South America Living

The Amazing Amazon in Peru

The Amazon River – a major trading route and main artery of many South American countries – originates in the Peruvian Andes. A glacial stream on Nevado Mismi located in Southern Peru near Arequipa was determined to be the source in 1996 (source: Wikipedia). The river is approximately 6400 kilometers long (3,977 miles) and home to a multitude of wildlife such as piranhas, dolphins, caymans, and the infamous anaconda.

Nevado Mismi in the Arequipa region of Southern Peru

Peru is mostly known as a mountainous country with a barren landscape and cold temperatures. Foreigners and locals who live in Peru’s major cities such as Lima or Arequipa, often forget that there is another side to this country.

The region around the Amazon River is covered with unsought rainforests and is home to flora and fauna which are both rare and largely unknown. It runs through the South American countries Guyana, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia in addition to Peru.

Parque Nacional Manu in the southern Amazon region is one of the most untouched rainforests in South America. As a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve it is protected and should only be explored with the help of a licensed tour guide. The best way would be to take a tour from Cusco or Boca Manu.

If you are traveling Peru and have not been exposed to a new culture enough, a visit to Iquitos should be added to the itinerary. Iquitos is located in the north east of Peru, just below the confluence of the two main headwater streams, Rio Ucayali and Rio Marañón. Only accessible by boat or plane, the city was founded in the 1750s by Jesuit missionaries and grew significantly during the 1880s as a result of the great rubber boom.

Iquitos is an ideal starting point for trekking tours. It is one of the largest cities on the Amazon River, with Manaus in Brazil the largest. Luxurious river boat tours, overnight stays at eco-lodges and jungle treks in Pacaya Samiria National Reserve (largest national park in Peru) are all is possible from here.

However you explore the jungle you are bound to learn about Peru’s indigenous people such as the Cocama, the Bora, the Campa, or the Witoto people. Traditionally these indigenous tribes have been fishermen, hunters and gatherers but many have adopted Western standards and discovered tourism as a viable source of income.

Although they still dress in their traditional attire on occasion and show tourists how to use a blow pipe, most live today in villages with schools and administrative buildings. Deep in the rainforest, however, you can still find clans who have had little to no contact with Western civilization ever.

You may or may not have contact with them on your guided jungle tours, but the untouched nature and the rare wildlife of Peru’s Amazon region makes it definitely worth a visit regardless.

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