The Amazonian rainforest occupies 60% of Peru. The northern region, accessible from Iquitos, has flood plains and wide tributaries, a great environment for Amazonian river cruises. In the more closely forested south, with its faster flowing streams and ox-bow lakes, you are more likely to be based at a friendly jungle lodge, from where you can discover the forest magic, its abundance of exotic birds, monkeys, alligators and flowering tropical plants, with the opportunity to visit indigenous communities.
The southern region of the Peruvian Amazon has as its gateway the busy, rapidly expanding river port Puerto Maldonado, situated on the banks of the river Tambopata where it has confluence with the river Madre de Dios, tributaries of what will, downstream, become the Amazon. A century-old market town, which has seen rubber, logging and gold prospecting booms, it is where visitors arrive on a flight from Cusco of just one hour, making the Peruvian Amazon very accessible for those visiting the Inca capital and Machu Picchu in the Andes.
There, eco-friendly jungle lodges of all standards, discreetly positioned amid the exuberant jungle foliage are accessible by motor boat in 2-5 hours. A little further afield is Manu, a biosphere reserve and national park reached by air or a spectacular, sinuous road descending from Cusco, where the jungle canopy is untouched: it takes longer to get there but you are rewarded with a real wilderness experience.
When to go
The Peruvian selva
enjoys a hot (30°C), humid tropical climate all year round, though there may be cold snaps. The high water, rainy season is Dec-May, a few degrees cooler than the rest of the year. At this time all waterways are navigable including small creeks, so opportunities to spot mammals are more frequent than during the sunnier dry season. From Jun-Nov the low water reveals many jungle trails, where you can get close to the vegetation, and this is a good time to spot migratory birds in flight.
Getting local currency
Peruvian Nuevo Sol. There are banks and ATMs in Puerto Maldonado where notes in local currency or US dollars can be withdrawn using a UK credit or debit card. Several money exchange offices exchange US dollars cash but the rate may be poor).
GMT -5 hours.
Cusco (1 hour by air) and Machu Picchu (1 hour by air and 4 hours by land); Lake Titicaca (1 hour by air to Cusco and 6-9 hours by road or 12 hours by train).
The southern Amazon: flights to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco take 1 hour. From Cusco to Manú by air is about 1 hour and 6-9 hours by road and boat. Longer by bike!