Land-locked and sitting in the heart of the South American continent, a third of Bolivia lies within the Amazon basin. A tight blanket of tropical rainforest stifles valleys and rugged foothills, a whopping 1,000km from the river itself, and utterly remote from the country’s centres of population and economic activity. The biodiversity is intense, and much of the jungle remains intact, although increasingly under threat from loggers, farmers and developers as elsewhere in Amazonia. The extraordinary Madidi National Park embraces a swathe of rainforest heaving with exotic foliage and wildlife.
Remote, yes: nevertheless, the region has witnessed transformational economic upheavals: historically, the rubber boom and then the cocaine trade impacted on the landscape. Nowadays however, ecotourism is offering conservationists a lifeline. Far-flung, scantily populated and rarely visited, this is the authentic South America of the romantic imagination, a region for true adventurers.
The principal point of entry - just an hour’s spectacular flight over the snow-drenched Andes from La Paz - is quaint Rurrenabaque, a folksy riverside port with a grid of streets lined with low wooden houses, dwarf palms, mango trees and flowery bowers. A promenade runs along the river banks by the fish market, a popular place for sunset walks. Jungle lodges are few and far between and only accessible by boat: the watery journey is stunning.