The Amazon – Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, etc…
Visitors per year: Records not available
Stretching across nine countries, the Amazon River snakes 6,992km of dense jungle packed with wildlife, the ruins of ancient civilisations and over 30,000 species of plants. But where do you begin?
Front door: Brazil is the first port of call for trips along the Amazon, cruising the wide stretches around Manaus and on to the Colombian border on big riverboats. Nothing wrong with that, but these boats can be noisy.
Back door: You’ll want to escape the broadest sections of river. The thousands of narrow tributaries afford closer access to jungle wildlife and you can even kayak on its quieter channels. With two-thirds of the river found in Brazil, it will be most people’s first stop, so you can dodge the crowds by seeking an Amazon adventure elsewhere…
“Rainy season (Dec-May) brings better boat access to the many tributaries along the Amazon, meaning more wildlife to spot. The port of Iquitos in Peru is arguably the best place for exploring these side routes. There, Dawn on the Amazon (dawnontheamazon.com) run a fleet of traditional riverboats that ply the smaller rivers that larger vessels simply can’t access otherwise.
“Elsewhere in Peru, the remote Manú National Park (130km from Cusco) bridges the southwest Amazon rainforests and is one of the world’s most biodiverse locations, with native tapirs, jaguars and spectacled bears. Tours are the most realistic way to visit this vast park (try the locally-run bonanzatoursperu.com), but be sure to visit between August and October to see the macaws feeding on its clay licks.
“Ecuador has some exceptional birding spots in the high jungles on the western edge of the Amazon basin. Particularly good is The Wildsumaco Lodge (wildsumaco.com), located on a private reserve off Ruta 20, between Jondachi and Coca. Booking in advance is advised, while crowd-less trails (US$20/£14 per day) wind the forests below to the impressive Sumaco Volcano.
“For ruins, return to Peru. The site of Choquequirao is an impressive Inca city hidden in the Andes. It receives only the tiniest fraction of the footfall its neighbor Machu Picchu receives, and to get there entails a two-day trek from the trailhead town of Cachora (160km from Cusco). It’s more than worth the walk though.”