Amazon Basin Travel Guide
Peruvian Amazon © Martin St-Amant
Nearly half of Peru lies within the Amazon Basin and the dense Amazon Jungle represents over 50 percent of the rainforest on the entire planet. It is an immense and, for the most part, inaccessible region, and is sparsely populated. Believed to be the most biologically diverse region in the world, the rainforest and its rivers teem with mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and plants. Much of the area remains untouched and largely unexplored, with numerous varieties of plant species growing underneath the vast canopy. Pink dolphins, jaguars, tapirs, caiman crocodiles and giant anaconda snakes share the region with the many indigenous tribes that are spread throughout the jungle, living much as they have done for thousands of years.
Jungle eco-tourism has taken off in Peru and the number of travellers choosing to include the Amazon in their itinerary is steadily growing. The best place to access the northern Amazon Basin is from the city of Iquitos, connected to the outside world by air and river only, and the largest jungle city in the Basin. It is situated on the mighty Amazon River, the biggest in the world, flowing across the continent from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, covering an incredible 4,030 miles (6,500km) with numerous tributaries. The vast system of rivers forms the primary method of transport within the Amazon Basin and dugout canoes or motorboats give visitors the opportunity to explore the labyrinthine waterways or to travel between jungle towns. A popular tour from Iquitos is a boat tour of Belén, a nearby community of houses tethered to poles in order to float in the river's waters. Belén also has a popular open-air market trading in local plant and animal medicines.
Hot and humid all year round, Iquitos was originally founded by Jesuit missionaries in 1754, and has grown to a bustling city of nearly 400,000 residents. Colonial buildings and museums tower over clapboard houses and the streets buzz with motorcycles and buses. Some of the popular tourist attractions in Iquitos include the Amazonian Manatee Orphanage and Monkey Island.