Exploring the wild beauty of the Amazon Rainforest is a real bucket list experience. Head for a remote lodge in Ecuador, cruise along the tributaries of the Amazon in Brazil or sleep in a treehouse in Peru. It's a world of kaleidoscopic birds, skulking jaguars, a misty canopy and small canoes gliding through the water.
We’re experts in this part of the world so we can build you a holiday that you’ll remember for years to come.
Of course, what brings most visitors to the Amazon is the wildlife. The vast jungles are full of barrel-shaped capybaras on the riverbanks and anacondas slithering up the tree trunks. Giant anteaters snuffle along the forest floor looking for food while sloths hang high above you in the canopy. Kinkajou's slurp nectar from the flowers with their long tongues and hummingbirds zip through the air in a shimmering streak. However, many of the creatures that make their home in the rainforest are elusive and the dense jungle only serves to help in their quest for privacy. Jaguars lurk in the thick forest but you'll be lucky if you see one here - they are much easier to spot in the open wetlands of the Pantanal in southern Brazil.
It is important to come to the Amazon with a realistic expectation of what you may see, as well as with a thirst for experiencing the forest and river itself. Taking guided walks through the woodland to learn about medicinal plants and fungi, learning the folklore of local tribes and falling asleep listening to the ebb and flow of the water - these are all as much part of the Amazon experience as the wildlife.
The vast wilderness of the Amazon Rainforest stretches across South America; 5.5 million km² of dense jungle and shimmering rivers. Eight countries split the forest: Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. Brazil takes the lion's share but others, like Ecuador and Peru have more than enough wilderness to go around. These smaller countries are often much more easily accessible - for example, the town of Coca, gateway to the Ecuadorian Amazon, is only 40 minutes flight from the capital city of Quito.
Which country you choose also depends on the kind of Amazon experience you want to have. Ecuador and Peru both have many jungle lodges, set deep in the heart of the rainforest that abuts the Andes, while the vast forests of Brazil are sliced in half by the mighty Amazon River. This makes exploring by cruise much easier, opening up an entirely different type of trip. If you want to get really off-grid, then Bolivia and Colombia offer a remote and wild experience, with few luxuries as well as few other visitors.
A vast web of waterways and rainforest that covers almost half of Brazil, every adventure-lover dreams of entering the Amazon. Explore incredible ecosystems while drifting downriver in a boat, spotting caiman and pink river dolphins as you go. Sleep on-board, or stay in an eco-lodge.
Hike with a guide under the dark canopy and listen for the rumble of howler monkeys, or kayak down the backwaters and fish for piranhas. The town of Manaus is the gateway to this region - get clued-up in the museums before disappearing into the jungle.
More than half of Peru is drenched in jungle. Head to the town of Puerto Maldonado, where mud streets and mototaxis skirt the rainforest. Venture deep into the rainforest and discover the remote reaches of Manu National Park, home to jaguar and giant river otter.
A terrific place for off-the-beaten-track adventures, no roads lead to the northern city of Iquitos, so the only access is via plane or boat. Hop on a cruise and float down the Amazon, sleeping on-board and watching the water for piranhas and the river banks for anacondas.
Ecuador’s slice of the Amazon fills the Andean lowlands with tropical forest and quiet backwaters, which experts agree are some of the most biodiverse places on earth. Stay in protected reserves and explore tracts of virgin forest, then enter Yasuni National Park, home to uncontacted tribes and jaw-dropping diversity.
Follow your guide out at night to spot jaguars, marching leaf-ants and glass frogs. Visit a local village, where you could learn to fire a blowgun, swing on a vine and campaign to protect the park from illegal logging.
Less visited than Peru and Brazil, Bolivia’s Amazon is relatively unexplored and rich in indigenous culture. Disappear into Parque Nacional Madidi, listening for jaguars, sloths and spectacled bears.
Colombian Amazonia makes up a third of the country. Still new to tourism, lodges here are simple but the wildlife makes up for it - you'll find monkeys, crimson tanagers and jaguars lurking in the forest.
Depending on which country you choose for your Amazonian adventure, you'll want to approach your trip in a different way. The wide rivers and tributaries of Brazil mean that a cruise is a great way to experience the river and the surrounding rainforest, especially for those looking to do so in luxury. Remote lodges set deep into the jungles of Peru and Ecuador can be harder to get to but well worth the journey. We can book both options - if you want to discuss which is best for you, just contact us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote.
Exploring the Amazon River by boat is a truly unique experience. Waking up each morning to the rippling sunrise over the water, looking for rare pink river dolphins and sunbathing on deck. If you're looking for a truly luxurious Amazon experience then a boat is probably more suited for you - by choosing a high-end boat you can enjoy gourmet meals and high thread count sheets, all while sailing along the Amazon River.
By staying on a boat, you are naturally going to be focused much more on water-based wildlife - think giant river otters, leaping piranhas, calm manatees and yellow-spotted turtles. It is still possible to see land-based wildlife taking a drink from the edge of the river or hear monkeys hooting in the trees, but this is far less of a priority. Following the gentle flow of the river and using the binoculars to keep an eye on the banks - it's such a peaceful way to experience the jungle.
Staying a lodge during your time in the Amazon is a wonderful way to experience the jungle. Being based deep in the jungle gives you more opportunity to spot larger mammals like tapirs, jaguars and anteaters. If a rare creature has been spotted, or the weather turns at the last minute, then schedules can be changed and rerouted to get the best from your day. Night-time walks are also a huge highlight of a lodge stay - you'll see nocturnal insects and monkeys settling down to sleep.
Being based in a lodge also gives you a more intimate experience with the rainforest itself, allowing you to learn about the plants and trees that grow here, their medicinal properties and the lush undergrowth that fill the forest floor. It's also a good way to discover some of the smaller creatures - tiny wolf spiders scuttling up the tree trunks, leaf ants marching along the paths and kaleidoscopic butterflies fluttering through the air.
This region has a plethora of accommodation options, from tiny homestays and basic lodges to luxurious hotels and boats. We believe the best trips have a mix of everything, and on a trip to South America, that is easy to achieve. However, if you're looking for something really special, perhaps as part of a birthday or anniversary celebration, or even as your ultimate honeymoon adventure, here are a few of our favourite hotels and lodges.
Sacha Lodge sits on the edge of a black lake in the Ecuadorian Amazon, accessible only by a dugout canoe paddled through the flooded forest. The setting is other-worldly - close your eyes and listen to the chirruping of insects and the soft hooting of monkeys as they settle to sleep. Forest walks with a local guide will uncover the magic of the rainforest - medicinal plants and their properties, as well as local folklore and tales of the jungle.
Canoe journeys through the forest reveal sloths high in the canopy and caiman lurking amongst the reeds. Views from the observation tower in an ancient kapok tree and the long canopy walk will blow you away. Read about Milly's stay here.
This luxurious lodge is located beside the River Cristalino, within a private forest reserve in the southern part of the Brazilian Amazon. Carefully built to blend harmoniously with the surrounding rainforest, Cristalino Lodge will cater to your every need, whether that be a cosy bed, a refreshing bath or a softly swinging hammock. Drift off to sleep after a busy day of exploration to the soothing sound of the river.
Watch the sunrise from the top of the observations tower, see brazil nut trees that are hundreds of years old and look for Crested Owls snoozing in the dense trees. It's a great spot for birdwatching and the location is perfect to combine with a visit to the Pantanal wetlands.
Deep in the heart of the Peruvian jungle lies the Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion. This thatched lodge is one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, and we can see why. Cosy rooms jut out on stilts, so it feels like you are sleeping amongst the forest, while winding paths lead through the property to rustic lounge with huge vaulted roof. Night time walks along the trails will reveal an abundance of wildlife right at your fingertips.
Look for caiman and river otters from the canoes, watch blue and yellow macaws swoop through the treetops and visit the cacao plantation onsite, where you can make your own organic chocolate bar.
There is no dry season in the Amazon - only the wet and the wetter. It's better to think of the season by their water level - July to December brings lower rivers while from January to June they are swollen and full. The seasons do not particularly affect what wildlife can be seen - after all, these are species that thrive in a wet ecosystem. It's also important to note that, due to the vast range of rainforest, the weather is contrasting in different regions. Areas near the Andes, especially in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, receive twice as much rain as Brazil. This rain is what keeps the lush rainforest so green and fertile, so it's best to embrace the mizzle, pack your wellies and get stuck into the experience.
This is the peak of the wet season, with flooded ground and high rainfall through the forests. Don't be put off by the weather, especially if you are a keen birdwatcher - increased rain means flowers and fruiting plants, attracting colourful birds and monkeys.
Late May is when it begins to dry a little, which can offer the best of both worlds - enough water to travel by boat and canoe but still the chance to see more varied wildlife. In contrast to Brazil, the Ecuadorian Amazon gets more rain during this period.
This is the driest part of the year, but don't be mistaken, it's still pretty wet. The forest floor dries out during these months, reaching it's peak in August, allowing for longer walks deep into the forest to areas that are out of range during the rest of the year.
September remains warm and relatively dry, while October and November bring the return of heavy rainfall and humidity. Catch it right on the sweet spot between seasons and you'll be able to take full advantage of the full rivers from a luxury cruise.
We have 20 years of experience planning Amazon holidays. We know that this is a trip of a lifetime and it's important to get it right. If you're looking for the ultimate Amazon holiday exploring Brazil, Ecuador or Peru or want to include a trip to the Amazon as part of a larger round the world holiday, we would love to help!
Whether you have a list of everything you want to experience or don't really know where to begin, just get in touch on +44 1273320580 and we can help you plan your Amazon trip today.