The Amazon is a destination high up on many bucket lists but given it takes up 40% of South America, it can be hard to know where to begin. In this article, we cover everything you need to know from the best season to visit, to the most popular activities. We also compare visiting the Amazon in Peru, Brazil and Ecuador so you know which destination will suit you best.
Best time to visit the Amazon
Obviously it’s best to wait until after the Covid-19 outbreak has settled and life is back to normal but no matter what season it is, always expect the Amazon to be wet, humid and warm. But there are two distinct seasons that make up the climate of the Amazon, the wet and dry season.
The dry season begins in July and lasts until December, temperatures average between 26 to 40ºC (or 78 to 104ºF). You can still expect to endure heavy rain showers, but it is a lot less than compared to the rainy season. This means river levels stay low and it’s easier to explore the jungle on foot.
The wet season runs from January to June and offers cooler temperatures between 23 and 30ºC (73 to 86ºF). The heavy rainfall does make the rainforest a cooler place to explore and the high-water levels in the river make cruising easier and gives you the option for swimming. However, with more rain comes higher humidity and mosquitos are in abundance.
How to get there
The Amazon is huge, currently occupying 40% of South America, so you’d think to visit it would be easier. The Amazons span from Brazil in the east through to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia in the west. To get there, the best option is by plane. For Brazil, you can fly directly in Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon region. If you’re heading to Peru, you can fly directly into Iquitos, this is the same with Ecuador where you can fly from the capital Quito to Coca in only 40 minutes. To see the Amazon in Bolivia it will require more planning and often a flight and then onward transport.
What you can see
The question should be what you can’t see! The Amazon rainforest is home to 10% of the world’s animals, from sloths to monkeys, leopards and toucans. If you are an animal enthusiast, you will be spoilt for choice. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars, so you can get up close to the forest trees and canopies, you never know when you might spot a brightly coloured macaw. But don’t forget to look down at the ground! The rainforest ground is home to many snakes, some deadly such as the anacondas and boa constrictors.
When going on a river cruise you can expect to see capybara’s playing in the wetlands, tapirs and cunning caimans eyeing up dinner. The murky waters are also home to many fish from piranhas to the endangered pink river dolphins.
But it’s not just animals, the Amazon is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna from giant water lily pads to banana trees. The whole rainforest is alive and waiting to be explored.
Activities in the Amazon
There are many activities you can enjoy in the Amazon. The most popular include river cruises and jungle walks. The best time to explore the jungle is night, when it comes alive, opt for an after-dark jungle walk and spot everything from creepy crawlies to armadillos and sun bears. Other activities include learning traditional crafts from native villagers, archery, river rafting, swimming and camping out under the stars. Visiting a native village is a must, it’s important to learn about their connection to the jungle, the role they play as gatekeepers and the importance of their indigenous way of life.
Essentials to pack
The Amazon is hot and humid no matter what the season, so it’s important to pack moisture-wicking clothing. Also, remember long sleeves and long trousers are your best bet. These will help prevent any unwanted insect bites. There are a few other essentials you need to pack
• A head torch for nights in the jungle
• Lots of mosquito spray that has plenty of DEET
• Hiking or walking shoes that are waterproof
• High SPF sunscreen
• A sun hat for when hiking
Also, remember to bring any necessary toiletries or sanitary items. Supplies will be limited in the Amazon and it will be hard to find daily essentials so don’t forget your toothbrush!
How to ensure you travel responsibly
The Amazon rainforest is endangered, so it’s important to ensure your visit helps ensure its survival. You are visiting one of the most diverse eco-climates in the world, it needs to be treated with respect. Remember to take all your rubbish with you and never litter, invest in a reusable bottle with water filtration system and refill it at your hotel or accommodation and try and cut down on your use of throw away plastics.
Remember to always keep a respectful distance from animals and wildlife, this is not only for their protection, but also yours, remember the Amazon is home to many poisonous animals. Listen to your guide, they will always keep you right. Even if you think it’ll make the ultimate selfie, if your guide doesn’t approve it, don’t do it.
Most importantly choose a guide and accommodation option that gives back to the local community. If local people can make a living through tourism, they’ll be less likely to want to damage the Amazon. Some eco-focused accommodation options employ local people and give a percentage of your payment to a local environmental charity. It’s important to research this before going.
Best spots to visit in the Amazon
Below we’ve outlined a few options for you to help you choose the best destination to visit the Amazon.
Manus is a huge city located in the Amazon, home to around 2 million residents. It is the gateway to the Amazon from Brazil and is a popular spot for tourists to start their journey, because of this, there are plenty of tour operators offering river cruises and trekking trips to suit every budget.
Manaus also has the popular sight dubbed, ‘the meeting of the water.’ This is where the two biggest rivers in Brazil, the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes meet to form the mighty Amazon. The perfect sight to see before embarking on your Amazon adventure.
Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos, Peru
In Peru, you have two choices for exploring the Amazon. The most popular is Iquitos, which is a big city that is based on the Amazon river. It boasts access to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, which is home to the endangered pink river dolphins. The best way to experience the Amazon here is by staying in a jungle lodge or enjoying a river cruise.
You can reach Iquitos by a direct flight from Lima. However, if you are looking for something quieter then head to Puerto Maldonado which is in the south-east of the country and offers great opportunities for exploring the Tambopata National Reserve. You can reach the area by plane from Lima. There is more emphasis here on rain forest tours and the best way to experience everything the jungle has to offer it’s recommended you stay in a jungle lodge. Accessing the Amazon in Peru is quicker than Brazil or Ecuador, so it’s common for people to combine a trek of Machu Pichu alongside a jungle stay in Iquitos.
Coca is the gateway to the Amazon in Ecuador. Located on the Napo River, the protected areas of Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve are located nearby. If you are looking for quick access to the Amazon, then Ecuador offers this, with flights from Quito to Coca only 40 minutes. The Amazon here is one of the most diverse places on earth. The area is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 600 species being spotted in the park and over a third of the birdlife found in the Amazon calling it home.
Planning a trip to the Amazon?
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