By Briana Seftel
The mythical Amazon conjures up images of lush rainforest, exotic and deadly animals and remote villages inhabited by indigenous tribes. If you’re planning a trip to the world’s largest tropical rainforest, you’ll certainly need a few tips and tricks. With this helpful guide, make the most out of an Amazon adventure!
What to Know
The Amazon is a region in South America of approximately 2.1 million square miles covering much of northwestern Brazil and extending into Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. It is fed directly by the mighty Amazon River, the widest river in the world and the second longest after the Nile. It’s also home to 10% of the known species in the world, including jaguars, macaws, pink dolphins, black spider monkeys and poison dart frogs.
When to Go
The Amazon has two seasons: wet and dry. The peak tourist season is during the dry season from July to December. If you plan on visiting during this time, you’ll need to book hotels and tours well in advance as things book up fast! During dry season, you’ll enjoy ample hiking and fishing opportunities, as well as better wildlife spotting. The rainy season typically runs from December to June and is a better time to visit if you plan on taking a river cruise. Sudden, torrential showers are daily occurrences across the Amazon, so come prepared with the right gear. You can also expect hot and humid weather all year round.
What to Bring
With 2.5 million species of insects alone, you’ll definitely need to bring lots of bug repellent. You should also consider packing light, as you will likely be moving around quite a bit during your stay. Below is a checklist to keep handy for when you start packing!
- Lightweight clothing
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Rainproof gear
- Bug repellent
- Water bottle
- Antiseptic hand gel
- Malaria tablets
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper - hey, it’s better to be prepared!
Travel tip: It's highly recommended travelers get a yellow fever vaccine before visiting the Amazon.
Where to Go
Like we stated earlier, the Amazon region is humongous. You’ll most likely center your Amazon vacation in one country depending on how much time you’ll spend there. Below are four countries most popular with travelers wanting a taste of the Amazon. Read on to find out where you should go!
Manaus is the capital and heart of the Amazon. This city of two million in central Brazil is the main departure point for tours to the Amazon, and where many travelers fly in and out of. Just outside of the city, you can take a boat out to the Meeting of the Waters, where the Rio Negro meets the Amazon. Another popular site is Lake Janauari Ecological Park, where you can gawk at the largest lily pads in the world! About a 2-hour direct flight from Manaus is the port city of Belem, the first capital of the Amazonas. Explore the Old City with its distinct Portuguese influence before setting forth on a tour of the rainforest.
Travel tip: U.S. travelers to Brazil need a visa to enter the country. You can either get a visa at the Brazil Consulate or online at VFS Global.
Want to add the Amazon along with a trip to another South American highlight, Machu Picchu? It’s totally possible! About a 2-hour direct flight from Cusco is Iquitos, the major hub for excursions into the Peruvian Amazon. In Peru’s Southern Amazon, travelers shouldn’t miss Manu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a wildlife paradise, especially when it comes to exotic parrots. To access this part of the Amazon, you can either fly into Cusco or Puerto Maldonado.
Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, located in the eastern region, is regarded as one of the biodiverse parts of the Amazon. You’ll find lush tropical jungle among several indigenous communities. One of the best places to visit is Yasuni National Park, home to over 1,000 species of fauna and 3,000 species of flora! Other popular national parks to visit include Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, Cayambe Coca National Park and Llanganates National Park.
At the southernmost tip of Colombia sits the city of Leticia, the gateway to the Colombian Amazon. With Brazil just across the border, you’ll have plenty of sightseeing adventures within easy reach. Feed bananas to squirrel monkeys at Monkey Island, visit a few indigenous communities or hike the jungle trails at one three protected zones in the area.
- The Amazon produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, giving it the nickname the “lungs of the world.”
- Due to the thickness of the rainforest canopy, the Amazon floor is in permanent darkness. In fact, when it rains, it takes ten minutes for water to reach the ground.
- Around 400 to 500 indigenous Amerindian tribes call the Amazon rainforest home.
- A Slovenian man named Martin Strel swam the entirety of the Amazon River in 2007, taking a total of 66 days.