacu National Park, so get yourself a spot on a river cruise (or canoe!) to discover hidden oxbow lakes teeming with wildlife.

Further up the river from Leticia is the beautiful Lake Tarapoto, but just before that you’ll get to the eco-village of Puerto Nariño, which was set up by indigenous tribes in the 1960s. This super-conscious pueblito is absolutely committed to living in a more sustainable way, with no vehicles allowed, and pretty much daily recycling clean-ups. Kinda cool!

Best Amazon lodges in Colombia’s Leticia: Amazona Lodge and Eco Hotel Aldea Amazonas (Puerto Nariño)

4. Spots for Amazon rainforest vacations in Ecuador:

— Puerto Misahuallí, Ecuador

Tucked away in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Puerto Misahuallí serves as an easily-accessible base for exploring the surrounding rainforest (never in my life did I think I’d able able to say “I got an Uber to the Amazon rainforest, but here we are). We arrived from Quito, but you can also come in from the popular tourist destination of Baños, or even just get 1-day tours from there.

This riverside town offers a canoe-load of activities for nature enthusiasts, including whitewater rafting along the Napo River, jungle treks to hidden waterfalls, and visits to indigenous Kichwa communities to learn about their traditional way of life.

When you’re not experiencing the rainforest itself, chill on the river beach with the locals, or sample local delicacies at the bustling markets of the nearby town of Tena, where you can taste exotic fruits and freshly-caught fish.

Best Amazon lodges in Ecuador’s Puerto Misahuallí: El Jardín and Ama Ecolodge

— Cuyabeno, Ecuador

The less accessible of Amazon rainforest vacations gateways in ecuador, this area is found within the remote Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, an absolutely pristine region of the Amazon (villages here are teeny and lodge-led, which is why I’ve used the name of the area as a whole). It’s pricey, because you’re relying on one of the rustic eco-lodges deep within the jungle to house you, but por Dios is it worth it to get this immersed.

A lot of the tours and activities exist within lodge packages, so make sure you like the sound of hwat they’re offering before you hit book! There’s plenty to keep you busy though, from canoeing and kayaking to dolphin spots, to learning about indigenous ways of life and trekking into the rainforest at night.

Best Amazon lodges in Ecuador’s Cuyabeno: Jamu Lodge and Nicky Amazon Lodge

Each of these gateway towns offers a different angle into the breathtaking beauty and unparalleled biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest, so whether you choose to explore the bird-watching haven of Puerto Maldonado, navigate the winding rivers of Puerto Leticia, or immerse yourself in the remote wilderness of Cuyabeno, you’ll never forget any of these Amazon rainforest vacations options.

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Now that you’ve read this post on the best gateway towns for Amazon rainforest vacations, check out these helpful posts:


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Last Updated on 30 March 2024 by Cuppa to Copa Travels

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